Here’s a blanket statement that I feel extremely confident making, right here, right now, in a public setting. You need to eat more vegetables. Yes, you. ALL of you. Today’s post is all about going green – green, leafy vegetables, that is.
The “CrossFit dietary prescription“, Dr. Loren Cordain’s Paleo Diet and Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint all have one thing in common… after the number one recommendation – “eat meat” – comes the second most important edict – “eat vegetables“. Everyone knows vegetables are good for you – but why, across the board, is there so much focus on the green leafy stuff? Here’s a short (obligatory, if not boring) list, to reinforce what we already know. Nothing here should be a surprise, and it’s all taken from Dr. Cordain’s FAQ.
- Nutrition. Fresh vegetables are high in beneficial nutrients, such as soluble fiber, antioxidant vitamins, phytochemicals, and low-glycemic carbohydrates.
- Insulin sensitivity. Most veggies are of a low-glycemic index, meaning that they cause slow and limited rises in your blood sugar and insulin levels. (An we all know how important it is to get your insulin situation in check.)
- Health. The nutrients in vegetables not only promote good health, but exclude all of the “traditional” carb ingredients (refined sugars, grains, salt, and processed additives) that frequently cause weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and numerous other health problems. In addition, the high soluble-fiber content of vegetables will improve most diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.
- Alkalinity. Because vegetables are alkaline in nature, they promote a healthy acid/base balance. Diets too heavy in acidic foods can contribute to a host of health issues, including inflammation, osteoporosis, kidney stones, hypertension, stroke, asthma, and insomnia.
So assuming we’re all on board with the Science-y reasons you should eat copious amounts of vegetables every day, the obvious question is… why aren’t you? The excuses I am given are endless, but can be summed up in a few categories:
- I don’t like them
- I don’t know how to cook/prepare/eat them
- Fruit is both easier AND tastes better
Let’s tackle these one at a time. First, I don’t care that you don’t like them. Sometimes, grown-ups have to do things we don’t like because it’s for our own good. Eating vegetables is one such thing. Do you think I’d rather eat a bag of spinach with my eggs instead of fresh berries covered in coconut milk? No contest. But I eat the spinach because it’s the best choice, and contributes more positively to how I look, feel and perform. Suck it up, people. You are no longer allowed to tell me you don’t like (fill in vegetable here), because for every vegetable that you don’t enjoy eating, there are 17 more out there that would do you just as good. Which brings me to point #2…
Learn how to shop for, prepare and cook vegetables properly. There are probably a whole HOST of vegetables out there that you do, in fact, like… if you only took the time to seek them out and learn how to cook them. So do your homework. Talk to your local Farmers’ Market vendors, call that friend of yours who would know exactly what to do with all that rutabaga or surf the web and let Emeril, Oprah or that hot Italian lady from the Food Network show you what’s what in the produce section. Experiment. Try new things. Put the effort in, because if you’re going to comply with point #1 (eat them, even if you don’t like them), wouldn’t it be easier if you DID, in fact, like them?
And finally… fine. I can’t argue with the fact that fruit DOES, in general, taste better. Who wouldn’t take a fresh mango over, say, mashed cauliflower? But… if you refer back to point #1, end of discussion. So let’s address the “fruit is easier” part. Sure, fruit can be eaten raw and on the go, but so can vegetables. Carrots, snow peas, sugar snap peas, red/yellow/green pepper, cucumber and celery are just as portable and crunch-able as fruit. Try swapping out that side of fruit with your lunch with carrots or a red pepper… same crunch, same sweet taste – it’s like sneaking in your vegetables when your taste buds weren’t looking.
Please understand, I do have some sympathy. For those of you who are REALLY having a hard time getting your vegetables in, I’m willing to make some concessions. If you MUST dip your veggies in hummus, salad dressing or some other non-compliant dressing, I’m okay with that. In this case, the benefits (you eating your vegetables) outweighs the potential negative consequences of the dressing. Just be smart about it, and use as little as possible to satisfy your taste buds. I’m also okay if there isn’t as much variety here as there should be. If you’re like my friend Brandon, and I can get you to go from NO vegetables at all to carrots and green beans every day… I’ll take it. I’d prefer that he branches out a bit more, but for now, I’m just happy he’s eating SOMETHING green.
And for those of you about to blast me for recommending snow peas and sugar snap peas (technically legumes, and not okay on a strict Paleo diet)… if you try to tell me “Grok wouldn’t eat those”, I will literally come to your house and kick you in the shins for missing the bus. As Dallas says, “Green beans, sugar snap peas and snow peas are far more ‘pod’ than ‘bean’.” And, again, if those are the only vegetables you’ll eat, then I am more than happy to give you my blessing. They’re VEGETABLES, people. How bad can they be for you?
Finally, in a last ditch effort to get you to eat your greens, I’m busting out my secret weapon… Melicious’ Sunshine Sauce. This spicy Thai dressing is 100% Paleo compliant, easy to make, doesn’t need to be refrigerated and one of the Top Three Most Delicious Things To Ever Come Out of My Kitchen. Mix up a batch – it’s easy to scale the recipe – and slather it over every one of your vegetables. I guarantee it will make even the most hard-core veggie hater fall in love.
Now I’m off to Google “rutabaga”, because while it’s a really fun word to say, I’m not entirely sure what to do with it now that it’s sitting in my refrigerator.