Whole9 is still on vacation, so we’re re-posting an Urban Gets Diesel article from June 2009
I was having a conversation with my friend Melissa “Melicious” Joulwan via email last week. We were talking about post workout food, and she asked for some sample meals. I suggested a few things – salmon and sweet potato, a chicken breast and butternut squash, egg whites and – in a pinch, while on the go – a banana.
She responded with the following: “A banana?! Are you f*cking kidding? I haven’t had a a banana in a year and a half. I’m, like, over the moon with the prospect of eating a banana. I could weep, seriously. It feels like I’m doing something naughty even considering a banana. How f’ed up is that?”
Um, that is very f’ed up, Mel.
And it reminded me of my now-infamous Carrot Confrontation. I was participating in a discussion on a message board when someone asked what I eat in a typical day. I replied with a list of things I had eaten that morning – chicken, radishes, egg whites, spinach, olives… and carrots. I mentioned I had eaten almost an entire bag of baby carrots. At which point, another poster responded, “You should be careful about eating so many carrots. Carrots are pretty high in sugar.”
This response made me wish I had more middle fingers.
Because the day you tell me that CARROTS AREN’T THAT GOOD FOR ME is the day I give you the finger. Maybe even both. Which brings me to the following rant – get off the Carrot Train to Crazytown and think about it for just a brief moment. I’ll start you off. They’re CARROTS, people.
I could get all science-y here, and talk about glycemic index versus glycemic load. I could talk about how the all natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables are nothing like the mutated, processed sugar-like substances found in soda, Starbucks Frappuccinos and “healthy” whole bran muffins. I could also talk about how the “sugar” in carrots comes bundled with an amazing assortment of valuable vitamins and minerals.
But I’m not going to get all science-y here, because I’m trying to prove a point. Amidst the ridiculous volume of nutritional information floating around out there, the confusing statistics like glycemic index and potential renal acid load, all of the books and diet plans and recommendations and suggestions, it’s easy to lose the beta-carotene forest through the trees. So I’m going to recommend one simple thing.
Take a step back and use your head.
In the big picture, carrots are not “high in sugar.” Are they higher in sugar than, say, spinach? Sure. Should you eat five bags a day? Probably not. I wouldn’t recommend you eat five bags of ANYTHING a day, frankly. But if you feel like something sweet, I will applaud you for your healthy choice if you grab a carrot. If you want something crunchy to mindlessly gnaw on, I’m more than okay if you plow through an entire bag of carrots. If you don’t like vegetables at all, but can somehow manage to choke down a serving of carrots… I’m thrilled, because one vegetable is better than no vegetables.
If you read my stuff, you’ll know I am all for reviewing, analyzing and tweaking your nutritional plan. And I understand the fact that, when both choices are good, one might be more good. For example, I might counsel someone to cut back on dried fruit and eat the real stuff instead, for two reasons. One is simply practical – you can have more of the real stuff. (For the same number of carbs, you can have 1/4 cup of dried cranberries, or three cups of fresh strawberries.) A more pressing reason relates to those people who are in that initial “getting off the crack” nutritional phase. If you are trying to right a very upended insulin sensitivity, you don’t want to trick your taste buds into craving “bad” sweets with something like dried fruit (which has a higher concentration of sugar and the sweetness of candy). For those people, I may be a little more strict with fruit and vegetable choices – but only for the first few weeks, until their tastes reset a bit. But unless eating carrots are going to tempt you into a box Krispy Kremes, I am not going to worry about your intake. (And I seriously doubt a bag of carrots is going to be any kind of Gateway Vegetable.)
So let’s not be too quick to jump on the Carrot Train to Crazytown. Take a step back and think about your food choices from a rational perspective. Eating mostly meat, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits? You’re doing better than 99% of the general population. Want to take it further? Try to balance your fruits and vegetables on a bigger scale. Eat plenty of color, get plenty of variety, and fill every plate with leafy greens. But, like, you want a banana? Eat one. Want some peas, or a sweet potato, or some carrots? Have them. Because in the whole scheme of things, fruits and vegetables are still, as far as I know, good for you.
Except for corn, of course.