Today is the vegetable post.
Thanks for reading!
OK, I’ve already covered the hardest part – the No Grains and No Sugar part. This next one is an affirmative rule, and it’s one you can learn to love.
We should eat vegetables every day. Lots of them. Lots of different kinds of them. You already know they are loaded with good stuff – nutrients, vitamins, phytonutrients, minerals. There is research showing that vegetables with their phytochemicals can be helpful in fighting cancer.
Additionally, there are SO MANY different kinds of vegetables, which becomes important when you eliminate grains and sugar as a way to keep your food interesting and new. There are only a few types of animals we eat, and because the Standard American Diet (aptly abbreviated to SAD) is so full of grain-based foods, if you do make a transition to a more traditional diet, you are likely to experience a feeling of depravity, and all those veggie varieties can help with that.
So whether you have a big salad of fresh vegetables, or a stew or stirfry full of cooked vegetables, shoot for having them at 2 meals out of 3, or maybe start with one big meal of non-starchy veggies every day.
And I have good news about your next question. While we’re ditching the croutons and shredded cheddar cheese, we’re adding good fats so you can have some kickass dressing on that big ol’ salad. Here’s a recipe for homemade mayo (stay away from the ooky grocery store stuff) that can serve as a base for scads of dressings. I make you a personal promise that it will be the tastiest mayo you have ever tried.
You can also add olives, nuts, chopped boiled eggs, a protein, and even fruit. You may, like me, find that your salad meal is your favorite meal of the day.
For your cooked vegetables, try roasting almost any vegetable for the best flavor (400 degrees, one layer deep and tossed with sea salt and olive oil, 12-25 minutes depending upon size of pieces). This gives broccoli, asparagus, kale, squash, brussel sprouts, and zucchini a crunchy, roasty flavor. Another personal promise that you’re gonna LOVE this.
Fruits can also be a part of a healthy paleo diet. I’m going to address this further in the post about Fat (to come). Some fruits are high in sugar (bananas, apples), and you remember from the Sugar post that this can create a problem if we eat too much. But Gayle, you rightly ask, how does that fit with the whole Paleo mentality? Aren’t we supposed to be eating similar to our ancestors, and wouldn’t they have eaten fruit? Why yes, they would – when they could get it, which would be when? Seasonally. (Just like veggies, by the way). And the fruit that would have been available would not even have resembled a big juicy Red Delicious. Finally, remember that we are building a diet that is healthy, not just historic, and too much sugar, from any source, leads to an insulin response. Get to know the sugar content of fruits (and vegetables), and eat them as toppings, or see them as they treat they are.
Probably everyone has heard the analysis of whether or not to spend the extra for the Organic label – that if you are going to peel it (bananas or pineapples), non-organic is suitable; for leafies or veggies that are hard to wash, or whose peel you plan to eat (spinach, lettuces, sweet potatoes), go ahead and spend the extra. Here’s my thought on the Organic issue: I consider this issue to be about Tier 3 or 4 as it relates to priority. If you’ve taken grains out of your diet, eliminated dairy, if you’re eating grass-fed meats and quality fats, THEN worry about whether or not your strawberries are organic.
I think a better focus is to seek LOCAL sources for your fruits and vegetables for at least 3 reasons – it supports local farmers and not superstores, it reduces the energy cost and carbon impact of transporting food from sometimes thousands of miles away (banana, anyone?), and the produce does not have to be genetically engineered to survive the journey and handling it takes to get to you.
By the way, corn is a grain, not a vegetable. Beans are legumes, not vegetables. A potato, while botanically a vegetable, is nutritionally a starchy tuber.
One more time I’ll state my disclaimer – this information I’m sharing is what I accept about nutrition science, and it matches pretty squarely with my own experience with my own health and nutrition. This might be a good time for me to post this link which addresses the book The China Study, whose claims contradict Paleolithic nutrition science. Denise Minger is a rockstar in the movement – here is her 2012 presentation at the Ancestral Health Symposium.
Next up: Dairy! One of the hottest topics within the Ancestral Health movement.
Thanks for reading!