Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It Is About the Vegetables, Stupid

I said yesterday, I have spent too much time obsessing about raw milk cheese and whole grain flours. I have temporarily lost the cornerstone of healthy eating. Vegetables.

I said it early in the fall also. I have put such a focus on local eating, that when the weather turned cold I have had trouble keeping up. In the Northeast, all the winter vegetables are hard squash and tough greens. There are a few hot houses selling goods at the Union Square Farmer's Market. But many farms simply stop selling at the market in the wintertime. So I had the choice to eat meat and grains and a limited selection of veggies that were really hard to cook (that my kids didn't eat), or buy non-local veggies. For a couple months I did the former, and I gained some weight. Though I will say that I am not convinced that my weight gain had anything to do with meat or grains. But now after reading Meg Wolff's book I have decided that I need to support my largely local diet with some non-local vegetables. I am a modern eater, and I have a vast array of healthful organic veggies at my disposal. I can choose spinach and broccoli and other nutrient dense veggies that simply don't grow in the winter in my clime. I do not have to buy berries that have been flown in from Chile. Though I have bought some frozen wild berries, that grew a little closer to me. So I am now eating more veggies, and I feel okay about it.

The other issues that Wolff's book brought up to me are big ones. There are some very conflicting nutritional ideologies out there. It is true that Vegetarians live longer and experience fewer health problems overall. Yet it is also true that meat is a natural complete protein and the body digests it so well that little waste is left over after ingesting it. And our comparatively short digestive system is a clue that perhaps we have evolved to eat meat, rather than so much fibrous grass. How could both things be true? How could something that we have evolved to eat be a huge source of illness?

Then one must look deeper. Some vegetarians and many vegans have nutrient deficiency problems (B12) that can cause anemia and central nervous system problems. And then I read something very interesting in Nourishing Traditions, that some Jain Vegetarians in today's modern world have developed many of these same nutrient deficiencies because their ancestors were eating vegetarian foods, grains and veggies and the like, that had a moderate amount of insects mixed in because of the limited ability to clean the food. That little bit of animal protein was enough to ward off nutritional deficiencies, whereas today, the food system is much less adulterated by that type of infestation. And there are some Jain coming down with health problems. And yet there are folks like Meg Wolff who have cured themselves of cancer by following a nutrient dense diet of mostly vegetables and whole grains, supplemented only slightly by fish-and only fish.

How is it that so many contradictory things can all be true? Well, many believe that they are not. Many people will stubbornly say that grass fed meat is the answer to good health. That as long as you are eating grass fed meat, you are eating a healthy animal. And I believe that to be true. However what about all those folks that are vegetarians and ARE living in vibrant health? Well, actually think that everything I have just said is true. Sometimes when many things that seem to be contraditcory are actually all true, it leads us to a new understanding. I have thought alot about it, I think it is the vegetables.

Vegetables are high in many different kinds of nutrients, fiber which keeps things moving and they are low in calories. I do not feel as good on a day without vegetables as I do when I am eating tons of them. Vegetables supply nutrients that we can't get anywhere else. And I have expressed a dislike for ANDI scores, but after thinking it through, when choosing which vegetables to eat, ANDI scores probably give you a good guide of what veg is better for you. Though I still don't think you can compare olive oil and kale using the ANDI guide. Nevertheless, it is important to eat veggies, and it is just as important which veggies you eat. My ticket to health is in the dark leafy greens, cruciferious and yellow orange veggies. These guys pack a heavier nutrient punch than cukes and tomatoes.

If there is one thing that we can do as a nation to combat obesity, I think it is to eat veggies (you know, after ceasing to drink soda). The more veggies we eat, the more crap is pushed off the plate. And veggies have such a variety of nutrients. I think the nutrient rich vegetables are the link between a healthy vegetarian diet and one that embraces a little grass fed meat. I am also believing more and more in metabolic or nutrition typing. As there are people who thrive on a vegetarian diet, and yet people who don't. Maybe there isn't one answer for everyone. And even if you are a person who thrives on large amounts of protein. You still need veggies. They seem to be a constant in all the various diets.

Go Veg!

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