ALL ABOUT VEGETABLES
by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
November 2019, LD
Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is solely the opinion of the author and for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
Table Of Contents
Fresh, Frozen Or Canned?
Cooking And Preparing Vegetables
Toppings For Vegetables
Children And Vegetables
Vegetables Versus Fruits
Herbs Versus Vegetables
Definition of a vegetable. Vegetables are defined botanically as the roots, stems, leaves and flowers of plants. This is important because some foods that are called vegetables are not vegetables. Instead, they are fruits.
Importance of vegetables in the diet. Today, eating vegetables, properly cooked, is essential for health. We find that anyone who does not eat cooked vegetables is not healthy, no matter how well they appear. We pass along this observation based upon working with over 50,000 people over the past 38 years. A section later in this article discusses why vegetables are so important in the diet today.
Definition of a fruit. Fruits are defined botanically as the fleshy part of an expanded ovary of a plant. You can identify fruits easily because they contain seeds.
Why we do not recommend eating any fruits.
- Fruits are much more yin in macrobiotic terms. This is a critical topic in nutrition that very few nutritionists or doctors know about or pay attention to. We think this is a deliberate flaw in their education designed to mix up the public in the area of food and diet.
Yang and yin are ancient concepts taught in the Hebrew Bible, and in Holy books around the world. Credit for the concepts is often given to the ancient Taoists, but the idea is much older. For details, read Yin Disease and Understanding Yang And Yin.
- Fruits are much less nutrient-dense than vegetables. Some will argue that some fruits are extremely high in anti-oxidants and other phyto-nutrients. However, in terms of general nutrient density, fruit is a lot lower than vegetables. A major reason for this is that fruits contain more water and sugars than vegetables. Both of these are more yin chemicals, which we want to avoid.
- Fruits generally have a much worse balance of minerals than vegetables. In particular, fruit is lower in zinc and selenium, minerals that are extremely important for everyone to eat today.
- Fruits absorb much more toxic potassium and other toxins from commercial fertilizers and pesticides than do vegetables. This is a very serious problem. For details, read Toxic Potassium.
- Most fruits contain too much sugar. This upsets the blood sugar of many people. Much worse, however, is that the sugars feed yeast organisms and parasites inside the body. Or research indicates that it is impossible to truly balance the intestinal flora or to rid the body of parasites if one eats fruits. It does not matter that the sugars in fruits are natural.
- Fruits often harbor dangerous bacteria, fungi, and parasites. This is due to their high sugar content and more yin nature. The problem is made much worse because fruits are often eaten raw.
- Fruit-eating is very harmful for the teeth. This is due to their high sugar content and due to the presence of fruit acids. In fact, fruits can be acid-forming in the body, a fact that is not acknowledged in many nutrition textbooks.
- Fruits are high in toxic forms of minerals that we call the Amigos. These are oxides, carbonates and other biounavailable and irritating forms of minerals. They are unfortunately common in most soils in the world.
When nutritionists tell you that fruit is a mineral-rich food, they do not distinguish between the healthy compounds of these minerals and the very irritating compounds, which are higher in fruits than in vegetables.
- Some fruits are toxic, including avocado and all coconut products. Most nutritional benefits of these foods is outweighed by its toxicity, which is subtle.
- Most commercial and organic fruit today is very hybridized. The result is even lower nutritional quality and a more yin and therefore harmful product.
- Some fruit simply cannot be grown today without the use of toxic sprays and insecticides, either chemical or natural. Even fruit classified as organic often contains ‘natural’ herbicides that are toxic. The organic standards are not strict enough.
- Many fruits are picked green and ripened during transit with toxic chemicals. Otherwise they would not survive the trip from tropical nations, for example. Some of these chemicals are absorbed into the fruit.
- A number of fruits, including apples, cucumbers, and others are sprayed with a chemical coating in order to preserve them. Some of this coating is absorbed into the fruit. Consumers of fruit are not told about this processing of most fruit in the world.
For more details, read Fruit-Eating.
VEGETABLES THAT ARE REALLY FRUITS
These are all tomatoes, all peppers (both sweet and hot peppers), all squashes, pumpkins, eggplant, okra, cucumbers and other gourds.
Potatoes are also fruits because they contain seeds. Technically, they are called tubers. Potatoes are not roots in the same way as are carrots, onions, rutabagas, and others. The reason is that the ‘eyes’ of a potato are seeds. This makes the potato a type of fruit.
Pumpkin and winter squashes (butternut, spaghetti, and acorn squash are not too yin, so a portion up to twice a week is okay, though not highly recommended. We do not recommend summer squashes such as zucchini and sunburst squash because these are much more yin.
THE DEVELOPENT DIET EMPHASIZES PROPERLY-COOKED VEGETABLES
This is very important to understand. It means that the main ingredient in every meal is to be vegetables. The vegetables must also be cooked properly and not overcooked.
We do not call the development diet a “vegetable-based” diet because, to many people and many physicians, this means a more-or-less vegetarian diet in which meat plays a minor role. This is not true of the development diet.
Why not eat a vegetarian or almost vegetarian diet? Good quality meats, fish, eggs and diary products are among the most important human foods imaginable. They are needed in the diet every day.
We find vegetarian-like diets such as the Hallelujah diet and even the Mediterranean Diet quite harmful. We consider all vegetarian websites, books, cookbooks, and other literature a dangerous fraud.
One may feel better on these diets for a while for a number of reasons. However, they are deficient diets that eventually ruin one’s health. For details, read The Hallelujah diet, The Mediterranean Diet and Vegetarian Diets.
The best source of alkaline reserve minerals of any food group. Vegetables are exceedingly nutritious, particularly in minerals, anti-oxidants, and hundreds of other nutrients. These cannot be obtained from any other foods. For example, farmers know that vegetables deplete the soil of minerals more than any other crops.
Most all bodies are mineral-starved today thanks to modern N-P-K agriculture, food refining, stress and poor quality diets. For these reasons, everyone needs to eat plenty of cooked vegetables.
Cooking is needed because human beings cannot digest tough vegetable fibers, within which are most of the minerals in vegetables. We find that anyone who eats salad in any quantity demineralizes and therefore ruins the body.
The effects are worst for women, who are prone to osteoporosis later in life. Osteoporosis is a type of demineralization.
Excellent for weight loss. Eating a lot of cooked vegetables can help anyone lose lots of weight without feeling hungry. In contrast, fruit will keep weight on.
Vegetables are best eaten:
- Organically grown
- Cooked until soft, not raw, crunchy or al dente. Pressure-cooking is the best method to preserve the nutritional quality of vegetables. Steaming and crock pots are also good cooking methods. We do not recommend other cooking methods such as roasting, boiling, baking, frying, stir-frying or sautéing, broiling, deep frying, or tempura style. High-temperature cooking always produces toxic AGES (advanced glycation end products).
We also do not recommend fermenting, which often produces highly toxic Aldehydes.
- Locally grown, but only if they are of excellent quality.
Eat cooked vegetables at least three times daily. It is nice to cook them fresh for each meal, but it is fine to cook a lot of them once or twice daily and eat them all day.
Roots. The best are all onions, leeks, carrots, turnips, rutabaga, daikon, scallions and shallots. A small amount of the others is okay, such as golden beets, yams, sweet potatoes, parsnips, and others. I suggest avoiding red beets, which are slightly toxic.
The cabbage family or cruciferous vegetables. The best are red cabbage, cauliflower (including the leaves and stems around the outside), and Brussels sprouts. Broccoli is okay, but at this time baby brocolli, brocolini, or brocolette seem to be a little better. (Rutabaga and daikon are also cruciferous, but I listed them under roots).
Greens. These appear to be less important than the roots or cruciferous vegetables, so eat less of them. The best include green beans, spinach, bok choy, Swiss chard, Chinese cabbage, parsley, watercress, cilantro, mustard greens, collard greens, carrot tops, and a few others. Some kale is reported to contain high levels of thallium, a toxic metal, so I would avoid it for now.
Other good vegetables. These include peas, sweet corn, okra, cooked mung bean sprouts, water chestnuts and nopal cactus or prickly pear leaves.
How much? Have at least TWO large portions daily of roots and TWO large portions of cruciferous vegetables. Have only ONE portion of greens daily.
The reason is that greens are much more yin. Many people overdo on greens. To understand yin and yang, read Yang And Yin Of Food.
Do not eat raw vegetables. I know this goes against popular opinion. The reasons are explained below.
Do not eat the nightshade family vegetables. These include tomatoes, white and red potatoes, eggplant and all peppers. The only exception is that a little ground cayenne pepper is fine as a spice.
Do not eat much asparagus, artichoke, lettuce, cucumbers, celery, algae, spirulina, summer squashes (zucchini, sunburst and others), or most mushrooms, including kombucha tea. These are all more yin or somewhat toxic or irritating to the intestinal tract.
Do not eat canned or frozen vegetables if you can get fresh ones, although canned or frozen are better than nothing.
Root vegetables deserve special mention and are often ignored. They have been staple foods in most civilizations for thousands of years. Roots are among the most concentrated sources of vitamins and minerals available to us.
Carrots, leeks, onions (white, yellow, green and red), shallots, scallions, daikon (white radish) and turnips are the best.
Yang. Roots are more yang in macrobiotic terms because they grow underground. This quality is very beneficial for everyone today. Roots also store very well, which helps if you do not enjoy shopping every few days.
Starchy. Most roots are starchy vegetables, which means they will fill you up quite well if you eat enough of them. Yet they are far easier to digest than other starches such as grains, breads or dried beans.
Cooking roots. Cut roots into chunks for faster cooking. Most require pressure-cooking for 5 minutes, or steaming for 30-40 minutes to break down their tough fibers and turn their starches into sugars.
You can also cook roots overnight in a crock pot on a low temperature setting. This is not quite as good as pressure-cooking, but you won’t have to cut them up.
These include cauliflower, cabbage (red and green), Brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy, turnip root and greens, rutabaga, broccoli, arugula, radishes (many types), watercress and wasabi.
Much research lately has focused on the health benefits of cruciferous vegetables. All are rich sources of sulfur of a particular kind, along with hundreds of other nutrients and phytochemicals. These amazing foods contain substances that can help prevent cancer and many other life-threatening conditions.
These are excellent vegetables, but they are quite a bit more yin, so I don’t recommend eating as many. One serving per day is enough. Some people only eat greens, thinking these are the best vegetables. Please do not do this.
Kale can absorb too much thallium, making this vegetable possibly toxic, depending upon where it is grown. I would avoid most kale at this time.
Do not eat much salad. You don’t need to eat any, but a little as a garnish is okay. The problems with salads are:
1. Raw vegetables are much more yin than cooked ones. Eating more yin food is generally quite harmful for health.
2. Our bodies cannot absorb many minerals from raw vegetables because we cannot break down their tough vegetable fibers, which contain most of the minerals in a vegetable. Cooking breaks down the fiber, and is a major reason for cooking vegetables.
3. For the reason above, salad is not a particularly nutritious food, other than its high content of fiber.
4. Salads have so much roughage they fill up the stomach and cause a person to eat less of the essential foods - cooked vegetables, blue corn, and some animal protein.
5. In restaurants, in particular, I would completely avoid salads because they are often unclean and can harbor bacteria, viruses and parasites.
A method some people use to increase the amount of vegetables they eat is to put the vegetables through a juicer. This will extract the minerals and leave most of the fiber behind in the machine.
The problem with juicing is that juice is extremely yin. This is so because the vegetables are eaten raw, and breaking up the vegetables in the juicer makes them even more yin.
For this reason, I only recommend 10-12 ounces of carrot juice daily or as an alternative have 1-2 ounces of wheat grass juice, but only up to twice a week.
Many people enjoy vegetables in soups. These are easy to prepare and nutritious. However, soups tend to add too much water to one’s food, which dilutes the digestive juices and interferes with digestion.
For this reason, please avoid most soups. If you want to have soup, it needs to be very thick. That is, it should be mainly cooked vegetables and very little water.
Fiber is an important component of vegetables. Most of it is cellulose, an insoluble fiber that we cannot digest.
Fiber helps keep food moving through the intestines and helps prevent constipation, diverticulosis, diverticulitis and even cancer. Fiber also assists in the production of vitamins in the intestines and can support the proliferation of friendly bacteria.
If one does not eat many vegetables, the diet may lack fiber. This is especially true if one eats mainly refined grains such as white flour, white bread, white pasta and white rice, all of which have had their fiber removed.
MINERALS FROM VEGETABLES
Vegetables are an essential source of dozens of minerals. Organically grown vegetables generally contain quite a lot more minerals than commercially grown vegetables. The mineral content also depends upon where and exactly how the food was grown.
Cooking vegetables greatly enhances the availability of the minerals in most vegetables by breaking down the tough vegetable fibers and often by concentrating the food so that more can be eaten easily. Cooking does not destroy minerals at all, although it reduces the level of vitamins C and E, to some degree.
Here are more details about a few of the main minerals found in vegetables.
Iron. Dark green leafy greens and beets are very high in iron. However, the iron they contain is not as biologically available as that found in meats and eggs.
Magnesium and chlorophyl. Leafy vegetables are rich in chlorophyll, a magnesium-containing substance that plants use to generate energy from sunlight.
In fact, all vegetables are good sources of magnesium, a mineral everyone needs in abundance and one that is deficient in most people’s diets today.
Sulfur. The radish, onion and cabbage families are excellent sources of natural sulfur compounds. Sulfur compounds are essential for detoxification in the liver, for the brain, for the skin and the health of all connective tissue (disulfide bonds).
Iodine. This is found in some vegetables, particularly sea vegetables such as kelp. Everyone on a nutritional balancing takes kelp capsules, an easy way to consume this superb vegetable. Most people are very deficient in iodine today. Other sea vegetables such as nori, wakame, hiiki, dulse and others also contain plenty of iodine, but have less alginates to soak up the mercury that these vegetables also contain. For this reason, I only recommend kelp. For more details, read Kelp on this website.
ORGANICALLY GROWN ARE USUALLY BEST
Organically grown food has the following important advantages:
1. It usually contain much less residue of toxic pesticides and insecticides. It may still contain some pesticide residue because some blows from one farm to the next, and some remains in the soil for years if the farmer raised food conventionally in the past.
2. It is more nutritious than regular produce. A study published in the Journal of Applied Nutrition tested organic and commercial produce purchased randomly in Chicago stores. Compared to the commercially-grown produce, the organic vegetables had an average of twice the levels of minerals. Other studies have shown the same thing.
3. Buying organic food sends a message to farmers that you prefer we not poison the earth with toxic sprays.
4. Organic vegetables often taste much better, especially carrots, onions and a few other vegetables. Eating organic may turn a non-vegetable eater into a vegetable lover simply because organically grown tastes better.
5. Organically grown food often stays fresh longer.
The variety of organic vegetables available in markets is growing fast. Indeed, this is the fastest growing sector of the agricultural marketplace. They cost a little more, but prices are coming down and they are worth having if you can find them and afford them.
FRESH, FROZEN OR CANNED?
The best way to enjoy vegetables is to eat them fresh. They will have the most nutrition in this form and will often taste best. However, some frozen vegetables are okay.
Canned vegetables are much better than no vegetables at all. However, they are less desirable, as they may be old and they may suffer more damage in canning than they do when frozen. Cans that are soldered may leach lead into the food. Cans that are crimped to close them are better.
Pressure-cooking. This is the best method of cooking vegetables, and even meats. It is very fast, cleanup is very easy, they taste the best, and most important, the vegetables are more yang when cooked this way. For details, read Pressure-Cooking on this website.
Other methods. These include steaming, stir-frying, and using a crock pot. I do not recommend roasting, baking or boiling vegetables too often, although occasional baking or roasting are okay. If you boil vegetables, you must drink the water because it will contain a lot of minerals.
More cooking notes: Steaming vegetables. The best way is to place a small amount of water in a saucepan. Add the vegetables. Bring the water to a boil, and then turn down the flame and let them steam in the water for about 30-40 minutes.
This is the best steaming method because it retains the most souls in the vegetables. This may sound unusual but food always contains souls. Drink the cooking water in this case, as it will contain many minerals.
Stir-frying vegetables. This is okay but it is high temperature and you have to cook them enough. We don’t want vegetables crunchy. I do not recommend coconut oil – too yin.
Crock pot vegetables. Vegetables can be placed in a crock pot without cutting them up at all, in most cases, which saves time and keeps all the tasty juices inside.
They cook slowly and usually won’t burn. You can set them in the crock pot at bedtime and they will be cooked and ready to eat when you wake up. You can also set them in the crock pot before you leave home for work, and they will be cooked and ready to eat when you arrive home later. You can add chicken or meat and have a complete meal, all cooked for you with very little effort.
Seasoning vegetables. It is often best to cook vegetables without added salt or spices. When the vegetables are cooked, then you may add a small amount of mild herbs such as a little oregano, rosemary, thyme, curry powder, or any of a dozen other mild herbs and spices.
If you begin with good quality vegetables, they will have wonderful flavors.
Leftovers. While fresh is best, to save time you may cook enough for two days. It is best not to keep leftovers more than a day or two, as they will deteriorate somewhat.
Fermenting vegetables. I do not recommend eating these, except for some sauerkraut. Problems with fermented vegetables are:
1. They are very yin because they are a) raw, and b) combined with bacteria or yeasts, both of which are very yin.
2. Some fermented foods are toxic with aldehydes. This is potentially a serious problem if you eat them regularly. A very bad one is kombucha tea, but the problem extends to others. For more, read Aldehydes and Fermented Foods on this website.
I find that everyone needs to eat 2-3 cups of cooked vegetables, at least three times daily or about 9-10 cups of cooked vegetables daily. Measure the amount when cooked, not raw.
Another way to say this is to eat about 70% of your diet as cooked vegetables. This may seem like a lot, but it is not that difficult with a little practice. Eat some with every meal.
Food combining. You may have 2-4 types of vegetables at each meal. Try to mix colors and flavors for variety.
Cooked vegetables should be the basis for, or staple food for every meal. In addition, you may have one other type of food – either one protein or one starch. These simple food combinations greatly assist digestion and utilization of your food.
USE TOPPINGS IF YOU DO NOT LIKE SIMPLE COOKED VEGETABLES
To help you eat your vegetables, and especially to help children to eat them, make it fun. Have a dozen or more toppings ready to put on your vegetables. Here are some suggestions for toppings:
Fresh cream, whipped cream or butter
Some plain yogurt
Grated cheese, preferably raw, full-fat cheese
Mustard sauce. Mustard is an excellent herb
Other herbs of many kinds
Almond butter mixed with a little water
Thai – peanut butter sauce
Chinese – real soy sauce
A few chopped nuts or seeds
Salad dressings you make yourself or you buy
Tomato and Chile pepper sauces like Tabasco sauce if you wish, but only occasionally. Peppers and tomato are nightshade family vegetables, which are best avoided. Hot spices are irritating, and are much less recommended for this reason.
To thicken sauces, arrowroot powder is superb and very nutritious
CHILDREN AND VEGETABLES
Many parents have trouble getting their children to eat vegetables. Here are a few ideas:
1. Don’t lecture your children. Instead, set a great example. Eat plenty of vegetables yourself. Ideally, fill half your plate filled with vegetables whenever you eat, at least twice daily. Children will often imitate you.
2. Create tasty sauces your children enjoy to put over the vegetables. See the suggestions above for ideas.
3. Disguise vegetables in other dishes, if needed. For ideas, read the article entitled Fourteen Ways To Disguise Vegetables.
4. Puree vegetables if a child does not like the texture of vegetables. To make a puree soup, cook vegetables for 10 minutes or more. Then pour the mix into a blender and blend for about 15 seconds. Then cook it some more and most vegetables will not be recognizable.
5. Make it fun. Grow a garden. For young children, carve little faces on vegetables, slice them creatively, arrange them creatively on a plate, and in other ways make them attractive to children. Dip them in fun sauces or otherwise make them more attractive.
6. Start introducing vegetables when children are very young. This can help children to feel they are just normal food. For instance, frozen peas can help toddlers when teething and make a refreshing snack in hot weather for older children as well.
7. Beware of allowing your children to mix and play with children who have learned to hate vegetables. This is all too common.
8. For quick, easy meals and snacks for children and adults, read Fast Food For Nutritional Balancing.
Dried vegetable capsules. These will supply extra vegetables. However, the vegetables are raw, which is yin. Also, do not use superfood vegetable powders, as they are usually rancid, or they go rancid quickly, even in the refrigerator. Only use capsules.
Dried vegetable capsules are no substitute for eat loads of cooked vegetables!
Juicing is when the vegetables are run through a juicer that removes the pulp or fiber. So one does not get the fiber, just the juice. This concentrates many nutrients in the vegetables. Carrot is a popular one to juice, as it is quite sweet and delicious. You can add some greens, some ginger, turnip, beet or other raw vegetables as well for more richness, flavor or therapeutic reasons.
I suggest that most adults today drink 10-12 ounces of carrot juice daily. This will provide an important form of calcium and many other nutrients that most everyone needs. Do not skip this aspect of a nutritional balancing program or any health program.
However, more than this much juice is not helpful for most people. It is far too yin, it upsets the blood sugar in many cases, and it can tear up the digestive tract in some cases. Avoid becoming a juice fanatic, please.
Which juicer is best? Any juicer will do. The least costly are the centrifugal juicers. The masticating type such as the Champion or Green Power are a little easier to clean, perhaps, and may extract a little more juice.
What about blenders for carrot juice? Blenders require that you add some water to the juice, which is not good. Also, they leave the pulp intact, which is not best. Use a juicer, not a blender.
You can also buy fresh carrot juice at the health food store, or at some supermarkets. For much more on this topic, read Carrot Juice on this website.
VEGETABLE SNACKS – DRIED, FREEZE-DRIED AND CHIPS
In recent years, health food stores have begun selling plastic containers of dried vegetables. These are okay as snacks, though they may be a bit more costly.
Another recent innovation are vegetable chips. These are also okay for snacks, especially if they do not contain sugar and chemical additives.
None of these, however, is a substitute for eating loads of cooked vegetables.
Harmful vegetables. Vegetables can occasionally aggravate health conditions. For example, I suggest avoiding completely the nightshade vegetables – white and red potatoes, tomatoes, all peppers, including hot peppers, red and green peppers, and eggplant. Eating them can aggravate joint pain in some people, and they all contain a poison called solanin. Your digestion will improve if it is weak, as it is in most people, by eliminating these vegetables.
FRUITS VERSUS VEGETABLES
Fruits are defined as the expanded ovaries of plants. All contain seeds, although a few have been bred to be seedless, such as seedless grapes. Fruits are much less nutritious than vegetables, as a group. They are much higher in water and in sugar, as a rule, than vegetables.
Fruits are also much more yin than vegetables. This is the main reason I do not recommend eating any fruit.
Vegetables that are really fruits. Some so-called “vegetables” are really fruits. That is, they are expanded ovaries of plants, and they contain seeds. Please avoid these foods, as a general rule. The only exception is some olive oil. They include:
1. All nightshade vegetables: These include all tomatoes, white, red and other potatoes, eggplant, and all peppers – both sweet red, yellow and green peppers, and hot chile peppers of all varieties, of which there are hundreds.
2. Summer squashes, such as summer squash, zuccini, sunburst and maybe others. These are all more yin. Winter squashes are also fruits, but a little is okay because they are less yin. These include acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash.
3. Others include cucumbers, okra, and maybe others. Green beans or string beans, and peas are also technically fruits. However, they not very yin and are excellent vegetables for everyone.
HERBS VERSUS VEGETABLES
Some people tell me they won’t eat many vegetables, but they will sprinkle herbs on their food. This is not good enough!
Vegetables differ from herbs and spices in that vegetables are grown as foods. They can be eaten in large quantities on a daily basis. This is necessary today if you want optimum health because everyone is mineral-starved and vegetables are the main source of minerals.
Herbs and spices are for garnishes, flavoring and some can be used as drug medicines. Herbs, by definition, contain slightly toxic substances that make them unsuitable for everyday eating, except in very small quantities. Do not listen to the lies of some health authorities that there are simply “nourishing herbs” that you can eat all you want. This is not true.
1. J. Applied Nutrition, 1993:45(1);35-39.