Consider this: Leafy greens might be doing you more harm than good

Whether you’re a vegan, a vegetarian, or follow a Paleo or the Zone Diet, one thing we can all agree upon is the importance of vegetables—leafy greens especially, right?

Wrong.

Now before I get into that, I have some more shocking vegetable news:

Vegetables aren’t even real! They're made up!

What? First the tooth ferry, and now vegetables?

Truth.

“Vegetable” is but a culinary term we made up. Unlike fruit, which can be defined scientifically based on specific characteristics, vegetables are arbitrary and subjective.

Lettuce are the leaves of a plant, and asparagus: the stems. Carrots: the roots. Broccoli: the flowers. Garlic: the bulbs. Peas and beans: the seeds. And cucumber, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes etc aren’t vegetables at all: They’re fruit. And then for some reason, we also consider mushrooms, fungi, as vegetables.

Based on the above, it only makes sense that vegetables aren't all created equal. And there’s a school of thought that says we shouldn't be eating leafy greens.

I know one man who is going to be happy about this: Comedian Jim Gaffigan—a kale-hater.

"They could find out kale cures cancer, and I would still be like, 'I'm just going to do the chemo. I've tried to kale."

Meet Andy: This man is lean and fit and healthy. And he hasn’t had a leafy green in three years. He says he’s never felt better.

"But won’t you become deficient in vitamins and minerals if you don’t eat enough leafy greens?"

Truth is, you can get the nutrients you get from vegetables from other sources of food, such as organ meats. Check out this chart:

Andy isn’t alone. In fact, he gets much of his information from two highly-respected experts, Dr. Ray Peat. and Kate Deering.

Deering says this: "We have all been told vegetables are good for us because they contain loads of nutrients, fiber, and antioxidant properties. And this is true — vegetables are filled with all these health-promoting properties. However, does this mean that all vegetables are good for us? Or is there another side of the story we’re missing?”

She believes so.

Three reasons include:

Fibre

One reason to lay off leafy green vegetables, especially if you’re having digestion problems is because they’re high in insoluble fibre, which is difficult to digest, Deering said. 

Vegetables high in insoluble fibre include:

• Greens (spinach, lettuce, kale, mesclun, collards, arugula, watercress, etc.)

• Whole peas, snow peas, snap peas, pea pods

• Green beans

• Celery

• Cabbage

• bok choy

• Brussels sprouts

• Broccoli

• Cauliflower

 

Meanwhile, easier to digest vegetables include:

• Carrots

• Winter squash

• Summer squash (especially peeled)

• Starchy tubers (yams, sweet potatoes, potatoes)

• Turnips

• Rutabagas

• Parsnips

• Beets

• Plantains

• Taro

• Yuca

Goitrogens

“Goitrogens are substances that suppress the function of the thyroid by inhibiting the formation of the thyroid hormone,” Deering wrote in this blog.

They are found in all cruciferous vegetables—broccoli, cauliflower, boo choy, cabbage, brussel sprouts, to name a few. Eating too many of them can suppress your thyroid, according to Deering.

Chemical toxins 

Leafy and other above-ground vegetables have a variety of defensive naturally-produced chemicals, whose function is to prevent animals from eating them. Deering said.

Contrary to popular opinion, Deering recommends eating less leafy greens and more root vegetables, like potatoes, turnips, carrots and beats.  She also recommends fruits that we often consider vegetables, such as squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and pumpkin.

At the end of the day, the science of food and nutrition is constantly evolving, so if nothing else, take this as food for thought.