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  • What’s a Vegetable?


    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
    Saturday, December 01, 2012 1:30 pm Email this article

    ​You hear, "Eat your fruits and vegetables." Everyone thinks they know what that means, but I am sure you don’t. What do potatoes, peas, broccoli, squash and avocados have in common? Answer: nothing, other than being derived from plants. What is a fruit? Most answer that fruits come from trees. Well, but avocados come from a tree, too. Is corn a vegetable? No, it is a grain.

    Dictionaries stumble over the definitions and resort to lists of examples. The only definition of vegetable that makes sense is ‘the edible part of a plant’. What else would it be? My definition fits with the Latin root "vege" meaning ‘to grow’. So fruits are vegetables, and the saying "eat your fruits and vegetables" can be reduced to "eat your vegetables".

    But why? An evening with Bowes & Church, the bible of food content, leads to the conclusion that most foods contain about the same vitamins. No surprise since almost all are derived from cells and cells contain about the same stuff. So koala bears can live on nothing but eucalyptus leaves and pandas nothing but bamboo. Male college students live on burgers and pizza. So Popeye, where are you now? Wimpy is as good as you.

    A question for you. Given that red meat was the main source of food for homo sapiens for 200,000 years, was it possible to evolve so that red meat is bad for us? Please don’t say yes. Please have better sense than that.

    In fact for most of the 200,000 years homo sapiens has been on Earth, they ate almost nothing but meat and fish. They gathered some wild vegetables (my definition), but anyone walking in the woods knows how scarce those are. Squirrels eat acorns, but you would have a hard time. The squirrels get most of them anyway, because that is their natural food. It is not yours. The main source of protein for man was meat. Aborigines turned to farming only when animals were scarce. Vegetables became a major food-source only with farming.

    Doctor’s Order #4 tells you to stop balancing meals. The idea that the plate is not healthy unless it contains a high-protein food, a vegetable (their definition) and a starch originated in 1954 with the first President’s Council on Nutrition. The men on the council consulted no real scientist; they talked only to business lobbyists and Ancel Keys. In other words, they made it all up. Sixty years later we still teach the Five Food Groups. It’s incorporated into the MyPlate.com campaign. No other country has ever heard of the food groups. None of the daily menus in the French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook are balanced.

    In particular it is bad to combine meat or cheese with a starch. Meat and cheese have beaucoup calories, but they can’t be absorbed and stored well because they are a weak stimulus to insulin. Starch has half the calories, but it is a very strong stimulus to insulin. Insulin is the gatekeeper.

    Someone asked me to declare my philosophy in a single sentence. Here ‘tis. At mealtimes eat what tastes really good–whatever it is–don’t overeat, don’t balance and don’t snack. There. I’m done. I’m out. No need for PhDs, programs, Dr. Oz or nutritionists. It is all too simple. The key is to stop focusing on yourself and get a life. Make friends and spend time with them. Notice art and nature. Get your head out of your stomach.

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