More Vegetables for Better Health and Wellness

The bulk of any Primal/Paleo meal should be vegetables. As stated in my article about the Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid, your vegetables should be diverse and of many different colors. You want to “eat the rainbow,” as they say. These various colors of fruits and vegetables are a result of the chemicals held within them. They give us an array of nutrients with high antioxidant values. So each day, we want to provide our bodies with a “rainbow” of micronutrients! What follows are 5 ways to eat more vegetables every day, as explained in How to Be Well, by Dr. Frank Lipman.

Shop and Prep your Vegetables

After buying your vegetables, set some time aside to wash and chop/slice them up for the week ahead. That way you can make colorful salads and stir-fry veggies in no time, and have a variety of healthy snacks on hand every day.

Roast your Vegetables

On your prep day, you can make one or two batches of roasted vegetables (sweet potatoes, beets, squash, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.) with a healthy fat for the days ahead.

Make a Soup

Blend steamed vegetables with your homemade broth and have that in the fridge for the week.

Replace Pasta with Spirals and Strands

Dr. Frank Lipman explains: “Make noodles from spiralized zucchini, winter squash, sweet potato, and more….You can also roast a spaghetti squash and scoop out the strands….While you’re at it, replace rice with the cauliflower kind – it also stands in as the basis for pizza crust.”

Stock your Freezer

It is easy to have different bags of frozen organic vegetables in your freezer, ready to be used. If you make a large batch of vegetable soup, you can freeze some of it too.

In Summary

Keep in mind that some vegetables may not work well for everyone. It is up to you to experiment and see how your body responds to each food you eat. It is better to buy locally grown fresh produce and organic. To know exactly how to pick vegetables, you can check my blog post on What to Buy Organic. A great book to read on how to select and prepare vegetables (and fruits) is Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health, by Jo Robinson. How (& Why) to Eat More Vegetables, by Dr. Thomas Cowan is an awesome read too!

Happy 4th of July!

Reference

Lipman, Frank M D. How to Be Well: The 6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life. Houghton Mifflin, 2019, pp. 58–9.

You can also find me on Instagram.

Meaning of “Eating the rainbow”

To eat the rainbow refers to making sure we eat a variety of vegetables and fruits of different colors on a daily basis. Those various colors are the product of chemicals which are held within each fruit or vegetable. They give us an array of nutrients with high antioxidant values. So each day, we want to provide our bodies with a “rainbow” of micronutrients!

Red, blue, and purple vegetables and fruits

In How (& Why) to Eat More Vegetables, Dr. Thomas Cowan explains that “Red, blue and purple plants contain in abundance chemicals called anthocyanins, which have been shown to decrease heart disease, prevent strokes, prevent macular degeneration and improve memory. Preliminary work also suggests they help regulate cell division in mammalian cells and thus may be effective as a cancer medicine or in prevention.” So it is important, each day, to consume a few blueberries, tomatoes, pomegranates, peppers, eggplants, or tree collards, for instance. I regularly enjoy putting a cup of mixed berries in my smoothies, blended with almond milk, a scoop of collagen protein, and a few other healthy powders.

Green vegetables

In the book mentioned above, Dr. Thomas Cowan further explains that when it comes to the chlorophyll in green vegetables, the “[i]ngested chlorophyll has many roles in mammals; it serves as a primary detoxifier of our tissues, it prevents cancer, improves vision and is usually found in plants with abundant vitamin C and folate, both crucial for cellular health and overall disease prevention.” We can easily find a great number of green vegetables. So benefiting daily from what chlorophyll offers in abundance (the greener the plant) is a sure way to sustain our health and wellness goals. I eat salads almost every day. And I Iove using some of Dr. Cowan’s Garden powders in order to have a greater variety of plants in my diet. These powders are very helpful, especially in winter. Do not forget to add herbs to your daily dishes too! And consuming algae (like chlorella and spirulina) when you can is a plus!

Orange and yellow vegetables and fruits

Still according to Dr. Thomas Cowan, “Orange and yellow colors mean that the various carotenoids are present…. Carotenoids participate in the health of the immune system, are needed for vision maintenance, decrease heart disease and help in cancer.” So eating carrots, beets, winter squash or pumpkins, for instance, is one way to tap into this category of nutrients. I also like to regularly consume sweet potatoes.

White plants

When it comes to white plants, Dr. Thomas Cowan states that they “contain chemicals called polyphenols, including a chemical called anthoxanthin. Anthoxanthin was found to decrease blood pressure, decrease cancer risk and prevent strokes. White plants usually have abundant levels of potassium, vitamin C, folate and other B vitamins.” Incorporating white plants to your dishes can easily be done by simply opting for onions and garlic. Onions and garlic are alliums, along with shallots, all great for cooking. If you want to read more about garlic, you can check my blog post, Why Herbs and Spices are a Must. Also in the white plant category, zucchinis and white asparagus are great picks!

In summary

As we can see, “eating the rainbow” is, indeed, important. Even with a busy schedule, eating the rainbow is fairly easy to do on a daily basis. We can plan ahead for the week, of course. Or we can simply make sure that vegetables of each category are on-hand at all times. I say vegetables because, as mentioned by Dr. Catherine Shanahan in Food Rules, “Your vegetable-to-fruit purchase ratio should be five to one.”  A lot of fruits contain quite a bit of sugar and should be considered as occasional treats only. But then again, we are all different individuals. By checking your blood sugar regularly, as suggested in my blog post Which Healthy Sugar Substitutes Can We Buy, you will be able to tell which foods work for you. And the produce you get should be mostly organic, as explained in What to Buy Organic. Red, blue, purple, green, orange, yellow, and white plants, when picked wisely, have some amazing powers to help us feel our best!

References

Calton, PhD, Jayson, and Mira Calton, CN. The Micronutrient Miracle. New York, Rodale, 2015, p. 207.

Cowan, M.D., Thomas. How (& Why) to Eat More Vegetables. Library of Congress No. 2016934925, 2016, pp. 24–26.

Shanahan, MD, Catherine. Food Rules : A Doctor’s Guide to Healthy Eating. Bedford, Nh, Big Box Books, 2010, p. 32.

You can also find me on Instagram.

Overview

In my blog post on how to source beef, I briefly mentioned the Primal Blueprint food pyramid. The Primal Blueprint food pyramid outlines which types of foods someone should consider eating when wanting to eat according to the ancestral template. The bulk of any meal is vegetables. In smaller quantities then comes meat, fish, fowl, and eggs. The middle of the pyramid highlights the importance of consuming healthy fats, followed by certain foods you can eat in small amounts. Lastly, herbs, spices, extracts, and supplements top the pyramid of primal-approved foods.

Vegetables

Vegetables should be diverse and of many different colors. You want to “eat the rainbow,” as they say. It is better to buy locally grown fresh produce and organic. To know exactly how to pick vegetables and fruits, please see my blog post on what to buy organic. Also, an awesome book to read on how to select and prepare vegetables and fruits is Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health, by Jo Robinson.

Meat, fish, fowl, and eggs

Protein intake comes in second, as opposed to what many assume regarding the paleo/primal diet. Good-quality meat and fish is essential. It’s all about quality, not quantity. Here again, local (and pasture-raised) is the best pick, then buying organic is the next best choice. You can learn more about how to source beef, fish, and eggs by checking out my previous articles on these topics.

Healthy fats

Consuming healthy fats and only healthy fats is non-negotiable. This includes the fats used in cooking which should be solid at room temperature (coconut oil, butter, ghee, animal fats), except for avocado oil. Extra-virgin olive oil would be used more for drizzling over food and for dressings. Healthy fats also include foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, nut butters, coconut products, etc. My blog post What are ketones? outlines the benefits we get out of consuming healthy fats.

Moderation foods

The foods to eat in moderation are most fruits because they can bring up your blood sugar quite a bit (except for certain berries) and “nutritious carbs” like sweet potatoes, squash, quinoa, and wild rice. High-fat dairy (raw, fermented, and unpasteurized) is also okay in small quantities provided it is well-sourced (from pasture-raised and grass-fed/grass-finished animals). That means none of the conventional dairy products we find in supermarkets. Dark chocolate is an okay treat too, but it has to be 75% or above, cacao content-wise.

Herbs, spices, extracts, and supplements

Herbs and spices are a great addition to any dish and they offer a host of benefits. They say it’s like having a small medicine cabinet in your kitchen. Of course, organic and mold-free is highly recommended for these. Certain supplements are usually fine to add too as even the best quality foods we can find nowadays offer fewer nutrients compared to centuries ago (or simply decades ago). To find out which supplements might be beneficial to you, you must consult a licensed professional that can help you figure this out after carefully studying your lab work results. 

In summary

This sums up the types of primal-approved foods you want to focus on when eating according to the Primal Blueprint template. Keep in mind that even these primal-approved foods may not work well for everyone. It is up to you to experiment and see how your body responds to each food you consume. To be more attuned to your body and how foods make you feel on a daily basis is part of becoming more knowledgeable about your health and overall wellness.

Reference
Sisson, Mark. The Primal Blueprint : 21-Day Total Body Transformation. Oxnard, Ca, Primal Blueprint Publishing, 2016, pp. 101-122. 


You can also find me on Instagram.

Every year, the EWG (Environmental Working Group) issues a list of foods (the dirty dozen) that you should buy organic to avoid exposure to a high amount of pesticides and chemicals. Also, they list the non-organic fruits and vegetables (the clean fifteen) that are alright to buy if buying everything organic is too expensive for our wallet. It is good to keep in mind that the closer we are to buying everything organic, the better it is for our health and the health of farmworkers who are even more exposed to a high amount of chemicals.

So the fruits and vegetables to buy organic (for 2019) are:  

  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Nectarines
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Hot peppers

And the fruits and vegetables that don’t have to be organic (for 2019) are:

  • Avocados
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapples
  • Sweet peas frozen
  • Onions
  • Papayas
  • Eggplants
  • Asparagus
  • Kiwis
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Cantaloupes
  • Broccoli
  • Mushrooms
  • Honeydew melons

When in doubt, at the store, just consider the thickness of the skin. The thinner the skin of the fruit or vegetable, the more chance it has to be an organic option only.

Of course, it is always better to buy in-season produce at a local farmers’ market, even if it isn’t certified organic. Where I live, there are quite a few Amish farms and farmers’ markets, which is very helpful in bypassing the stores’ offerings. But I am also happy to find some organic options at the local supermarkets.

And in order to consume a wider variety of plant specimens, something that our ancestors were privileged to do, I like to order vegetable powders from Dr. Cowan’s Garden. Using those powders saves a lot of prep time to anyone who has a busy schedule but still wants to eat as healthy as possible. It can also be a great way to have children eat more vegetables without them realizing it if the powders are mixed in, say, the batter of a given recipe.

As an alternative to green vegetables, when not at home, I like to consume the algae tablets that the company Energy Bits offers. They go well with staying in mild ketosis during the day.

Finally, if you can grow a few herbs or vegetables in pots or in a garden, even though it can be time-consuming, it is a very rewarding step to take towards eating healthier.

There is more than one way to increase our consumption of vegetables and fruits (the latter truly to a lesser extent) and to avoid the conventional chemical-laden varieties. It is whatever fits our budget and works with our busy schedule.

You can also find me on Instagram