I’ve been able to spend a good amount of time recently with some of my very best friends. Because of TimeChop, health and diet are a frequent conversation. One thing I’ve realized is that our love for potatoes, one of my favorite foods, is a siren song pulling us towards an awful crash on unhealthy rocks.
Does this sound familiar? “I eat fruits & vegetables. I’ll have a banana for breakfast, sometimes a salad for lunch and usually potatoes with dinner. So, maybe 2-3 servings per day?” Yes, the statement typically ends in a slight, unsure question.
This is the typical response I get when I ask the question, “How many fruits & vegetables do you eat each day?”
Potatoes. Baked in the Past?
I love potatoes. I grew up in an area known for growing Russet potatoes. Imagine growing nearly 400 million pounds of potatoes each year. If you assume the average Russet potato is 4 inches long, and laid them end to end, it would equal nearly 25,000 miles or one complete lap around the earth. That’s a lot of potatoes. We ate baked potatoes, fried potatoes, scalloped potatoes, hash browns, mashed potatoes and even had our own french fryer. We ate potatoes every night. When I think of comfort food, potatoes are at the top of my list.
Fortunately for my health, I married someone who doesn’t share this potato love. I’ve come to realize that potatoes, while “baked” in my past, created an unhealthy illusion that all vegetables are created equal. They’re not.
Not All Vegetables are Created Equal
One way of looking at a food’s nutritional value is the ANDI score. Dr. Fuhrman created the ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) to show how popular foods stack up in terms of micronutrient density per calorie. The more nutrient-dense food you consume, the more you will be satisfied with fewer calories. You will be able to eat less, and feel better.
So how do some of my favorite fruits and vegetables stack up? Unfortunately, my old go-tos are below 100 on the ANDI scale. If you define fruits and vegetables like I used to, you’re missing out on some easy health benefits. You should trade up.
|Below 50||French Fries (12), White Potato (28), Bananas (30), Corn (45)|
|50 - 100||Apple (53), Pineapple (54), Cherries (55), Green Peas (63), Peaches (65), Green Beans (74), Cucumber (87), Orange (98)|
|100 - 200||Onions (109), Grapes (119), Iceberg Lettuce (127), Blueberries (132), Zucchini (164), Sweet Potato (181), Tomato (186)|
|200 - 500||Mushrooms (238), Asparagus (205), Bell Peppers (265), Cauliflower (315), Broccoli (340), Cabbage (434), Carrots (458), Brussels Sprouts (490)|
|500 - 999||Romaine (510), Arugula (604), Spinach (707), Bok Choy (895)|
|1000||Swiss Chard, Watercress, Mustard Greens, Collard Greens, Kale (all 1000)|
Servings? More is Better
Prior to 2013, I averaged 3-4 servings of fruits & vegetables each day, with only two of those servings at most, in the high ANDI score area. And yes, my voice would go up if someone asked me that question above. Now, I get 6-8 servings per day, with solid marks at the upper end. What did I change?
A Smoothie for Breakfast
One real easy way to get high quality vegetables is to put them in a smoothie for breakfast. You’d be surprised how easy it is to disguise a cup of spinach or kale with frozen pineapple or blueberries. You can find a great recipe at Vitality In Focus, or email me for ideas. I do find a good blender like a Vitamix, eliminates the lumps and strands.
While this change didn’t result in any pounds lost, I was very pleased with the change in my body chemistry. Take cholesterol for example. I’m middle aged and don’t take a statin. I was on the upper end of my target in 2013, and I have a family history of obesity and diabetes. Take a look at the decrease in the LDL (or bad) number in 2016. Reduced by 14 points. Bam!
|HDL Cholesterol, External||48 mg/dL||50 mg/dL||40 - 59 mg/dL|
|LDL Cholesterol, External||103 mg/dL||89 mg/dL||< = 99 mg/dL|
|Cholesterol, Total, External||171 mg/dL||162 mg/dL||< = 199 mg/DL|
Not taking any medication to manage cholesterol is fantastic in my book. As an aside, I’ve recently read that statins, which a lot of my friends are taking to manage their cholesterol, can lower testosterone counts. While this is not new news and I’m sure can be disputed as all studies can, rather than using a high T supplement, I’d go for higher quality vegetables as a starting point.
So my tasty smoothie nearly every morning, gave me a jumpstart on my high quality vegetable intake. What else did I do to increase the numbers of servings?
Here’s an actual shopping list (the vegetable portion) for 5 dinners and 5 lunches for TimeChop’s Fast & Delicious Beef Sliders on Portobello connected meal plan. This will get me through an entire week of lunches and dinner. I’m assuming I’ll have a few nights out and I usually leave weekend lunches open too. You can download TimeChop with two free connected meal plans on the App Store.
|< 100||100 - 200||200 - 500||500+|
|3 medium avocado|
8 medium green beans
|1 medium red onion|
2 medium tomato
2 medium zucchini
1 medium sweet potato
1 medium green pepper
1 medium red pepper
1 medium orange pepper
2 medium cremini mushrooms
|1 medium portobello mushrooms|
10 oz broccoli
4 medium carrot (s)
1 medium red cabbage
|2 head romaine lettuce
4 oz baby spinach
Notice how I’m now getting 3 to 4 times the micronutrients than people who eat the lower density foods, not to mention an incredible variety of other vitamins and minerals and fiber.
I’ll still eat potatoes every now and again, but I’ll do it with my eyes wide open. Given the choice, I’ll take sweet potato fries over regular fries every time. I’m going to keep drinking my smoothies most mornings, and keep eating TimeChop type meals to get the quality and variety of vegetables and therefore the variety of micronutrients my body needs to feel great. And if this has got you thinking, I’ll be sharing some protein and hydration secrets in upcoming posts. Be well!
PS. I’ll provide MoJo details next week as, once again, I was traveling with no access to the scale for my Sunday morning weigh in.