Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Are you eating your vegetables correctly?

Eat more vegetables. Sounds simple enough, but did you know that certain vegetables can do more harm than good in our bodies if eaten the wrong way?

There is a substance called oxalic acid found in certain vegetables that when eaten raw, blocks the absorption of calcium and iron. Oxalic acid can also irritate the mouth and intestinal tract. The good news is that the solution to this problem is simple: cook 'em. The acid is neutralized when cooked (light steaming works and is the best way to preserve most, if not all of the nutrients and enzymes in the vegetable) allowing all the good stuff in our food to be absorbed by our bodies.
The following vegetables contain oxalic acid and should not be eaten raw:

spinach (how often do you eat spinach salads?)
kale (are you a raw kale chip or salad eater?)
collard greens
mustard greens
beet greens

If you ever juice, you'll notice that this list contains some of the top "juicing greens." I lightly steam my greens before juicing. You can also blanch them in boiling water and immediately put them in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. But, this will destroy some of the living enzymes so if your goal is to get the most from your juice, you'll want to stick with steaming.

There are also substances in our veggies known as 'goitrogens' that can block the production of thyroid hormones (don't mess with these). The goitrogens are also neutralized by cooking and they are found in the following:

Brussel sprouts

Fermenting your veggies (think turning cabbage into sauerkraut, etc.) also neutralizes all these harmful substances.

Raw potatoes have hemagglutinins. These suckers block the proper functioning of red blood cells. Also, always eat organically grown, fully-cooked potatoes. Conventionally grown ones also have sprout-inhibitors sprayed on them. These chemicals can be mutagenic (can start or increase the rate of cell mutation). Here's a great video (only 2.5 minutes long) that explains the use of these sprays on potatoes:

Speaking of eating organic, some chemical (non-organic) soils and fertilizers are loaded with nitrogen. Some dark green vegetables grown in this type of dirt actually concentrate nitrates (those are the things we try to avoid in hot dogs, bacon, etc.) in their flesh and leaves. These nitrates can then become carcinogenic (cancer-causing) in our intestinal tracts when eaten. Nitrates also tend to form in cooked and stored/canned green veggies, so it's best to avoid those as well. Easy solution: buy organic, buy fresh.

Almost all vegetables can cause adverse reactions in our bodies if eaten in excess. That means eating tomato sauce 4 times a week or having a spinach salad everyday for lunch is not recommended. Easy solution: eat a variety of veggies each week. You'll be keeping balance in your body by getting a whole mix of different nutrients. Vegetables have great nutritional value, especially for cancer-fighting, so make sure you get lots of different types in your diet each month for optimal health. I think this would be wise for all food groups. Perhaps that's why God designed seasonal food - so we don't overload on too much of one thing at a time.

I feel a little bit like Paula Deen with the amount of butter I recommend, but vegetables shouldn't be immune to the tasty addition of fat. Vegetables contain lots of vitamins that are fat-soluble (they need fat to be absorbed into our bodies) so get the most of them by adding some butter (raw, from pasture-raised (grass-fed) cows is best).

Its not hard to eat your veggies right.
Stick to steaming or lightly cooking/sauteing your greens. 
Make sure your potatoes are cooked.
Buy organic.
Eat them with fat (butter, olive oil, coconut oil).
Don't eat too much of one type, too often (eat seasonally).
If you juice, steam your greens first so you don't block any nutrients.

Pass this on to any "raw-foodists" you may know. Their bodies will thank you.


Most of this info came from Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions cookbook. Check it out here.