Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
22 Jan

10 “Vegetables” You Shouldn’t Be Eating

monsterveggieAlthough here at Mark’s Daily Apple we exhaustively advocate vegetables as a dietary staple, it turns out there are some instances when vegetables aren’t really all that healthy.

Ok, ok, that’s really not true. Just about every vegetable has a redeeming quality or two, but sometimes some vegetables are forced – usually by the masterminds behind food marketing – to masquerade as something healthy when really they’re nothing more than an unhealthy food with “vegetable” tacked on in the title.

Confused? Read on to learn which “vegetables” you should be avoiding:

Veggie Chips:
Love potato chips but know they aren’t good for you? Common sense dictates that vegetable chips – which the labels claim are made from real vegetables – would be a sensible alternative, right? Wrong. The first ingredients on most “veggie” chip labels are potatoes and corn, which, to be honest, aren’t that much different from regular run-of-the-mill chips. But those pretty colors, the ones that show that the chip is from a tomato, a bell pepper, heck, even a carrot!? Sadly they’re nothing more than a vegetable extract, or worse, a chemically-manufactured colorant. Need further proof these aren’t the chips for you? Most veggie chip varieties are cooked in canola oil, a rapeseed derivative that is thought to be toxic to humans and animals (appetizing, huh?)

Vegetable Tempura:
Realistically, any vegetable that’s taken a dip in a deep fat fryer really shouldn’t be considered healthy fare, but for tempura, the odds are stacked even less in the veggies favor. Although touted as one of the lighter types of batter, most “authentic” tempura recipes call for liberal use of cornstarch and heaps of sugar. Our tip? Stick to the stir fry!

Vegetable Sushi:
In recent years, sushi has risen to fame as the healthy meal of the celebrity set, and while we know to stay away from some lower grade sushi (like the supermarket sushi that boasts sugar-laden imitation fish), the reality is even simple vegetable sushi can be unhealthy. The culprit? The rice, which in sushi is mixed with rice vinegar and plenty of sugar. If you must do the sushi samba, ask for brown rice or balance out the meal with plenty of steamed veggies, such as hijiki (cooked seaweed) or oshitashi (boiled spinach with soy sauce).

Tomato Ketchup:
Tomatoes? Check. Vinegar? Check. High fructose corn syrup? Definitely! In fact, ketchup contains so much sugar (typically holding the second or third spot on the ingredients list) it might as well be re-branded tomato syrup (yum!) Instead, opt for salsa, malt vinegar, spices or learn to go without!

Spinach Dip:
Think the chips are the only bad thing going on in a spinach dip? Turns out the dip itself isn’t all that good for you either. Yes, it does contain healthy spinach (and sometimes artichokes too!), but it’s also chock-full of heavy cream, mayo and cream cheese, and quite often topped with bread crumbs or croutons. Why use the ingredient that is usually featured least prominently to name the dip? It would be like calling “carrot cake” carrot cake.

Canned Vegetable Soup:
It’s easy to think that the food manufacturers are doing you a favor by preparing a delicious, hearty – and frequently low-calorie – vegetable soup, but the reality is there are a multitude of evils hidden in that can! High sodium content aside, many of these soups also contain honey, sugar and other sweeteners – whether real or artificial – that can amount to as much as 15g of sugar per half-cup serving!

Grocery Aisle Vinaigrette Dressings:
Ok, ok, so it’s technically not a vegetable dish, but for many of us, vinaigrette is synonymous with salads, grilled veggies and a multitude of other seemingly healthy offerings. Although still a healthier option than creamier salad toppers, store-bought vinaigrettes are frequently cut with honey or corn syrup to make them less tangy. Our advice? Pick up a good balsamic vinegar and an even better olive oil and they’ll be no need to add in any extras!

Vegetable Juice:
Let’s face it: Sometimes meeting your recommended daily vegetable quota can be a little taxing (both in terms of finding palatable vegetables and financing them too!) Enter vegetable juice, which promises to deliver up to two servings of vegetables in just a few gulps. However, a quick glance at the label of one of these pre-packaged beauties reveals that they are not only loaded with sugar (usually as a result of fruit-based sweeteners) but are also devoid of almost all fiber. The reason? Juicing, whether commercial or otherwise, can strip vegetables of their heart-healthy fiber, leaving you with nothing more than a fancy vitamin shot!

Carrot Cake:
Despite the fact that carrot cake has the word carrot in its name there still exists the nagging fact that the other word is cake. Enough said.

Corn:
We’ve told you countless times but we’ll tell you again. CORN IS NOT A VEGETABLE IT’S A GRAIN!! Although considered a great source of vitamins B1 (thiamin) and B5 (pantothenic acid), folate, vitamin C, phosphorous and manganese, just one medium ear of corn can pack as much as 15 grams of sugar! Our advice? Treat this GRAIN like any other GRAIN in your diet and bump it to the bottom of your shopping list!

The Untrained Eye Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Top 10 Vegetables for the Winter Season

LifeHacker: How to Chop Veggies Like a Pro

Burning the Scale: Is Healthy Food Too Expensive?

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. But most of us living in the Midwest do love our corn on the cob. At least in my household, we have it maybe two or three times a year, in the middle of summer when you can pass three farm stands or farmer’s markets on the way home that are selling ears picked the day before at the latest. Fresh enough to just eat uncooked if you like.

    Corn that’s been frozen or corn on the cob in the middle of winter is just…wrong. It’s a delicacy and treat when it’s good, and it’s available that way for a short amount of time. And therefore, not copiously consumed.

    Katie wrote on January 22nd, 2008
  2. I have a question on the spinach dip. Is the knock on heavy cream and cream cheese based on the fact that you’re not big on dairy? It surely can’t be because of the fat content after Mark’s recent concession in the Protein post that he may have to moderate some of his lean versus fat advice. Robert Atkins (of Why Atkins Was Right fame) surely wouldn’t have any problem with those ingredients.

    Dave C. wrote on January 22nd, 2008
    • I agree. I think adding lots of fat to veggies is what makes people want to eat them.

      Spinach dip with cream cheese and heavy cream is yummy – and I say that even though spinach is the only green I don’t like!

      Granted, you don’t get a LOT of spinach for the amount of cream cheese and cream, but it’s not exactly an everyday food.

      Still… every day, veggies need fat to be palatable. Real butter melted on top of steamed veggies, stirfry in avocado oil, salad drenched in dressing… I can’t see how I’d get veggies down without fat.

      And I can’t imagine I’d ever eat an artichoke without melted butter.

      jpatti wrote on April 8th, 2011
      • Or suck it up. That mentality is why America is fat. You need the mentality of eat to live, not live to eat.

        Dustin wrote on January 15th, 2014
    • I make a great spinach artichoke dip with lite mayo, jack cheese and parmesan. It’s not creamy like most dips, more chunky, but I like it that way. This is dip is lower in calories than the chips.

      Dolores wrote on April 18th, 2011
  3. That photo is awesome :)

    Naomi wrote on January 23rd, 2008
  4. The other problem with grocery store vinaigrettes is the oils. They are usually inferior quality, omega-6 laden oils like soybean oil or nasty tasting ones like canola oil – even the ones that claim to be made of olive oil are usually mostly cheaper oil, with just a teensy bit of olive. And they are packaged in clear glass, where the oils become rancid due to exposure to light. Yuck.

    Mark – have you ever done a post on canola oil? If not, may I humbly request one? Personally, the fact that it tastes fishy (and not in a delicious, salmon-like way) and gums up my baking sheets is enough to keep me away from it. But I have a sensitive nose, and many people claim not to notice that canola oil smells bad. For them, I’d love to have some resources about any adverse effects of canola on health. Especially because canola is touted by the mainstream as a healthy oil!

    Migraineur wrote on January 23rd, 2008
  5. I’d be interested in Mark’s take on corn masa. I know its a grain but in whole from and in tortillas it has zero sugar and a decent amount of fiber. 3-4 grams. You can also get no sugar added veg juice cocktail wich i use in making sauces and chili and low or no sugar added katsup. Realy good blog though. I’m hooked!

    warren wrote on January 23rd, 2008
  6. Dave C –

    There certainly is nothing wrong with (homemade) mayo and some (organic) heavy cream. I think the Worker Bee was simply making a tongue-in-cheek comment on a dish called “Spinach” dip when it is in fact a calorie dense dish comprised mostly of fats. Nothing wrong with fats here at MDA. Just don’t go all out on the spinach dip thinking you are following in Popeye’s footsteps. ;)

    Aaron wrote on January 23rd, 2008
  7. Thanks for the post suggestions everyone! I’ll have to pencil in a post about canola oil and corn masa for the near future. Thanks again!

    Mark Sisson wrote on January 23rd, 2008
  8. There is nothing as tasty as a high-quality balsamic (which should cost about the same as a good bottle of Moet) and EVOO (which should also be expensive or I question quality and production techniques).

    However, I admit to using store-bought salad dressings, but I mix it with about 50% EVOO and 25% water. The EVOO adds a healthy dose of good oil (I drink about a quart every week or two) and the water helps it spread out around the salad better. This amount of flavor from the dressing makes it more of a subtle complement rather than a salad taking a bath in it. Sometimes I eat my salads plain…

    When you eat a couple salads a day, using the exact same concoction of balsamic and EVOO gets tastefully boring…

    Brian A wrote on January 23rd, 2008
  9. I think it’s very funny what gets classified as a vegetable nowadays! But I don’t think Ketchup is really the same as the rest on there…it’s a condiment and a true serving is pretty small compared to a bog of chips that advertises “veggie.” Yes, it has sugar but in a small amount, it makes a treat of fries or a burger taste sooo much better!

    Jane wrote on January 24th, 2008
  10. Would you believe it if I were to say that even in my country, with its reputation of gastronomy and real gourmet meals, corn tends to be considered as a vegetable by most people (including those that came preaching for “5 fruits and veggies a day” in the campus restaurant last year)?

    The usual argument is “yes but we put it in salads”. Well, I happen to put chicken in my salads sometimes, so can I assume that chicken is a vegetable? :p

    Kery wrote on January 25th, 2008
  11. Hey Mark,
    I’ve been reading about this idea of fat-burning on a low carb diet. Seems that carbs are needed to ignite the consumption of fat by muscles at aerobic levels of activity. (The whole Krebb’s cycle thing where carbs are the lighter fluid and fats the wood). Without sufficient carbs the engine just runs down, or worse starts to cannibalize muscle tissue . . .
    Given all this, I wonder what you think an appropriate level of carbs is on the primal diet and how one should gauge this. Also, it seems in mainstream medical circles a state of ketosis is considered to be an evil. Do you disagree? Why?

    Joe wrote on July 23rd, 2008
  12. 1) On the primal plan, we don’t TRY to burn a lot of carbs. There is no reason to. Long aerobic stuff done easy burns almost entirely fats. Short intense stuff on the PB plan burns carbs but you don’t ever do it long enough to deplete carbs. If you choose to train to race long, don’t then argue that PB doesn’t work, because PB isn’t set up to do “chronic cardio”.

    2) The notion that “fats burn in a carbohydrate flame” is 1980s technology. It’s wrong. Fats and carbs burn in an amino acid flame. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18500949

    3) Ketosis is not evil for all the reasons I have stated many times on the site and in prior answers on mine and other sites. If you as a reader still want to believe what others say, be my guest, but it’s quite clear that ketosis is a normal, healthy form of energy production and human metabolism.

    Mark Sisson wrote on July 23rd, 2008
  13. Mark, what do you think of an occasional short-term increase in carbs for something requiring intense anaerobic power over a long day (like climbing up 1,000 feet or more of vertical cliff)? It seems like the kettle chips (just potatoes and quality oil) really help supplement my jerky, tangerines, celery and nuts on these forays. Or am I just causing an insulin spike that my body is unaccustomed to when it least needs this shock?

    Danielle T wrote on March 17th, 2009
  14. Haha, great list! I got some veggie chips last summer thinking they were actually based on vegetables. Yeah right! They were potato, corn, or rice chips with some powdered veggies sprinkled in there.

    It’s getting to the point where the FDA needs to regulate the use of the word “vegetable” on these boxed and bagged products…

    Levi wrote on June 2nd, 2009
  15. I fully recommend Terra brand chips as a great alternative to the common potato/corn kinds. We found these in the supermarket and were shocked they wanted $5 for a tiny bag of them…but the moment they went on sale, we just had to give them a try; and were surprised at how good they were! You won’t find grain of any kind in them, no potatos, and the common complaint we have is they are high in salt. But, they are made of plants, such as yucca, and sweet potato, beats, and other fruits, plants, and veggies…which makes it worth it. Their root veggie strips are insanely good when mixed with eggs, or used in salads, stir fry, and soups too.

    Abby wrote on November 13th, 2009
  16. I stand corrected, they DO have potato chips as well…but many of their flavors are not potato or grain. http://www.terrachips.com/products/index.php

    Abby wrote on November 13th, 2009
  17. I recently bought some “Spicy Caribbean” Plantain Chips and I was wondering what your opinion would be on them. The ingredients are: Plantains, Vegetable Oil (Palm Olein), Spices, Salt. One ounce is 150cals, 8g fat, 125mg sodium, 19g carbs, 1g fibre, 0.5g protein, and 1g sugars. What do ya think?

    Xyalina wrote on May 27th, 2010
  18. Terra actually makes chips that do not contain potatoes! Some of them DO have potatoes, so watch out, but their veggie chips are great if you want a chip that isn’t full of potatoes or corn. They also come with color and shapes that are party-friendly.

    Abby wrote on May 28th, 2010
    • I LOVE THE TERRA CHIPS that are beets, yams, squash etc; My PROBLEM with them?
      Driving home from Trader Joes, I can reach the bag in the back seat, and I will eat the entire bag on the drive home LOL

      They are sooooooooooooooooooooo yummy !

      Terri McMichael wrote on May 5th, 2014
  19. The canola/rapeseed oil thing is a pure urban legend, people, see http://www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/canola.asp

    James Wilson wrote on June 14th, 2010
    • Canola oil is still terrible stuff. It’s extremely high in polyunsaturated fats which are damaged during the high heat processing.

      Jason wrote on February 21st, 2013
  20. What’s wrong with heavy cream?

    Tom wrote on June 14th, 2010
  21. What about green beans? They are the immature bean pod before the beans have formed. Sugar and snow peas?

    Sarah wrote on October 14th, 2010
  22. Love the sushi comment. Sushi = healthy craze drives me up the wall!

    One correction Mark: it’s ohitashi (remove an ‘s’ :)

    Underwater Mushroom wrote on December 13th, 2010
  23. even though, apples are no vegetables i can recommend a great snack for in between. try a green apple with organic peanut or almond butter.. tastes really great.

    Carsten wrote on April 9th, 2011
  24. I live in the Midwest and can remember years ago when our old-timey family doctor told my Grandfather, “Only pigs should be eating corn!” . . . and it’s stuck with me ever since.

    Unless, of course, you enjoy getting fat and dealing with all kinds of health problems related to Omega-3 deficiencies.

    Lance Uppercut wrote on August 30th, 2011
    • Please don’t confuse fresh, non-GMO sweet corn with canned/frozen corn, popcorn, parched corn, cornstarch, corn syrup, HFCS, or any other manufactured product. It deserves better than that.

      Corn has been cultivated for hundreds, possibly thousands of years, and is technically considered a vegetable, a grain and a fruit. It contains a considerable amount of nutrition, including respectable amounts of lutein and zeazanthan, which are excellent for eye health. Moreover young sweet corn straight from the field is a delicious, gluten-free treat that’s only available a few weeks out of the year. Sure, it’s high in fructose, but so is fruit. Nobody is suggesting you OD on either one.

      Shary wrote on June 9th, 2012
  25. Most useless article ever.

    zekky91 wrote on February 20th, 2012
  26. i grew grew zucchini in the summer, pulsed them up with garlic, cumin, oregano,pepper, turmeric a bit of salt, and them made them into craqcker ala the almond cracker recipe on this website. later i used the same reciper and added aggs and made them into tortillas. then, made enchiladas! fabulous.

    dana pallessen wrote on October 29th, 2012
  27. The title of the article is very misleading. Vegetables are not bad. When they are processed by humans, their goodness is compromised. Author of the article is not conscious enough towards the responsibility of writing which can impact readers health to great extent.

    Peter wrote on March 8th, 2014

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