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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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January 22, 2008

10 “Vegetables” You Shouldn’t Be Eating

By Worker Bee
41 Comments

Although 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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41 Comments on "10 “Vegetables” You Shouldn’t Be Eating"

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Katie
Katie
8 years 8 months ago
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… Read more »
Dave C.
8 years 8 months ago

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.

jpatti
5 years 5 months ago
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… Read more »
Dustin
Dustin
2 years 8 months ago

Or suck it up. That mentality is why America is fat. You need the mentality of eat to live, not live to eat.

latetothepartyobviously
latetothepartyobviously
1 year 2 months ago

I agree also. But make the fat olive oil or avocado oil, which are healthy fats. BTW, asparagus with a little olive oil, garlic and lemon baked for 20 minutes is absolutely delicious!

Dolores
Dolores
5 years 5 months ago

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.

Naomi
8 years 8 months ago

That photo is awesome 🙂

Migraineur
8 years 8 months ago
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,… Read more »
warren
warren
8 years 8 months ago

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!

Aaron
8 years 8 months ago

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. 😉

Mark Sisson
8 years 8 months ago

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!

Brian A
Brian A
8 years 8 months ago
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… Read more »
Jane
Jane
8 years 8 months ago

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!

Kery
8 years 7 months ago

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

Joe
Joe
8 years 2 months ago
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… Read more »
Mark Sisson
8 years 2 months ago
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… Read more »
Danielle T
7 years 6 months ago

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?

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[…] 10 “Vegetables” You Shouldn’t Be Eating […]

Levi
7 years 3 months ago

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…

trackback
7 years 1 month ago

[…] Bad “Vegetables” […]

Abby
Abby
6 years 10 months ago
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… Read more »
Abby
Abby
6 years 10 months ago

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

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[…] Sisson posted about sneaky veggie foods that are bad for […]

Xyalina
Xyalina
6 years 3 months ago

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?

Abby
Abby
6 years 3 months ago

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.

Terri McMichael
Terri McMichael
2 years 4 months ago

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 !

James Wilson
James Wilson
6 years 3 months ago

The canola/rapeseed oil thing is a pure urban legend, people, see http://www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/canola.asp

Jason
Jason
3 years 7 months ago

Canola oil is still terrible stuff. It’s extremely high in polyunsaturated fats which are damaged during the high heat processing.

Tom
Tom
6 years 3 months ago

What’s wrong with heavy cream?

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[…] 10 “Veggies” You Shouldn’t Be Eating […]

Sarah
Sarah
5 years 11 months ago

What about green beans? They are the immature bean pod before the beans have formed. Sugar and snow peas?

Underwater Mushroom
5 years 9 months ago

Love the sushi comment. Sushi = healthy craze drives me up the wall!

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

Carsten
5 years 5 months ago

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.

Lance Uppercut
5 years 25 days ago

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.

Shary
Shary
4 years 3 months ago
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.… Read more »
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[…] Flavor. One more tip on salads – when adding dressing, avoid dressings with excess sugar like grocery store vinaigrettes. There are healthier options that can be just as if not more flavorful. Finding the Time to Make a […]

zekky91
zekky91
4 years 7 months ago

Most useless article ever.

dana pallessen
dana pallessen
3 years 10 months ago

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.

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[…] 10 “Vegetables” You Shouldn’t Be Eating by Worker Bee of Mark’s Daily Apple […]

Peter
Peter
2 years 6 months ago

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.

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[…] along with many other posts discussing the perils of eating vegetables, such as this one, “10 Vegetables You Shouldn’t be Eating,” I’m finally off those poisonous, foul tasting veggies.  (When I pointed out the article […]

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