Paleo Vegetables: Prepping Your Food for Optimal Benefit
Written by Brooke English
on March 25, 2020
- It’s not enough, going on the Paleo diet and avoiding processed foods. One also needs to take the time and effort to store and prepare their various foods properly to garner the most nutritional bang for their buck. Otherwise, while you are eating technically healthy things, it’s likely they lack much of the nutrition they would otherwise have.
- A Complete Guide to Vegetables, and how best to store and prepare each for maximum nutritional benefits received.
- Quick and dirty list of top veggies for on-the-go eating.
Want to heal your body? Achieve glowing skin? A slimmer figure? Experience increased energy? Sleep better? Decrease joint pain? Who wouldn’t wish for those health benefits?
Going Paleo on its own is not quite enough to achieve this. There is a tad more to it than that.
As most of us understand by now, food is medicine. It can also be poison. Thus, the choice of what you put into your body is a crucial and life altering one.
However, it is not just about consuming the right foods to obtain optimal health. Even more crucial is how we prepare, store, and cook (or not) these various foods. One type food which is typically rife with antioxidants, nutrition, and all sorts of good-for-you ingredients can become the nutritional equivalent to cardboard, by cooking or storing it in the wrong way. Essentially eliminating this otherwise heathy food of most, if not all of its nutritional value.
It is sobering and sad to realize that, for many of us, we have been eating supposedly healthy foods which, because we have gone about cooking or preparing them incorrectly, have been largely void of nutritional content. Also, we sometimes (not realizing it) might select foods from the grocery store which are beyond the level of maintaining their highest degree of nutritional content. We can change this though.
So, it’s not enough, merely following a healthy diet like Paleo. That is part one of taking steps toward a healthy lifestyle. Part two, equally as crucial, is making the time and effort to store and prepare those foods correctly so that you maintain the fullest nutritional values possible for each of these food items. And, the first step in doing this involves educating oneself on what these correct methods of storage and cooking might be.
The following vegetables do, in fact, help significantly with the preventing and even combating of disease. However, one needs to make sure to prepare them correctly to benefit from all the nutrition they have on offering.
Important note: all of this information, in fuller detail and depth, can be found in Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson. However, we’ve gone through and cited some additional sources from where this information can also be gleaned. Still, all statistics and research below should be assumed as coming from this book. We’ve read the book in its entirety and broken down the basics into a nutshell, for your convenience and reading pleasure below. You can find the book on Amazon.com here.
22 Best Paleo Vegetables
Arugula is loaded with antioxidants, has strong anti-cancer properties (source), and is bursting with calcium, magnesium, folate, and vitamin E. Eat it raw for the most health benefits, though make sure to eat within a day or two of purchasing, as it expires quickly.
Spinach helps protect the eyes, reduces inflammation of the body (source), and has anti-aging benefits (both mentally and skin-wise). Buy whole spinach in bunches rather than bagged. When cooking, either steam or microwave. Do not boil. However, eating it fresh and raw offers the most nutrients. Again, eat within a day or two.
Radicchio has four times more antioxidants than Romaine lettuce. The best variety of which is Rosso de Treviso. Eat raw for optimal benefits.
Garlic is incredible for your health. For ages, it has been used to treat wounds, restore appetite, boost energy, lower fevers, and get rid of the common cold. It has also been proven to help fight cancer and to reduce inflammation in the body (source). The key to garlic is this: two enzymes in garlic need to co-mingle in order to produce these anti cancerous effects. To allow for this to happen, you must slice, cut, or press the garlic, but then let it sit for 10 minutes. If you don't wait the ten minutes, the enzymes don't have the chance to mix, and thus, no anti-cancer nor anti-inflammatory are happening. The garlic, then, becomes merely a flavoring. It is well worth waiting the 10 minutes. Press, then rest (for ten). Garlic is powerful medicine.
Onions are up there with garlic in terms of healing powers for your body. Strong and especially pungent onions have been found to kill 95% of human cancer cells, whereas sweet and milder onions only killed off some 10% (For the exact statistic and research, check out Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson) (source). Sweet onions are also less effective at thinning blood, so they are less able to lower risk of heart attack and stroke. Onions as a whole, though, are anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-cancer. For the most benefits, use pungent ones. Onions can be kept for a month in a cool, dry place. Baking, sautéing, roasting, and frying increases their benefits. Boiling does not.
Leeks are similarly great for you. The nutrients are most concentrated in the leaves and green of the stalk, a part many people tend to dispose of. They lose most health benefits after a couple days in the fridge though, so use them right away.
Scallions have 140 times more phytonutrients than white onions. They also show significant promise in reducing the risk of cancer (source). Eat these a day or two after purchase for maximum health benefits.
Garlic or Onion Chives
Ounce for ounce, garlic chives have more antioxidants than the hottest red onion, so these bad boys are awesome for your body. The Chinese have long used them to treat a variety of maladies, including fatigue and disorders of the kidney, liver, and digestive tract. Eat them right away though, as they tend to spoil fast. Growing your own results in even more nutrients.
Shallots have six times more phytonutrients than onions, and are second only to garlic.
This is a tough one, as technically it is a grain, so shouldn't really be eaten often, if at all. However, if and when you do consume it, eat the blue, purple, orange, black, and red varieties. These have ample nutrition. Colorful cornmeal is also great, though make sure to use whole grain and not refined. Traditional yellow and white corn is packed with sugar, so generally better to steer clear. In terms of preparing, do not boil corn. This saps it of nearly all nutrition (source). Steam on the stove top or in the microwave. The less contact with water, the better.
Potatoes are generally meh in terms of nutritional contents on the offering. However, there are three specific potato breeds which have great nutritional value. "Mountain Rose," "Purple Majesty," and "All Blue." Mountain Rose is found to be highly effective in inhibiting human breast cancer cells from forming. Purple Majesty can help with lowering blood pressure.
Carrots contain a cancer fighting compound called Falcarinol (source). The purple and red varieties are, by far, the most nutritionally sound. Buy carrots with the green tops still attached. They are freshest. Sautee or steam them, do not boil in water. Cook carrots whole and slice after cooking. This garners more nutritional value. Eat them with some oil or fat, which helps with absorption of the nutrients.
Beets contain some of the highest antioxidant properties of all vegetables. Beet juice has been found to block 85-100% of cancer cell formation (The Complete Cancer Cleanse by Cherie Calbom, John Calbom, and Michael Mahaffey and Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson). Beets also help prevent cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diseases of the digestive tract. Buy them with the stems still attached and in a bunch. These are likely to be freshest. Beets spoil rapidly, so eat them right away. Steam, microwave, or roast. Or, eat them raw of course.
Sweet potatoes have two times more antioxidants than regular potatoes. The deeper the flesh color, the more antioxidants within. They can be stored for up to one week at room temperature. Steam, roast, bake, all of these methods double the antioxidant levels. However, boiling reduces it. The skin is the most nutritious part, so eat the whole potato.
Tomatoes have lycopene in them. A major cancer preventing agent. The smaller the tomato, the better. This means lycopene is more concentrated within. Further, the darkest red in color have more of this cancer preventing agent (source, though the detail about tomatoes of a dark shade is in Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson). "Current Tomatoes" are the most nutrient dense you can eat. "Red Pear Heirloom" are also amazing for you, with 27x more lycopene than traditional supermarket tomatoes. The longer you cook tomatoes, the better they become for your health. The levels of lycopene increase with cooking time. Tomato paste is equally tremendous for your health.
Broccoli is loaded with anti-cancer properties as well (source). However, it spoils fast. Once you get it home, chill as soon as possible and eat within a day. Eating it raw is ideal. Otherwise, steam for no more than four minutes, in a steamer basket or over boiling water.
Brussel Sprouts kill more human cancer cells than most other vegetables (source). Talk about the medicinal magic of food at its utmost. In a test tube study from 2009, they were found to kill 100% of cancer cells of the breast, pancreas, stomach, prostate, and lung. Steam them on the stove top for 6-8 minutes. This will leave them tender, lightly crunchy, and with most of their nutrients intact.
Cauliflower is loaded with antioxidants and cancer fighting ability (source). How is that for killing two birds with one stone? Colored varieties are even better for you. The purple "graffiti" breed has 2.5 times more antioxidants than the normal one. "Romanesca," the green variety, is also superb for your health. Steam or sauté, do not boil. Boiling heavily reduces its antioxidant value and ability to fight cancer.
Kale is another great one. Cancer fighting, heart protective (source), and loaded with antioxidants. One serving has more calcium than a glass of milk, and more fiber than three slices of whole wheat bread. (The red leaf variety is better than the green). Eat it raw for maximum nutritional benefits.
Artichokes promote liver health (source). They have higher nutritional value than most other fruits and vegetables. You would have to eat 18 servings of corn or 30 servings of carrots to get the same level of nutrients from one serving of artichokes. They are high in incelin, a probiotic that nourishes growth of "good" gut bacteria that can compete with deadly strains of E. Coli and other disease causing bacteria. Artichokes are an unheralded source of fiber. One medium choke gives as much as two bowls of bran cereal with raisins. The most common type, the "Globe artichoke" is also one of the most healthful. Boiling actually increases its antioxidant levels. Steaming boosts it even more. Canned artichoke hearts are also loaded with antioxidants.
Asparagus are among the most nutritious vegetables in the grocery store. They have more antioxidants than broccoli, green peppers, and burdock (a wild root vegetable). The spears should be dark green and shiny. Rub them together and they will squeak. The tips should be tightly closed and green or purplish in color. The ends of the stalks should be smooth and moist. Cooked are more nutritious than raw in this case. Steam them. It increases their antioxidant value by 30%. It takes 4-5 minutes only, and this method ensures the sweetest taste and highest nutritional content.
One serving gives you more antioxidants than a serving of broccoli raab, grapes, red bell peppers, or red cabbage. Avocados are a great source of vitamin E, folate, potassium, and magnesium. They are also an excellent source of fiber. The fat in avocados is monounsaturated, which is the same great fat in olive oil. In one study, women with diabetes who consumed one large avocado every day lowered their triglyceride levels but with no increase in weight. The Hass avocado, large, black, lumpy skinned, has 2-4 times more antioxidant value than other varieties in the store.
Paleo Vegetable Summary
While it is important to consume all of the above vegetables routinely, so as to make sure and get a range of balanced nutrition, here are the top ten vegetables that, on the go, we most love to reach for:
- Spinach or Kale
- Sweet Potatoes
- Brussel Sprouts
As you can see, reaching for healthy foods isnt quite enough, in terms of making sure to maintain adequate nutrition. An equally crucial part of the equation is storing and preparing those foods correctly, so as to reap maximum nutritional benefits from what one is eating. We highly recommend picking up a copy of Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson. It’s a life-changing and fascinating read. In the meantime, stay tuned for part two, which will focus on fruits.
Author: Brooke English
Brooke is a food fanatic, dessert devotee, and impassioned writer. She studied health sciences in college, though she emerged with a degree in Communications, with concentrations in health and psychology. She is an avid reader of health books, articles, and more, as she finds reading to be one of the greatest and most worthy forms of education. Brooke is a routine writer on Medium.com, specifically a "top writer" in the categories of inspiration, love, books, psychology, reading, relationships, life lessons, culture, and health. She is the author of three blogs and has been published in a handful of online publications.