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Here are ten myths that misrepresent vegetables, and that hurt your kids by discouraging you from preparing these versatile healthy foods.
1. Potatoes are fattening (or potatoes turn straight into sugar).
It's incontrovertibly true that potatoes are an excellent source of carbohydrate. Our bodies actually need at least a small amount of carbohydrate food every day to provide glucose, the preferred fuel for cells in the brain. It's easy to eat too many potato chips or French fries, but potatoes in small amounts are actually a healthy food in ways more people don't understand:
- Instant potatoes are a high-glycemic index food. In fact, in some tests, they have a higher glycemic index than glucose itself. That's probably because the gut reacts to the variety of stabilizers and anti-caking agents added to perfectly wholesome potatoes to turn them into something that can sit on the shelf for a year or so. In contract, boiled potatoes are a middle-glycemic index food. When potatoes are boiled, and served cold, especially when they are served with a little fat (as potato salad, for instance), they actually have a lower glycemic index than fruited yogurt and breakfast cereal.
- Boiling (not frying, baking, or roasting) potatoes creates resistant starch. This complex carbohydrate plays the same role as fiber in the colon, feeding probiotic bacteria, but only slowly breaking down into sugar.
- Potatoes are in the Nightshade Family, but the potentially toxic solanin only appears in the flesh of the potato just under the skin as it turns green. If it's green, throw it out. Otherwise, enjoy the whole potato.
2. Cabbage is just to fill you up.
Cabbage is a great source of glucosinolates, cancer-fighting sulfur compounds that give the vegetable its distinctive odor when cooked. To get the greatest benefit from the glucoinolates, however, enjoy cabbage raw in slaws and salads. Cabbage isn't something you should eat in excess; eating cabbage at every meal, especially raw cabbage at every meal, would also provide another kind of sulfur compound known as a goitrogen, which binds to the selenium and iodine needed by the thyroid. Cabbage is very low in calories, but it is a great source of vitamin C, vitamin K1 (the clotting regulator), vitamin B6, and manganese. Red cabbage provides anthocyanidins that can improve blood vessel strength, and, like carrots, support eyesight.
3. Carrots are too high in sugar to eat every day.
Fresh carrots stored in the crisper are crispy, crunchy, and sweet. The sweetness of the carrot depends on the soil in which it is grown. Sandy soils produce longer carrots that are less likely to fork, but peaty soils produce carrots that have a sweet, minty taste. As for the sugar content of carrots, five large carrots contain the equivalent of five grams (one teaspoon) of sugar. They are hardly a high-sugar treat.
That's a good thing, because carrots are a great source of beta-carotene in the (all-E)-beta-carotene isomer, which is better absorbed than the isomer of beta-carotene that appears in supplements. Carrots retain their beta-carotene best when they are kept at refrigerator temperatures wrapped in paper and protected from the air.
4. Corn is just a source of fructose.
High-fructose corn syrup (which also contains glucose) is made from corn, but corn itself is not high in fructose until goes through an industrial grinding process and is treated with a series of enzymes. Kernel corn and corn on the cob are relatively low in fructose but high in minerals and the eye-health antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. Blue corn is rich in anthocyanins that are also found in fruit, and purple corn is a source of a particularly potent antioxidant known as procatechuic acid.
5. Cucumbers are nothing but water.
Cucumbers are refreshing, but they are a lot more than just water. Like broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, cucumbers contain cancer-fighting lignans such as lariciresinol, pinoresinol, and secoisolariciresinol, which reduce the risk of breast, uterine, ovarian, and prostate cancers. Cucumbers are a good source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and manganese, and provide apigenin for fighting allergies and inflammation.