You won't get your drugs if you don't eat your vegetables...
July 8, 2011 6:58 PM   Subscribe

What are the likely health effects of not eating vegetables?

Let's be real, most college-aged folks in western society (males especially) are not going to be eating leafy green vegetables on a regular basis unless their mommies are cooking. What health conditions can this lead to, and what is the mechanism of action?

I guess what I'm wondering is: are there concrete consequences in the short-term for a young person or is this the type of thing that only catches up to you when you're older? For the sake of discussion, let's pretend this hypothetical person eats a lot of fruit, avoids processed foods, exercises, has a healthy caloric intake, and all around eats decently besides avoiding vegetables.

(in before the snark: please don't say "if you already do all that crap you might as well eat your veggies." The hypothetical person isn't me, really! I'm just curious!)
posted by WhitenoisE to Health & Fitness (54 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I think your hypothetical person (me) is doing just dandy. He or she will want to take a daily multivitamin with iron, since said person isn't eating spinach (which is loaded with the stuff.)
Think of a multivitamin as Bars Leaks for the radiator of your system.
posted by BostonTerrier at 7:09 PM on July 8, 2011

IMHO, and IANAD, the effects are by the time you get to the point where your metabolism does not behave as kindly to your calorie intake as it does in your youth, you will be so used to eating highly concentrated carbohydrates, and not the fiberous, water-bearing, micronutrientinated kind, that the pounds will start to pile on.

Also, I was involved in a discussion about IBS yesterday, and even 'wholesome' breads can start to wreak havoc on your digestion because the fructans in the wheat become too much for the system to break down ... forcing you to supplement your fiber to find relief ... where you could have been enjoying tasty fibers all along. *crunches delicous baby carrot*
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 7:19 PM on July 8, 2011

In The Omnivore's Dilemma Michael Pollan points out that all sorts of diets have proven to be decently survivable - for instance lots of Irish lived on dairy and potatoes for an awfully long time and survived.

My guess is that their short term effects will be more around immediate immune system and digestion issues (are they getting enough fiber to not be constantly constipated) than around vitamin deficiencies. Well, and weight gain, if they're adding the usual beer.
posted by ldthomps at 7:21 PM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

IIRC, you'd be ultimately missing out on a lot of natural fiber, antioxidants, and restorative properties that pills alone can't supply.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 7:33 PM on July 8, 2011

Here is a true story from my college days. One of our friends chose to eat corn dogs and ramen for an entire semester. When he went home for the Summer, his hands were peeling, so his mom took him to the doctor. He was in the early stages of malnutrition.
posted by annsunny at 7:35 PM on July 8, 2011 [8 favorites]

My information is based on what pediatricians and pediatric nutritionists have assured me: that a wide variety of fruits are pretty much as good as vegetables for the most part. I don't really know how well that holds through adolescence and adulthood.

I still suspect that there are nutrients and nutritional components that vegetables have that fruits don't, and that identifying those nutrients and components and including them can only help. I stock my kitchen with whole ingredients and try my best to just make those available, without making too big of a deal about who actually eats what no matter HOW MUCH IT KILLS ME.

My anecdotal evidence is based on a child who seems to be made of rubber bands when it comes to strength and energy, never gets sick, and lives (almost exclusively) on berries and animal flesh. I should have named her Ayla, as in Clan Of The Cave Bear. But ask me in ten years how her health compares to her sister, who mostly eschews meats and sticks mainly to plant matter of all sorts and whole grains and seems just as energetic and strong now.
posted by padraigin at 7:42 PM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

Children are not just little adults.

One major difference between fruit and vegetables is that eating fruit in the quantity necessary to get the nutrients you need is a lot more likely to make you fat than eating the equivalent quantity of vegetables.
posted by telegraph at 8:01 PM on July 8, 2011

I am a person who eats only a very limited number of vegetables, because there is something in all dark green veggies that triggers my gag reflex. I have always worried about this. At 46, I do not seem to have any health problems that can be attributed to not eating vegetables. One of the most helpful things I ever happened across was in a book about feeding your children (it might have been The Moms' Guide to Meal Makeovers). The authors pointed out that there is no nutrient in vegetables that cannot be found in other foods, usually fruits, but that the advantage of vegetables is that they tend to have more of these nutrients--so they're a very efficient package of a variety of nutrients. They had a chart that would list, say, all the vitamins etc that could be found in broccoli, and then for each one a list of other foods where that could be gotten. I found that very helpful.

Of course, that's talking about eating a varied and basically healthy diet but leaving out the vegetables, not the kind of extremely restricted diet annsunny describes, which is a different kettle of fish, I think. "Not eating vegetables" doesn't mean corn dogs and ramen for six months at a time, necessarily.
posted by not that girl at 8:06 PM on July 8, 2011


(Not a joke; a friend in college spent a semester on ramen, rice, and beef and ended up in the hospital with wobbly teeth and became That Guy all the residents visit to see the rare disease.)
posted by range at 8:23 PM on July 8, 2011 [10 favorites]

Atherosclerosis, the build up of fatty material along the vessels, which increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, peripheral vascular disease, is associated with high fat diet.
Diverticulitis is associated with less fiber intake.
Scurvy, European sailors in the age of discovery used to get this bad on long voyages where they had little chance to get fruits or veggies. Later, they learned to stock citrus fruit and hence the nickname "limeys."
Deficiecy in folate, found mainly in leafy vegetables, can lead to anemia
posted by Pantalaimon at 8:25 PM on July 8, 2011

Another point of anec-data for scurvy. Like range, I also had a (college-aged, male) friend who came down with scurvy after eating nothing but instant ramen for a couple months.
posted by 100kb at 8:37 PM on July 8, 2011

Scurvy is caused by a lack of vitamin C, so if this hypothetical person is eating a lot of fruit, they are probably not going to get scurvy.
posted by wondermouse at 8:41 PM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

A bunch of these responses ignore the bit of the question that stipulates "For the sake of discussion, let's pretend this hypothetical person eats a lot of fruit, avoids processed foods, exercises, has a healthy caloric intake, and all around eats decently besides avoiding vegetables." Which means no ramen-and-hot-dog diets and doesn't automatically mean a high fat, low fiber diet.
posted by ubersturm at 8:50 PM on July 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

Aside from the vitamins and minerals, which you can get in a pill, vegetables have certain phytochemicals that are thought to be very healthful. Cancer prevention is probably the most-studied benefit.

Fruits have some phytochemicals, too, but not always the same ones as vegetables. Think of it this way: fruits are meant to be eaten. They use being eaten as a way to disperse their seeds (often in a nourishing pile of manure or guano). That's not always the case with vegetables; some veg are parts of the plant that are necessary to its life and are therefore laden with harsh-tasting chemicals to deter consumption. Other veg have seeds that are part of the plant that we eat but they are destroyed by the digestive tract. The plant doesn't "want" to be eaten and disperses its seeds in other ways. They, too, have the slightly unpalatable chemicals. Those chemicals, we are finding, are actually good for us in small quantities. Google "hormesis" for more information.

Although oversimplified, that's the basic reason why fruits are sweet and yummy but vegetables are sometimes a little bitter and more of an aquired taste. And we should eat them anyway.
posted by Knowyournuts at 8:59 PM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

As a young person i didn't think things that "caught up to me" as an older person was a big deal.

But it is, immeasurably. It is harder to learn how to identify healthy foods after a decade of ignoring them. It is hard to learn how to prepare them and appropriate them into your life in a way that fits with an unanticipated busier life a decade on. It is truly frighteningly hard to unlearn ten years of shitty habits when you have more at stake and you are fearful of changing your life patterns because you finally have something (a relationship, a job, a confidence) worth losing.

The concrete consequences in the short term are that doing things like eating vegetables are unpleasant at most. The concrete consequences in the long term are that you are desperate to figure out how to enact these changes and they come at a real cost.
posted by sestaaak at 9:14 PM on July 8, 2011 [7 favorites]

Unless the diet is do weird that it is lacking in something essential (i.e. the scurvy example above) - there probably aren't any short term consequences. Longer term there might be issues, but even most of the claims about cancer prevention are far from open and shut (if simply eating broccoli or spinach prevented cancer we'd know about it by know) and the benefits are relatively subtle.

There may well be wide variations in what individuals can tolerate, but there are specific people who survive long term on far from ideal diets. See
The Jam Sandwich Diet.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 9:19 PM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Young person? Short term? They would probably be fine for quite a while. At certain points, young people could probably just eat cardboard and still be the picture of health. The danger is supporting those habits for a longer term, or into middle age. That's when you really start missing vitamins and fiber (and supplements ie vitamins, are nowhere near as successful as food in providing that for you).
posted by Gilbert at 9:32 PM on July 8, 2011

short answer is that not eating vegetables now causes x.
not eating vegetables for five years does not cause 5x.
it causes 5x^3 because you are busier, more tired, and more set in your ways.
posted by sestaaak at 9:33 PM on July 8, 2011

You're not going to get scurvy or other severe mineral deficiencies. Most processed foods are fortified with the basics. Short-term you may just feel more tired or be more constipated (leading to hemorrhoids) but no big deal, right? However, diverticulitis is going to fuck you when you're old. Did you know that MOST Americans, if they live long enough, will get this disease? Did you know that before the 20th Century, this disease was basically unheard of? Sure, it's officially associated with lack of fiber intake, but where do we get fiber? Vegetables (and nuts and whole grains). Vegetarians are less likely to get diverticulitis for a reason.

So yeah, skip your vegetables now and look forward to aging with pain, nausea, diarrhea and constipation, oh - did I mention the rectal bleeding? Or the complications of intestinal obstruction (life threatening!), fistula (a hole between the anus and the vagina!), and bowel perforation (self explanatory)?

Plus, vegetables actually taste good and now you can buy them pre-cut and in a plastic microwavable bag!
posted by serazin at 10:01 PM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

With due respect, the scurvy stories above sound like urban myths to me. People often misunderstand (or are deliberately left in the dark by) their doctors so perhaps these friends were a bit misled. Even in the developing world scurvy is quite rare and mostly only occurs in refugee camps during periods of severe food shortage. Anyway, there is more vitamin C in fruits than in a lot of vegetables.
posted by serazin at 10:04 PM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Inuit manged to survive for quite some time without nutritionists or multi vitamins.
posted by larry_darrell at 10:26 PM on July 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

Saying that population X survived on Y without also doing Z doesn't impress me -- their genetics and activities are probably not the same as the hypothetical person.

Getting most of your [fruit and veggie] nutrients from [just fruit] could result in too much sugar (especially if they're counting juice). I've found that doesn't work well for me at all, and I feel better and stay full longer when the balance is more veggies.
posted by wintersweet at 10:56 PM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Two comments:

vegetables have certain phytochemicals that are thought to be very healthful

As a former veggie-hating college-aged male, I think you're gonna have to to do better than "...chemicals that are thought to be" healthy in order to be convicing.

When my little brother went away to school, for the first time in his life being away from the square meals served by my mother, he just ate what he wanted from the dining hall. And my brother's favorite food was bread, then. He also had eggs and OJ, mornings. After a couple monthe of this starchy diet he'd developed a serious chemical/vitamin imbalence that manifested itself as a crippling inner-ear disturbance -- in other words, one morning when he awoke, he discovered that he couldn't walk, he couldn't even stand up -- so he crawled to the university infirmary, where he received treatment, as well as a crash course in nutrition (with a heaping side dish of humiliation).
posted by Rash at 11:13 PM on July 8, 2011

your body can get vitamin C from just about any fresh food, including fresh meat. You won't get scurvy unless you live off dried meat and hard-tack for weeks at a time, like a pre-modern sailor or arctic explorer.
posted by jb at 11:31 PM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, scurvy is hard to get. Rickets is easier, but again, these scare tactics can be remedied with a generic multi-vitamin. So to answer your question, if you're only talking about the duration of college (~4 years) and you make sure to take vitamin supplements, nothing immediately bad will happen to you. You will likely add a good starting layer of fat in your arteries for later on in life, and you'll also probably pack on some pounds, but that's it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:41 PM on July 8, 2011

Eat fruit, you will be fine.
posted by fifilaru at 12:04 AM on July 9, 2011

I'm sorry, but there is just no truth to the claim that an American college student has gotten a serious micronutrient deficiency (besides anemia) from subsisting on dorm food or junk food. The white flour, sugar cereals, sports drinks, etc these folks live on are loaded with supplemental vitamins and minerals. A first-world person of a middle-class background, unless they have become an alcoholic living on the street, simply will not get scurvy, rickets, beriberi, pallagra, goiter, kwashiorkor, or anything else besides a stomach ache or constipation or maybe diarrhea - in the short term.

The problem with these kinds of diets is they lead to long-term, chronic - not acute health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and eventually, the aforementioned diverticulosis/itis.
posted by serazin at 12:18 AM on July 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Interesting responses. Add me to the "you won't get scurvy" chorus. I eat absolutely no fruit (or grains, for that matter) because of dietary intolerances, and have not done so for going on 10 years now. And you know what? No scurvy!*

My take on it, as someone who has excluded Entire Food Groups from my diet and is still here to tell about it, is that the American dietary dogma promoted by the government is a mix of good advice, and marketing. Yes, the government wants you to eat 11 servings of grains a day, not because they're good for you, but because of farm subsidies. Yes, you should eat a variety of foods, and some of those foods should be fruits and vegetables. But the proportions and amounts indicated in the Food Pyramid (and its latest replacement) are not based in any concrete reality - they're dreamed up in a conference room full of marketing professionals whose job is to make people buy more stuff.

*I do, however, eat a ton of leafy green vegetables. But I'm not going to tell you that if you don't, you'll get scurvy.

posted by chez shoes at 12:46 AM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

serazin, he was a personal friend. I knew him for years. It was definitely not a story I heard from someone else. I will add he drank a lot of beer, too.
posted by annsunny at 12:59 AM on July 9, 2011

My impression is that the short answer is scientists don't know for sure. However, the fact is that a fork-full of braised kale or tourné of carrot contains a thousand different chemical components. There is nothing else you can consume that will substitute for that unique diversity, at this point in human knowledge.
posted by polymodus at 2:01 AM on July 9, 2011

Let's be real, most college-aged folks in western society (males especially) are not going to be eating leafy green vegetables on a regular basis unless their mommies are cooking. What health conditions can this lead to, and what is the mechanism of action?

Clearly the answer is none. As you say, most college-aged kids aren't eating their veggies (and I'd say a fair number of adults aren't getting their 5-a-day) and they all do just fine - and on worse diets than what you're describing. Only in extreme circumstances (a few of which have been described up-thread) does anybody get sick.

Vegetables are generally a low-calorie source of yummy nutrients and you should eat them but any actual consequences of not doing so are going to be so far future that proving lack of vegetables is the cause is not going to be near impossible (eg. studies show eating your 5+ a day *may* reduce the risk of some cancers or make you look younger etc)
posted by missmagenta at 2:20 AM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

My big brother hated vegetables with a passion when we were growing up. He refused to eat them unless our mother was there to give him the Catholic-Mom-Look-of-Death. A couple years into our college experience, he called me at my dorm. "Nikki, I think i figured out why you guys love vegetables so freakin' much!" He discovered the joys of fiber. He's never looked back.

You're not going to die, you're not going to get scurvy- but you'll probably have some uncomfortable times in the toilet pretty often: boomeranging between being stuffed up and crampy beer shits. My dude roommate in college managed to get busted blood vessels in his eyes and nose from 'straining' in the bathroom. Veggies are good. they make you poop.

For long-term effects- If you continue to have shitty eating habits after college, the problems get bigger. Skipping vegetables means you have to be much much more careful of the amount of calories you take in- every other kind of food is much more calorie-dense. You'll probably get a little heavy, at least. If you get to obese- that's got it's own health issues- but you can't really get there though no-veg diet alone.

What truly extreme nonsense people will go though because they have some neurosis about the taste of vegetables? You can't possibly hate all vegetables. There are freaking millions of them. People are willing to eat a ton of vitamin pills and poop bricks everyday because... they think spinach is kinda icky?
posted by Blisterlips at 4:00 AM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I kind of think at twenty you can live on Skittles and be fine.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:25 AM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry, but there is just no truth to the claim that an American college student has gotten a serious micronutrient deficiency (besides anemia) from subsisting on dorm food or junk food.

With respect serazin, this is a situation I knew firsthand as well (scurvy).
posted by jessamyn at 6:50 AM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

You mean not eating certain vegetables. Pizza has tomatoes and things .
posted by majortom1981 at 7:31 AM on July 9, 2011

As noted, tomato sauce is vegetables, onions and carrots are vegetables. You think you're too busy to eat well? There will be many busy times in your life and having healthy habits will serve you well. Getting a sandwich? add the tomatoes and mushrooms. Eat the lettuce garnish. It's probably just as important to shun french fries, potato chips and deep-fried foods, as they are pretty bad for you. If you eat whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, brown rice, some lean meat, fish and chicken, milk, cheese, not-too-sweet yogurt and plain fruit, and try to eat a variety of foods, you will probably be okay. Pop tarts don't count as fruit; they're candy.
posted by theora55 at 8:21 AM on July 9, 2011

Arrrrr [pirate voice], me scurrrrvy mates! I have perrrrused the medical literature, available on the vast worrrld wide web, an' have found nary a mention of scurrvy in the college aged American. Nor can I find such talk on the uptodate.

Aye, I do find this temptingly named article, but the scallywags failed to include an abstract! The occasional wee bairn who is poorly fed by his parents might develop the disease. But a young adult who is not the kind of rum-lover that drinks hard alcohol from morn' to night every day and neglects to eat as well? Arrr, another wee exception may be the mentally ill or anorexic. But aye, there not be any talk of the college kid who dines on the pizza, coke 'n beer devel'pin the scurrrrvy!

While aye, I admit there is the ye old theoretical possibility, and I loath to debate me mates own experiences, I submit that it may be that these mates o' me mates thought they had scurrrvy, and that perhaps they actually did not! In either case, it stands undebated that f'r the vaaaast, great majority of the college aged sprog, there's nay danger of this rare micronutrient deficiency!
posted by serazin at 9:21 AM on July 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Arrrrr [pirate voice], me scurrrrvy mates! I have perrrrused the medical literature, available on the vast worrrld wide web, an' have found nary a mention of scurrvy in the college aged American.

Well there's this. Also this has a vitamin C deficiency prevalence of 7.1% in the US as a whole. Factors associated with low vitamin C in the UK included being a man, reporting low-dietary vitamin C intake, not taking vitamin supplements and smoking, which sounds like a lot of college students I know.

Although "scurvy" usually refers to severe, long-term vitamin C deficiency, there are symptoms like malaise, bruising, and peeling skin that can effect people earlier on. I don't think it's that outlandish that a college student might present with some of those symptoms, take some vitamin C, and experience relief, even if severe scurvy among young men in America has been trumped up as an urban legend.
posted by bookish at 9:47 AM on July 9, 2011

Snopes. I did not say scurvy, serazin. I said the beginning stages of malnutrition, which is very possible.
posted by annsunny at 9:52 AM on July 9, 2011

If this hypothetical person ate very rare (or raw natch) meat it would do a lot to prevent deficiencies.

The Inuit thrived for long periods without any vegetable matter. See also Oswald Stanley "The Bear" etc.
posted by Not Supplied at 10:47 AM on July 9, 2011

I depends on the kind of fruit you eat. But if you take in at least 5 portions of fruit a day, of the right kinds of fruit, you don't need vegetables at all.

The fruit needs to be low calorie (so no junk like bananas) and high nutrient.

Be aware, that a lot of this is down to silly word games, so it's all arbitrary to some degree. Botanically, tomatoes are a fruit, but are classified as a vegetable (even by government agencies), so a lot of this is culturally based. But even accepting conventional usage of what is a fruit vs a vegetable, you don't need any vegetables at all, as long as you pick your fruit carefully.

There are no unhealthy consequences of avoiding vegetables, if you consume enough of the right fruits.
posted by VikingSword at 12:23 PM on July 9, 2011

Truthfully? Very little in the short or medium term. In the long term, somewhat elevated cancer and heart disease risk. If you eat a lot of fruit this would be mitigated somewhat.

People should eat vegetables. But you can go for years and years and years without eating them.
posted by Justinian at 12:25 PM on July 9, 2011

Snopes. I did not say scurvy, serazin. I said the beginning stages of malnutrition, which is very possible.

There is a massive difference between eating nothing but ramen and eating a wide variety of foodstuffs but no veggies.
posted by Justinian at 12:27 PM on July 9, 2011

Oops, I missed the part where you said fruits were in, so scurvy is out.

That said, I regret to report that my "urban legend" sadly has a name, a face, and an honest-to-god diagnosis of scurvy from when he was 20. He also led to what may be the best exchange I will ever have with a student, 15 years later:

Me: So, what dorm do you live in?
Advisee: [redacted]
M: Neat, I lived there too.
A: The other day they told me this crazy urban legend about some kid who ate nothing but noodles for a year and ended up in the Med Center with scurvy. Impossible, I know, we're not pirates...
M: His name was Jimmy. He lived two doors down from me. I visited him in the hospital. His teeth were really loose. The doctors were stunned that someone could go so long without putting even a little ketchup on the noodles...
A: [jaw on floor]
posted by range at 12:47 PM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wonder if Range went to my schoo: I also knew a guy who tried to live off of Ramen Noodles in college, and yes, he was diagnosed by a doctor with Scurvey.
posted by Ys at 12:48 PM on July 9, 2011

Wait, bananas are "junk"?
posted by fivesavagepalms at 1:54 PM on July 9, 2011

They are relatively calorie dense. That doesn't make them junk but I assume it is what VikingSword meant. Oh, and the riper they are the more sugary they are.
posted by Justinian at 2:45 PM on July 9, 2011

Yes, that's what I meant. All food can be broken down along a variety of axis, one of which is how many nutrients do you get per 100 cal. Most people get enough calories in their diet, what they often don't get is enough nutrients. Bananas are high in calories for the nutrient load they deliver. If you have a choice of fruit, bananas are not an optimal choice. Of course, if it's between 100 cals from cheetos or 100 cals from a banana, by all means pick the banana.
posted by VikingSword at 3:03 PM on July 9, 2011

Wouldn't an over reliance on fruit create issues related to eating too much sugar? I know there's been a lot in the news lately about the evils of sugar (even sugar from natural sources) and a lot of it seems over the top but I think that it would still not be the ideal diet. Also, I wonder if it wouldn't contribute to a sweet tooth and an increased aversion to the more subtle and sometimes slightly bitter taste of some vegetables, thus making it that much harder to switch to a eating vegetables later in life?
posted by kaybdc at 3:33 PM on July 9, 2011

I mean, you will eat out sometimes, right? Order a salad or veggies as a side. You'll be fine.
posted by shopefowler at 4:01 PM on July 9, 2011

I have a close male friend who follows this 'diet'. We went traveling through Costa Rica together and I never once saw him ingest a vegetable unless it was cooked into a pizza or something and, even then, he would usually avoid eating vegetables. For example, I saw him pull the lettuce and tomatoes out of sandwiches. He was perfectly fine on this diet when younger, but now that he's nearing 30, he's struggling with his weight, despite exercising and not eating much in the way of processed foods (he rarely eats fast food). I know that there are some individuals who can eat whatever the hell they like and remain healthy, but I think most people would go the way of my friend: healthy, but with weight trouble. Perhaps the diet would also hurt him later down the road.

On behalf of the scurvy debate, a quick search revealed that some ramen, canned soup, buffalo wings, and hot pockets have no vitamin C. If the person in question is eating these foods and drinking only coke and/or several energy drinks, they could certainly get scurvy. These were all foods I've seen some individuals eat in huge portions.
posted by avagoyle at 4:26 PM on July 9, 2011

Wouldn't an over reliance on fruit create issues related to eating too much sugar?

That's why it's critical to pick your fruit carefully. If you pick bananas, you could conceivably overdose, but there is a ton of fruit that have an ultra-low glycemic load, like strawberries.

In general, if you exercise a minimum of care, you'll do very well with fruit wrt. the glycemic load - and a ton of vegetables are much higher on the scale, like potatoes.

If you consume a variety of low-cal/high-nutrition fruit, you need not ever eat a single vegetable, and you'll suffer no ill health effects whatsoever.
posted by VikingSword at 5:09 PM on July 9, 2011

I just happened across this: apparently the great neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks subsists solely on cereal, bananas, fish and rice.
posted by serazin at 10:09 PM on July 9, 2011

You can do just fine while eating no vegetables. Not that I recommend it, but this guy only eats raw meat and is in better health than he's ever been.

If you wanted to eat a diet without veggies, you could do fine; the liver, other organs, and marrow of animals are hugely rich in vitamins and minerals. Supplement with 20% or so of your calories from tubers (do these count as veggies to you?), fruits, and rice if you wanted some carbs.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 10:02 AM on July 10, 2011

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