I'd Like to Become a Fruit and Vegetable Expert
July 27, 2011 4:00 PM   Subscribe

Please hope me become a master of fruits, vegetables and possibly juice!

Hi AskMe! I am strongly considering making a temporary switch to an all or nearly all fruit and vegetable diet in order to accelerate progress toward my weight loss goals and generally reboot by palette and my system. I turn now to the hivemind as many of the answers I'm getting from the Larger Internet are proving confusing and contradictory and often seem geared toward getting me to buy something or become a regular reader of this or that health and diet blog. In short, I trust AskMe much more than I trust Google to help me sort through the factors involved in this decision.

I first began to consider this change when I encountered some very compelling information about guys with much more dramatic weight loss needs than my own rapidly shedding pounds by going on one and two month juice fasts, where they would have fresh fruit and vegetable drinks from high-powered juicers for three meals a day combined with very modest exercise regimens. If these results are to be believed, a juice fast program could have me below my goal weight before winter!

Now, of course, the proper response to such dramatic results is skepticism - but I'm having a hard time in finding the snake oil in a program that says "convert your diet to 100% fruits and vegetables" - I'd be concerned about protein loss were I to decide to live on juice for two months or more, but there are powders and the like I could add to the concoction I suppose.

But as I said, as I research this notion I keep running into confusion and contradiction. Like, I've read that juicers in my price range strip the fruits and vegetables I'd be ingesting of much of their fiber and therefore much of their dietary benefit. But then a juicevangelist I spoke to said that the fibers of a lotta vegetables seal the nutrients therein and you gotta juice'em to get the full benefit.

Forgoing juicing and just eating fruits and vegetables raw or cooked depending on my appetite or whatever has the attraction and advantage of variety which I know would be key in keeping me on program, but again I'm very confused by the information I'm seeing and hearing - like, I've heard that careless cooking can strip a plant of nutrients, likewise careless storage. I've also heard that certain plants must be prepared or cooked in this or that way to best clear the path between its nutrients and my system.

In any case, after a couple days of web research on this subject I feel like I know LESS about it for certain on account of all the confusion and sales pitches and whatnot I keep running into. Can you kind folks help me gain some clarity on this issue so that I can make well-informed and beneficial decisions about my diet going forward? Do you have any experience with living on all fruits and vegetables? What do you wish you would have known before proceeding with such a program? Are there any authoritative sources of information on these matters I may have overlooked? How bout the whole juice situation? Any of you ever tried the juice-fasting thing or experienced a difference in your health and life on account of adding fresh juice to your diet or making that your entire diet? How shall I select a juicer if I choose to go this route, considering that the price range seems to be ~$50-$500 and my budget is decidedly on the lower end of that scale? And what of the nutrient loss/retention element? Seems like some loss of fiber or vitamins or whatever is inevitable, but I'm not sure how to control for that to my maximum benefit in the preparation of my fruits and vegetables.

I'm 6'1" and ~260 lbs - I'd like to be ~200 lbs. What amount of produce would a guy my size with an active lifestyle need to consume daily to keep active and also lose weight? In sum, what I'm hoping to gain from this question is to become really good at fruits and vegetables, to the point where I can temporarily live off them exclusively or almost exclusively in order to bust through this plateau in my ongoing weight loss struggle and improve my general health, energy level and well-being. Are any MeFites already really good at vegetables? Would you be willing to share your knowledge?
posted by EatTheWeek to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
As I understand it, cooking destroys some nutrients, but also makes some more available for your body to use. If you're eating a variety of veg, cooking some and eating some raw, I wouldn't make yourself crazy about whether you're getting enough nutrients. And, yes, you need the fiber in your veg in order to feel full, so I wouldn't advise getting a juicer and just chucking the pulp--either consume the whole food or use the pulp for something.

And how much veg do you eat now? You'd want to ramp up slowly to a completely veg diet or your intestine will explode in a very unhappy way, I guarantee you.

Also, would you include things like nuts and beans in your diet? What about olive oil and other fats? I just can't imagine keeping your blood sugar stable on a diet with minimal protein and fat. I would think you'd spend 90% of your time eating. But IANAD.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 4:18 PM on July 27, 2011

EatTheWeak, you might consider seeing a dietician about this. I think a lot of the confusion you're experiencing would be most effectively cleared up that way. Personally (and I know a lot of people would disagree with me here) anytime you make major changes to your diet that involve eliminating whole categories of foods, I would consult a dietician or at least a doctor. IANAD, but I'm concerned about the safety of what you're considering.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 4:47 PM on July 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: WorkingMyWayHome is right - I saw a special on BBC a few years ago where they had a group of adults eat just fruit/vegetables/nuts. They spent about 7-8 hours a day eating because to get the right number of calories you had to Just. Keep. Eating.

Seconding a doctor/dietician. They get paid for stuff like this. Is your reluctance to do that based on finances or that you don't think they would rubber stamp it?

If you intend to proceed:
1. If you have the $, the Champion Juicer G5-PG710/720 - it's a restaurant quality juicer...ours survived heavy use for 15+ years and is still going strong. I can't link it, but Amazon has it used for 200 and new for 250.
2. Consider adding nuts/some whole grains/legumes to your diet
3. Work up to it slowly - the people on the program I saw spent hours in the bathroom a day. Not practical for most jobs.
4. Listen to your body. If you feel like shit after a few weeks, stop.

Good luck!
posted by guster4lovers at 5:06 PM on July 27, 2011

Response by poster: All valid concerns and I thank you for raising them - fruits and vegetables are already a large part of my diet. Consulting a dietitian really isn't in my budget, but I agree it would be a worthwhile thing to do.
posted by EatTheWeek at 5:10 PM on July 27, 2011

Response by poster: (oh, and nuts and legumes and whole grains are all absolutely things I'd consider incorporating, yes!)
posted by EatTheWeek at 5:13 PM on July 27, 2011

If you're looking for guidance on eating a plant-based diet day to day, you might read up on Dr. Dean Ornish's research. Here's more info, plus a sample menu. He includes some dairy, but you could easily sub soy milk, tofu, etc. It's very low fat, so I would add back in nuts, avocados, and olive oil to help you feel full (and just because they're very nutritious foods).
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 5:59 PM on July 27, 2011

Instead of juicing you could make smoothies - I make a variety of them including green smoothies with steamed kale and spinach, a few apples, parsley, cucumber, plus whatever else is around. I use a blender so none of the fiber is lost. But nthing people above that you'll need more than just fruit and vegetables - a vegetable and fruit only smoothie is about as filling and substantial as a glass of water.

You could also read Michael Pollan (he of the 'Eat food, not too much, mostly plants' edict). Of course, he will tell you to eat actual foods, enjoy them, and enjoy life at the same time, rather than deconstruct food into its component parts.
posted by lulu68 at 6:09 PM on July 27, 2011

Here are a few questions you can think about, and then draw conclusions based on your own answers:
- Which has more calories per ounce, and so from a caloric intake perspective is a better choice: Coke, or orange juice?
- Which will fill you up faster: One glass of pulp (fiber) free apple juice, or the three apples needed to make the glass of juice?
- Which takes longer to eat, so that you are less likely to overeat and more likely to enjoy: One cup of carrot juice, or the four carrots needed to make the glass of juice?
posted by Houstonian at 6:15 PM on July 27, 2011

Best answer: I am not a nutritionist, but I am someone who has (tried) to manage chronic autoimmune disease with every wacky diet out there, so I have a little knowledge in this area. Consider my advice amateur but coming from my own research, medical advice, and trial and error.

A Champion masticating juicer is a great investment, if you can swing it. It is a literal workhorse and will last an eternity if it is well cared for. You can also use it for other things, like making nut butters etc, and is essential in any raw foodists kitchen. I don't know what other cheaper options are good, I never bothered with them.

You can (and should) supplement any "juice fast" with protein and fiber. I use Mediclear by Thorne, as recommended by my naturopath. If you don't get enough fiber and protein, you will be constipated, you will feel like hell, and you will smell horrible and have bad breath. Seriously. Ultimately, it would be best if you were getting your protein and fiber from food sources, like beans if not meat and grains.

Light steaming, grilling, or roasting won't destroy all the nutrients in food. It will destroy SOME, but it's not like this renders your food worthless and devoid of nutritional content. Don't fry or boil your food to death and you should be fine. Even if you did kill it with fire, you are still going to get a lot of the benefits of the foods you are eating.

We tend to get wrapped up in some seriously magical thinking about nutrition and food. Make sure you are getting protein and fiber, don;t completely eliminate sugars and fats (you need those!), and try to eat a happy healthy rainbow of fruits and vegetables and you should be fine for a short "fast". If you are looking to lose weight, "dieting" will not work, at least in the long term. Only permanent changes in the way you eat will do that. Seriously.
posted by evilcupcakes at 6:20 PM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

We use a Green Star juicer (something like this and it works very well. We eat vegan + fish (not sure if there's an official term for that), and drink freshly-juiced vegetable+fruit juice once or twice a day. Honestly, I think the juice tastes gross (although I am apparently the only one who thinks so...), but it has helped my complexion a lot. One glass of the juice is a LOT more filling than a glass of water. That said, I'm not sure I would personally want to live on nothing but juice for days. We make the juice according to specific recipes. I lost about 5 lbs during the first two months of this daily-juicing + vegan + fish diet. (I also cut down salt, oil and sugar intake.) Memail me if you are interested in specific juice recipes.
posted by aielen at 6:53 PM on July 27, 2011

Best answer: I strongly advocate including fatty meat in your eating plan. For satiety and protein, there are few better options. On your low-protein, low-calorie plan, you will lose a lot of muscle. Then when you stop, you'll probably re-gain back to your old weight or more, but now you're down all that muscle. Muscle is like a battery for fat loss, so you're far worse in that case. There are also potential issues with all the sugar you would be intaking via juice.

I've spent close to a year reading about diet and health somewhat obsessively, so here's what I've found. For weight loss I would recommend eating a diet based on veggies and fatty meat, with occasional meals rich in carbs primarily from sweet potatoes and other tubers, or rice. Protein has repeatedly been shown to have a beneficial effect on both overall weight and muscle mass; you should generally have .65 to .85 grams of protein per day per lb bodyweight. Personally, I find I can go a whole morning just on a bit of fruit, but fruit slows some peoples' weight loss so I don't recommend it unequivocally. Focus your non-fruit/veggie carbs towards weekends, or after exercise. If you do exercise, something intense like a barbell program or intervals are best, with walking being worthwhile also. Reduce processed food intake - not only is it high in unhealthy vegetable oils and sugars, but it is engineered to make you want to eat more. Calories that are drank do not stimulate satiety as much as chewed food does, so try to get few calories from beverages.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 8:02 PM on July 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

A couple of months ago I signed up for a CSA, and so far I'm a big fan. It's made it a lot easier to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. Well, maybe easier isn't the right word--it's my weekly challenge to eat my box of produce in time. It's hard enough that there's a real sense of accomplishment when I do. If you like to cook or are interested in exploring that direction, that may be something to consider.

But it absolutely works, for me, to have my produce shopping imposed on me in this way. I've cooked things I've never tried before (turnips! garlic scapes! beet greens!) and I've been having a lot of fun. I still eat meat, but less--I cooked up some kale and turnip greens tonight with a bit of pancetta, for example. Just no junk food, no sugary drinks, and things like bread and sweets are treats (like when eating with friends, for example).
posted by kprincehouse at 2:35 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

The problem with nutrition is that everybody is right about how the "not my method" is a bad idea: cooking foods removes nutrients or maybe unlocks them, eating foods raw makes them mor eor less digestible, juicing foods removes fiber and may or may not increase or decrease nutrients. It's all true. The reason we're omnivores is because there is no perfect univore option out there. Buy a juicer but eat fruit/veg other than juice. Eat some things raw and some things cooked. Establish routines, sure, but don't eat the same thing every day.
Personally, I'd go with green smoothie plus protein powder for breakfast, a raw salad for lunch alternating between fruit/greens and veg/greens, and a cooked meal for dinner. Of course, I'm not a nutritionist, so you shouldn't listen to me. While you can get away with a week-long juice fast or a month or two of crash dieting without professional advice, don't launch a lifestyle change with only the opinion of some schmoes on the internet.
posted by aimedwander at 7:03 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a huge fan of the website World's Healthiest Foods. It's run by a non-profit. I've learned so much I didn't know about whole foods by reading the site.
posted by Falwless at 7:35 AM on July 28, 2011

Yep, if you want max nutrition and freshness in your produce, a CSA is definitely the way to go. I wouldn't do it unless you're a fairly confident cook and a roll-with-the-punches kind of person, though, because you pretty much have to plan your meals around what's in the box that week, and you're never quite sure what you're going to get until you get it. So it requires a bit of creativity, which can be a fun thing or can be stressful.

Here's what was in my box last Thursday: raspberries, beets, lettuce, fennel, a Chinese cabbage, a small head of cauliflower, parsley, and a 3 small summer squash.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 9:32 AM on July 28, 2011

« Older About those birds and bees....   |   Help me to stop blushing! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.