The Daily Beet

10 Apr Missing Out

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“Everything in food works together to create health or disease. The more we think that a single chemical characterizes a whole food, the more we stray into idiocy.” – Dr. T. Colin Campbell

I really hate cilantro. I mean, really, really hate it. Rip loves cilantro, so does most of my team. I can sniff it a mile away. I can taste it even when someone says they barely put any in. It tastes like soap that has been run over by a garbage day on a rainy day. If I taste it my nose actually starts twitching.

Needless to say, I don’t like cilantro.

A few months ago there was this article going around about the benefits of cilantro. How great the horrible tasting stuff was for you. It cured all sorts of things! Provided all of these great nutrients! We all need to eat cilantro.

For a minute I got worried. In the same way I got worried when there were doctors telling me that I was missing out if I didn’t/couldn’t eat nuts. I’d miss out on all of the health benefits of the nuts, I wouldn’t lose weight, I would not absorb nutrients (all not true, plenty of very healthy people can’t eat nuts and they do just fine). I got worried about the cilantro thing because I thought: what if they are right? What if I am missing out on something major?

Thankfully, our bodies just don’t work that way. If they did we’d be in all sorts of trouble (and truth be told so would a lot of other species). Our health does not ride on a single food or single nutrient. Our health is determined in large part by what we do not eat, and by what makes up the majority of our diet.

Once you eliminate the worst offenders – meat, dairy, eggs, oil, excess sugar & salt you have already made HUGE improvements to your health. You don’t have much to worry about after that. All food has what you need to be healthy, so long as you are eating enough of it. Whole grains, starches,vegetables, beans, fruit. That’s it. If you don’t like spinach, don’t eat it. If you hate kale, don’t worry. If you despise sweet potatoes but love white potatoes? Eat white potatoes. If you hate mushrooms but love squash? Have some squash. The only thing you really need to concern yourself with is eating enough calories, which for most people is not a problem at all. How do you know if you are eating enough? Do you eat till you are comfortably full? That’s the only real guideline when following a plant-strong diet.

Are you losing too much weight? If you are losing more than 2 pounds a week, you might have to increase your calories slightly – not with high calorie dense foods, but with more grains, starches and beans.

Are you feeling tired all the time? If you don’t feel that you have any energy, you might have to increase your calorie intake.

Don’t worry about what you don’t like. Focus on what you DO like, and go with that. If for right now you only like starches, spinach and black beans, find the best ways to prepare them and go all in.

Incidentally this goes for children as well. No sense in forcing a food on your children. First, most children have a heightened sensitivity to anything bitter (like greens) so most don’t like them because they taste horrible to them. Let your kids thrive on lots of starches, fruit and beans (and some higher fat plant-foods). If they hate kale, don’t worry.

And the same goes for you. Try out new things, but don’t beat yourself up if you just don’t like cilantro or if you can’t eat nuts, or if collard greens are just not your thing. At Engine 2 we don’t like counting, measuring or calculating. Life is already complicated enough, isn’t it? Your food should not be something that adds even more complication to your life. Stick to the stuff you like, and make the best out of it!

For more on this subject, I highly recommend you read the book: Whole by Dr. Campbell and Howard Jacobson, PhD

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Natala Constantine
  • Sherry
    Posted at 15:34h, 10 April

    This is a good reminder. I’m allergic to all tree nuts and peanuts. I went to a day seminar with a plant-based dr. who insisted we needed nuts, when I asked about my allergy they said they didn’t know how to help, and maybe I should have a tbs of oil every day! Needless to say all my numbers are great, even without nuts (or oil)!

  • Kim Glasson
    Posted at 17:37h, 10 April

    Thank you Natala! I have a very bad habit of fretting over possible missed nutrients in my diet. So much so that sometimes I will eat foods I do not like at all to be sure to get enough Calcium or Iron etc. In doing so I find sometimes I get so sick of meal planning and eating things I do not enjoy, that I have to force myself to eat at all. Thank you for the reminder that it’s ok to just eat what you like as long as it’s plant strong. My dinner tonight will be much more enjoyable than my lunch was. 🙂

  • Kathy Caldwell
    Posted at 18:36h, 10 April

    Great lesson on reductionism. Dr. Campbell teaches in his Plant Based Nutrition course that our body is like a symphony blending all the nutrients together for our body’s path to good health. Thanks for this helpful post.

  • Sheila Z
    Posted at 05:40h, 11 April

    Right on about the kid battles with food. Sometimes when I watch parents argue with their toddler about eating, it feels like the parents love the fight as much as the kid. I never made an issue out of mealtimes and just made sure the bulk of my kid’s food was real food. I didn’t sweat it when they were invited to a birthday party. They quickly realized that a cheap bakery cake with mountains of frosting wasn’t nearly as good as the stuff Mom made at home. If the parent enjoys good food the children will come to it eventually. Who cares if you never become a fan of cilantro, saves more of it for those that love that cilantro.

  • landog
    Posted at 20:40h, 15 April

    I love Ann Esselstyn’s recipes, especially ones that include “cliantro, lots!”
    It’s true – you ARE missing out 🙂

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