The Journal of Pharmaceutical research made this statement in 2008, “The fact that only 5–10% of all cancer cases are due to genetic defects and that the remaining 90–95% are due to environment and lifestyle provides major opportunities for preventing cancer.”
And yet now, nearly 12 years later, we’re still asking ourselves if diet has an impact on our health and cancer risk. (Insert Mind Blown Emoji!!)
While preparing for this episode of Tuesday Terrain Talks, I was shocked to see that vegetable consumption in the United States averages less than two cups a day per person on average.
That low consumption can’t be because we don’t know veggie consumption is important.
So, what is holding us back from getting the minimum 2-3 cups per day, the suggested 5 cups per day, and the optimal 9-12 cups per day?
In this episode, I’ll share some of the data that I think may surprise you. But, more importantly, I’ll give you some insights on why vegetables serve your health more than you may realize, and I’ll address solutions to some of the top areas of resistance when it comes to eating your veggies.
Referred to in this episode.
Read the full transcript below:
Laura Lummer 00:00
You're listening to the breast cancer recovery coach podcast. I'm your host, Laura Lummer. I'm a Certified Life health and nutrition coach, and I'm also a breast cancer thriver. If you're trying to figure out how to move past the trauma and the emotional toll of breast cancer, you've come to the right place. In this podcast, I will give you the tools and the insights to create a life that's even better than before breast cancer. Well, let's get started.
Laura Lummer 00:32
Hello, friends, welcome to better than before breast cancer with me, Laura Lummer, the breast cancer recovery coach, today is our Tuesday terrain talk. And I'm literally on fire about this talk. So I was doing some behind the scenes work. I wasn't intending on speaking about this topic from this angle today. But I came across some statistics that I just found to be mind boggling. And I thought I need to address this topic. I want to address this topic. It's so important. And I also want to address it in a really mindful way. Because you and I, we all know what we're supposed to eat, right supposed to be quotation marks there. We know what healthy foods are, for the most part. And there are some foods that we think about as healthy, which actually are not like granola bars and things of that nature. They have what's called a health halo. They're marketed as health food, and they're really just candy bars. But we're not talking about those today. I want to talk about this topic in a in a very mindful way. Because it isn't about what you're supposed to do. You know, when we talk about, I'm supposed to eat healthy, I should eat this, I should eat that. We all know that unless you have been living under a rock your entire life. We're aware of it. But why don't we do it? And I think especially after looking at this statistic, I think that part of the reason why we don't do it isn't because of lack of knowledge. But maybe because it's lack of awareness. Maybe we really aren't aware of how little we're doing to support our body and its nutritional needs. And maybe we're not completely aware of how much we're doing that isn't serving us. I have to think that that's what's true. And I think that that's also combined with our thoughts about food. And that means when you think about food, do you look at it as this food serves my wellness. And I'm going to make these choices based on what my dietary goal might be. So what's the dietary goal? For me a dietary goal is to maintain a state of ketosis. So the foods that I choose are based on the question, Will this food taste good? Because I want it to taste good. Regardless, will it taste good, but will it help me stay in ketosis because the most important thing to me about staying in ketosis is supporting my body's ability to heal and weakening the cancer cells and making them more susceptible to the treatments that I'm on weakening the cancer cells that are in my body. So that's my dietary goal. Some people may have a dietary goal of maintaining a healthy weight. So then we ask ourselves is this food I'm about to consume going to support that dietary goals can be clearing out the brain fog, having more energy, having healthy looking skin, right, we think about how do we want food to work with us? How do we want food to serve our body? And within that, within that spectrum, within that mindset, are what things am I going to indulge in? Because we also just sometimes want to enjoy food as a tradition as a celebration, as an indulgence, right? And we may take in food from time to time that we look at and say this food does not serve my dietary goal. But I just want to enjoy the taste of it right now. We do that too. We're just people. We're only human. We're not perfect. We can't beat ourselves up about that stuff. Okay, that's just the way it is. So let's embrace it. Let's accept it. Let's say we're not perfect. But where do we have room for improvement? And how aware are we of what we're actually doing? You know, a couple of podcast episodes ago, I talked about data and the importance of really looking at the data and seeing what the data tells you like tracking your food for a number of days. And I have never met someone and encourage the client to do this and had them come back to me and say, yep, I'm doing exactly what I thought it was. Never not once that's not happened for me. It's never happened with somebody that I've been coaching, because once again, I know I've said this a lot, and I'll probably say it a lot more. We always think we eat less than and better than we actually do. And we think we move more than we actually do. And so it's in increasing awareness of what's really happening, then we can start to make modifications, to better support ourselves. So let me tell you, let me come back to the beginning here, I was working on updating some emails that go out to people who are in my 90 days of wellness program. So they get lots of information every week supporting different areas of heart centered wellness, and approach a heart centered approach to nourishing and loving their bodies through lifestyle practices. That's what that program is about. So I was going through these emails, checking to make sure that the information that I send out that the links are working, they're not broken, and they're still leading to the things I think they're leading to. Well, one of those links leads to a page on the National Geographics website. And that page is called how the world eats. So I start playing around with it, because it's this interactive circle graph. And you can look at the caloric intake from different food groups. So it's got sugars and fats, it's got produce meat, dairy, breaks it all down, and you can look at it from the perspective of globally, what is the world eating, and you can choose different countries and you can look at different years, you can play with it. Now a limiting factor here is it only goes from 1961 to 2011. So current data is 12 years old. So just looking at that space and time though, from 1961 to 2011, I was not surprised to see that the category that contains sugar and fat increased from 29% in 1961, to 37%, in 2011. But I also want to just clarify something here, I think that it's a gross misrepresentation to glump, sugar and fat together. Sugar has no nutritive value for us whatsoever. Sugar tastes good, sugar makes a better cake and better cookie, all of those kinds of things. But our bodies don't need sugar. If you never had sugar, again, you would not have any nutritional deficiency in your body. So to mix sugar and fats, I think is kind of putting this line are kind of demonizing fats. And we do need fats, we have to have fats in our diet. And there are good fats, inflammatory fats and anti inflammatory fats is a little bit of tongue twister. And so looking at the combination of that, and not being able to separate out sugar from fat, and lumping them together as if they're both kind of in that same group of non nutritive and inflammatory and really just a, an unhealthy ingredient for food, I think is not not the best representation of data. But that's not what I'm focusing on. So what I did see was that from 1961, to 2011, according to this graph in the United States, the total caloric consumption because that's what this graph looks at the percentage of calories consumed by the average person, that the total caloric consumption for the United States and what people were eating. Only 8% of that came from produce from fruits and vegetables in 1961. And in 2011, still, only 8% it did not grow. So then I thought, okay, hold on, produce is very low in calories. Could this be that people are eating enough produce eating enough fruits and vegetables, but the calorie content of them is so low, because there lots of water and lots of fiber, that the that's why it's remained consistent, and that maybe consumption has gone up. But caloric intake has also gone up. So let's look a little further into this. So I do. And I find this statistic that says, only 10% of Americans eat the recommended daily allowance that meets the US Dietary Guidelines of fruits and vegetables. And the dietary guidelines for vegetables are only two to three cups, which is so little, like not even nearly enough, in my opinion. And in opinions of other studies, which let me share with you. I keep looking, I'm thinking this is mind boggling. How can we be eating so little fruits and vegetables and I find this data by the Pew Research Center. Now again, this data is only goes to 2010. So it goes from 1970 to 2010. And in that amount of time it shows these different categories of nutrients and how much they've gone up or decreased in consumption. And leading the charge is consumption of grains, consumption of sugar or fats and oils, red meat stays pretty much the same vegetables dip a little bit, they go down, eggs go down. But fruits and fruit juices go up. And sugars and sweeteners go up. Okay, we're getting a bigger picture here. And I'm thinking in terms of this, you know, we see this increase in metabolic syndrome, we see an increase in type two diabetes, we're seeing an increase in cancers and especially in children. And does this have something to do with the picture? You know, I already know the answer to that, right. But I want to keep looking, I want the evidence. So I'll find another study. And this study is called fruit and vegetable intake and mortality. It was conducted by Harvard and Harvard, they looked at two of their own cohort studies. And then they analyzed 26 cohort studies of United States men and women and what they were eating. And here's what they concluded that sub optimal intake of fruits and vegetables ranked among the top dietary contributors to the burden of disease and premature death in the United States and world wide. Despite recommendations and dietary guidelines to increase fruit and vegetable intake, the current average intake among us adults, one serving of fruit, and one and a half servings of vegetables per day remains far from optimal. Wow, that is amazing. And this study was published in 2021. So this is a lot more current data. So what the heck is going on? If we're eating a percent of our calories from vegetables, with vegetables are we actually eating? So I look up and I find that the top three most consumed vegetables, number one, and I completely understand its popularity, is potatoes. I never met a potato I didn't like potato number one consumed vegetable, followed by tomatoes, and onions, the most nutritive vegetables, the top three nutritive vegetables, broccoli, spinach, and kale. And they're nowhere near the top of the chart when it comes to consumption. So not only are we consuming just a tiny fraction of our calories, less than two cups of vegetables a day, but what we are consuming is a high carbohydrate vegetable, for the most part, the most popular one. So then I think about grain consumption. Now, of course, we eat grains because we like bread, right? Bread tastes delicious. But I think that another consideration when people eat grains, especially whole grains, is they're thinking about fiber consumption. And so I want to point out a couple of statistics to you. I looked up the most consumed grains, and worldwide leading the global charge is rice. And then we've got wheat, and corn. Now the three most nutritive vegetables, as I mentioned to you, spinach, kale, and broccoli. So when we're eating food, and we're eating these top three grains, the most popular ones that are consumed globally, and in the United States, we're thinking Yum, they taste good, who doesn't like a good sandwich, but also I'm getting fiber, right? Let's look at this. So for one serving of rice, which is about a cup of rice, you get point six grams of fiber, but a whopping 44 grams of carbohydrates. Now, if you eat brown rice, you get a little more about three grams of fiber, but 41 grams of carbohydrate. And that's just for one cup, one cup of rice. Okay. Me and my dietary program, I consumed 20 grams of carbohydrate or less a day, and from a naturopathic ontological perspective and then metabolic approach to cancer. It's recommended for women to keep their carbohydrate intake below 40. But definitely not above 50 grams a day because we've seen the evidence and the science shows us that following a low carbohydrate diet is better overall for health, especially as cancer patients and cancer survivors. So what about wheat? If we're looking at wheat, whole wheat bread has per serving, so one slice about roughly two grams, there's a little under two grams of fiber and about 13 grams of carbohydrate. Now when it comes to whole wheat bread, maybe you have a slice of toast now and then but usually it's a sandwich, so you're gonna have two slices of bread. So we're talking 26 grams of carbohydrate just in the bread alone. Then the third most popular grain which also goes under the guise of vegetable is corn. Now for one ear of corn the nutritive value is about two and a half little under two and a half grams of fiber and 17 carbohydrates. So just keep those numbers in mind. And I want to address this question because I get asked it a lot. Our greens bed, is this bed their whole grains, right? They have fiber in them? And the answer is no, I want to go back to my the guidelines that I profess in my free download, which is how to eat without fearing guilt after breast cancer. And even in there, I say, you know, let's, let's get the confusion out of food. And let's just say that no food is good or bad, as long as it's a real food. And that means not made in a box not processed in a manufacturing plant somewhere. But food grown from the ground or food raised from plants that grow from the ground, right? So we're talking plants, animals, real food. So if it's real food is a bad? No. But as I mentioned a minute ago, does it serve your dietary goal? If you have cancer, if you want to work towards preventing a recurrence of cancer, then dietary strategies can be really important. And low carbohydrate is significantly powerful as one of those strategies. So being aware of what you're consuming, and what that means to you. That's the important part. It isn't the demonizing of food, it isn't brown rice is bad, and rice is bad, and oats are bad. But it's what are they doing to serve your health? Are they sprayed with glyphosate? Are they genetically modified? Are they high carbohydrate? What's actually going on with your food? So let me come back, we're sticking to fiber because I'm thinking okay, for grains, we got to be thinking about, maybe people don't realize how many carbohydrates are in small servings of grains. And maybe we also don't realize the benefit. And how much fiber is available to us in how many vitamins are available to us in vegetables. So let's look at those top three most nutritive vegetables, spinach, one cup of spinach, 4.3 grams of fiber, and only one carbohydrate. Yeah. And again, we're looking at Whole Foods, real food, two cups of spinach is not hard to consume. So if you eat two cups of spinach, whether it's raw spinach, and you go ahead and you put that in a salad, or you take two cups of spinach, and you cook them, which if you cook two cups of spinach, it comes down to like two tablespoons of spinach. But in that consumption, you're getting a lot of fiber up to eight grams, a little over eight grams of fiber, and hardly any carbohydrates. So this is why when we talk about eating a plant forward diet, it's so significant because it can be really satisfying, you're going to have large servings of vegetables as part of your meal big salads throughout the day, and not have an exorbitant amount of calories, or an exorbitant amount of carbohydrates in your diet, where you're still getting a lot of nutrients and a lot of fiber. So let's talk about kale. And I'll be honest with you, kale is not my favorite food, I find it to be really rough and chewy. And I know you're supposed to massage it with salt and lemon oil and olive oil. And I do that so I mixed kale in with other things. And I actually like to cook it in broths and mix it with other things. I'm not a big fan of just eating a big kale salad. But regardless, for those of you who do like it, the fiber content in just one cup of kale is almost three grams of fiber. So you get about 2.6 grams of fiber in a cup of kale, and about six grams of carbohydrate. Same for broccoli and a cup of broccoli cooked broccoli, you get about six carbohydrates, but almost five grams of fiber. So when we think about the consumption of whole grains, and the reason we eat whole grains, aside from flavor, right, because sometimes we have to make decisions aside from flavor and favorites and think about how do we want them to serve our health, especially when managing chronic illness. We've got to shift that mindset from eating food from the perspective of just enjoyment to enjoyment and benefits. And I do say both, I am not a proponent of a flavourless, yucky diet that you don't enjoy. And I am a huge advocate of experimenting with new food because I know that you can put together a diet that both serves your dietary goals, your health goals supports your body and tastes delicious. This I know for sure, because I'm a good cook. And I read a lot of cookbooks and tastes a lot of good food. So when we're thinking about what we're eating, what do we want to get out of it? And if it's fiber, then we can see just from this small example, that vegetables have a lot more to offer than whole grains both in the fiber content and in the carbohydrate content. So this is all well and good, right? Great information, interesting statistics. Okay, I need to eat more vegetables. But what's important is why isn't that already happening? What is it that can keeps us from eating the recommended the small, small amount. And in fact, even though the US Dietary Guidelines recommend two to three cups, the study which again, I'll post in the show notes for this episode, the link to it, the study that I referred to earlier, the cohort study by Harvard, found that the minimum intake was five cups, five cups of vegetables a day, and they found that that had the greatest impact on health. And in fact, that over five cups a day, they said they didn't see a significant impact on continual improvement in health. And even though in the world, I live in the ad, it's advocated to have up to 12 or 15 cups of vegetables a day. Looking at these statistics, I would be thrilled to see people get up to five cups, right? So can we get up to five cups a day? I think that the thing we have to think about is, there's lots of options when it comes to vegetables, why aren't we eating more vegetables? Why aren't we bringing them into our lives and into our bodies? Well, I think some people don't know how to cook vegetables, so they don't like the taste of them. Right? When it comes to vegetables, I think that you know, I think back on how I was raised, I hated vegetables as a kid, because my mum boiled vegetables, that's all she did. She'd thrown in maybe steamer, or a pot of water, and she'd boil them and they'd be boiled to death, overcooked and disgusting. I hated vegetables. But as I grew, and as I learned to cook, I made a point of purchasing vegetable forward cookbooks, looking for vegetarian cookbooks, vegan cookbooks, I actually have a cookbook that's called veg forward and looking for really great chefs and how they cooked their vegetables. I'll put some links to some of my favorite vegetable cookbooks, in the show notes for this episode, because I think it's super important to realize there are lots of ways to cook vegetables that make them taste delicious, way beyond boiling and steaming. And then people start are oh, well, doesn't that take away? You know, the nutrient value? Doesn't the vitamin C go up in the steam? Well, if you're not eating any vegetables, or you're only do one cup of vegetables a day, but I'd rather have you eat five cups of vegetables that have been cooked with a little less vitamin C that not eat any vegetables at all, right? And it's about more than just vitamin C, there's so many great phytonutrients in vegetables that we know, benefit health, and we're not even sure of the mechanisms of that, like nutrition is such a baby science. And I think that's part of the reason for confusion. You know, we started really digging into the science of nutrition just less than 100 years ago. And sadly, what tends to happen in science is we come across this great discovery, you know, this fruit does this, this vegetable does that this nutrient does this. And then we just kind of stick with that. And we don't go back and redo the science. And so we just add more and say, Well, maybe that wasn't correct. This is the opposite of what you said in 1950. And now we're fighting on both sides. Well, 1950 is still valid and 2023 is valid. And it's just crazy, right? We just need to understand as a general public that the science is conflicting, because it's come out at different times, different institutions want to back their studies. And it's really hard to do a good study when it comes to food. Because a good study means it's got to be really controlled, a randomized, controlled, double blind study. Those are the gold standard. And when it comes to humans and the way they eat, it's really difficult to get a study like that, because you can't be sure that they're eating everything you tell them to eat, that they're not eating other things, that lifestyle factors are influencing their consumption of food while people are in a study. And so all that combined together makes a lot of confusion when it comes to nutrition. But if we just stick with the basic guidelines, and we just understand eating whole foods, real foods, right, cutting out processed foods, cutting out high sugar, high fat, processed foods, eating real foods, and eating a majority of plants, increasing our consumption of vegetables specifically because fruits can also be very high in sugar and have a tendency to spike people's blood sugar. So vegetables especially are important. What's another reason why we're not eating more vegetables? When we've got flavor and not knowing how to cook that's easily remedied. Two people tell me all the time. It's too expensive. There are lots of ways my friends to get vegetables into your diet and to think about it differently. Because for many people I have coaches who tell me vegetables are too expensive, their pantries their refrigerators in their freezer. How Foods in them that do not serve their health. So if we look at those foods and ask ourselves, could I trade that out and spend that money on vegetables? Can I buy frozen vegetables? Because if fresh vegetables aren't something you're going to be able to purchase? They don't fit in your budget, or people often don't buy them because they say they go to waste. Why does the vegetable go to waste? Because we're not intentional on incorporating into our diet, right? We're not eating it consistently. So it's sitting there when we're thinking, what are we gonna make out of that thing, we need more ideas, we need to be creative, and we need to be incorporating it into lots of things we eat, I don't think that there's a meal that goes by that I have that doesn't incorporate some type of vegetable, even if I'm just chopping up broccoli and throwing it in, if it's eggs, if it's, I know pretty much anything, I always make a point very intentionally to incorporate fresh produce into what I'm eating. But frozen produce, they pick it fresh, they flash freeze it, and it stays good for a long time. And you can get some very good prices when you're buying frozen produce. So that's something to check out. And I think a third factor may be access, access to vegetables. So understanding them, understanding how to use them and cook them so that you begin to enjoy them, affording them and being able to have access to them. So one of my sons moved to Aspen, Colorado, and although he's got a good job there, it's an extremely expensive place to live. Now, he's 23 years old, soon to be 24 years old, even though he makes a decent living at his job is living doesn't necessarily accommodate the ability to shop for fresh fruit and aspirin. So he makes an hour and a half trip every other week to a Costco. And he would say to me, I'm so frustrated, because he's very concerned about eating well, and eating healthy. But he runs into this problem with vegetables, if I buy all these vegetables, they go to waste. He says I could drive all the way to Costco and buy a bunch of them. But then of course, Costco sells ginormous size, servings of everything. And so he says, but I can't get through them before they're wasted. But remember, if you buy fresh vegetables, you get them home, you chop them up, and you freeze them yourself, okay? Or you cook them and then freeze them. And so you can use these different techniques to make them less longer. So that we're being mindful of the finances, but finding more ways to get these really beneficial foods into your diet. If you have thoughts about this, if you're listening to this podcast, and you have questions that I didn't address, and you're thinking about how to get more vegetables in or change the way you're thinking about it. I'd love to hear those questions. So find me on Facebook and Instagram as the breast cancer recovery coach and DM me your questions, or join my free Facebook group, the breast cancer recovery group, and ask your questions there. When we're talking about breast cancer recovery, it's inclusive of all things that we need to do to support ourselves. And one of those major things is our metabolic health, and what supports our metabolic health. Good food. So a couple of takeaways from this show. How many cups of vegetables? Are you actually eating on a daily basis? Could you pay attention to it this week? Or pay attention to it just today? And look at it and notice how much am I really eating? Do I think I'm having more than I actually am? Are you doing a good job of it? If you're doing a really good job of getting lots of vegetables into your diet, share that information, go to the breast cancer recovery group, join it and share with other people how you get more healthy foods into your diet. What are some tricks? How do you make your dollar stretch further? How do you make that food taste delicious. We're always stronger together supporting each other with our creative ideas. And definitely click through the links in the show notes. Read more of the research so that you increase your awareness of the importance of incorporating these foods into your diet. And also check out some of those cookbooks. Let's learn how to make eating vegetables fun and change those dials on the graphs of how the world eats. Alright my friends. Thanks for being here and joining with me today and I will talk to you again soon. Take care