Several years ago, an ex boyfriend with whom I had debated veganism at length sat across from me, watching me picking my way around the tomato and mushrooms in a bowl of vegetable soup and said, “…I’m not so sure you’re cut out for this”.
He was, it pains me to say, basically correct. My strict veganism lasted a little over a year before my diet slid ungracefully down the slippery slope and settled into its current amorphous, blob-like shape at the bottom. Although still composed largely of plant matter, my diet now includes a moderate amount of milk, the occasional egg, and a couple of times a week, some dead stuff. This has been going fine, apart from my deep and abiding sense of shame and failure, however now that I’ve returned to powerlifting I thought I should actually contemplate things like protein and, y’know, vitamins.
As I only taught myself to eat vegetables under duress, and even now only enjoy the least vegetabley ones, I would like to be efficient in my vegetable consumption. If one of the two main meals I eat each day is going to be vegan, I may as well score some vitamins out of it, and ideally some protein, since I don’t plan on tucking into a steak every day. To this end, I have trawled the internet in an attempt to identify palatable vegetables which might aid me in my worthy quest. What I have discovered along the way is frankly, shocking, and I share it here as a warning to others. Here are vegetables which, even if you sat yourself down to a big steaming bowl full of them, would offer you basically nothing.
My standard serving size, for reference, is two cups, since that seems like a reasonable volume of a single thing in a stirfry, stew, salad, or whatever.
Arguably my favourite vegetable, and consequently the one whose betrayal I feel most keenly. Two cups of this delicious, exuberant tuber offers a measley 22% of your daily vitamin C intake, 18g of sugar, and just about fuck all else. Some fiber and some potassium, but that’s really the basic requirement of all vegetables, and nothing for beetroot to boast about. I will of course continue to eat it, since it’s the dessert of the vegetable kingdom, but I will no longer be able to feel virtuous for doing so.
Well, nobody will be surprised at this, will they. Least of all the modern American. Although better than beetroot, since one large potato promises you all the vitamin C you’ll need, it is otherwise merely a source of carbohydrate, without even a great deal of fiber to recommend itself (although I imagine this varies substantially by type). Parsnips, it turns out, although tasty, are also basically worthless. One large sweet potato, by contrast, offers you more vitamin A than you could conceivably expect from such a humble tuber, plus your vitamin C, and actually tastes like something to boot. They also come in a variety of charming colours. I’m never eating normal potatoes again.
Well, this was an unpleasant surprise. I fucking hate bok choy. It’s bland, it has a gross texture, and it’s used liberally by cheap Chinese restaurants who want to rip off and enrage their vegetarian customers. Bok choy sucks. Unfortunately for me, it appears that two cups of bok choy fulfills you all your vitamin A and C needs, without offering you any delicious carbohydrates (sugar) like the aforementioned potato and beetroot. Which is, of course, why it doesn’t taste like anything, and why I wouldn’t choke down two cups if you paid me. I won’t be swayed. Fuck you, bok choy. Still worthless.
String beans are quite pleasant. Crunchy, inoffensive, simple to prepare. Alas, though, they appear to be nutritionally inadequate. Not even much vitamin A and C to recommend them (and that doesn’t seem like a high bar to clear), they have a tiny amount of fiber, bugger all protein, and nothing else of note. String beans, I’m disappointed.
Celery, tomatoes, asparagus, and eggplant
Turns out celery is exactly what it tastes like: water and fiber. What a complete waste of time. Why would anyone bother? Tomatoes, asparagus and eggplants, it turns out, are equally worthless. And good. I hate tomatoes.
Corn is really right on the fence. Two cups of corn seems like a lot, but I guess if you made cream of corn soup, or something, you could make it happen. Although quite carbohydratey, corn offers an admirable serving of fiber and a surprising amount of B-6 and Magnesium. Like sweet potato, it may be one of the few vegetables that tastes okay and has actual nutritional content.
My actual recommendations for efficient vegetable consumption include broccoli (vitamins A, B-6, C, potassium, and fiber), spinach (no surprises there, vitamins A, C, magnesium, and of course iron), anything yellow or orange (carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, corn; all full of vitamin a), and cauliflower (heaps of vitamin c, some B-6, plenty of fiber). And beans and lentils, although not vegetables, are of course full of both fiber and protein. In fact the Kenyan dish Githeri, a kidney bean and corn stew, is probably a good way to get that two cups of corn in.