Every Vegetable Isn’t Created Equal

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Featured image courtesy of Katie the caterer

When it comes to eating healthy, it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that all vegetables are good for you in the same way. We all know fruits and vegetables are an important part of a balanced diet—but not all veggies are created equal.

Some are higher in protein and fiber, which can make them great options for anyone looking to build muscle or power through strenuous workouts. These kinds of vegetables can often have a surprisingly high number of net carbs though, which makes them a poor choice for weight loss and low-carb diets. The keto diet especially calls for low-carb choices, and the wrong vegetables may actually harm your dieting efforts.

Let’s take a look at the various kinds of vegetables and see which options are the best choice to help you reach your particular health and wellness goals:

When You’re Building Muscle

Most people who want to build muscle or take on high-intensity workouts gravitate toward beans and nuts for their high levels of protein. Protein is essential when you’re trying to bulk up or do any kind of strength training. Even workouts that aren’t necessarily focused solely on muscle building still have strength-training elements. Without the right amount of protein, all that working-out won’t give you the results you are looking for.

The truth is that many vegetables are high in protein and fiber and can make an excellent dietary addition to a strength-based workout routine.

These types of vegetables include:

  • Green beans
  • Peas
  • Asparagus
  • Spinach
  • Corn
  • Lima beans
  • Broccoli
  • Artichokes
  • White mushrooms
  • Potatoes

It is important to note that many of these vegetables are also high in carbs. This is especially true for the potatoes, lima beans, corn, and peas. This isn’t always a problem for strength-training or more intense workouts—as the body converts carbs into energy. Because of this, carbs are often considered a benefit to some bodybuilders, athletes, and runners when consumed in the right amounts. But carbs can cause problems if you eat too many, are on a low-carb diet, or don’t exercise enough to make good use of the carbs you’re taking in.

When You’re Trying to Lose Weight

If the main focus behind your workouts and food choices is weight loss, then you are better off choosing vegetables that are low in carbs and have a high nutritional value. A good general rule of thumb is that any dark, leafy vegetable like spinach will fit this description, while any brightly-colored or sweet vegetable will likely have a high carb count. There are of course exceptions to these rules—for example, bell peppers are a great colorful, low-carb addition to many meals—but these rules are a good place to start.

Some specific low-carb veggies are:

  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Mushrooms
  • Arugula
  • Zucchini
  • Spinach
  • Celery
  • Asparagus
  • Eggplant
  • Bell Peppers

You may notice that some options in this list such as mushrooms, asparagus, spinach, and broccoli are also included in the previous list for muscle building and strength training. This means these vegetables are both high-protein and low-carb—making them versatile veggies that can and should be included in almost any health plan you are put together.

Final Thoughts: Intention and Moderation

When it comes down to it, all vegetables are healthy, but in different ways. The important thing is to choose your veggies with intention—selecting the best ones to add to your diet that will help you meet your specific goals. A potato may cause problems for a low-carb dieter, but can be incredibly beneficial for someone who works out a lot. This is not just because of its protein and carb count, but also because it is high in potassium—which is essential for proper muscle function and avoiding muscle cramps.

In addition, to being thoughtful in your vegetable choices, you also need to exercise moderation. You may need potatoes to fuel your CrossFit workouts, but that doesn’t mean that you should have french fries or three baked potatoes with every meal. In the same way, a low-carb diet can benefit from the occasional higher-carb vegetable like carrots or onions. They may be higher in carbs, but they also contain many beneficial nutrients and ignoring them all together would be a bad idea.

Whole-body health and fitness ultimately comes down to making mindful decisions about your health, diet, and daily activities. Be mindful of the veggies you’re eating, and you’re sure to see better results in reaching your fitness goals.

Now that you know how to shop for veggies, it’s time to work your body. Whether you’re packing on muscle or trying to get lean, work out with CrossFit Citadel and achieve your health and fitness goals.