Are There Any Fattening Vegetables?

Are some veggies more fattening than others?

It’s not an unreasonable question.

As you know, we’re experiencing an epidemic of obesity and diabetes in most of the Western world. (Actually, it’s not just the western world- India and China now lead the US in the number of diabetics, but even adjusted for population the percent of the population that’s diabetic in India is almost twice that of the US. But I digress.)

And although most people don’t think immediately of vegetables when they think of cutting “fattening” foods from their diet, but some people who are really conscious about carbs have nonetheless asked me about vegetables as they relate to insulin, blood sugar and weight loss.

There’s a lot of confusion about certain starchy vegetables that have a “high glycemic index”, vegetables that people following lower-carb eating plans have been told to avoid. So the short answer to the question about vegetables being fattening is this:

If you’re a person for whom blood sugar management is a real issue, yes, some vegetables like potatoes (white and sweet), corn, and parsnips might be worth limiting. But in my opinion, the argument about vegetables and sugar is a little bit of a tempest in a teapot.

Here’s why. There are two real culprits in the obesity crisis. One is the fast-acting carbs and sugars in breads, cereals, pastas, desserts, cakes, rolls, crackers and fast food. Two is the obscenely large portions of everything else. As my wisecracking pal, the brilliant nutritionist and USDA researcher C. Leigh Broadhurst, PhD, says, “No one ever got fat on peas and carrots!”

So of course, we always want to keep an eye on how much sugar we’re eating, as well as on the foods that can raise blood sugar (and with it, the fat storing hormone insulin). In that regard, we have nothing to fear from most vegetables.

There are, however, some exceptions, and it’s not always easy to identify them just from the glycemic index. The glycemic load is a far more telling measure of the impact a food will actually have on your blood sugar in the real world.

  • Some starchy vegetables- peas for example—have a glycemic index of 80 (high!) but a glycemic load of 3 (extremely low) meaning the typical portion won’t do much to your blood sugar.
  • Carrots are another vegetable with a bad rap because of its glycemic index but its glycemic load is also 3.
  • Potatoes have high glycemic load and high glycemic index.
  • Tomatoes, actually a fruit, have the ability to raise your blood sugar as well.

So eat your vegetables and, unless you’re highly sensitive, don’t worry about sugar or carbs (exceptions being the starchy veggies like corn and potatoes).

Just to get you started, here’s a list of the vegetables that earned a “STAR” for outstanding performance by a vegetable in my book “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth”

You can’t go wrong with any one of them!

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Dandelion
  • Kale
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Watercress
jb@jonnybowden.com'

Author: Jonny Bowden

Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, (aka "The Nutrition Myth Buster") is a nationally known expert on weight loss, nutrition and health. He is a board-certified nutritionist with a master’s degree in psychology and the author of fourteen books on health, healing, food and longevity including three best-sellers, “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth”, “Living Low Carb”, and "The Great Cholesterol Myth".

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6 Comments

  1. stu.cog@gmail.com'

    Jonny, as usual you’re right on the button with your veggie endorsements – and also the exceptions of potatoes & corn, both with quite high glycemic loads . . .

    I’d like to do some lobbying on behalf of my favourite veggie, asparagus, and I must put in a plug for cauliflower and spring onions, both of which go really well in any stri-fry (with garlic & ginger, of course).

    Here’s to the wonerful world of veggies.

    Stu Coghill

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  2. gregory@livebettercoach.com'

    What’s my favorite vegetable? Not sure I can pick just one but I seem to crave raw cauliflower. I eat it almost every day with hummus or in my salads. Another fave is broccoli rabe. Steamed or sauteed with some garlic, olive oil and lemon it’s fantastic.
    For those who say they don’t like veggies and don’t know how to learn I say this. I grew up eating bologna on white bread with ketchup–the vegetable–among other American delicacies of the 60’s and 70’s. When I started to realize there was some bonus in learning to eat some real veggies, I just started where I was, raw celery and carrots, some broccoli, maybe a string bean or two. Now I can’t imagine not eating veggies 3 x per day and I’m in better health than ever.
    Thanks for another great bit of info Jonny.

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  3. efeldman@harryanddavid.com'

    Jicama is one of my favorites.

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  4. Bigguy_10@ymail.com'

    I see cauliflower is not on the list? I do eat a lot of it, plus broccoli being a Cruciferous vegetable and the benefits that go along with it.
    Curious if there is anything to be concerned about it? Thanks Eric

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  5. phylskil32@live.com'

    THIS ARTICLE IF REALLY GOOD TOO. I LIVE 3 HOURS FROM A BIG CITY AND HERE WE CAN’T GET DANDELION, SWISS CHARD, WATERCRESS AND KALE. NOT EVEN FROZEN.

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  6. mdonovan@iol.pt'

    I eat 2 ave carrots, 2 cups of cabbage, 1 onion, 3 heads of cauliflower, 2 heads of broccoli, 2 small potatoes and some stock cook it, blend it and eat it don’t really know if its good for me as I cannot understand some experts say this is good for you other say its bad but I like it don’t seem to loose any weight

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