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How to Pick Your Vegetables

How to Pick Your Vegetables

We all know that we need to eat vegetables daily. But there is no single vegetable that can provide everything that our body needs to stay healthy. The question now is how should we choose which vegetables to eat?

I heard an interview with Arthur Haines, Maine hunting and recreation guide, forager, ancestral skills mentor, author, public speaker, and botanical researcher, who offers interesting ideas on ancestral health. 

When looking at our ancestors, it can be observed that they ate a great deal more plant varieties than we do. Haines pointed out that when thinking about variety, we should be looking at families of vegetables as a criteria. He suggests that we should be making sure we include a variety of classes of greens in our diet.  

Here are the different vegetable classifications. While vegetables vary in nutrient density, each family’s main nutrients are of the same class.


  1. Cabbage family 

The cabbage family includes cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. They are an excellent source of vitamins c, e, k, folate and fiber. These are the vegetables that are mostly linked to reduced cancer risk in organs such as lungs and prostate. [1]

  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage 
  • Brussel sprouts 


  1. Daisy family

The daisy family is also known as the sunflower family. One vegetable under this family, particularly the burdock root, has been used in traditional medicine to help treat infections. [2] One study suggests that burdock can help improve blood sugar and treat diabetes. [3] 

  • Burdock
  • Chicory
  • Lettuce
  • Endive
  • Globe Artichoke
  • Jerusalem Artichoke



  1. Melon family 

Marrow vegetables, classified under the melon family, are a significant source of potassium and other essential nutrients. These have a mild flavor compared to other vegetables, which makes them an ideal container for stuffing or filling.  Zucchini, a type of summer squash, has been reported to potentially have anti-cancer effect. [4]

  • Marrow
  • Zucchini
  • Squash
  • Pumpkin
  • Cucumber
  • Gourd


  1. Beetroot family 

Beetroot is touted as a superfood as it has been reported to help improve blood pressure, reduce inflammation and enhance athletic performance. [5] Spinach is also recommended for people who have hypertension. Quinoa, another vegetable under this family, is one of the least allergenic grains and is ideal for people who are on a wheat-free or gluten-free diet.

  • Beetroot
  • Quinoa
  • Spinach 
  • Chard


  1. Other root vegetables

Root vegetables are the ones that grow underground. These kitchen staples are naturally low in calories and rich in antioxidants. Root vegetables have been found to help cut diabetes risk. [6]

  • Carrots
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Radish
  • Fennel
  • Turmeric
  • Sweet potatoes


  1. Legumes

Legumes are an excellent source of fiber, protein and B vitamins. It’s also been associated with lower heart disease and diabetes risk. [7] However, it is best to cook them because eating them raw might interfere with the absorption of other nutrients and cause gut problems. Raw legumes contain antinutrients like lectins and phytic acid.  It is recommended that all of these be cooked using a pressure cooker to make them most digestible.

  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Nuts
  • Lentils


  1. Nightshades

Nightshades are also a great source of nutrients but people with autoimmune diseases and inflammatory bowel disease need to avoid them because they have been found to worsen these conditions. [8] Diabetics also need to limit consumption of potatoes because it is a starchy vegetable that can raise your glucose levels.

  • Tomato
  • Pepper
  • Eggplant
  • Ground cherry
  • Potatoes

The key point here is while each family can potentially be beneficial for you, from an ancestral health perspective, it is best to consume vegetables from different families of plants to get optimal nutritional value. By grouping your vegetables, it is also easier to plan meals with vegetables as your main dish.  A lot of people thinking they are eating a wide variety of vegetables but in reality they are just choosing from the cabbage family. You may for example mix broccoli with kale because they’re visually different from each other, but the fact is they’re in the same family. The goal of this article has been to show you that it is probably best to choose from various families.


1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23679237

2 https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320035.php

3 https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf500926v

4 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537869/

5 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4425174/

6 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537869/

7 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5466941/#b21





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