eat your vegetables


A few years back, I saw Dr. Wahls' Tedx talk, "Minding Your Mitochondria".

Dr. Wahls had multiple sclerosis and became disabled to the degree that she was confined to a zero-gravity wheelchair when the tilt-recline became insufficient.

She did a bunch of research about what was necessary to fuel the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cells. First, she went paleo, but that wasn't sufficient. Next, she added a whole bunch of various vegetables to her diet and she got well. Her Tedx talk ends with her on a bicycle!

If you haven't seen it, the YouTube shows below; I highly recommend you take a few minutes to see it if you haven't.

I have CFS/ME, the primary symptom of which is fatigue. My favorite CFS/ME doctor is Dr. Sarah MyHill who covers a lot of topics from a paleo diet (she calls it a stone age diet) to hormonal issues to Mg supplementation. But she does a LOT of interesting research with mitochondrial issues as well. Unfortunately, Dr. Myhill's research and testing can only be done in the UK, and I'm not there.

But being aware of her work is why I ever played a YouTube video called "Minding Your Mitochondria" in the first place. I don't have MS, I don't know anyone with MS, and pretty much everything I know about MS, I learned from "The West Wing".

I am not on the Wahls protocol per se, not even paleo or WAPF really. I do my own thing to a large degree. But my vegetable plan was vague; just the basic notion of eating at least 50% of food on your plate as nonstarchy vegetables. Most times I accomplish this; sometimes not.

Dr. Wahls' protocol gives a bit of structure to the high vegetable consumption: eat 3 cups greens, 3 cups of colors (preferably different colors) and 3 cups of sulfurous veggies (brassicas and alliums) daily.

I've been vaguely following her for a while; there's been quite a few published peer-reviewed papers showing her protocol works for MS, particularly with regards to fatigue. So I decided to do this high-dose vegetable thing.

Presumably, we all know what greens are. My favorites cooked are chard and kale. But I do much more raw, various lettuces, most especially butterhead-types, parsley, dandelion, spring mix, and my absolute favorite - radicchio, which ironically isn't green at all. It is extremely easy to get 3-4 cups into juice daily any day I'm not planing a big salad or a chard-filled soup or stew.

The 3 cups of colors means produce colored all the way through; berries and peppers count but bananas and apples do not. My beloved radicchio counts as a color even though it also counts as a green. I add purple and yellow bell peppers to more than half the dishes I cook. And I get at least a cup of one type of berry or another in my daily smoothie, in case eating berries ever wind up some sort of hardship. ;) I always have 5-6 bags of frozen organic berries in my freezer when they're out of season and buy 2 or 3 types weekly when they are. And that doesn't even count my second favorite fruit after berries, melon. I freaking love melons. And tomatoes, which come in enough colors you could do 3 colors a day just with tomatoes. An avocado, an artichoke, 1/2 a grapefruit, an orange, a pomegranate, a cup of Concord grapes would all count as a cup of colored vegetables.

I thought the 3 cups sulfurous veggies would be my biggest problem. These are your brassicas and alliums.

I don't particularly dislike brassicas, but neither do I love them. Hubby doesn't like either broccoli or cauliflower, so I only make them about once a month as I have to eat them all myself. He's better with cabbage so I do a stirfry that uses a whole cabbage and cole slaw regularly. I might make cole slaw more often and get myself to a cup a day having that with lunch every day, but that'd still leave me pretty short. And if I try to add stirfry on a daily basis, hubby will likely revolt, even if we expand beyond ordinary cabbage into bok choy and napa and such.

I love alliums, all kinds: onions, shallots, leeks, garlic, scallions. I cook with them regularly, but never to the level of several cups daily.

So I figured out a method to add a pile of onions to my diet daily, without changing the ordinary dinners I make for hubby. My answer was cookiing carmelized onions in the crockpot. Basically, 5 lbs onions is 16 cups chopped. I prefer slicing them, just using the equivalent to figure out the Wahls dose of veggies.

I carmelize a big batch of onions in a crockpot easily. I melt about a quarter cup of coconut oil in the crockpot on high, throw in 5 lbs thinly sliced onions, toss to coat. Then cook on low for about 10 hours. Viola! 16 "cups" of sulfur veggies I can use as a side dish added to our ordinary meals.

I asked in a Wahls support group for further sulfury ideas and got some particularly noteworthy replies:

  • Dr. Wahls says 3 cloves garlic is equivalent to a cup. IMO, that is easy. I can eat a whole head of roasted garlic at a sitting, so no problem adding in garlic to get my sulfur count up.
  • Mushrooms count. Who knew? Handy especially if you're cooking since a cup cooks down to so little.
  • Awesome salad recipe: 1 head shredded cabbage, 1 diced onion or leek, 1 pound bacon cooked & crumbled, 1/4 cup vinegar and a few TB muscovado or other brown sugar. Nice change from cole slaw!
  • The cleverest idea was making broccoli or cauliflower popcorn. Basically, cut into teaspoon-size pieces, blanch for 3-4 minutes, then dehydrate them; 3 cups makes about 1 cup popcorn. The poster suggesuggested topping with ghee, but I tried this Dorito-flavored mix which I've used before and it was awesome. It's just a simple mixture of nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, paprika, chili powder, cayenne and salt. Yum!

I'll let you know when my fatigue is cured. Meanwhile, you can follow Dr. Wahls on Facebook or visit the Terry Wahls web site.

Disclosure: Affiliate

Image credit: Adapted from CSA Haul the First by Christine H. from Nacogdoches, US of A - CSA Haul the First. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.