1. Let's talk Veggies

Veggies...from the PHD plan

Veggies (low calorie/watery):

The two main keys when it comes to Veggies are:

First: Add as many Veggies (low calorie, watery veggies) as you like!

Eat veggies to taste—and don’t count them towards your carb source if you’re “counting macros”…

Second: It's great to eat them "strategically" to get valuable Micronutrients...AND to avoid eating too many anti-nutrients...from them each day.

Ideally, aim for eating 3 - 6 cups steamed/water-sautéed or raw Veggies a day.

And your overall Fruits & Veggies strategy would be 5 - 9 servings of fruits & vegetables per day. Generally a serving is considered 100 grams (or 3.5 ounces) of food--which could look like a medium-sized piece of fruit...a 1/2 cup of streamed greens...or 1 cup of raw greens.

So if you're aiming for 3 - 6 cups of steamed/water-sautéed or raw Veggies a day...you would definitely accomplish this overall Fruit & Veggies goal.


Why don’t Veggies “count” towards your daily Carb Macros??

As Dr. Jaminet explains in The Perfect Health Diet that our gut bacteria use the glucose & fructose in low calorie veggies themselves, so “the net contribution of vegetables to the body’s glucose balance is virtually nil.”

Exciting times!

But just because you don’t have to “count” your Veggies as part of your Carb Macros—you do want to go for eating them—again, aiming for aiming for 3 - 6 cups of steamed/water-sautéed or raw Veggies a day (which is not hard too do if you have 1-2 cups at each meal)…


Key Micronutrients, Vitamins & Minerals

Because Veggies are loaded with Micronutrients that you just can’t get very easily with eating any other category of food.

Nutrients like potassium (most people are not getting enough of this), calcium, magnesium (this mineral is hard to get enough of daily & is a recommended daily supplement)…vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber, folate, and many more.

I like to use cronometer.com to track my macro & micronutrients…and I’ve found that it really does take eating 1 - 2 cups of Veggies with every meal & doing something like a green juice/smoothie to get enough of a micronutrient like Potassium, that helps you maintain a healthy blood pressure.


Health Perks

Eating a solid amount of Veggies each day has been positively associated with several good health markers, like:

lower cancer risk, lower chance of type 2 diabetes & cardiovascular disease, improved vision, lung health & bone health…

and less oxidative stress/inflammation.

And eating a diet with a solid amount of Veggies (and a little fruit)…good protein & moderate carbs as defined by a Mediterranean diet…has been shown to significantly improve symptoms of depression (without adding in extra exercise or other restrictions) in a really well-conducted research study in Australia.


Plus, if you are suffering or concerned you may be prone to a now-a-days common condition 🙁 called Fatty Liver Disease--which you may be at risk of if you have pre-diabetes, type 1 or 2 diabetes, obesity, insulin resistance or are struggling with gaining weight--

Then eating 3 - 6 cups steamed/water-sautéed or raw Veggies a day is one of the key strategies that Dr. Chris Masterjohn recommends to help resolve this condition.


Does 3 - 6 cups of Raw/lightly steamed Veggies a day seem Do-able or Overwhelming?

This may seem like a lot at first...but because there are so many health perks, I think that you can get into a flow with it relatively quickly.

I do highly recommend purchasing Organic for most veggies...because they simply taste better & that alone makes it easier to eat them.

Plus, I'm going to share how choosing slightly more Bitter Veggies can really help reset your Tastebuds...and help kill your sweet tooth...especially when it comes to Breakfast...and your cravings for the rest of the day.

And, I'm excited to share a #1 strategy to make sure you aren't getting too many Anti-Nutrients from your daily Veggies too...since plants aren't these helpless things waiting around for us to eat them.

Is ORGANIC worth a little extra money?

Well, when it comes to more flavorful taste (and higher micronutrient content from better-tended soil) & potentially reducing your body’s toxic burden & supporting clean water, bees & soil health…

I do think that purchasing organic veggies as much as possible does help you eat more of them more ease-fully.

I know oftentimes organic produce costs a little more...however, when you add in more Veggies with each meal (and a little fruit & starchy carbs)...you could save more money than when you buy processed foods. So, it's interesting to see if your weekly food expenses actually would go up, down or stay the same. 

Eating 1 - 2 cups of steamed or raw Veggies with each meal actually does help make you feel more FULL--they're taking up volume in your stomach, and moving along at a good pace in your digestive system with their watery & fiber content. So, potentially you would be spending less on snacks too. They aren't filling in the sense that they're calorie-dense (other macros have you covered there)...but they have flavor and volume. Anyways, points to consider!

And here's why I follow the EWG's guidelines & purchase most (but sometimes not all) of my produce as organic. You can see the EWG's 2019 Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen to see which veggies & fruit you can safely purchase as non-organic and which ones you really should strive to purchase as organic because they're heavily sprayed with pesticides that do leave a residue.

Plus--I have two other main reasons why I usually shop Organic:


Most organic vegetables (and fruit) actually taste significantly better...because they have higher mineral content in them, because they're grown in more carefully tended soils...and there's been research that shows that TASTE comes from these bitter molecules, and these additional vitamins & minerals you're getting.

Plus side note: they have more vitamins & minerals in them because the soil is better tended & cared for.


Bees, butterflies, farm workers, clean water, carbon-sink

And then after teaching in a farming community in California for many years--I like to support people getting paid a little more and not having to work with pesticides, as much as possible.

Plus pesticides have been shown to reduce bee, bug & bird populations...contribute to water problems (almost at a crisis level where I'm living in Iowa at the moment 🙁 )...and

When people rotate their crops, which you need to do when you're farming with regenerative ag practices--organic--or chemical-free...this practice helps to sink excess carbon in the soil. (Although pasture-raised animals help sink the most carbon, with leaving the grass' roots intact.)

The second best way of sinking carbon is with crops that are grown perennially…and stay planted in the ground. These carbon-sinking friendly plants include Fruit like oranges, grapes, olives, berries & bananas…and Vegetables that can be grown perennially (like kale, climbing beans, leeks) are getting a lot of eco-attention right now (although most of these Veggies are still grown annually).

So--it's worth experimenting with buying more stuff as organic & perennial...from a local farmer (way fresher, more nutrients, better taste)...

And if you're someone who didn't like vegetables much as a kid--well your tastebuds can change. And buying organic vegetables would be super helpful for you--because they straight up taste a lot better.

Food for thought!! 🙂

So many Veggies to choose from...

Well, sort of. It's actually kind of weird how we only grow certain Veggies over and over again. I think the ones we do grown continually have been chosen for flavor and taste, both good things.

And this makes it especially important to go for eating a Variety of Veggies, too...since we only have so many grocery store options to work with here. 🙂


It is really powerful to add Veggies to each of your meals! This is because:

  • Veggies are “free” and you don’t want to count them towards your daily Carbs…
  • Go for eating 3 - 6 cups of raw or lightly steamed Veggies per day.
  • Gut bacteria in your colon transform the indigestible fiber from Veggies into vitamins for you! (hence maybe the Australian study's find of improved mental well-being??)
  • Fresh veggies contain usable Calcium...and Folate (which supports the process of Methylation…cellular energy & detoxification)
  • When you go for optimizing your Veggies with each meal, this gives you a portion of daily Potassium (but not all--additional tips/tricks may be needed here)
  • And they make you feel FULL because they take up VOLUME in your digestive track

All good deals!

Raw & gently cooked veggies are the best! See my Recipe Book for the way that I recommend cooking Veggies, which I call “water sautéing.” This helps keep the micronutrients in the veggies (and cooking water).

When I go shopping—I usually purchase 2 different kinds of lettuce & salad decorations like avocado, celery, tomatoes, colorful bell peppers, microgreens...because I like making salads to go with breakfast and lunch (convenient & fast).

Also, I try to avoid salad in plastic bins & go for heads of fresh lettuce (going for different varieties, like Romaine or Red Leaf). This gives me some nice salad variety (while avoiding plastic) 🙂

And then I usually make “water sautéed veggies” to go with dinner…and I pick a dark leafy green and add some chunkier veggies to it, like different varieties of mushrooms, broccoli, red pepper, bok choy…

Also, this has the added benefit of just having just 1-2 servings of more oxalate-rich veggies each day…which Dr. Chris Masterjohn shares is important to protect thyroid function, too. More about this...and how to optimize calcium, potassium, folate & oxalates/thyroid health with Veggies below...

Here are some ways to think about planning your Veggies with each meal:

1. The power of Variety…and raw vs. cooked

Vegetables are nature’s multivitamins. Eat a wide and colorful assortment of them, and you can pack your diet with vitamins, antioxidants, polyphenols and other healthful compounds.

Eating a *variety* is key in order to do this…

AND enjoying them both raw & gently cooked…as both ways offer different kinds of nutrition.

2. Bitter can be Better

Bitter greens are packed with micronutrients like vitamins C & K, potassium, and magnesium. The bitter taste actually helps kill your sweet tooth (woot)…and this taste triggers your liver to produce bile, which helps you better digest all the good fats you’re eating.

Bitters literally “get your juices flowing” by stimulating the release of bile, and also saliva, HCL, pepsin, gastrin, and pancreatic enzymes.

And particularly, this taste triggers your liver to produce bile, which helps you better digest all the good fats you’re eating.

Plus, what I re-discovered while dealing with pregnancy nausea--is that if you go for making your Breakfast more "savory"...and go for adding in a salad or lightly steamed greens...if you START your day with these more bitter flavors (that can be found in lettuce, tomatoes, kale...)

This actually helps condition your taste buds for the rest of the day! When you choose more savory foods for Breakfast (and hopefully a cup of bitter-ish veggies)...this will literally kill your sweet tooth and help you crave "healthier" and less sugary or carby foods the rest of the day! Woot!

The "kill your sweet tooth with Breakfast" experiment just keeps on giving. 

So go for weaving in a good amount of Bitter Veggies (like asparagus, kale, broccoli, Romaine lettuce, arugula and many more)....for breakfast & every meal.

3. Maximize good taste--Fresh (or frozen) is better


Fresher is better…as the micronutrient content—which also equates with the flavor content/good taste—does decline with the longer the veggies are out of the ground and exposed to air. That’s why organic veggies at a store like Trader Joe’s still can be good…but they may not be as flavorful/tasty as veggies from a local grower at Whole Foods/organic local store OR your local Farmer’s Market.

Recently picked, organic veggies have the most flavor for sure...

And freezing fruit & veggies (frozen veggies) locks in some Micronutrients--but not all Micronutrients, as frozen Veggies have degraded Folate content unfortunately…

4. Take care with the Folate

And then fresh Veggies can be a good source of Folate (vitamin B9) which is used extensively by our bodies to build new cells (which is what it’s so important for pregnant women & growing kids & all people with cells really :))…

But you do have to handle Veggies with care in order to actually be able to get this Folate.

It’s best to get Folate from leafy greens & vegetables, liver, and sprouted legumes. This would be way better than taking a synthetic folate supplement (unless pregnant, helpful post here).

To make sure you’re getting enough daily Folate, here are a few key strategies from Dr. Chris Masterjohn:

First....how your prepare & cook your leafy greens & veggies (and legumes) is actually really important to maintaining the Folate content in them. The folate in frozen & desiccated liver is very stable, so you don't have to worry as much about them.

When it comes to getting Folate from your veggies & sprouted legumes, however:

You want to leave Veggies whole (not diced yet) while you wash them...and wash them with as little filtered water as needed to be food safe...because washing veggies (especially cut veggies) washes folate into the sink. Also eating veggies raw or gently cooked is best.

And, you want to be able to drink the cooking water with your veggies and your legumes too, in order to get the Folate…so when you make sprouted legumes, it's best to make them with just enough water, so that you consume it all together.

Plus, how can you tell if you're getting enough Folate? To get enough Folate on a daily basis, Dr. Chris Masterjohn recommends eating:

1-2 servings a day from these Tier 1 Folate foods would be enough:

--Lentils, chickpeas, lima beans, mung beans, black beans, pinto beans are the best beans

--Leeks, spinach, asparagus & broccoli are especially good Leafy greens/veggies

--Liver is a great source of stable Folate


OR 2 - 3 servings a day from these Tier 2 foods would be enough:

--Other legumes & other veggies


To “super-charge” your Folate status:

—Add in pastured egg yolks (as these chickens are eating grass…and their eggs have potentially many times more folate than conventional eggs, but the data is by far not conclusive & we shouldn’t count on them alone...however adding these in to the other recommended daily servings of Folate (see above) is an excellent way to “super-charge” your folate)

—And sprout your legumes! 🙂 (Folate increases as much as 6 times higher by the 4th day of sprouting...making sprouting at home a valuable process. When you buy pre-sprouted dry legumes (like from To Your Health brand) they are sprouted only 24 hours, still more than non-sprouted lentils, for sure!)

(Also if you are pregnant, or TTC, the grass-fed Ancestral Supplement Spleen supplement is very high in Iron and Folate)

5. Calcium & Potassium...yay

Getting enough Folate is very do-able with the above strategies though (although you would need MORE folate if you're pregnant or TTC)...

And again, the super-star Folate veggies include:

Leeks, spinach, asparagus & broccoli are especially good Leafy greens/veggies for Folate



And you can get some great Calcium from Veggies too...Here are some quick details on high Calcium Veggies:

Dr. Chris Masterjohn writes in his free Vitamins & Minerals 101 course that:

"40-60% of the calcium in most cruciferous vegetables is absorbed" as opposed to "a little over 30% of the calcium in milk is absorbed...." and only "20-25% of the calcium in legumes is absorbed."

Making Veggies a great choice for body-usable Calcium. The super-star Veggies when it comes to Calcium include:

Napa cabbage, Chinese mustard greens, bok choy, kale, Chinese spinach, broccoli.



And finally, let's discuss Potassium briefly here. I'll talk more about Potassium in the Bonus #1 section, so as not to overwhelm you here...I think focusing on maximizing Folate...and doing a daily dance with keeping cruciferous veggies to 1-2 servings a day are good things to focus on with this section.

I'll just hint briefly here though that more action (like making a daily green juice/smoothie and adding some tomato paste or picking starchy tubers like potatoes for your Safe Carbs...are extra steps to getting enough Potassium from food (oh and mussels!! :))...

If you don't have certain health conditions you can supplement with Potassium Citrate too...

Most people are not getting enough Potassium every day & this can really dramatically affect your energy metabolism.

It takes tracking it using a tool like cronometer.com and going for daily Potassium strategies! 🙂

High Potassium foods (relative to net carbs) include:

watercress, spinach, purslane, mustard greens, bamboo shoots, red leaf lettuce, celery, mushrooms, green leaf lettuce, zucchini, Chinese cabbage, asparagus, common cabbage, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes

Plus other super-star Potassium foods include things like a baked potato, 1/4 cup tomato paste and fruit like bananas.

6. Limit Cruciferous Veggies each day

A #1 strategy to make sure you aren't getting too many Anti-Nutrients

All right--so Vegetables are not these helpless, defenseless things just waiting for us to eat them. Veggies contain "anti-nutrients" that defend them from pests & predators...and these "anti-nutrients" can be hard on our Thyroid Health.

I'm going to focus on the #1 strategy that I recommend with choosing/rotating your Veggies on a daily basis: and that's limiting your consumption of Cruciferous Veggies to 1 serving per day...to protect your Thyroid health.

Some people are going to have sensitivities to other anti-nutrients in Veggies also. Some people are very sensitive to nightshades like tomatoes & eggplant...

Also other people who are prone to kidney stones or potentially working with Hashimoto's would want to limit High Oxalate veggies each day too.

Please see the links above to learn more about these anti-nutrients, if these sensitivities apply to you...

Here though, I'm going to focus on one recommended daily strategy almost everyone can use to avoid too many plant "anti-nutrients:"

Dr. Chris Masterjohn does recommend moderating your servings of Cruciferous Veggies each day, in order to protect your thyroid health, too.

However, these veggies can be a great source of plant anti-oxidants though—so you wouldn’t want to skip them entirely.


What are Cruciferous Veggies--and why do we want to limit but not skip them?

Cruciferous vegetables are veggies in the Brassica family and include veggies like cauliflower, cabbage, kale, watercress, bok choy, broccoli, Brussel sprouts...The name “cruciferous” comes from Latin for "cross-bearing"...relating to the shape of their flowers, whose four petals resemble a cross.

Cruciferous Veggies are potent things--they're high in vitamin C...soluble fiber...and contain multiple nutrients, phytochemicals and antioxidants.

And they also contain compounds like glucosinolates and indole-3-carbinol, which have been shown to ward off cancer.

So you would NOT want to skip your cruciferous veggies all together!

You just would want to limit your intake of them on the daily…and Dr. Chris Masterjohn recommends limiting them to 1 serving a day to protect your Thyroid...

Here's why:

Dr. Chris Masterjohn shares that historically, it's very easy not to get enough Iodine every day. And certain foods--including cruciferous veggies--have compounds that inhibit the uptake of Iodine into your thyroid gland.

These compounds in cruciferous veggies are also fabulous--as they help support detoxification, protect against cancer and act as anti-oxidants...however, these compounds:

“are the exact same compounds that inhibit the uptake of iodine into your thyroid gland. So moderation is really important.”

So don’t avoid them—but moderation is key. He would limit cruciferous vegetables to one serving per day.

Super Veggie Chart

Check out my Veggie Chart...remember, you want to go for 3 - 6 cups of raw or lightly steamed Veggies per day...and limit your Cruciferous Veggies to one serving per day...plus go for maximizing your Micronutrients, too!

Save my Super Veggie chart to your phone for handy reference while planning for the week/day & shopping 🙂

Plus...Fermented Veggies

Fermented Veggies

Plus, having 1 to 2 tablespoons a day of real Fermented Veggies is a very powerful way to help your Gut Microbiome. I’ll share more research in a future Good Digestion module as to how you can use Probiotic Foods to “crowd out” unfriendly gut bacteria and help right the balance in favor of good gut bacteria (that make vitamins & short chain fatty acids for you)…

For now--let's talk 1 to 2 tablespoons of Fermented Veggies:

Examples of daily fermented Veggies include real pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi (also  kombucha (with no added sugar) & kefir are good fermented foods too, albeit not Veggies)…

You want to start out small with your daily servings…and gradually increase to eating up to 1 or 2 tablespoons of fermented Veggies a day (or up to 1 cup of kefir)…

Also, if you have a histamine intolerance, then you likely won’t be able to eat fermented foods. You can also potentially take a phage probiotic in place of fermented foods, even if you have a histamine intolerance (recommended brands here and here).

Ok--and we'll talk more about the power of Fermented Veggies in the Good Digestion section...

For now though--consider all the perks of adding in 1-2 cups of Veggies with each meal! 🙂

Onward with a taste of sweetness next...