What EVIDENCE is there that vegetables > vitamin pills?

I will tell you right now, I hate vegetables.
How much do I hate them?
This much.

What I’d like to know is, is there any EVIDENCE – not anecdote, not authority telling you so, actual experimental evidence – that eating vegetables is better for you than taking vitamin supplements?
(And before you play the “vegetable fiber prevents colon cancer” card, please see this article from 2000 and This JAMA study from 2006.)

Your one reference ends with the following (My emphasis):

The study you link to directly had an eight year perspective, which may also be too short for colorectal cancer.

I’ll leave to others with more experience finding medical research to post further evidence.

Are you going to re-consider if there is enough evidence that yes, they are better than tablets? (How much evidence - 10 or 50 studies?)

All veggies? Have you tried all kinds? Different families - many dislike cabbage and the broccoli family, which truly don’t taste nice. But tomatoes or cucumbers? Maize? Sqash? Etc.

Have you tried different kinds of preparation? We’ve had many accounts from Dopers who grew up with overcooked, bland, eech vegetables (maybe drowned in white thick sauce, only five kinds) who were astonished to discover grilled, blanched, lightly steamed while al dente … veggies.

(There’s a big difference between normal spinach and spinach made with a cream sauce - Iglos mit dem Blup! Or lightly blanched Mangold, on an oven plate, covered with cheese and baked…) I’m certainly no lover of broccoli myself, but there are enough I do like to eat.

Also, what about fruits? Even if you have tried all veggies in all manners and haven’t found a single one, have you considered eating fruit instead? You would have to watch the calories because of fruit sugar, but you would still get some benefit.

But if you never ever want to eat veggies, and want only to be confirmed in your opinion, we can save some searching time.

IANA a nutritionologist, but I understand there are some valuable nutrients only available in fresh foods.

Here’s my understanding of the evidence* as someone who studies aging genetics in lab animals, which often overlaps with “let’s see if nutrient X helps lab animals” sorts of studies.

Basically there’s lots of epidemiological evidence that a diet with lots of fruits and veggies is very healthy. This is determined by looking at the health of various groups around the world, correlating dietary factors with health factors, and then controlling for other factors which have an effect on health (income, health care access, etc). Study after study shows that groups of people with lots of fruits and veggies have greatly reduced risk of all sorts of disease. That makes epidemiologists happy, though they’re the first to point out that they show correlation and not causation.

So to prove causation, you have to do some sort of controlled study. The ideal experiment to answer your question would feed different diets to different groups of people and measure health outcomes over time. But that’s too big of an experiment to ever be practical – you’d have to recruit thousands of people, give them several carefully defined diets (lots of fruits+veg vs. vitamin supplements vs. control diet), monitor over the course of decades, and somehow manage to enforce compliance among the study participants.

So instead researchers do smaller and more manageable experiments. They test to see if one particular vitamin supplement helps with one particular health measure over a short period of time. And there’s evidence that certain dietary interventions can reduce particular disease risks. But those effects are relatively small, and don’t entirely account for all of the health benefits seen from epidemiological data.

So experiments show vitamin and fiber supplements effectively prevent dietary deficiencies, but otherwise don’t provide very large health benefits. It’s possible that some super-supplement with hypothetical unknown phytochemicals could provide more benefits, but we don’t know what it is. It’s also likely that part of the benefit of eating fruit and veg is that they simply displace less healthy fats and refined carbohydrates.

*I’ll dig for cites later – I already spent the morning on PubMed and that’s enough for today, thankyouverymuch.

From your site:

I’m curious to know what “reason.” Vegetables are not poison, they don’t harm you. There is no evolutionary advantage to avoiding greens, and there’s no instinct to avoiding them. Spoiled children who get their way on everything may develop an adverse tendency toward new experiences, including trying new foods.

And not everyone feels an instinctive revulsion toward vegetables as a child, either. I have loved lima beans, cooked spinach, okra, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, potatoes, and steamy, delicious brussels sprouts since birth. I remember being 5 years old in kindergarten and asking for seconds on the tasty spinach, please. My mom used to make stuffed peppers (green pepper with a rice and ground beef filling, drowned in tomato paste), and I loved them. We would have corned beef and cabbage and I always loved it.

I’d like to see your EVIDENCE – not anecdote, not authority telling you so, actual experimental evidence – that most children are innately opposed to vegetables, and that there is a reason for it.

I don’t see why there shouldn’t be. Greens are less calorically dense than fruits and meat, so if you had a natural tendency to prefer those two, you’d tend to consume more calories (not to mention protein) than those who preferred greens, but since most hunter gatherers wouldn’t be able to hunt and gather fruit all the time successfully, you’d still have to eat greens to survive, and thus consume fiber and vitamins anyway even if they are not your preferred choice.

Fiber and vitamins are way down the list of survival priorities versus calories and proteins before we became an industrialized species.

While this is true for domesticated vegetables, it would be a dangerous assumption for anyone to assume that a random plant growing in the wild is harmless to eat. Many plants produce various types of toxins as a method of deterring herbivores.

Humans have bitter taste receptors, such as TAS2R38 in part to help us identify potentially harmful compounds in the foods we eat. People with different versions of the gene that codes for this receptor has different sensitivities to bitterness. Children in general are also more sensitive than adults.

Actually, yes. Just because I won’t eat veggies doesn’t mean I won’t admit to health benefits, provided those health benefits are significantly different from those of vitamin supplements and/or cereal fiber.

Now THIS I have to object to.

If a person tells you “I don’t eat meat,” do you ask him, “But have you tried all kinds of meat? Lamb is very different in flavor and texture from beef or pork, and it’s made a meat lover out of more than one acquaintance when perpared in a Vindalou sauce”? Probably not. You recognize the person’s desire to avoid meat products, and you respect it, even if you disagree with it.

But if a person tells you “I don’t eat vegetables,” they’re just an immature brat who isn’t doing what he’s supposed to. Right?
There is a tremendous amount of prejudice directed against vegephobes that isn’t even recognized as prejudice, because vegephobes are a much smaller and less vocal minority than vegetarians. But it it still prejudice, and it still stinks just as badly.

Let me rephrase, since the edit timer has expired:
But if a person tells you “I don’t eat vegetables,” (s)he just hasn’t discovered the right vegetables yet. Right? (Much in the same way, years ago, someome might say that a gay man was just a man who hadn’t found the right woman yet.) Or worse, the vegetable-hater is just an immature brat who isn’t doing what he’s supposed to.

If you were really hungry you’d eat vegetables. Yes, you really would. If you were hungry enough you’d eat tree bark or shoes.

First, remember that in earlier ages it was very hard to get fat and sugar and very easy to get fresh vegetation. However, a certain amount of fat, sugar and salt is also essential to human life. So those who absolutely loved sweet, salty and/or fatty things would go to a great deal of trouble to get meat and honey or ripe fruit, and salt, and probably survived to reproduce. There was far less problem getting fiber, or vitamin-filled vegetation, because there was much more of it around, and it didn’t run away.

Now, of course it’s the reverse. We can get fat, sugar and salt very easily, and deep down in our innermost primitive selves, something is telling us, “More! More! You can never get enough of this!”

I seriously doubt that you abhor all vegetation-based foods. Doughnuts are made from wheat, which is vegetation. Potato chips are made from vegetables. So’s ketchup. Just because I can’t point to a specific nutrient in, say, grapes, tomatoes, and carrots that is missing in a pill doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

If someone told me they didn’t like meat because of the taste I might ask them if they’ve tried all kinds. Most people who don’t eat meat do so for a reason other than taste so it’s pointless to ask them to try different kinds.

You don’t really need them. If you have properly prepared vitamin suppliments that’s enough. When the US and the West send emergency supplies to Africa and other regions of famine we don’t send them veggies and such. We send them basically a soy based gruel that is fortified with vitamins, minerals, fiber and the like. They mix it with water and that is enough for the population to live on. They’re not given veggies, meat and other such things. Just a dry gruel mix.

The problem is when you have inferior vitamin suppliments. Some test on CR have show some don’t dissolve properly or they don’t contain the amounts on the box. Assuming your vitamins are properly made and contain what they say they do, you will be fine.

It’s not like the vitamins in veggies are magical and somehow are different. The problem is when people eat junk and don’t eat anything else. Food is food and if you’re eating sugar and fat and not much else you health will suffer, as you probably won’t also be eating the food that contains what you need


doesn’t support this:

Long term health benefits are not usually a consideration when sending emergency food aid.

You can’t just assume this without some evidence. That is the crux of the question.

I always assumed one of the main benefits to eating lots of veggies is that you aren’t eating other (unwholesome) foods. In other words it isn’t just about vitamin and mineral intake, but about eating habits in general. The more cabbage and sprouts in your tummy, the less room for pizza and doughnuts.

I would argue that the burden of proof is on the shoulders of the vegetables-are-better-than-vitamin-pills folks here.

We’ve identified certain substances called Vitamins that the human body cannot manufacture on its own, and which need to be included in the diet for health.

Chemically, the vitamin molecules we put in pills are identical to the vitamin molecules that occur in vegetables. (There are a few variants, such as the dl-alpha and d-alpha versions of Vitamin E, but both of these variants are available in different vitamin pills.)

Therefore, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, I would assume that the vitamins in pills are no different from the vitamins in vegetables. Assuming otherwise amounts to a plea for magical thinking.

True, but I could also fill that stomach space with (say) oat bran, or a great big glass of water, or chewed-up newspaper. (All three of which, to my palate, taste better than vegetables.)

Sure you could, but almost nobody does. My point is that veggies have health benefits beyond being a vitamin delivery system. Can those benefits be attained without eating veggies? I’m betting yes, but it would be difficult.

Veggies, fruits, etc. may have certain nutrients that we have not as yet discovered. These micronutrients may be too small to have as yet been detected.

and so might “oat bran, or a great big glass of water, or chewed-up newspaper” as per tracer :wink: