Nutrition Deathmatch – Fruits & Vegetables v.s. Grains

Fruits & Vegetables v.s. Grains

Anyone who has spent some time poking around Health Habits knows that I am a big fan of Paleo style diets for weight loss and general health.

So, it should come as no surprise that when I when I start working with a new personal training client, one of the first things I do is change their diet over to my version of Paleo eating.

And one of the first things that they do is complain about the absence of bread, pasta, rice, croissants, bagels, toast with jam, brioche, sandwiches, Egg McMuffins, Big Macs, pizza, deep fried Snickers bars, etc….

In desperation, some of them trot out the argument that they NEED whole grains in order to be healthy. Their doctor said so, and so did their nutritionist and so says the government in their healthy food pyramids. Everyone says that whole grains are a necessary part of a healthy diet.

The problem is, everybody is wrong.

paleo pyramid Nutrition Deathmatch   Fruits & Vegetables v.s. Grains

And I aim to prove it with this special Nutrition version of Celebrity Deathmatch.

Let the deathmatch begin.

About 10,000 years ago, our ancestors made a huge cavewoman breakthrough. They learned that inedible raw grains (wheat, corn, oats, etc…) could be made edible by cooking them.

This was huge.

  • Grains were much more stable than fruits & vegetables and could be stored to help them survive the winter months.
  • Grains are dense in calories. This produced two benefits.
  1. It was now easier to transport food as they followed migrating herds of animals,
  2. and it suddenly became much easier to eat the required amount of calories.
  • Since raw grain is a seed, hunter-gatherer communities could choose to stay put and become farmers.

In fact, it has been argued that the domestication of grain is one of the major factors in the evolution of human civilization.

  • Seasonal starvation eliminated
  • Permanent communities established
  • Animals domesticated for meat & dairy
  • Instead of families doing everything for themselves, people can now specialize at specific trades (farmer, toolmaker, doctor, personal trainer, blogger)
  • and so on….

So, at this point in our evolution, grains seem to be pretty darn awesome.

Fast forward to today.

  • The evolution of human society no longer needs grains to keep the wheels turning. (at least in the “developed” world)
  • Your fridge keeps the meat & veggies from spoiling
  • Seasons are next to irrelevant with modern food production
  • And we certainly don’t have a deficit of available calories…too many calories is our problem.

fatkidatmcds Nutrition Deathmatch   Fruits & Vegetables v.s. Grains

But wait, what about the fiber?

  • Without my whole wheat bagel, how will I get my fiber?
  • And if I don’t get my fiber, won’t I get all blocked up and maybe even get colon cancer?

Note – this is a real argument that I get from real people

Okay, fiber is important.

But, surprise, surprise, grains aren’t the only foods high in fiber.

In fact, if you look at this link, you will see that except for wheat & corn bran, the top 300 (I stopped looking at 300) sources of dietary fiber are all fruits and vegetables.

You don’t need whole grains to get your fiber.

But, what about the vitamins and minerals?

Whole grains are loaded with vitamins and minerals like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, iron, magnesium and selenium.

Hmmmm…why don’t we take a look at the nutrition info again and see if that’s true.

  • Thiamin … And the winner is fruits, vegetables and once again…bran.
  • Riboflavin … veggies win again
  • Niacin … and again
  • Folate … and again
  • Iron … and again
  • Magnesium … and again
  • Selenium …and last but not least, it’s a tie between veggies and grains!!!

So, except for the fine showing in the selenium category…

Fruits & vegetables are the best source of vitamins and minerals.

This Nutritional Deathmatch is looking pretty lopsided.

And here comes the knockout punch:

Like most of my clients, there are a lot of people out there who need to lose a few pounds.

And the last thing an obese person needs to eat is food that is dense in calories and low in nutrients.

And when it comes to raw ingredients (fruit, vegetables, animal protein, grains, dairy, fat & oils, seeds & nuts, legumes), grains are the worst.

Grains provide too many calories and not enough nutrition.

And there’s your knockout

ali knockout Nutrition Deathmatch   Fruits & Vegetables v.s. Grains

Fruits & Vegetables are the Greatest!!!

And if you still don’t believe me, free free to perouse the links below.

Nutrition Info – Fruit, Vegetables & Grains

Doug Robb is a personal trainer, a fitness blogger and author, a competitive athlete, a social media nerd and a student of nutrition and exercise science. Since 2008, Doug has brought his real-world experience online via his health & fitness blog, Health Habits.


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  2. Anonymous Guest

    July 13, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    Grains are just processed fruits and vegetables.

    Say no to processed foods, but grain-dropping is a work-benefit ratio I’m not as sure of.

    • Nenad

      July 30, 2013 at 8:22 am

      I agree. I try to get 50% carbohydrates from fruit, 20% from veggies, and 30% from grains.

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  5. Nancy

    March 26, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    I do sometimes eat shirataki noodles which are made from yam and are very low in carbs. For me, I started two years ago by replacing processed carbs w whole foods, then I weened off grains over a few months. My diet is almost all veggies and seeds now. I couldn’t have quit overnight though, because of the physical and mental shifts that happen when you go from high carb to low

    For people who can’t imagine a meal without rice noodles or bread, I remember what that was like, and then I decided it was time to change my perception of the word meal. If I can have breakfast at dinner, why can’t I have a bowl full of cooked, curried spinach and squash as a meal? It stopped being unconventional once I made it the convention in my home

    • healthhabits

      March 27, 2011 at 2:03 pm

      Shirataki noodles are made from the same root used in the fibre/weight loss supplement PGX

  6. Pingback: Which is healthier - grains or vegetables? Why? - Quora

  7. Thomas

    August 11, 2010 at 10:37 am

    Nice Information. I get huge Inspiration & Ill try it.
    Thanks for Your Post.

  8. Health Centre Toronto

    July 20, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Definitely learned a lot from you about healthy nutrition

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  11. Jon

    September 13, 2009 at 8:07 am

    I agree with what you’re saying. I could not lose weight for over 2 months. Tracking every calorie I ate. Exercised. I did everything “right”. Once I ditched the grains (whole grains, brown rice, oatmeal) and made up for my carbs by eating more vegetables (and less fruit too) the weight has started dropping significantly.

    I have done a bit of research and can not find one reason that you need to eat a grain if you are eating your vegetables. I can find many reasons not to eat them.

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with eating some, but not anywhere near what the government pyramid wants you to. I think a lot of this has to do with the low cost and convenience factors that grain gives you over vegetables.

  12. darya

    July 31, 2009 at 3:57 am

    Good analysis. I’m not sure I agree 100%, but I like your argument. I think that it is important to distinguish between whole grains (like the kind they claim to have in Coco Puffs) and intact grains, like barley.

    I think one of the major benefits of whole grains is that they provide slowly digesting carbs for fuel. Personally I lost quite a bit of weight (for me) when I added them to my diet. One major reason is that I’m not so damn hungry all day.

    Also, there is a difference between soluble and insoluble fiber, and grains and veggies have very different profiles in that regard. But I don’t like talking about individual nutrients and health–it’s like describing the tip of the iceberg.

    Thanks for making me think :)

  13. Butyrate

    July 24, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Of course it is important to eat a balanced diet, but I think it is also necessary to use supplements if your body is in need of things you aren’t obtaining through food.

  14. Danny Roddy

    July 21, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    For the record I was laughing at your joke not at you. Great site you have here.

  15. Danny Roddy

    July 21, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    No were probably of equal carnivory. Your symptoms sound like adaptation, which everyone goes through. Stefanson estimated that it could take up to 6 months to fully adapt to not eating carbohydrates. I would say it takes even longer, depending on how much damage has been done.

    Carbs can be extremely addictive so when we drop them our feel good neurotransmitters suffer. Luckily this is just short term.

  16. Danny Roddy

    July 21, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Sorry about that, I forgot to put the link in my first comment.

    I have struggled with digestive issues my whole life. I was very irregular/constipated on a paleo diet. All the nuts and fiber really made things worse.

    After a couple of months on a zero carb diet, things seemed to normalize and I have no problems now.

  17. Danny Roddy

    July 20, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    Here is another, more credible source, being skeptical of fiber.

    Good Calories, Bad Calories also has a run down of how the fiber hypothesis came into fruition.

    My personal experience has taught me that if you drop the carbs you don’t need fiber.

  18. Brit

    July 19, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    I understand that I don’t NEED grains to be healthy, but I have trouble seeing myself ever giving them up. I love sourdough and whole grain breads, and sandwiches, pastas, and rice are important parts of my diet. My daily fallback for lunch is a sandwich mostly because it’s so quick to make and so easy to pack and take to work, no refrigeration required. And when I come home and have no idea what to make for dinner, it’s so easy to saute some veggies and toss them with pasta, or defrost some of the curry or other sauce I’ve stored in the freezer and throw it over rice. What would you suggest I do instead?

    And let’s pretend like I did someday try to cut out grains. How should I do it? Cold turkey? Or is there a process you recommend?

    • sabineweijers

      December 10, 2011 at 9:00 am

      Hi Brit, i had the same, and have been trying out recipes to make a grainless bread. So far, i got to a recipe that’s pretty good, check it on

      Don’t expect it to be a perfect substitute, but it’s getting close enough!

  19. Jezwyn

    July 19, 2009 at 12:00 am

    One more post, from a far more reliable source, if you have time to comment:

  20. Jezwyn

    July 18, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    You state that fiber is important – why?

    Lately I’ve been coming across posts like these:

    Hardly objective sources, I know, but I haven’t really found any conclusive arguments proving fiber is the necessity conventional wisdom makes it out to be. I’d love it if you could point me towards objective research proving the necessity of fiber.

  21. DR

    July 19, 2009 at 2:53 pm


    Thanks for the question.

    I have been thinking about it for a few minutes and I think it is a great question for a post. if I am being honest, my belief in the benefits of fibre is not based on specific research but mainly on my personal digestive experience and my upbringing in a “fibre is good” household..along with probiotics, fish oil, etc…

    This week, I am going to do a bit of research. Thanks for the links

  22. DR

    July 21, 2009 at 8:29 am

    Great book – gotta love Gary Taubes

    About your personal experience, are you saying that when you went carb-free, you didn’t notice a significant change in your (sorry about this) bowel movements?

    No constipation?

    BTW, feel free to ignore this question.

  23. DR

    July 21, 2009 at 12:10 pm


    That’s really interesting.

    My experience with zero carb was constipation, bad breath and a baaadddd temper. It totally killed my appetite and was great for weight loss but I was almost crying while seated on the throne.

    Adding fruits & veg back into the mix fixed me right up.

    Maybe you have a bit more carnivore in your genetic make-up than I do.

  24. DR

    July 21, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Thanks for the compliment…feel free to laugh

  25. Jess

    July 21, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    How much fat were you eating? That’s usually the make-or-break element in terms of colonic function on a carnivorous diet, so my reading tells me. If all you eat is lean meat, then things are going to have trouble working their way through. Lean meat alone is so unnatural when you think of the entire carcass eaten by traditional peoples. Bad temper also sounds like lack of dietary fat. Bad breath sounds like poor hygiene ;)

    Plus, elimination tends to happen less frequently on zero carb since our bodies can use most of the fuel we give it, rather than having to pass fibrous junk through our delicate systems. But crying sounds more like a clog than an empty bowel. :(

  26. Elena

    August 1, 2009 at 9:06 am

    I just stumbled on to your website, and really like it.

    Your bad breath probably was from ketosis which happens when the body has just fat and muscle to burn.

    Here is a link with some suggestions for masking the odor:

  27. DR

    July 31, 2009 at 6:53 am

    Hi Darya

    I agree with you that when we focus in on individual nutrients, we tend to lose the big picture. And that in comparison to most foods, whole or intact grains are a superior choice.

    But, I still think fruits & veg are better.

    And fiber levels make up part of my belief (see this table) (original research)

    With that being said, on a freezing cold Canadian morning, a nice bowl of steel cut oats does more for my body/mind/spirit than some fruit from Chile or frozen vegetables.

    Thanks for thinking…and commenting

    BTW, I added the feed of you blog to my reader and I am going to try the summer squash noodle recipe