Anti Nutrients and the damage plant foods can do

I'm quite excited about this blog post. Why? Probably because I enjoy getting into subjects that can upset the mainstream thoughts on nutrition, BUT, I do enjoy helping people get their diet right. 

When it comes to most people, getting their "diet right" would typically sound like this, "I just need to start eating more vegetables." For people that believe they have a great diet in place, it commonly means they are proud of how many vegetables they consume. 

I hear this all so much, and while this might be off to a start where you might think I'm about to go off on all vegetables, or perhaps you are already surprised because you thought that you could do no wrong by eating lots of vegetables, I want to say that vegetables do have their place. It's just not what most people believe they are, and that's what I cover in this topic of Anti Nutrients. 


Eating vegetables is not healthy for everyone. There, I said it, and contrary to vegetarian and vegan belief, it's true. They are, in fact, very destructive to people. While some populations consume vegetables and might feel quite well eating them, many people do not feel right, and they need to limit the intake of vegetables, or even eliminate them completely. 


The reason for this is anti-nutrients. Here's the deal, plants want to live, they want to protect their species and want to grow. They can attract certain animals and insects to them, which helps to spread seed or germinate and fertilize, and they are able to deter animals and insects from them by secreting poisons, smells, and toxins.

It works no differently for us as humans, and these plants can cause a lot of damage to our guts, our immune systems, and our health. You need to be mindful of anti-nutrients in these foods because they are always listed as healthy, when in fact, for many people, eating vegetables and plants should not be in the diet at all. 




It is a substance that prevents or reduces the absorption of nutrients by the body. An anti-nutrient can, for example, block the assimilation of calcium by the body, by fixing this calcium, thus preventing the body from benefiting from it even when it has been ingested.



In the plant and animal kingdom, species respond to two essential functions: to survive and to reproduce. To meet these two objectives, they develop different strategies to escape their predators. We understand how a wildebeest is made to escape the lion in the savannah, it flees. For plants, there are different defence strategies against a predator. These modes are both physical, but also chemical.

If we take the example of wheat, if the entire field is eaten, there will be no next generation of wheat. The wheat species is then extinct in this field. In order to avoid going extinct, the plant is waging a real chemical war against its predators to make them regret having eaten it.




What they do: Phytates bind to minerals in your gut, preventing them from being absorbed by your body. The suppression of iron absorption by phytates is what tends to attract the most attention, but zinc, calcium, and phosphorus are also affected. A recent study even suggested that diets rich in phytates were responsible for the generalized zinc deficiencies commonly observed in developing countries.

In which foods: legumes, grains, and root vegetables. Legumes are the biggest concern.

Can we eliminate phytates? Soaking, germination, and fermentation reduce all levels of phytate.

While a reduction in phytates may help the majority of people, it still creates inflammation in the gut to some degree and will then be unhealthy for many others to consume. 




What they do: Lectins disrupt the functioning of the epithelium, the critical layer of cells in your gut that prevents undigested food from sliding into your bloodstream. Over time, the lectins in the diet will create holes in the epithelium, called "leaky gut syndrome." 

When the epithelium is compromised, particles from your food that are not fully digested can slip into your bloodstream. Your body treats those food particles as a threat and triggers an immune response that creates systemic inflammation. It is a mechanism similar to the way wheat gluten creates holes in the epithelium.

Lectins have also been shown to disrupt the functioning of gut bacteria, which, given the importance of these bacteria to our well-being, is also a major concern.

In which foods: legumes and grains. Soybeans and kidney beans are the richest.

Can we eliminate lectins? Cooking and fermentation reduce lectins but do not eliminate them.

For myself, and my recommendation to others, stay away from these lectin-containing foods, they do much more harm than the good many other "experts" are saying they do. 




What they do: Saponins have a foaming property like soap when added to the liquid. Partly because of this property, saponins disrupt epithelial function and create other digestive problems. Saponins have also been linked to the destruction of red blood cells, inhibition of enzymes, and interference with thyroid function.


In which foods: mainly in soybeans, chickpeas, lentils, oats, and quinoa. 

Can we remove the saponins? Cooking does not have much impact on the saponin content. Soaking, rinsing, germination, and fermentation would eliminate part of the saponins.




Oxalate is an organic acid found in plants but also synthesized by the body.

What they do: Oxalates interfere with the absorption of calcium. Oxalates also crystallize in tissues if consumed regularly, creating symptoms similar to those of arthritis and even kidney stones.

In which foods: Kale, cabbage, spinach, swiss chard are the greens richest in oxalates. However, you find oxalate in many more foods and drinks like coffee, tea, beer, and avocado to name a few.


Can we eliminate oxalates? Cooking does not reduce oxalate levels contrary to what is often said/written. The best way to go about oxalates is to be mindful of how much we consume and take note if we are sensitive. 

Problem foods for people that do have gut issues commonly come from the plant-rich fibrous kale, cabbage, chard, spinach. 


So there you have it. While vegetables can be good or great for some populations, they can at the same time be toxic and damaging for others. That said, limiting vegetable intake may also be wise for those that do well with them, considering we don't always experience negative effects until continuous use brings on symptoms that make us second guess our diet. 



What are your thoughts? Have you experienced negative effects from vegetables? 


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