and the oxalate controversy rages on……

We got lots of interesting email in response to my rebuttal to the wildly exaggerated and completely undocumented article posted by one “Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist” that tells people not to drink green smoothies and says they can “devastate” your health.

Heidi, a “low oxalate” blogger / site owner wrote a response. I like to look at all viewpoints and appreciate that she listed lower-oxalate greens for those who wish to concern themselves with this issue. She has eliminated some health problems by carefully reducing oxalates for 20 years. Those include turnip and mustard greens, dino kale, curly kale, romaine, cabbage, and collards.

Hopefully Heidi has been creative to keep lots of greens and raw roods in her diet while controlling for oxalates. If not, we eliminate one compound causing a problem and dozens of other compounds desperately needed and hard to find in other sources.

I disagree with Heidi that it’s a good idea to boil greens, as has been passed around the internet as a solution to the “problem.” George Mateljan surveys the literature well and concludes that this does not significantly reduce oxalates. And of course we know boiling destroys most of the food’s other best properties—enzymes, vitamins, and minerals.

I do not disagree that there are a few people who are not metabolizing greens well, and I absolutely agree that improving gut health is key to reversing many conditions. Greens have many critical properties that other foods do not, and these nutritional benefits are desperately needed by virtually everyone. So I’m very reticent to embrace the idea that we eliminate an entire class of foods—or we nuke them to death—because a few people have degenerative gut issues wherein an “anti-nutrient” becomes indigestible and even harmful.

As counterpoint, if you have become alarmed, you owe it to yourself and your health to read another viewpoint. Author Victoria Boutenko, my friend and companion in green crime, has written this extremely detailed, source-rich article on all the research that oxalates are FRIEND RATHER THAN FOE. I covered the more neutral ground of referencing the macro study that concluded the evidence does not support oxalates being harmful, nor does it support that cooking greens neutralizes that compound.

We had a few comments on facebook or on the blog that someone who drinks green smoothies got kidney stones. I know people who eat some whole foods and got cancer, too. It’s a major logical fallacy to leap to the conclusion that because you eat one healthy thing, that healthy thing is causing a disease. Even if you started green smoothies two weeks before you get a kidney stone, that doesn’t mean anything. Kidney stones take a long time to build up before they release and begin to cause pain—and possibly damage. Although I cannot rule out that a nutritious food played a role in oxalates binding to calcium, I think far more likely culprits for the vast majority are long-term indulgence in soda, salty foods, and animal proteins—and low water consumption. Please read George Mateljan’s meticulous reviews of oxalate research and conclusions, and/or Victoria Boutenko’s report below.

Before you change your diet to eliminate or massively reduce the highest micronutrient foods on the planet from your diet, the foods that are the crux of the primate diet worldwide (we share more than 98% of their DNA), you ought to read this documentation suggesting that greens may actually prevent kidney stones. We already know they prevent many, many other modern health risks.

Read Victoria’s report HERE.

Anti-nutrients? Are you letting them scare you off whole foods?….Part 3 of 3

Oxalates in greens? It’s another tempest in a teapot. Please show me the clinical data that healthy people need to limit oxalate-rich food. I’ve seen none. Only claims, passed around the internet. Hypothyroidism does not dictate that we avoid this very important, phenomenally nutritious class of vegetables and greens.

Goitrogens in broccoli, cabbage, kale? Let’s use some common sense. Let’s say a food has sustained human life for thousands of years, and dozens or even hundreds of studies show it to be dramatically healthy. (I’m referring to broccoli, cabbage, and kale—the crucifers.) Let’s say we break down the many complex parts of the broccoli plant, and we find one that, when chemically isolated, is harmful.

We might do well to trust that the synergy in 100 different co-factors in that food are time-tested. How can you do a study to show that the complex interplay of factors in a powerful plant food yields long life and superior energy for humans? Scientists want to parse and isolate. If they find the heavy-hitter nutrient, they might be able to put it in a pill. Altered slightly, it might be patentable and worth $1 billion.

I’m not saying that natural, food-based supplements have no value. But nothing is going to come close to the synergistic, nearly incomprehensible effects of the plants they were derived from. The impact of the aloe vera plant on digestion, and burn healing….it’s nearly inestimable. You know this if you’ve ever cut a stalk off your aloe vera plant and applied it to a sunburn, which then doesn’t peel, and feels dramatically better, and is gone the next day. (Or if you put a stalk of your aloe vera in your green smoothie, watch what it does to your digestion that day, WOW.)

Whole plant foods are dramatically helpful  for us to fuel a long, vibrant life. When you dig to the bottom of these “tempests in a teapot” controversies about anti-nutrients, you invariably learn that research shows the “anti-nutrient” to be neutral or even helpful to normal, healthy humans.

If you’ve read this blog series and are now going to avoid whole grains, cruciferous vegetables, or apple seeds, you’ve missed the point entirely. Whatever OTHER food you eat instead of that whole plant food—animal flesh, or packaged foods—has far worse than an anti-nutrient or two. They have heat-damaged carcinogenic oils, no fiber, refined sugar, chemicals from solvents and preservatives and flavor enhancers and packaging and colorings.

You’re simply far better off eating whole foods. Virtually always.

Anti-nutrients….are you letting them scare you off whole foods? Part 2 of 3

Phytates.  Science actually knows very little about these anti-nutrients that some say rob your body of minerals. Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions teaches how to soak grains to neutralize phytates. (I discuss this issue and, for ease of digestion, teach it as an option in Step 9 of 12 Steps to Whole Foods, too.)

However, Reddy and Sathe published a book on phytates, the “anti-nutrient” in many grains. They explain evidence that phytates may not do what we think they do. They may not leach minerals from our blood and bones. They may, in fact, be helpful and important.

After all, the Bible calls wheat the “staff of life.” On a logical level, it doesn’t make much sense that grains aren’t good food. Many more Egyptians would have died in the time of Joseph and Pharoah, had they not had stores of wheat. It keeps for hundreds or thousands of years because of its hard shell, protecting the nutrition inside.

Wheat is vitamin- and mineral-rich. It’s easy to grow and inexpensive. It’s great food. (Too bad it’s been so hybridized and chemically sprayed. Many people react negatively to gluten now, likely because of hybrids. Buy organic spelt or Kamut, ancient non-hybridized grains. Avoid any whole-grain products that are not organic. Many people now must avoid gluten entirely, but some whole grains do not contain any gluten protein. Avoid white flour always. “Wheat flour” on an ingredient list IS white flour. Only “whole wheat” is the grain with its bran and germ intact.)

Purines. These compounds are ubiquitous, in our cells and most foods. They are necessary and good, but in concentrated amounts can cause problems for people with gout and a few other childhood illnesses. But they are concentrated in high-protein foods (like many animal-flesh foods).

Several researchers, including Choi, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, have found that plant proteins do NOT increase gout risk, while organs and flesh of animals, do increase gout symptoms. Moderately high purine-content plant foods include beans, lentils, asparagus, peas, oatmeal, and cauliflower.

It’s a non-issue unless you have a nutrition-related health problem that affects your purine metabolism. Especially for children and infants, problems that may warrant looking at goitrogens may include autism, cerebral palsy, deafness, epilepsy, recurrent infections, inability to walk/talk, or anemia. In those cases, a doctor may limit purines to 150 mg or less. (Keep in mind that MOST cases of those illnesses have nothing to do with purines.) You could still eat a serving a day of one of those “moderate” foods and stay below that very low limit. (For other people, eating even ten servings, you would be fine and not at risk for gout.)

Cyanide.  True, it’s in apple seeds. Cyanide is actually a trace element our body needs. What’s in apple seeds is a tiny amount, and your body breaks it down into another harmless compound in metabolism. I put apples, core and all, in my green smoothies. My dad has eaten apples whole, with the core, his whole life. (He likes to point that out, to whoever is within hearing range—“Hey look, I ate everything but the stem.” It seems to be proof of superior manliness?)

The cyanide used by Socrates’ murderer, and the Nazis, is a synthetic chemical combined with another element—hydrogen cyanide or sodium cyanide or potassium cyanide.

In fact, the “amygdalin” made of natural cyanide and sugar, found in apple seeds, is the B17 found in other pits that had people lining up by the thousands in Mexican cancer clinics in the 1980’s.

 

More info coming on Friday.

Anti-Nutrients….are you letting them scare you off whole foods? part 1 of 3

One of the more infuriating aspects of nutrition education is the highly confusing anti-nutrients debate.

For example, hot issues include but are not limited to….

Grains have PHYTATES.

Spinach has OXALATES.

Apple seeds have CYANIDE.

Legumes have PURINES.

Broccoli and cabbage have GOITROGENS.

Dr. Mercola propagates a bunch of needless fear, attacking all grains and some vegetables because they contain an anti-nutrient. He creates fear about lots of whole foods people have eaten for centuries. And then he moves on to leverage that to sell whey protein (an over-popular, highly refined food).

Keep in mind that I feel some of Mercola’s stuff is brilliant, important, and well researched. Some of it is salesy, with shoddy thinking/research. Sometimes I wonder if he doesn’t watch over his staff writers very well…..

No one addresses this issue more logically, than my friend Jim Simmons, whose book Original Fast Foods is a great addition to your library. Because it’s excellent, well researched, and comprehensive, with good recipes. It’s the closest thing out there to the diet I teach. There are lots of raw-food recipe books, but people burn out from how labor-intensive they can be. Eating cooked legumes and whole organic grains is a way to eat a whole-foods diet without burnout, and with the high-fiber, high-nutrition, low-effort gains of, for instance, split peas, lentils, and black beans. I am suspect of any eating plans that ban such foods. I advocate for 60-80% raw plant foods—but I feel that some cooked vegetables, legumes, and grains are a wonderfully healthy part of a good disease-preventative diet, as evidenced by long history.

Here’s what Jim said to me via email, when I posted on the goitrogens issue last July:

“Research now supports the idea that anti-nutrients are nature’s way of helping us to be more intuitive in our eating patterns. For instance, some spinach is really good for you, but as you consume too much, the level of oxalates will build up in your bloodstream to a point that a signal will be sent to your brain and then a signal is sent from the brain to your endocrine system. The long and the short is, you will lose your appetite for spinach until the level of oxalates drop sufficient that your taste for spinach is turned back on….don’t get too complicated in your eating habits.”

I agree with Jim. Anti-nutrients are in most, if not all, whole foods. This does not mean they are bad, scary, or to be avoided. God put them in the food for a reason.

Tomorrow I’ll write about each of those anti-nutrients.

Jim’s response to my article on GOITROGENS

These are author Jim Simmons’ blog comment in response to my latest report on goitrogens and cruciferous vegetables. I feel it deserves front-and-center attention:

Regarding oxalates and other anti-nutrients: recently Dr. Mercola went at it again with fear-mongering toward ‘all’ whole grains and even a variety of vegetables. By the time he got done with all the foods you cannot eat or that are problematic, there was not much left to choose from.

Then he introduced a variety of products he sells, such as whey protein, chlorella, and so forth. I’ve noticed this pattern off and on with Mercola articles. Some are so well written and researched that they are true contribution. Others extrapolate data from research in unhelpful and problematic ways. Others do not recognize a wealth of data that do not support some fairly narrow claims. When it comes to oxalates, this is just one more “anti-nutrient” that exists in a healthful food. If you were to cease eating foods that possess anti-nutrients, you would have to stop eating real, whole foods.

Therefore, what is the answer? Research now supports the idea that anti-nutrients are nature’s way of helping us to be more intuitive in our eating patterns. For instance, some spinach is really good for you, but as you consume too much, the level of oxalates will build up in your bloodstream to a point that a signal will be sent to your brain and then a signal is sent from the brain to your endocrine system. The long and the short is, you will lose your appetite for spinach until the level of oxalates drop sufficient that your taste for spinach is turned back on. The bottom line is this; don’t get too complicated in your eating habits.

Eat as many whole foods as possible without blending, grinding, and so forth, which best supports the physiology of your body. When it comes to even whole fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes, don’t force yourself to eat any of them just because they are healthful in nature. Rather, pay attention and respect your desire or lack thereof to eat any particular healthful food. Chew it slowly and enable digestion to take its most natural course. Best!

GSG response:

[Jim is a friend of mine, and I highly recommend his fabulous book Original Fast Foods, because I love it. I agree with him entirely about Dr. Mercola’s latest. In fact, I agree with Jim Simmons probably with more regularity than with any other nutrition author/expert.]

Exactly! Reddy and Sathe published a book on phytates (another anti-nutrient; I teach about this in Ch. 9 of 12 Steps). Contrary to the latest hype, they present quite a body of evidence that phytates may be friend rather than foe. (The logic is similar to what I’ve just presented in our conversation about goitrogens last week.)

If we eliminate any food containing the so-called “anti-nutrients” (that very term encourages anxiety), we eliminate most whole foods. Occasionally I have a reader send me an email that she’s learned that apple seeds contain cyanide. (A trace amount of a natural substance that is does not react in the body like eating chemical cyanide would.) Of course “MSG” occurs naturally in trace amounts, in some highly nutritious plant foods, I am concerned only about the chemical version that is well documented as a potent neurotoxin. I have discussed goitrogens and oxalates on this blog numerous times—just more examples.

Jim is right that many if not most foods contain anti-nutrients. We don’t yet know, fully, the role that they play and why.   But again, we know from thousands of studies that whole plant foods are our most preventative, health-supporting diet.

I trust my tastes to let me know if I get too much of any food. This happened recently as I was drinking 4 oz. of wheat grass juice daily. One day I went to Good Earth TWICE and had 4 oz. twice that day. I immediately had a brain fog and slight headache for 2 hours after that. My body was telling me to lighten up on the wheat grass juice. So I did.

Just a little perspective here: I’m far more concerned about toxicity people are getting from hot dogs, than from too much wheat grass juice. The effect of the former is nitrites building up in various organs (very difficult to eliminate chemicals that we eat) and initiating and promoting growth of cancer cells. The effect of the latter is to cause more detox than I’m comfortable with.