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.

The Essential GreenSmoothieGirl Library . . . part 4

Two more of my favorite books, with links to  obtain them.   As you can afford to own these books, you’re building your arsenal of tools to quit or massively reduce refined foods and animal products forever:

James and Colleen Simmons’ Original Fast Foods is so pure in its intent, to help others experience the profound health improvements that the formerly very ill Jim Simmons achieved when he undertook a whole-foods, plant-based diet.   The book is  intelligently written, and it contains tons of information and lots of good recipes at the end, all of them easy.  Self published and therefore more expensive than most books, you can occasionally get used copies on Amazon, but the author sells them at www.originalfastfoods.com.

Victoria Boutenko’s Green for Life documents how Boutenko, a long-time raw foodist, felt there was a missing link in her family’s nutrition, even as good as it was.   (They eliminated many chronic diseases from their lives when they went all raw 15 years ago.)   She undertook to study the diet of primates, since humans share 99.4% of our DNA with primates.   Of course, what she found is that they eat copiously of greens, a wide variety of them.

Boutenko asks the reader to undertake an experiment: to chew a mouthful of greens, and spit it out right before swallowing.   You’ll find it is simply torn up, not creamed and ready for digestion like it needs to be.   This is because over several generations of eating increasingly more refined foods, the human body has adapted by developing ever-narrower palates.   We no longer chew food to the extent that we need to to extract nutrition from denser foods like raw green vegetables, like primates with wide palates do.   The BlendTec Total Blender does that breakdown for you, in the green smoothie: all you have to do is “chew” as you drink it, to create saliva for digestion.

Greens like kale, collards, mustard greens, arugula, turnip greens, celery, spinach, dandelion greens, beet greens, and chard don’t end up on too many salad plates.   But they’re easy in green smoothies.   And, you don’t have to drizzle them with fattening, chemical-laden salad dressings to get them down, in a smoothie.

Best of all, in addition to the superior nutrition of dark leafy greens, Boutenko points out that kale fiber, for instance, can remove many times its own weight in toxins from the body.   She undertook to study a group of 30 people ranging from the morbidly obese in wheelchairs to people who already ate a fairly healthful diet: every one of the 30 reported excellent improvements in health, some of them very dramatic.   Many said they just wished they had more than a quart a day!   The top three health benefits were better digestion/elimination, more energy, and weight loss.