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Jim’s Response to My Article on Goitrogens

Robyn Openshaw - Jul 27, 2011 - This Post May Contain Affiliate Links

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.

Posted in: Whole Food

12 thoughts on “Jim’s Response to My Article on Goitrogens”

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  1. Abby says:

    Hi Robyn,

    I used your link for Virgin Coconut Oil from Mountain Rose Herbs a few months ago and bought a gallon for $39.00. I was about to buy some more and noticed that they have raised the price to $69.00 per gallon. Their customer service rep said that “there seems to be a shortage and the price for coconut oil has gone up everywhere”. Would that still be the place to buy or do you have any suggestions of other places to get it with the same quality?


    1. Robyn Openshaw says:

      Abby, I’m looking into what price we’ll be paying for coconut oil for our group buy this year. (I use a few different vendors the past several years.) My price here locally for young Thai coconuts has doubled in the past year, so Mountain Rose Herbs is not lying to you, for sure!

  2. Abby says:

    Robyn, when is your group buy? I will be in Orem in August and again in September. I wonder if that would be the better option for me if the timing is right.

    1. Robyn says:

      Abby, sorry—it’s not till Oct/Nov, because almonds don’t come out of the trees until then.

  3. Sabrina says:

    This concept of not feeling like eating certain foods when your body recognizes you have enough of the anti-nutrient is intriguing to me, but makes quite a bit of sense. I am wondering, Robyn, if you’ve come across any research about this concept with children. My almost 2-yr-old son loves green smoothies (thank goodness) but only a few other foods. Foods he used to love eating he now refuses. I know this can be normal with kids, going in cycles of more or less pickiness, so I try not to be frustrated, but when most of the fruits and veggies he used to be willing to eat he no longer will I wonder how I can get him the nutrition he needs. Have you heard of children starting to reject food they used to like because of this same concept? I struggle to know how to properly feed him at this stage since he’s still so young. Any advice?

    1. Robyn says:

      Sabrina, I’m a big fan of making lists so that you don’t fall into the thinking trap of, “He won’t eat anything good for him!” My now 11-y.o. wouldn’t eat bananas for the first 4 years of his life, and then suddenly, overnight, he couldn’t get enough of them. As you said, kids have cycles or phases. If he used to like guacamole and then got sick of it, what if you chopped up avocadoes in a black-bean salsa instead? Just an example. Make a list of foods you want him to eat, and ways to prepare them. Unfortunately, just as we find a favorite healthy food for them, they burn out on it, so we have to find other ways to make it. (And then sometimes later we can come back to that early favorite.) Anyway, like with everything in parenting, it requires some creativity and patience. And also, sometimes it’s okay to just say, “Sorry it’s not what you want today, but that’s what I’m serving! Enjoy!” 😉

  4. Autumn says:

    Robyn, we noticed the sky high prices for coconuts here as well. I was wondering if it was because they know theres such a high demand for them with us smoothie people or what. Lol I tried going to an Asian market awhile back and pricing a case to order but the owner told me they are so ridiculously high he’s not even ordering many. Also Whole Foods and all the stores have the coconut waters flying off the shelves at the highest prices I’ve seen also. I was purchasing the coconut water in the cans and cartons but I really miss the young coconut meat and now the water is sky high in price too. One coconut out here is going for $4.00. Ouch

    1. Robyn Openshaw says:

      Autumn…..the downside of people like me promoting what coconuts can do for our health is that demand goes up and so does price. 🙁 I thought about just shutting up and keeping it our little secret, but of course I want EVERYONE to know what foods are good and what foods are bad. And, I’m a fan of the market system and figure it’ll correct itself…..and suppliers in places like the Philippines that need more industry anyway, can grow/produce more.

  5. Autumn says:

    Lol Thanks for the response Robyn. Your sooooo right. Years ago coconuts would just sit and sit even the young Tai I bet. Now I see people walking around with them in hand with straws sticking out. I would rather you speak and still educate than keep quiet. We just need a special GSG stash like a GSG coconut island for Group Buys. Lol. Could you imagine? 🙂

  6. Erin says:

    Hi, Robyn, I don’t want to troll your blog here, but I have been learning a lot about oxalates lately because of circumstance, and you are missing a big piece of information here: leaky gut. I know you know what that is, of course. In fact, your 12 steps book is what tipped me off to candida (one cause of leaky gut), and I further researched it trying to find out why my babies were coming out all colicky and refluxy (natural home birth, no abx, etc.). In my search for answers I came across the GAPS diet by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, and realized that although it is nothing like we were doing before (we had been eating low animal products, whole grains, etc…), the GAPS diet explained what was wrong with me, and how it was passed down to my kids, and was what they and I needed to heal. Through GAPS, I learned about a low oxalate diet. How can all these foods (high oxalate foods) be bad for you? They aren’t normally, but when one has leaky gut, they are. If you have holes in your gut, oxalates (which are normally excreted) are absorbed into the bloodstream, where it then plants itself in different areas of the body, causing problems. So when we talk about healthy foods or unhealthy, it’s not just a matter of how it’s prepared, it’s also a matter of the individual. Given that many, many people today have leaky gut because of antibiotics, contraceptive pill, etc. I think maybe the greensmoothie revolutionaries should realize, it may be entirely damaging to some/many people. In your book you say that problems with candida just may be one of the major ailments of people today. I really, really believe that, now. But your diet isn’t going to cure anyone of that. Tons of fruit, whole grains, etc. Although both are healthy, they feed candida. And if there is a candida problem – the spinach and the oxalates. Here’s my story:

    This is a long, long story, so I will try to shorten. My barely 3 yr old son started peeing his pants almost 2 years ago. At first we thought it was a stage, but it went on and on. After a few months my husband said maybe it was the greensmoothies that made him pee. I laughed and brushed him off. After all, they are healthy! How can they make him pee his pants? But, as it turns out, the peeing had started a few weeks after we started greensmoothies. So the peeing continued and continued. We started GAPS (he was now 4 1/2), and his peeing actually increased. Now he was peeing about 4x a day, and leaking out 2 diapers at night. Turns out GAPS (while I love the diet, it’s missing this piece of info, too) can be high in oxalates. We were eating almonds up the wazoo – and beets. Through my GAPS yahoo group, I learned about the LOD (low oxalate diet). They told me to “go slow” in dropping high oxalate foods off the menu. I didn’t go slow. I dropped 3 high oxalate items all at once. 2 weeks later my son had a seizure – the first in his life. That is a sign of serious oxalate “dumping” (where oxalate leaves your body). It was a small seizure, but nevertheless scary. Usually oxalate dumping is minor like a rash. His peeing went down to the once a day it had been, and he even misses days a couple times a week, now. Dumping occurs in rounds. He’ll probably continue dumping for a while. So we’re still in the thick of things right now. I actually think he’s dumping right now b/c he has a rash on the side of his face. He’s still peeing his pants a few times a week. I can’t give you the end result of the story, yet, but I am on a low oxalate diet yahoo group, and I’ll tell you, many, many people are finding all sorts of healing with a low oxalate diet. Autism, learning disabilities, etc. So to just say that “these foods are healthy, we can’t worry about the antinutrients in them” is well-intentioned, I’m sure, can also be causing many people a lot of problems. Yes, food should be eaten. But our bodies are pretty messed up these days. A lot of us have a lot of problems due to our highly toxic environment/perscription drugs, etc. and cramming in as many fruits and veggies as possible isn’t helpful to some of us. I have more stories, too, with my colicky baby, and my anxious 2 year old, but this is the longest comment I’ve ever left, so I need to go. -Erin

  7. Mindy says:


    I have advocated a raw food diet for years. I first discovered this at the Optimum Health institute in San Diego. However, both my daughter and I have numerous food allergies/sensitivities, she suffers from bloating, constipation, bed wetting (four years old) etc. I understand now that she suffers from Leaky Gut, everything make perfect sense in timing from when I stopped exclusively breastfeeding her and started introducing her to veggies/fruits and whole grains. It has all gone downhill from there, countless visits to Primary’s and initial diagnosis of FPIEs, etc. I could go on and on but I guess, my question to you is that I’ve searched and I’ve found a few reader comments to you about the GAPS diet but I haven’t ever seen your response. Perhaps I’m looking in the wrong spot. I’m just wondering why it seems you haven’t commented to any questions/posts about the GAPS diet?

  8. sheilasu says:

    Sheila Says:
    In the 12 Steps book, there is a space at the end of each chapter for journaling. I think this is a good way to keep track of what is going on with YOUR body, since we all have some variation. I also suggest rereading the journal a jear or so after the fact to see patterns and notice things you want to change or reinforce. This is an excellent idea.

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