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The Antinutrients and Toxins in Plant Foods

The Antinutrients and Toxins in Plant Foods

Did you know that most of the animals on earth are edible, but that most of the plants aren’t? Makes you think, doesn’t it? Many plant foods actually contain plant toxins and antinutrients that can damage your health. Antinutrients are compounds that interfere with the absorption of other essential nutrients. 

While the world has been telling me to eat more plants throughout my life, reducing my plant consumption has actually improved my health dramatically. I used to eat large amounts of whole grains, nuts, seeds, and vegetables, all in the name of improving my health. Little did I know that these so-called healthy foods were actually getting in my way of optimal health thanks to the plant toxins and antinutrients they contain.

In this article, I’m highlighting some of the plant toxins and antinutrients you need to be aware of. Overconsumption of antinutrients can result in health problems, such as bloating, rashes, headaches, nutrition deficiencies, and gut damage. 

Lectins, oxalates, goitrogens, phytates… These are basically curse words in my house. And after reading this article, I’m sure you’ll understand why. 

Oxalates

Oxalates are found in higher amounts in plant foods like spinach, beetroot, amaranth, sweet potatoes, legumes, nuts, tea, cocoa powder, and whole grains.

Oxalates bind to calcium in the body to form oxalate crystals. They make it harder for your body to absorb calcium, which you need for healthy bones and teeth, as well as proper muscle and nerve function. 

High oxalate consumption has been linked to various health problems like arthritis, osteoporosis, gout, rickets, and kidney stones.

Phytates

Phytates (also known as phytic acid) can be found in plant foods like grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Phytates make it harder for the body to absorb important minerals like calcium, zinc, iron, copper, and magnesium from food. 

Lectins

Lectins are definitely worth mentioning when it comes to antinutrients. They are found in plant foods like grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes (beans, lentils, soybeans, and peanuts). Lectins interfere with the absorption of various micronutrients like calcium, zinc, phosphorus, and iron. They can potentially cause damage to the gut lining, as well as inflammation. 

If I were you, even if it’s difficult to give up these foods, I’d steer clear of high-lectin foods like bread, pasta, lentils, and anything containing soy. It’s just not worth the gut damage, inflammation, and nutrient deficiencies. 

Saponins

Saponins are antinutrients found in whole grains like quinoa and oats, as well as legumes like beans, soybeans, peas, and lentils. They make it harder for the body to absorb important nutrients like iron and zinc. 

Goitrogens and Glucosinolates

Goitrogens and glucosinolates are found in cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. 

While these vegetables have been celebrated for their so-called health benefits, goitrogens and glucosinolates can actually interfere with iodine absorption and lead to thyroid problems and even goiters. If you already have hypothyroidism or have an iodine deficiency, you’ll be even more vulnerable to the antinutrient effects of these cruciferous vegetables. 

Tannins 

Tannins are commonly found in coffee, tea, and legumes. They can interfere with iron absorption and contribute to health problems like iron deficiency anaemia. 

It’s clear to see why I broke up with most plant foods. I broke up with grains, soy, legumes, leafy green vegetables, nuts, and seeds. You might think they’re good for you and are great sources of micronutrients but they are actually working against you and making it harder for you to absorb the micronutrients you need. 

A good rule of thumb is to avoid the leaves, stems, seeds, and roots of plants. 

You can still eat fruit, but the fruit was designed to be eaten and is safe for human consumption. Plants want you to eat their foods and leave their seeds behind because that’s how they can spread their seeds. Fruits that are much safer to eat include sweet fruits like berries, apples, and bananas, as well as other fruits like olives, avocadoes, and squash. 

While various plant foods have been celebrated for their micronutrient contents, it is important to consider the antinutrient contents of plants when deciding what to grow and what to eat. 

 

Sources:

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/anti-nutrients/  

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/334795324_Antinutrients_in_Plant-based_Foods_A_Review 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/food-science/antinutrients 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1756464622000081 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7600777/ 

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