Plant foods are good for you. They are loaded with beneficial vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. But most plant foods, including greens, grains, nuts and legumes, contain chemicals that are not good for you. They can be quite bad. In some cases they can actively harm you. These little devils are called “anti-nutrients”.
If you are saying “ugh, what is going to kill me next” or “I can’t eat anything anymore”, I totally understand. I was also exasperated upon learning about anti-nutrients. The good news is that most plant foods certainly do more good than harm (otherwise vegetarians wouldn’t live longer than the rest of us!) and traditional preparation and cooking methods can and will deactivate or at least mitigate these chemicals.
So, anti-nutrients. I’m talking specifically about phytic acid, oxalic acid and lectins. Phytic acid is a chemical that naturally exists in nuts, seeds, and grains. It binds itself to zinc, iron, calcium and magnesium and thus prevents your body from absorbing them. Oxalic acid is present in spinach, rhubarb, beet greens and swiss chard and prevents calcium absorption.
Then there are lectins. Lectins are present in legumes and grains, especially wheat, soybeans and kidney beans. They are surprisingly nasty buggers – they’re what makes ricin so lethal. Lectins are carb-binding proteins that are believed to have something to do with natural plant defense against predators and disease. They’re “sticky” and can bind to cells in your intestines, causing damage. Damage from lectins can cause leaky gut, which occurs when inflammation and intestinal damage results in gaps in the intestinal lining. These gaps allow particles of food to pass through and enter the blood stream, where they then cause havoc – attaching to organs and causing [...]