Plants are just chock-full of nutrition?
Plants are just chock-full of nutrition. Surely you have heard this before. Yet we learned something important in my last post “Toxins in Plants?” Plants can be problematic for some people sometimes. Here is how it works.
All plants grow from seed in some fashion. And just like animals, plants are in the reproduction business. They produce toxins (poisons) to protect themselves from insects and other predators. Those toxins might be in the seed, the fruit of the plant (like a cauliflower head), and the green plant growth. And plants keep the nutrition of the seed locked up (indigestible) until the right time to grow a new plant.
So what are the seeds we most commonly eat? They are grains (seeds of grass), beans (seeds of legumes), nuts (seeds of trees), and what you probably called a “seed” like flax or sesame seeds. We also eat the seeds in the plant fruit – examples would be tomatoes and butternut squash.
Obviously these protective strategies plants employ are designed for the benefit of the plant, not people. Eating poisons doesn’t seem like such a swell idea. Not being able to digest a food also seems pointless and unwise. So you just have to be wondering, should we be eating plants?
Should we be eating plants?
The answer is likely yes. The nutrients in a plant are the same ones people need. We use both animal and plant nutrients to grow and maintain the human body. And the creator apparently knew the potential consequences of these protections and designed our genetics to recognize toxins and dispose of them.
The problem these days is that technology has amplified the amount of toxins big time, not only in our food but in our environment as a whole. Consequently some people are accumulating toxin levels that exceed the capabilities of their personal genetic design. And then they get sick.
The number of toxins and anti-nutrients showing up in plants actually boggles the mind. But lectins, glutens, and phytic acid are particularly common in our diets. They are all indigestible.
What is “indigestible?
Indigestible means a food doesn’t break down properly and damages our intestinal lining. The job of the intestines is to digest the incoming food and stop bad stuff before it gets into the blood. Some 80% of our immune system is actually in the intestines for that very purpose.
Our intestines have an amazing ability to repair their lining. However when the damage becomes chronic and goes beyond the immune system’s ability to block and repair, the undigested material can leak out into the blood stream. In the blood the immune system recognizes this as foreign and goes on the attack by creating antibodies. That is the job of the immune system.
Once an antibody has been triggered, it stands on ready to attack forever should that particular foreign body show up again. This is exactly the same as the antibodies in a flu and pneumonia vaccinations. Protection of the highest order.
However, chronic triggering of the immune system sometimes causes confusion, allowing for the antibodies to attack non-foreign parts of the body, like joints, skin, thyroid, eyes, nerves, the lining of the intestines, actually anywhere. We now have an autoimmune condition.
Autoimmune diseases like lupus, arthritis, fibromyalgia, celiac disease – this list is VERY long – happen because antibodies are mistaking some natural part of your body for a foreign body.
So how does this apply to you?
On average, the population in our country consume upwards of 60% of their diet in commercially processed food. The vast majority of that food includes grain (usually wheat) in store bought AND homemade bread (made from commercially processed flour), cereal, chips, pasta, pie crust, cakes, flour, pizza crust, etal.
How to prevent autoimmune conditions
So here is what you know. The predominant portion of your diet could be lectin, gluten, and phytic acid intense. What can you do about it? The answer is proper treatment.
Lectins can be eliminated by soaking, boiling, and fermenting. Phytic acid can be dramatically reduced by overnight soaking before cooking. Glutens, on the other hand, may have to simply be avoided. That means no wheat, rye, or barley. And great care is required if you have already developed celiac disease. Wheat sneaks its way into almost every jar and bottle processed food of any kind.
People vary in their sensitivity to lectins and Glutens. For some these are just a gastrointestinal aggravation that goes away. Others, particularly those who regularly consume untreated foods in large quantities, develop chronic conditions that often result in autoimmune diseases.
I have never seen treated grains in a commercial product or heard of anyone treating them in their home. Doesn’t mean they aren’t there but I have never found them. So the more grain found in your diet, the greater the potential for chronic damage.
What about other toxins?
Different categories of vegetables have different toxins and anti-nutrients including some level of lectins and phytic acid. Night shade vegetables like white potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, and egg plant have toxins of their own and are also high in lectins. The toxin and and anti-nutrient oxalate is in all vegetables but is at very high levels in spinach and kale.
The answer for most of us is in diet diversity.
- Diversity means mix it up. Avoid eating all the same foods every day in every meal. There are many, many vegetable options. Mix it up.
- Treat grain and beans as described above to maximize digestibility and nutritional value. The treatment details are in my book, It’s All About the Food.
- Minimize (or avoid) wheat, rye, and barley.
- Anytime you have any chronic pain including joint, bowel issues, reflux, fatigue, mental confusion, swelling, bloating, headaches, skin rashes, etal, – think about your diet. Something is causing the symptoms; figure it out and eliminate whatever that is. The long term consequences will not be pleasant.
There are several posts on this website about autoimmune disease and individual recoveries. These include, There-was-no-way-that-food-could-be-causing-this-but-she-was-wrong, Peter, Mary and Jack, and autoimmune-what-is-it/. Click on the hourglass and type autoimmune to find others.In fact, just wander around on the website; you may find other posts of interest.
Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All About the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Pat is a resident of Montgomery County, AR, president of Ouachita Village, Inc. board of directors (Montgomery County Food Pantry), and president of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org; phone number is 870-490-1836; visit her website at allaboutthefood.org