Health Dangers of a Plant-Based Diet

Health Dangers of a Plant-Based Diet

Health Dangers of a Plant-Based Diet

To claim there are health dangers with a plant-based diet flies in the face of conventional wisdom. It’s surely heresy among nutrition experts. These experts tell us we need to eat fruits and vegetables for their essential vitamins and minerals. Their potent antioxidants ward off aging and cancer. And their fiber cleans our tubing, keeping our intestines and arteries clean.

health dangers of a plant-based diet

Could there really be health dangers to a plant-based diet?

Contrary to popular belief, plants don’t have human health as their top priority.

Like all organisms, they are more concerned about their survival than ours. In fact, protecting themselves from predators like humans is high on their priority list. And since plants can’t fight us off with fangs or flee with their feet they’ve evolved other mechanisms to deter predators.

Health Dangers of a Plant-Based Diet: Plant Poison Directory

In this series we are going to look at various parts of plants that humans eat – everything from their seeds to roots to stems to leaves to their fruits. And with each “Plant Part” we are going to highlight a particular “Plant Poison” that the plant uses to deter predators.

Here’s where we’re going:

Plant Part / Plant Poison

  1. Seeds (Naked vs Protected) / Antinutrients – Health Dangers of Eating Seeds
  2. Roots / Glycoalkaloids – “Potato Paralysis” Health Dangers of Glycoalkaloids
  3. Stems / Glucosinolates – “Broccoli Bombs” – Health Dangers of Cruciferous Vegetables
  4. Leaves / Oxalates – “Spinach Leaf Prick” Health Dangers of Oxalates
  5. Fruit / Phenolics, Cyanogenic Glycosides, Salicylates – “Peach Pit Poison” Health Dangers of Eating Fruit
  6. Conclusion: The Toxin-Time Continuum(a must read)

Health Dangers of a Plant-Based Diet: Start Here

3 Plant Secrets

When we think of plants, we think of “good guys.” They are good for decoration, good for the environment, and good for our health.

Floyd, my money tree, is sitting right next to my desk as I write this. While keeping me company, he sucks up my carbon dioxide emissions and pumps oxygen into the air for me to breathe.

Floyd and I are pals but I don’t let him fool me. He, like 99% of all plants, is completely inedible. If I tried, I would surely get sick. While nearly 100% of animals are edible, the opposite is true for plants.

It’s strange to assume then that the plants we do consider edible are completely safe.

I think the reason is that plants fool us.

They are masters of disguise.

Plant Secret #1

Plants are so good at disguise that we don’t even realize they hide in most of our foods.

When I think of Floyd I know he started as a seed. And from his seed beginnings he then puts down roots that buried deep into the soil. These roots anchor him down and he absorbs nutrients from the soil.

I know that Floyd’s roots connect to a stem. His stem is not unlike a rose stem, or the stem of a tree covered in bark. They provide structure to their stature.

I can see leaves that branch from Floyd’s stem. And I know that many of Floyd’s plant friends bloom flowers and ripen fruits.

Floyd, however, is a money tree, so I he is supposed to bloom cash, but I’m still waiting on this.

But these flowers and fruits disseminate seeds which contain the offspring for the next generation.

I get it. No big secrets here.

But it’s a strange paradigm shift to realize these plant structures give us so many of our foods.health dangers of a plant-based diet

When we eat potatoes and carrots, we are eating roots of plants that grow underground. Crunching on celery and broccoli, we are eating stems of plants. A salad with spinach and kale is plant leaves. When we eat apples and berries we are eating the fruits of these plants. And when we eat grains, nuts, or beans we are eating seeds. We are eating plant parts.

Now the seeds are the really tricky ones.

Grains are the seeds of grasses like wheat, corn, oats, and rice. Nuts are the seeds of trees like walnuts, hazelnuts and pecans. And beans are the seeds of legumes like peas, lentils, soybeans, and chickpeas.

But they are all just seeds.

Classifications can get confusing like trying to figure out where peanuts and cashews and almonds fit in – is it a nut or a legume – but it doesn’t matter, they are all seeds.

So when you are eating a bowl of oats topped with nuts, you are eating seeds.

All from plants.

For me it was a shocking discovery how well plant parts hide in our food.

Take sugar for example.

The sugar that has invaded so much of our food comes from plants.

Sucrose is table sugar. And most sugar comes from sugar cane, which is a tall grass with a big stem. What happens is the cane is shredded, mixed with water, then crushed to extract the juice. The juice is then dried into a granulated form.

And viola. Sugar.

Sugar is simply a processed and refined plant part.

The sugar beet, which is a root, can also be refined to give us sucrose. And there are other forms of sugar like fructose found heavily in fruits and glucose that can be found in fruits and some roots like carrots.

But almost all sugar in our diet comes from plants. Lactose, milk sugar, is an exception. However, until recent history lactose was indigestible beyond childhood and is still not tolerated by a majority of the world.

It’s a strange thought:

  • My grandma’s homemade cookies are a plant-based food – the sugar, the flour, the vegetable oil – all from plants.

health dangers of a plant-based diet

I remember when I started looking closer and was hit with a startling realization…

We are all on a plant-based diet and we don’t even know it.

Pretty much anything we eat comes from a plant or an animal. There are “gray area foods” like mushrooms and algae that are neither plant nor animal, but for the most part, all our food is derived from plants or animals.

And what shocked me more is that most of our “unhealthy” foods are simply derived from our “healthy” plant-based foods.

A whole grain is healthy, but when it’s crushed into a flour it’s then unhealthy?

Is it possible that these “healthy” plant-based foods are actually “unhealthy?”

Plants are not only hiding in all our food – but they are hiding their poisons.

Plant Secret #2

Floyd’s motivation is his survival not my health.

For 500 million years, plants, like all living organisms, have fought for survival. And plants have millions of years of evolutionary advantage on us humans. Since they can’t fight or flee predators they evolved other clever mechanisms to survive.

And like I mentioned, plants tend to be masters of disguise.

Many plants are like chameleons. They can change the color of their leaves to blend into their surroundings. And they can grow in places difficult for these herbivore predators and insect pests to reach.

Some plants will even mimic the presence of insect eggs on their leaves, which dissuades insects from laying real eggs there.

But plants use far more than clever camouflage to deter predators.

They can illicit the protection of natural enemies of herbivores by releasing chemicals to attract these protectors. They can react to touch. And they can release irritants and poisons.

They also use less subtle defenses.

Leaves can produce resins, saps, and waxes that trap insects. Leaves and stems can be covered with sharp prickles, spines, and thorns.

Plants didn’t evolve to be a food source for predators.

Plant Secret #3

Plants’ best kept secret is hidden even better than how they hide in our food or from herbivore predators.

They look innocent enough. But these masters of disguise have an arsenal of chemical weapons ready to go to battle with anything that dares eat it.

They hide their phytochemical warfare agents from view. Not until a predator bites into them do they realize the mistake.

When Plants Attack

Plants produce these chemicals to defend themselves. And it’s not just one or two plants that have this super power. It’s all of them.

In fact, 99.99% of all pesticides in our diet are natural chemicals plants produce to deter predators.

They produce toxins to protect themselves from fungi, insects, and animal predators. There are tens of thousands of these natural pesticides. And every species of every plant contains its own set of toxins. Different parts of each plant contain different toxins in different amounts.

Like humans, plants get stressed. When feeling the pressure and damage from a pest attack, they can increase their natural pesticide levels. Levels that can be poisonous, even deadly, to humans.

These chemicals attack predators in various ways. Some of these plant toxins break into cells and kill mitochondria, some use enzymes to interfere with metabolism, and some attack our DNA directly.

It helps to look at survival from the plant’s point of view.

Some parts of the plant are more vital for the success of the species than others.

Seeds are critical. Because they are so important plants take extra care to protect them and lace them with potent toxins to deter predators.seeds grains nuts and beans

Grains, nuts, and beans are all seeds. These are the plant’s babies. And messing with a mother’s offspring often has dire consequences. The parent plant wants to protect them and ensure their offspring’s survival. The plant isn’t concerned about the health, nutrition, or survival of humans. Quite the contrary.

So even though I’m hungry and Floyd is sitting right next to me, I know what he’s hiding. One bite into his leaves and I’d regret it. Mess with his seeds and Floyd and I wouldn’t be pals anymore. He’s not edible in the least.

So this raises the question…

“What are these plant chemicals, which plants have them, and which can I eat?”

And that’s where we’re going.

This is how we’re going to attack back at the plants:

  1. We are going to look at a plant part. For example, the seed.
  2. We are going to evaluate a big chemical warfare agents that food uses. Like lectins.
  3. We are going to see if there is a way to mitigate it’s attack. Like cooking.

[NOTE: You can now access the complete “Health Dangers of a Plant-Based Diet” series here]:

The Carnivore Diet

The Carnivore Diet is born out of 2 driving forces:

  1. What humans are designed to eat (meat-based diet)
  2. What humans are ill-equipped to eat (plant-based diet)

In this series we covering #2 and talking about why eating plant-based foods may not be in your best interests. To compliment this, I recommend checking out “The Ultimate 30-Day Guide to Going Full Carnivore” to better understand what’s at the heart of a meat-based diet, what one can expect when eating in congruence with human design, what foods to avoid, and how it can change your life.

50 Replies to “Health Dangers of a Plant-Based Diet”

  1. Also what is the best meat to eat, grass fed? Organic, grain fed, ??? I love meat, I eat a lot of meat, but mt doctor told me to not eat much red meat because of its link to colon cancer, please help explain this to me ?

    1. Red meat doesn’t cause colon cancer. That idea is a relic of the 20th century where we were taught “fat is bad and makes you fat”. Organic grass-fed is best but if you can’t afford it that’s still fine. Try to find stuff raised without antibiotics though.

  2. 4 months ago, I had severe Arthritis in my right big toes, that I could not walk. The doctor told just prescribed a nèver heard pain killer which I did not take it. I google natural ways to relieve the pain and swelling. And that’s the way Dr. Jason Fung & Dr.Steve Gundry across my life in finding out how to be healthy.
    I do believe that FASTING and FOOD works together since the beginning.
    I am a carnivore before but my health lead me to some health issues. Now, I could say I am under repair and I could see the result. I just choose vegetable and meat that I like from what these 2 doctor recommends. It works for me and my diabetic husband. He is off medications on hypertension & Db2. We called our food ” No lectins low carb high fats” from a fresh healthy source.
    Everyday, our primary source of fats each meal (2-3 meals) is to have 12-14 tsp 100% virgin olive oil per day in our food and 12-+4 hrs Intermittent fasting. That’s how our health issues resolved. What do think with that?

    1. I think that’s great that your health has improved!

      Personally, I’d rather get most of my fat from animal fat over olive oil, but if it’s working it’s working 🙂

  3. Recently discovered about fasting and keto diet, now I’m gathering information about meat-based diet. It’s a shock of my life. Everything I read and hear about the topic really makes sense to me, but it’s still truly difficult to swallow as it’s literally breaking the whole ground of my understanding of the nutrition and the food in general. I’m probably facing one of the biggest conspiracy theories I’ve ever met, but the difference is this time, I can’t just ignore it. I can’t really trust what sound right to me, as I have zero scientific background. So I came to the conclusion that the only way to find out is to try it myself. It’s a huge step for me as I have never tried any kind of diet in my entire life of 40 years. I have 3 questions I’m hoping to get some kind of answer from you:

    1. Do you think the meat-based diet would work for everybody regardless their ethnicity? (Precisely for Asians?)
    I heard people saying they’re thriving on carnivore as their DNA test says they are mostly northern europeans. And I believe that it’s true that northern european diets were traditionally way richer in meat than (far-eastern) asian diets, where the rice was the main element of every single meal accompanied by various vegetable for at least centuries. Do you think it’s possible that different ethnics could have developed different DNA so the efficiency and the benefits of meat-based diet can vary according to that?

    2. I would like to hear your opinion about the fact that everywhere in the world we have developed culinary tradition combining a lot of plant-based ingredients, including, again, Asia where the whole base of the traditional medicine have been rooted in plants. In short, how could the whole world have gone so wrong?

    3. And what about those ‘healthy’ people on plant-based diet? Are they just special people who got more resistant to the plant-based food?

    Maybe I’m asking too much questions but I would be grateful if you could find some time to answer.
    Huge thanks

    1. There is a lot in each of these questions, but glad to hear you are exploring!

      1. When you say “traditional” – I’m not sure what you mean – “traditionally” as in throughout most of human history evidence points to humans being meat-based eaters (more in this in this series: https://www.kevinstock.io/health/your-brain-on-meat/)

      2. If you’ve read the Health Dangers of a Plant-based Diet ebook/series than I think you can see the turning point at the agricultural revolution (https://www.kevinstock.io/health/health-dangers-of-plant-based-foods/)

      3. I often talk about “meat-based” vs “plant-based” diets though there are many degrees between these two. For example a whole food plant-based diet is far superior to a typical american diet that is 30% sugar, loaded with processed and synthetic foods. Secondly, like you mentioned various people can handle foods better than others. People with Celiac’s disease can’t handle wheat at all, some people can handle it better.

      Please let me know if I can help further and way to do your due diligence!

    2. I know exactly what you mean. First look up Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston Price. Its free online. Search for free online. He did a worldwide study on his own money, no grants, to find out the healthiest people’s all over the globe and what they are. At the turn of the 20th century, after dealing with healthy well developed people, the industrial revolution brought about cheap refined sugar and flour and his patients began to change and have weird things he hadn’t seen before. So he looked for the healthiest cultures, recorded their cavities , took pics of their teeth, recorded their health, their children, etc. And compared them to their sickly neighbors on adulterated foods.
      The other place to look is Joel Wallach’s Immortality. He records the 10 centenarian cultures ( there are more I think, but at least ten) and what they eat and how all their soils have 60 trace Minerals. All are meat eaters.
      It truly amazes me that the proponents of the carnivore diet and keto living don’t make references to these determined foundational men.

  4. My understanding is that seeds are made to be edible so that they are are eaten in quantity by birds and mammals and a certain percentage are passed thru the GI tract undigested and deposited on the ground with a some ready-made fertilizer thereby fascilitating the propagation of the species.

  5. I developed vitiligo 20 years ago..now gluten & dairy free. Also taking a heme iron bc levels are low. Any relation that lectins and OXALATES are preventing my pigment to restore?

  6. Hey man. Thanks for this info, such nice article You created here! It is so basic to understand and logically speaking it corresponds to our life. Anyway the things I wanted to ask You are:

    1) What are your thoughts on herbal tinctures? I mean answer is right here in the article, but just wanted to check on…lol. Could they provide health benefits?

    2) What are your thoughts on teas and spices (such as turmeric, ginger and cinnamon)? Are they also filled with antinutrients hence rendering their “healing properties” useless?

    3) What about spirulina and chlorella?

    I think I already know answers to those questions…I feel like Your info is cleaning my knowledge about veggies. It is just sad how brainwashed we all got into believing veggies are must.

    Much Obliged Kevin!

      1. I know you don’t believe in plants (that’s a weird sentence) but there are benefits of herbal tinctures, and they match the reasons you listed in your article. Herbal tinctures are used for antimicrobial reasons and they can also detox the body. I myself agree with your article and the majority of my diet is animal protein so I’m not disagreeing with you. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater eh.

  7. Hi Kevin, 58 here and just diagnosed with early cvd,wondering if a carnivore or keto diet would be bad for my heart, having had a calcium score, would a diet like these be bad for my condition? thx

    1. Hi Jeff I obviously can’t give you medical advice here – but if I were you – I’d definitely think about where my previous/current diet had gotten me (calcium score/risk of CVD) and then consider alternatives. I think you know what kind of diet I’d choose (low/no carb/sugar, no/low vegetable oils, meat-based diet).

      1. alright thanks I am doing a project for school and mine was about people who only eat plant food based. thank you for your time.

  8. I’ve read all of this. I had some idea about plants having a way to protect themselves to safeguard their offspring but this is huge. I’ll be reading it a few times and have bookmarked it. I acknowledge the work you’ve gone to in putting this together. Thank you.
    ~ SJ

    1. Well sticking with the same diet that got you there is probably not a good idea.

      I think good nutrition in accordance with our design is usually a good idea.

      1. Very hard to believe, is there any study on humans or any journals that say going fully carnivorous will not lead to heart disease and cancer etc.?
        I am not saying what you wrote doesn’t make sense, but I have seen a guy reverse heart disease by going on a plant based diet.
        So I am totally confused now.

        1. Well heart disease is the #1 killer of vegans, of vegetarians, of those eating a standard american diet – but to answer your question – no there are no long term clinical trials of life-long fully carnivorous people.

          But there is quite a bit of evidence that heart disease was largely non-existent prior to the agricultural revolution when humans ate a meat-based diet.

          To comment on the guy you know – a whole food plant-based diet is far superior than the standard american, highly processed, sugar-based diet.

          Much of the research is epidemiological which can easily lead to false conclusions and thus the confusion that you are experiencing.
          I write this blog to help sort through some of that confusion – and appreciate you taking the time to read!

          1. I agree with you Kevin.
            Additionally, being a part of the tertiary education world, I know how hard it is these days to get approval from the institute’s ethics overseers for any research on humans. And, getting funding for research is also often difficult, if not impossible, if the research may be in any way controversial.

            Furthermore, drug companies and processed food manufacturers have a vested interest in funding research that promote their products so a lot of so called research is biased. We also see many examples of food manufacturers claiming their products are healthy with no evidence what so ever. A good example of this is the abundance of “low fat” high carb products, sports drinks laden with sugar, butter replacements, (GMO) soy products and highly processed seed oils etc all claiming to be healthy.

            To me the best evidence in favor of a carnivore way of eating (woe) is all the indigenous populations who have thrived for centuries on this woe and only started having health problems once they started eating the Standard American Diet (particularly highly processed cereal products).

            Finally, a confounding factor for us today is that we live in such a polluted world (especially if we live in/near a city or intensively farmed area, it’s hard to know if we are able to have totally toxin free food. Even organic grass fed animals breath toxin laden air and farmers cannot prevent toxins from getting on to their land and into their water supplies.

            Therefore, by adopting a carnivore diet, we get the benefits the woe that it appears we were designed for and of the animal “filtering” as many toxins as possible out of our food before we get to it.

          2. Hi there.
            I find your take on diet very interesting and I think it’s really great to have someone looking at long relied on studies with a fresh mindset (not just ‘knowing’ plant foods=healthy).

            However I must argue that simply stating cause of death doesn’t really support any point, we all die of something eventually. I think age of death would be more convincing. Yeah more vegans may die of heart disease, but that means nothing if carnivorous/high meat diets result in death 20 years younger but from something else.

            Just to contribute to discussion :))

        2. Look up Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A Price. It’s free online. He was a dentist that did a worldwide study over 9 years on the healthiest peoples. He found most had 80% of their calories as saturated animal ( or coconut and palm oil) fat. These were The Healthiest. I must pound that point.
          But then also investigate Joel Wallach’s Immortality. He studied the centenarian cultures. There are about 10 of them. They are all poor by today’s standards. But they are all meat eaters and all have soils that have 60 or more trace Minerals.

      2. Where is the evidence based research? I’ve read a few of your articles, and you tend to mostly refer back to your own statements as the basis for your arguments.

        1. Hi Christine, highlight text refers to articles, the “[r]” at the end of statements/paragraphs are resources.

    2. Plant based diets increase the risk of heart diseases. The China Study, the holy Bible of vegans and animal rights advocates, actually found that those who only ate vegetables, fruits and other plant foods and never ate animal protein were at the highest risk of developing heart diseases. They also had the highest percentage of birth defects. The people who ate some animal protein were at lower risk and the people who ate a lot of animal protein were at an even lower risk of developing heart diseases. However, Colin T. Campbell, the book’s author, completely ignores such findings and keeps ranting about how animal protein is harmful to heart health and increases the risk of heart diseases. The book is based on personal opinion and baseless claims not on facts and evidence. Don’t buy into the myth that animal proteins are bad for heart health and plant proteins protect the heart. It’s the opposite.

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