Health Dangers of Plant-Based Foods

Health Dangers of Plant-Based Foods

Health Dangers of Plant-Based Foods

The Toxin-Time Continuum

In this series finale of the “Health Dangers of a Plant-Based Diet” I want to zoom out and look at the big picture. The health dangers of plant-based foods should be viewed on a continuum. This scale goes from natural toxins to man-enhanced toxins to man-made poisons. And we’ll look at how these have emerged and changed over time.

By the end of this post, I want to uncover what is actually “healthy” and what is “poison” and everything in between. And I want you to be armed with the insight to see through propaganda, advertising, and false beliefs that make up so much of “conventional wisdom” – the “wisdom” that has led to widespread health epidemics.

Health Dangers of Plant-Based Foods – Natural Plant Toxins

Up to this point, we’ve looked in detail at some of the specific natural plant toxins. These toxins cause severe issues for many people that eat a plant-based diet.

Specifically, we’ve looked at various plants and plant parts and evaluated some of their most potent chemical defenses against herbivory.

Health Dangers of Plant-Based Foods – Recap

  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

The plant toxins we have reviewed are just the tip of the iceberg. There are literally thousands of phytochemicals produced by plants to avoid being eaten. (r) This list covers some of the major players – the ones that have been studied and recognized as harmful. And while I think these details are vitally important (and eye-opening to most people) I don’t want to miss the forest by too closely inspecting the trees.

Let’s zoom out for a more complete picture.

Let’s look at the “Toxin-Time Continuum.”

Health Dangers of Plant-Based Foods – Our 24 Hour History

The First 23 Hours and 55 Minutes – Natural Plant Toxins

Health Dangers of Plant-Based Foods – “The Toxin-Time Continuum”

The evolution of the human diet takes place over millions of years. To gain perspective, let’s assume this evolutionary history was condensed into one 24 hour day.

The beginning of the day is marked with an astonishing divergence from our hominid ancestors – our brains exploded in size. In “What did humans evolve to eat” we discovered that the selective pressures of climate change and food sources, as well as selective advantages associated with a large brain underpinned this stunning divergence from our primate ancestors. The human specie transitioned from tree-dwelling herbivore to bipedal meat eater. (r, r, r)

And by the time 23 hours passed on the clock (~50,000 years ago) isotope studies of fossils reveal a human diet nearly indistinguishable from carnivores. (r, r) Though undoubtedly, during these 23 hours, humans were opportunistic plant eaters, and included some fruit and occasional plant material in the diet when available. But evidence is strong that for the first 23 hours and 55 minutes of the clock, humans became less and less equipped to eat plant-based foods and more and more equipped to scavenge, hunt, and subsist (and depend) on a meat-based diet. (r, r, r, r)

But as we’ll see the plant-based foods eaten during this time and their natural toxins were vastly different than the plants-based foods of today.

The Last 5 Minutes – Natural Plant Toxins in Unnatural Quantities

Health Dangers of Plant-Based Foods – “The Toxin-Time Continuum”

Early in our 24 hour clock we transitioned from the plant-based diet of our herbivore hominid ancestors to a meat-based diet, more closely resembling the metabolisms and anatomy of carnivores. And for 23 hours and 55 minutes our diet was fairly consistent. It was a meat-based diet. Surely during certain seasons, in certain locations, humans supplemented their meat-based diet with some fruits and plant-based material. And in other locations and times in history, especially during glacial periods, humans subsisted exclusively on meat. But meat was a constant. And during these 23 hours and 55 minutes, no human civilization ever survived without animal food.

Then in just the last 5 minutes we radically changed the human diet.

Agricultural Revolution: The Start of the End

With the advent of agriculture at the 23 hour and 55 minute mark, we completely abandoned our meat-based diet. We even abandoned the plant-based foods we had supplemented our meat-based diets with. We began subsisting on plant-based foods that were rarely / never eaten in human history.

In fact, nearly all the plant-based foods we eat today did not exist (more than 5 minutes ago). Before agriculture there was no wheat, no corn, no rice – which now make up about 50% of all the calories eaten worldwide. (r, r) These are modern-man inventions.

For example, grains come from wild grasses. Naturally, in the wild, these grains are small with just a few seeds per plant. And they readily fall and disperse. Humans would have basically never eaten these. But with agriculture and selective breeding, farmers cultivated these into staple foods. They began subsisting on grains and starchy crops for calories. This massive change in diet was low in protein, low in fat, and low in vitamins and minerals. It was also high in plant-based toxins.

Perhaps not surprisingly, during these last 5 minutes, our brains started to shrink – over 10% in just these last 5 minutes. Our stature shrank as well, we developed tooth defects, bone lesions, and degenerative conditions. (r, r, r, r, r, r, r, r, r)

For the first time, we were exposed to significant amounts of natural plant toxins, from plant parts we had never eaten in any significant quantity. And the human body had long become ill-equipped to detox such concentrations of phytochemicals. Over the 23 hours and 55 minutes, our guts had transformed beyond recognition to that of our early herbivore primate ancestors. Our transformed gut was now optimized for the efficient absorption of meat that was dense in energy as was required to fuel our gigantic brains; it was no longer equipped for grazing 7 hours/day and using a microbiome to turn plant fiber into useable energy. (r)

Before the Agricultural Revolution, fatness was nonexistent. With this change in food production, the wealthy gained access to plentiful carbs and, for the first time in human history, became fat. Perhaps ironically, accompanying the rise of fat people was the rise of widespread malnutrition and deficiencies. Health deteriorated.

“The Dose Makes the Poison” – Part I

Prior to the Agricultural Revolution, the opportunistic eating of plant-based foods was a relatively miniscule part of the human diet.

Natural plant-based toxins like alkaloids, oxalates, and tannins were eaten in small quantities. And even though toxic – a healthy human body, for the most part, could detoxify them without major issues.

However, some plant tissues have especially high amounts of natural toxins. These tissues tend to be of special importance to the plant for its survival. For example, seeds tend to be laced with protective chemicals. These are the plant’s babies, vital for the plant to protect. Before the Agricultural Revolution, seeds made up little to no part of the human diet. But this changed just 5 minutes ago. Some of the most potent natural plant toxins, that were never eaten before, became food staples.

Our dosage of plant-based toxins drastically increased.

We began eating massive quantities of lectins, phytates, and enzyme inhibitors.

What was once a manageable dose to detoxify started to overwhelm our defenses.

We simply had not developed or evolved to defend this level of chemical warfare.

To make matters worse, the lower nutrition inherent in these foods combined with the antinutrients created a negative spiral of deteriorating health and nutrition. For example, while these plant-based foods are already lower in vitamins and minerals, they also come pre-packaged with antinutrients like phytate that further prevent absorption of essential minerals. And while already lower in protein and fat, enzyme inhibitors further interfered with fat and protein absorption. (r)

Further, many of these toxins damage the gut, our 1st and primary level of defense. With increased intestinal permeability (“leaky gut”), our ability to defend against an ever-increasing phytochemical onslaught got worse and worse. (r, r, r, r, r)

To top off this cascade of damage, for the first time in history we started spiking our blood sugar, stressing our pancreas to pump out insulin, and dysregulating our metabolisms.

The Last Second – Natural Plant Toxins Transformed

Health Dangers of Plant-Based Foods – “The Toxin-Time Continuum”

The transition that took place at 23 hours and 55 minutes was catastrophic. But the changes in the last second have been just as destructive to human health, if not more so.

Industrial Revolution

During this last second in time, the Industrial Revolution caused the next blow to human health – kicking ourselves while we were down.

The Dose Makes the Poison – Part II

With milling technology, we started stripping the bran and the wheat germ away from the grain, creating ultra-fine grains – the most refined flours in human history.

We took the foods that we invented, that were completely novel to the human diet, that were loaded with antinutrients, and which we were ill-equipped to eat, and began refining them and thereby concentrating them.

At the start of the last 5 minutes we radically increased the dosage of plant toxins. In this last second we concentrated these toxins exponentially.

With the Industrial Revolution we saw the rise of technology for mass food production resulting in an even further decline in fresh food (as refrigeration was not yet available).

Accompanying these new technologies came the birth of never before seen health problems including obesity, cancers, and heart disease.

The Last Split-Second – Unnatural Plant-Transformed Poisons

Health Dangers of Plant-Based Foods – “The Toxin-Time Continuum”

As if our diet wasn’t already foreign enough, in this last split-second of the 24 hour day, we’ve engineered synthetic food so incongruent with our body that disease and deteriorated health have become the new normal.

Asthma and allergies are almost expected among our youth. IBS, indigestion, acid reflux, is considered normal digestion. Depression, diabetes, dementia, and dental abnormalities. We are the only primates whose teeth don’t fit into our own heads. (r, r, r) We fight fatigue and brain fog daily. Acne, autism, and autoimmune disorders went from non-existent to commonplace. Osteoporosis and obesity. This became our new normal.

Technologic Revolution: Man-made PoisonsThe Big 3

During this last split-second we have made mind-blowing advancements in science and technology. Many used for good. Many, knowingly or unknowingly, causing serious harm.

#1 – Grains

As we’ve discussed, grains didn’t become any significant part of the human diet until 5 minutes ago. Moreover, they are laced with plant toxins and antinutrients to prevent herbivores from eating the plant’s offspring.

Just 5 minutes ago we took these plant seeds and made them a significant part of the human diet by artificially breeding and selecting for size and abundance. Then in the last second, during the Industrial Revolution, we began refining them, further concentrating toxins. In this last split-second we altered them even further. We began genetically modifying them.

We’ve engineered new traits into plants that wouldn’t otherwise naturally occur. We’ve engineered higher lectin loads to deter insects. We began spraying them with pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides.

We’ve added preservatives, so we can store and ship these foods around the world. And all these changes come with a heavy price.

Let’s consider gluten.

Gluten is an energy storage protein in grains with the purpose of nourishing the developing baby seed once it sprouts.

When some people eat gluten it triggers an immediate, severe attack on the lining of the small intestines. It’s known as Celiac disease.

Celiac disease dramatically increased in the US in the 1960s and 70s. This is the same time that genetic breeding further transformed wheat. The 4.5 foot “amber waves of grain” turned into 2 foot tall, semi-dwarf, wheat. Yields went up. Profits went up. And so did the gluten concentration. And it was not only more abundant, but the gluten was fundamentally different. The molecular structure of gluten was chemically altered. (r, r, r, r, r, r)

We know that our digestive tract doesn’t handle wheat proteins (prolamins) like gluten and other lectins very well. Genetically modified wheat and altered proteins are like foreign invaders to the body. They cause damage to the gut (“leaky gut”) that can lead to widespread inflammation, autoimmune disorders, and disease.

I call it “Grain Pain.”

Today, just 3 grains – wheat, corn, and rice – make up about half of the world’s food.

And if the dose makes the poison…

By eating genetically altered, ultra-concentrated, high doses of grains and their toxins, meal after meal, day after day – the dose is poisoning us.

#2 – Vegetable Oils

For millions of years nearly all fat in the human diet was animal fat.

During the Agricultural Revolution we switched to a low fat diet. But still, during this time, the majority of the fat eaten (up until 23 hours and 59 minutes and 59 seconds) was animal-based.

But during this last split-second, we invented industrial vegetable seed oils.

And in short order we replaced natural animal fats with unnatural plant-based industrialized fats. (r, r, r, r)

Cellular Disruption

Health Dangers of Plant-Based FoodsWithout getting into the molecular composition of fats, it’s enough to know that animal fat is high in saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, while vegetable seed oils are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). These PUFA originate in plant seeds, and via complex industrial processing they give us vegetable oils like corn, soybean, and sunflower oils.

After further processing (hydrogenation) these fats can become solid at room temperature and used as margarine that spreads nicely on your bread or used as shortening to keep your baked goods tender and moist. This processing creates completely unnatural fats including the notorious trans fats.

And these fats are very dangerous.

Fat is an essential component of every cell in the body. It’s vital in hormone production. It’s necessary for vitamins and minerals. And in fact, the brain is over 60% fat. (r)

When we eat these unnatural fat molecules they fool our bodies. They are similar enough to natural fats that they get incorporated into our cells and tissues. But these unnatural industrialized fats don’t function properly. They damage cell membranes, disrupt function, and cause inflammation. And they are strongly correlated with heart disease, cancer, and neurological problems. (r, r, r, r, r, r)

Omega 3:6

The different ratios of fatty acids between animal fat and vegetable oils is extremely significant.

Omega 3 and omega 6s are essential fatty acids. Ideally these are balanced. Our ancestors likely ate omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in a ratio that was close to 1:1.

The reason balance is important is that omega 3 and omega 6s produce hormone-like signaling compounds called eicosanoids that are involved in inflammation. And omega 3s and 6s have opposite effects in some processes. For example, eicosanoids from omega 3 fatty acids function through pathways that decrease inflammation, while those from omega 6 function through pathways that increase inflammation.

Striking the right balance is important.

We need inflammation for wound healing and tissue repair, but too much can lead to chronic systemic inflammation and to pathologies like autoimmune disease, IBS, and joint pain.

Vegetable seed oils are very high in omega 6 fatty acids. They are pro-inflammatory. And today, it’s common to eat 10-20X more omega 6 fatty acids than omega 3s – thanks to oils like corn and soybean that are widespread and cheap.

Today the scale is steeply tipped toward inflammation.

Evidence is mounting that the overwhelming omega 6 to 3 ratio is implicit in heart disease, cancer, and even neurologic problems like depression, aggression, violent behavior, and anxiety. Which, again, is not surprising as our brains are mainly fat. (r, r, r, r, r, r, r, r, r, r, r, r, r)

Oxidation

Up until this last split second in time the only fats used in cooking were animal fats. Since these fats are more saturated, they are more stable, and thus less likely to oxidize and go rancid.

The high concentration of polyunsaturated fats found in vegetable oils are just the opposite.

By the time they reach the grocery store they are likely already damaged (oxidized). Chemically this means they turn into free radicals. A free radical has unpaired electrons, and are thus highly reactive. This high reactivity can damage molecules in the body and result in a domino-like chain reaction. When a free radical damages a molecule that molecule then becomes a free radical itself to continue damaging cellular structures and interfering with proper cellular function. One after another the dominos fall.

And these oxidized oils can be sneaky. At the store they may look and smell just fine but still be significantly damaged. By the time they have a noticeable “rancid” odor they’ve likely been damaged for quite some time.

To speed up the oxidation, all you have to do is heat these oils. Fried foods aren’t only loaded with unnatural hydrogenated fats, they aren’t only high in inflammation promoting omega 6 fatty acids, but they are easily oxidized. It’s like throwing a wrecking ball into your body.

Heart Disease

For 23 hours and 55 minutes we were on a high fat (high saturated fat) diet and heart disease was largely non-existent. Then during this last split second, Ancel Keys told us saturated fats cause heart disease. Thanks to his misleading association, health organizations turned this into “conventional wisdom” and animal fat consumption dropped while vegetable oil consumption skyrocketed. And so did heart disease.

This “conventional wisdom” that saturated fat is bad still permeates society today.

When really, polyunsaturated fats and the artificially hydrogenated fats like trans fats are among the most toxic “foods” in the modern world. And these fats are in everything.

Nearly all processed foods – from baked goods and breads to crackers and chips to peanut butter and pizza – all loaded with fats from plant-based foods extracted via industrial processing.

#3 – Sugar

With grains and vegetable oils we’ve manufactured unnatural foods into our daily food staples. We eat these in dosages that teeter on poison. And we’ve done the same with sugar.

Humans consumed minimal carbohydrates for the first 23 hours and 55 minutes.

This radically changed in the last 5 minutes with the Agricultural Revolution and the transition to a predominantly plant-based diet. Carbohydrate consumption changed even further in the last second when the Industrial Revolution spurred mass production of refined carbohydrate-based foods.

But sugar as we know it is even newer. When refined white sugar first came to Europe it was very expensive. It was a luxury reserved for the wealthy. Most carbohydrates in the diet at this time were still from refined grains and starches. It was not until the 1900s, after industrial processing and extraction was developed, that sugar became any significant part of the diet. And it was in this last split second that sugar became cheap and thus abundant.

We began eating massive quantities of sugar. It now makes up over 25% of our diet. And our bodies are not designed to handle this. (r, r, r, r)

With every meal we create a metabolic panic, stressing the pancreas to unload insulin to re-establish homeostatic blood sugar. This massively unnatural carbohydrate load and blood sugar spiking wreaks havoc on human health. Metabolic hormones become dysregulated from the insulin rollercoaster, eventually cell start to give up (insulin resistance) and the pancreas wears out (Type II diabetes). The high blood sugar levels disrupt cellular water balance, impair the immune system, and damage vision, kidneys, and nerves. Obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia (which some call “Type III Diabetes”) all became increasingly common stepwise with the ever-increasing consumption of sugar.

Sugar also directly damages tissues through glycation. Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGEs) irreversibly damage molecules. This is similar to the domino effect of oxidized fats and their free radicals. When a molecule gets glycated, these AGEs can then cause damage by cross-linking with other molecules creating a cascade of damage. Glycation is implicit in a number of health problems including diabetes, hypertension, vascular damage, aging, and dementia. (r)

Sugar Cycle

The human body has about 1 tsp of glucose (sugar) in all the blood. Only a few cells in the body require any glucose at all, all of which can be made from protein. There is no essential carbohydrate. No need to eat any sugar at all. And yet we are eating it by the truck load.

And one reason why is that it’s addicting. When we eat sugar the “pleasure centers” of the brain light up. It activates the same brain regions as cocaine. And it causes neurochemical changes similar to other addictive drugs. (r)

Sugar fuels a vicious cycle.

With a sugar surge the pancreas panics and pumps insulin. This immediately halts any fat burning. With this massive insulin dump, the blood sugar shortly drops too low and causes hormones to tell the brain to hurry up and replenish. We feel this as a strong craving for more sugar. And since fat burning is largely turned off thanks to the insulin – the craving can feel more like a panic. Our energy drops, we get tired, our brain gets foggy, and we get “hangry” for more sugar. Willpower gives way, we reach for more sugar, and feel the “reward” from the brain reinforcing this behavior. What results is binging, cravings, and addiction.

In this vicious “sugar cycle” we are always hungry and always storing more fat. We disrupt hormonal signaling and lose the ability to tap the abundant energy stored in our fat cells.

Fructose

Refined white sugar is bad. But in 1956 we made sugar even more dangerous. We discovered how to further process it to give us high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) – which was even sweeter and cheaper than refined white sugar. By the 70s and 80s HFCS infiltrated our diets. It was loaded into soft drinks and juices, snacks and desserts, syrups and salad dressings.

Fructose, “fruit sugar,” has to be processed by the liver in a special way. It has to be detoxified.

Not unlike alcoholism, chronic HFCS consumption bombards the liver with a toxin in excess. This can fatten and damage the liver. In fact, it’s a primary player in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

With this abuse, the liver eventually starts ignoring insulin, thereby impairing its ability to process glucose. Again, blood glucose builds up, the pancreas pumps more insulin, fat accumulates, appetite gets dysregulated, and hormonal systems dysfunction. (r, r, r, r)

Glycation is especially dangerous with fructose – causing glycation at 7-10X the rate of glucose. And for diabetics who already have high blood sugar, this is a recipe for accelerated aging and vascular damage. (r, r)

Technologic Revolution: Man-made Poisons – Beyond the Big 3

Perhaps the most deadly inventions are the mass production and consumption of grains, vegetable oils, and sugar. And while these may be the biggest culprits in deteriorating health – there are many other “food” inventions that are hiding in our meals and causing harm.

Food Additives

Today our food comes in a box or a bag, with an ingredient list that most biochemist don’t recognize.

Pick up an item at the grocery store, and there is a very good chance you don’t know what the majority of the ingredients are. We assume these chemicals are well tested with stringent health and safety research validating their consumption. But this is far from the truth.

Our foods are loaded with synthetic chemicals – acidity regulators, anti-caking agents, antifoaming agents, antioxidants, bulking agents, dyes and food coloring materials, emulsifiers, flavor enhancers, and artificial flavors, gelling agents, glazing agents, humectants, preservatives, stabilizers, artificial sweeteners, and thickeners. (r)

Many are potentially toxic and very little is actually known about their combined impact. What happens when these chemicals are mixed together, or taken with medications, or how do they interact within a complex environment – like the human body? We don’t know.

But evidence is growing that these chemicals aren’t harmless.

Artificial Sweeteners

Astute observers witnessed the damage associated with our massive consumption of sugar.

The obvious answer was to create artificial sweeteners.

In the 70s, one such sweetener called cyclamate was pulled from the market due to its association with testicular atrophy and cancer. But not to be deterred, others have popped up. Today saccharin and aspartame have gained widespread appeal and use. Though research suggest this may not be such a great thing. (r)

Aspartame is a classic example of money and politics winning over health and science. The aspartame industry funded numerous studies on the sweetener, all of which showing its safety. Yet over 90% of independent studies showed problems with the sweetener including increased risk of brain tumors and lymphoma. (rr, r, r)

It’s thought that these artificial sweeteners also confuse the brain about energy consumption. With the sweetness the brain thinks calories are coming in. But they don’t. And this misinformation interferes with proper hormonal signaling. When sweetness sometimes accurately reflects energy consumption and sometimes does not, appetite gets dysregulated. And evidence suggest this is leading to overeating and more sugar cravings. (r, r, r)

Artificial Colors and Dyes

There are big marketing dollars in bright colors. Artificial colors and dyes are added to make products more appealing. Some of these come from petrochemicals and coal tar like Blue No. 1 and Citrus Red No. 2, and Green No. 3. (r)

In animal studies many of these have been shown to be toxic, cause tumors, and are associated with other health problems like allergic reactions. Human clinical trials even show evidence that they may contribute to hyperactivity. Artificial dyes are classified as excitotoxins, which can damage nerve cells by excessive stimulation. In fact, doctors have successfully treated hyperactivity by eliminating artificial colorings. MSG (monosodium glutamate) is another example of an excitotoxin that is widely used as a flavor enhancer. (r, r, r, r)

Emulsifiers

Human are known for trying to make substances behave in unnatural ways – like getting oil and water to mix. Well that’s what emulsifiers, also known as surfactants, do. They allow the mixture of substances that normally wouldn’t mix. Many processed foods are made possible by complex emulsions. For example, the chemicals that allow the food to have a long shelf life have to mix with the chemicals in the food. And it takes high concentrations of synthetic emulsifying agents to get it all to stick together.

Obviously our bodies are not adapted to deal with these novel synthetic chemicals. They are thought to cause damage to the digestive tract and contribute to “leaky gut” (intestinal permeability).

A case in point – pharmaceutical companies actually use emulsifiers in their pills to help oral drugs move across the intestinal barrier. (r, r)

Food preservatives

Fresh food goes bad. This is not good for shelf life or profits, so food preservatives were invented to prevent the growth of microorganisms and avoid chemical changes associated with exposure to oxygen (i.e. oxidation).

If you look at the ingredients on a bag of food you’ll likely see chemicals like sodium benzoate, calcium propionate, disodium EDTA, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), sulphites, sodium sulfite, sodium and potassium bisulfite, sodium and potassium metabisulphite. (r)

Little is known about their effects on human health. Though we do know that some people are seriously affected by these. For example, allergic reactions to sulfites are quite common.

Processed grains need preservatives like BHT to block the oxidation of the PUFA in the oils. It’s also an endocrine disruptor that acts like estrogen. This is a trifecta of damage – grains and oils mixed together with a synthetic preservative. (r, r)

What scares me is that we know how essential our microbiome is to our health. Yet we readily add these chemicals to our food…chemicals specifically designed to hinder bacteria and other microorganisms.

Today – Toxins Transformed to Poison

Health Dangers of Plant-Based Foods – “The Toxin-Time Continuum”

For 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds the human specie did not eat any refined sugars, refined grains, or refined vegetable oils.

Plant-based natural toxins were cultivated into unnatural doses, and transformed into poisons.

Our staple foods, which many consider “health” foods, include grains and soybeans, which are loaded with antinutrients and plant defense phytochemicals that damage our guts and cause disease.

Our carbohydrate intake flipped from minimal to the majority of our calories. Simple sugars, fructose, and refined carbohydrates dysregulate our hormones and appetites, lead to overeating and obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes, and are implicit in the most deadly diseases today including heart disease, cancer, and dementia.

We replaced natural animal fats for industrialized plant-based fats that get incorporated to our cells, ruining their structure and function. Omega 6 fatty acids overwhelm omega 3s promoting inflammation. The PUFA are readily oxidized, and thus readily damage those who eat them.

We replaced nutrient dense meats with nutrient poor grains and sugars. Although we are fat, we are deficient in nutrients, lacking essential vitamins and minerals necessary for health.

We have widespread artificial toxin exposure. Insecticides and additives are all over and in our food.

We do know that all of these “foods” were invented in less than 1 second on the human history clock.

And we know that grains, sugar, and vegetable oils make up a majority of all the calories eaten.

Yet somehow, we have propaganda that meat, the very food our species evolved eating, suddenly started to cause diseases and epidemics in the modern world.

It seems obvious there might be a mismatch between what we are designed to eat and the food inventions of the last 5 minutes.

We have powerful human engines designed to run on a specific fuel, and we not only diluted this fuel, but we completely changed it. And we wonder why we are getting weighed down, running slower, getting sicker, and developing disease at an alarming rate.

Technologic Revolution: The Fuel Weighing Us Down

To recap the “Toxin-Time Continuum” I think looking at a couple examples will highlight the issues we face today with our plant-based diets.

Soy

Let’s say you eat a soybean – the body can handle its ill effects, detoxify it, and in general not cause any issues.

Let’s say you eat soybeans everyday – so now the body is detoxifying on a continuous basis. Still the dosage at any one time is low enough that you don’t recognize any ill effects.

Now let’s take those soybeans and refine them and process them to give you soy milk, soynut butter, soy protein, and soybean oil. All of a sudden soybeans are hiding in concentrated forms in all your food.

There are a number of issues with eating a soybean. It’s high in antinutients like trypsin inhibitors, phytates, and tannins as well as bioactive compounds like isoflavones and phytosterols that have estrogenic properties. But when its refined and concentrated in these food-like-products, products which are everyday staples, the dosage inches closer and closer to poison. We see hypothyroid effects and goiter, testosterone and fertility problems, and even promotion of breast cancer. (r)

Corn

There’s a big difference between eating an organic ear of corn vs high fructose corn syrup extracted from genetically modified corn.

That said, an ear of corn is quite unnatural itself. Originally corn was small, about the size of your little finger. The seeds of this wild grass easily fell off and dispersed. Today we’ve engineered it to give us massive ears of corn. The seeds cling to the cob so tightly it can’t even exist on its own in the wild.

So although an ear of corn is quite unnatural today, it’s not even close to the other versions of corn that make up so much of our diets. Today most of us eat the version after we steep it, take the starch, refine the syrup, and further process it to yield HFCS. This is the version of corn that we eat in massive quantities.

Corn is a good example of what we tend to do with many plant-based foods. In the wild the plant part is relatively scarce, small, and low in sugar. It would be difficult to eat in large quantities. But we selectively breed, genetically modify, and change these natural plants into unnatural variations for bigger versions, sweeter versions, higher yield versions.

We then take it a step further.

  • We process and refine them. The low dose toxin gets transformed to a high dose unnatural breed.
  • We take the corn starch made from the endosperm and using it as a thickening agent. Oh it’s also the main ingredient in biodegradable plastic.
  • We squeeze the germ of corn and get oil, that we use to fry our food in. It gets further hydrogenated to make margarine.
  • We use corn to make cereals, snack foods, salad dressings, soft drink sweeteners, gum, peanut butter, and flour products.

When we eat these end products, the fact that we are eating plant-based foods become obscured.

The Confusion

The whole world is already on a plant-based diet. We just don’t realize it.

And this is where so much of the nutrition confusion arises.

Someone on a whole food plant-based diet that is eating unrefined, minimally processed plant-based foods, is eating a diet far better than most of the world that is eating the more refined and processed versions of these foods.

But just because it’s unrefined doesn’t make it healthy – it makes it less unhealthy – a toxic dose that the body may be able to handle in low quantities when eaten infrequently.

It’s why if someone switches from a Standard American Diet (SAD) to a vegetarian whole food diet they notice improvements – they ditched the worst offenders.

More confusion arises when we see that there are so many other confounding variables, biases, and deceptions. Health science is not immune to profit motives and popular press incentives. It’s not immune to dogma ingrained in government agencies, health organizations, and taught to professionals who then pass it down as “conventional wisdom” repeated and reinforced in echo chambers. It’s not immune to faulty assumptions and poorly done research. The fact remains, there is a lot we don’t know about nutrition and health.

Health Dangers of Plant-Based Foods

As we can see in our 24 hour human history, our diets have drastically changed in the last 5 minutes, even further in the last second, and even further in the last split-second. Almost no food today is free from the impact of the Agricultural, Industrial, and Technological Revolutions.

Eliminating the 3 biggest offenders will go a long way. Get rid of grains, vegetable oils, and sugar.

Soy is a close 4th.

An interesting thing happens when you do this. You start eating a meat-based diet.

A healthy diet is one build around meat.

I hear good health advice every-so-often, one such statement is “Don’t eat anything that wasn’t around 100 years ago,” or “Don’t eat anything your grandparents didn’t eat.”

Better advice:

“Only eat what was eaten during the first 23 hours and 55 minutes,”

or

“Don’t eat anything that was eaten for the 1st time within the last 5 minutes.”

If you want to know how to do that, you can check out the 30 day guide to going full carnivore – even if you have no intention – the concepts about how to succeed on that diet apply across the board.

On the Clock

The alarm should have sounded 5 minutes ago.

We hit snooze. Ignored the impact.

It sounded again 1 second ago.

We hit snooze. Ignored the impact.

It’s ringing right now.

Time to wake up.

 

 

23 Replies to “Health Dangers of Plant-Based Foods”

  1. Can you site some of the scientific studies that back up these things? While I am aware of the issues wth various foods, where is the evidence that our bodies are not designed to mitigate the negative effects? For instance can you site a study that proves that phytic acid rob minerals from our body? And that brocolIi kills good cells? I have read and heard that, but what studies demonstrate that? I am not arguing. I am on a carnivore diet, but I still struggle with the concepts that frits and veggies are bad.

  2. ‘The human body has about 1 tsp of glucose (sugar) in all the blood””
    That would be at any given moment– it would be interesting to know
    how much does this add up to in say a 24 hour period?

  3. Surprising and informative article. I have one question though. You mention the toxins plants have, but what about meat? Surely animals don’t want to be eaten. What toxins does meat have and how does our body handle them. Again, loved the article!

    1. Thanks Nick! And yes, this series was meant to focus on plants so I did intentionally save discussing meat issues in other posts.

      That said, animals don’t produce toxins like plants. Since plants are stationary they have evolved chemical means of defense. This is not to say that animals don’t have chemical means of defense (i.e. just look what a skunk does). But these evolutionary pathways are very different.

      But thanks to novel ways in which we feed animals today (i.e. grain fed cows and farm-raised fish) they do get higher toxin exposure which gets passed on to the end consumer – humans. The degree, and significance of this is well outside the scope of this, but I’ll be writing about it 🙂

  4. Kevin – Absolutely amazing series and comprehensive view of plants. I’ll be re-reading this many times and referring many others to it as well. I’m sure it took a lot of time and diligent research, but it is truly a masterpiece!

    One thing I’m surprised that you didn’t talk about is coffee. Some say it contains the highest phytic acid of any food/drink in the average diet. Would you agree with this?

    1. Thanks so much Scott!

      And yes, I need to make a dedicated post to coffee. But the coffee bean is actually a seed from the coffee plant. So it falls under the “seeds” post. And seeds do tend to have the most phytochemicals to deter herbivory – including phytic acid. I think coffee is a net neutral or negative in the diet for most people. That said, the positive effects of making people happy has to be worth something 🙂

  5. Great article. I have sent parts of this reading to family and friends so they can have at least some of the information; if I send them the whole article, they won’t read it, it’s frustrating and sad wanting to help people feel better but they just don’t want to listen. I’m so happy I decided to go into this way of eating, I try to read most of your articles 🙂

  6. OMG! Thanks a lot for sharing such an informative page about Health Dangers of Plant-Based Foods. I have read your valuable page and gotten much information. I have learned a lot from you that I did not know before. I confused for choosing the healthy foods information what would be the best for everything but now my confusion has cleared by your review. I hope your all information will help me. Thanks again Dr. Kevin and Keep it up………..

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