Living Well with Plant Foods
In this issue we explore the many anti-nutrients in plant foods—and not just in grains, legumes and nuts, but also in many popular vegetables, fruits and even spices. Our purpose is not to frighten our readers away from consuming the many wonderful foods of plant origin, but rather to make you aware of the pitfalls of the so-called “plant-based diet.”
Overreliance on plant foods—and particularly overreliance on just a few favored plant foods like peanuts, wheat or soy—poses the risk of numerous health problems, including digestive disorders, nutrient deficiencies and painful conditions like arthritis and kidney stones. Some people are so sensitive to certain foods that they must avoid them altogether.
It is not our philosophy at the Weston A. Price Foundation to tell people not to eat certain natural foods, but rather to let people know how they can eat them, how to include as many wonderful natural foods in the diet as possible. For starters, this means always consuming plant foods in the context of a diet that contains sufficient animal foods, particularly animal fats. Fats like butter, lard, egg yolks, tallow and poultry fat provide the nutrients needed to build a healthy intestinal tract, one that blocks the uptake of problematic ingredients in grains, nuts, legumes, fruits and vegetables.
Second, we need to honor our partnership with intestinal microflora in the challenging work of breaking down our food into its basic components. Good gut bacteria produce many of the enzymes that break down plant-based anti-nutrients like oxalic acid and phytic acid. Lacto-fermented foods are a must in a diet high in plant foods, as these traditional condiments supply the types of good bacteria that keep the gut sufficiently populated with these helpful little friends. If you have had one or more courses of antibiotics, it may be necessary to refrain from consuming a lot of plant foods until the intestinal microflora are reestablished. Third, we need to prepare plant foods properly! For grains, nuts and legumes, that means pre-digestion by soaking, fermenting and sourdough processing; for vegetables, this usually entails cooking.
And remember the main purpose of eating a variety of delicious fruits and vegetables: to serve as the perfect vehicle for healthy animal fats like butter, egg yolks, lard and cream! Fourth, we need to introduce these foods very slowly to babies. Babies’ first foods should be mostly animal foods; grains, nuts, legumes and even vegetables should be introduced slowly and not before baby’s intestinal tract has had a chance to mature. Finally, we need to vary our intake of plant-foods, rather than constantly eat just a few. Eating peanut butter or tomatoes or wheat every day is a fast track to increased sensitivity to these foods. When it comes to plant foods, variety is the spice of life, as well as a sensible, healthy policy!