Note: Much of this information may seem contrary to popular belief about nutrition but popular belief and consensus has led us to the health disaster we are in right now. I would encourage you to please read the reference studies at the end of the article and do not take my word for anything! I’m learning these things along with all of you.
The modified Ketogenic Diet has brought health to not only myself but now millions around the world. Cutting out sugar, grains, and wheat, seems to immediately bring health benefits and ketones have a measurable positive impact on the brain but there are many foods to consider reducing for long term health.
I’m not going to discuss the absolute worst “keto ok” thing I see people consuming which is “vegetable” oils as that requires a blog post on it’s own. There are a couple of excellent blog posts I suggest starting with as they are thorough and informative.
And see This Talk by Nina Teicholz and what I consider a MUST READ book by Nina.
The BEST thing you can do is to remove the following oils immediately from daily consumptions as they are worse for you than anything that’s coming in this post. I just didn’t include them because I don’t even consider them “food.” Even if you do consume them in a processed food from time to time, do NOT cook with them.
Hyrdogenated Vegetable Oil
Rice bran oil
Wheat germ oil
Trans & Partially Hydrogenated Fats
Now that the poison is out of the way let’s get to the food! Our first food group to discuss are foods that are high in Lectins.
Lectins are a natural insecticide that certain plants produce. Lectins are genetically modified in the foods we eat to increase the efficacy of their natural insecticide.
Unfortunately, the effects they have on insects and animals can also translate to humans.
Here is how they work:
Lectins are not digested by humans so when they reach your gut they are not broken down. Once they reach the gut, they latch onto the gut lining wall and actually block vitamins and nutrients from getting inside.
On top of this they release a toxin called zonulin which opens up the lining of your gut wall and causes something called “Leaky Gut”
Once the lining is open lectins can enter your gut as well as endotoxins which causes inflammation in your gut and ultimately your entire system. Your body senses this and ramps up immune responses to remove the invasion.
Lectins can latch onto healthy cells and your immune system actually begins to attack your healthy cells. This is called “Autoimmune.” Some people develope autoimmune disorder and struggle for a lifetime. Anecdotally, removing lectins from the diet has fixed this for many people.
Lectins also disrupt cell communication which can cause a decline in cognitive performance.
They also negatively impact the endocrine system, affecting the performance of hormone functions. (See references below for this section)
Ever heard of Gluten? Gluten is a lectin which is found in wheat, barley,and rye. Many people have different levels of gluten intolerance leading to an immune response and inflammation. Some people have a full blown reaction to it called “Celiac’s Disease”
Worse than Gluten, is Wheat Germ Agglutinin (WGA) which has demonstrated impacts in human studies.
WGA mimics insulin in your system and binds to cell receptors.
When it binds to a fat cell, it blocks real insulin which leads to more fat storage.
Because it can also attach to muscle and brain cells it actually blocks the cells from allowing insulin for energy ultimately creating more hunger signaling to the brain including actual sugar cravings.
Eventually this can kill off brain cells and peripheral nerves and is thought to lead to neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia. (See references below for this section)
WGA can attach itself to blood vessels leading to an immune attack and artery inflammation (the first step in the mechanism of atherosclerosis.)
WGA can actually transport viruses kept in the gut to the rest of the body causing more sickness and more systemic inflammation.
If you want to consume these foods there are some things you can do to help reduce the impact such as soaking, fermenting, and using a pressure cooker.
Foods high in lectins starting with some of the worst offenders: (These are on the DO NOT CONSUME if so only occasionally list)
Soy and soy derivatives
Grains (Especially Whole Wheat) and products made with grain or flour, including cakes, crackers, and bread
Here are more foods high in lectins
Legumes, such as beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts
Nightshade vegetables, such as eggplant, peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes
Milk and milk derivates from grain fed cows also contains lectins but the makeup is not the same as plant lectins. Some people feel less inflammation when cutting dairy, this could be a reason why as grass fed dairy sources are more expensive and not as available.
For Keto people who may consume any items above on a daily basis, it’s something to think about as the nutrition you believe you may be getting from these foods is actually stripped by Lectins. I’m not suggesting to never eat these foods (well except the ones on the do not consume list) but it’s important to understand the natural defense mechanisms these plants use protect themselves and how it impacts the bodies of animals and people who consume them. If you are dealing with inflammation even on a keto diet or auto immune, this would be the first place to start elimination and observe the effects once removed.
Next up are Phytates
Phytic Acid is compound created by plants for the purpose of retaining essential minerals for their seeds to grow. Animals such as cows have the ability to break phytates down but human beings do not. When we consume them, the phytic acid binds to minerals such as phosphorus, iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium and prevents absorption. (So far we have lectins which block absorption of vitamins and nutrients and phytates which block mineral absorption.)
A key point to understand here is the nutrition we consume is not necessarily what we absorb. Phytates can cause iron deficiencies which is becoming a common issue. Fortunately, animal iron doesn’t become binded by phytates like plant iron does. This study of 75 vegan women found that 40% of them were deficient in iron despite having above average the recommended daily allowance. This Is due to the fact that ingestion does not equate to absorption of plant nutrients.
In addition. phytic acid can inhibit digestive enzymes like amylase, trypsin, and pepsin. This results in macronutrients not getting digested properly.
Below are foods containing phytic acid. For people on a keto diet, the worst offenders are almonds. In fact I consume almonds once in a while now and do not include them in my regular diet. On average I eat them about once a month. Peanuts are lower in phytic acid but I do consume peanut butter more than almonds just because it’s one of my favorite things to eat! On average a tablespoon or two a week. Like anything related to food there is a balance between enjoying life and understanding potential impacts of the foods you consume.
The last topic for today are Oxalates:
Oxalate is another compound created by plants with the purpose of creating a natural insecticide to ward off insects. They also help store calcium for the plants seeds. Unfortunately it’s toxic to humans in large amounts (and even small for some people.) People have actually died from eating foods with oxalates.
Oxalates absorb calcium and form calcium oxalate. This is what causes kidney stones. Your body stores calcium oxalate in your joints, muscles, and of course kidneys causing inflammation and pain.
Not to be an alarmist but there is emerging evidence that calcium oxalates induce caner. Here is one example: https://bmccancer.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12885-015-1747-2
Oxalates are an anti-nutrient that also depletes calcium and iron.
On top of this they are actually toxic to the body and brain. They can disturb sleep patterns and cause problems with memory and concentration. They release histamines and contribute to fibromyalgia and carpal tunnel syndrome.
A common practice for the treatment of autism is the elimination of oxalate-containing foods.
Different people can handle different levels of oxalates. A key factor seems to be people with “leaky gut” from lectins as we discussed earlier. They tend to see the worst impact from oxalates.
The oxalate foods starting from the worst at the top:
Soy (notice a pattern here???)
Wheat (notice a pattern here???)
Sesame and Poppy seeds
Am I suggesting you should never eat spinach or kale? No, but I am suggestion these foods are not the miracle foods people make them out to be and the idea of juicing them in high amounts every day seems like a pretty bad idea. If you are dealing with kidney stones I would eliminate them all together.
If you feel healthy and have zero issues while consuming these foods then you probably don’t need to change anything. Sometimes you can have issues but not even realize, such as poor quality sleep and nutrient and mineral deficiencies.
If you are dealing with any issues, especially inflammation, sleep, depression, or GI issues; it might be a good idea to try and eliminate them for a couple weeks and see if you notice any changes. If things improve slowly reintroduce foods you enjoy and take note to what might be causing the issue.
Vitamins and nutrients on paper do not equate to what is actually absorbed by your body ESPECIALLY with the foods mentioned in this article.
Unlike people, animals, and insects; plants cannot run away and have natural defense mechanisms to protect themselves and their offspring “seeds.” Understanding the potential impact of these defense mechanisms on health is something that not many people are aware of but could be the missing key to many health issues.
Avoid Soy, Vegetable Oils, and Wheat as much as possible
Note: Much of this information I learned from NIH directly, the book “Wheat Belly” and this blog https://www.wheatbellyblog.com and from Dr. Kevin Stock. You can find him on twitter @kevinstock12