Think Beans and Legumes are Good for You? Think Again!

Advocates of the Paleo diet advise to avoid legumes on the basis that ancient man did not consume them. But this is not accurate. The main issue with beans is they are not as nutritious as many are led to believe.

Eating a few servings a week of legumes is great if you tolerate them. They are a great source of magnesium. However, legumes do present certain issues that I discuss in this article. Furthermore, legumes are not as nutritious as many sites would have you believe. But I still think they are part of a Modern Paleo diet.

The main reason to take is easy on legumes is because they’re not very nutrient dense, and if you eat a lot of legumes and they replace more nutrient-dense foods (like meat), you’re not going to be maximizing nutrient density. Many of the nutrition labels you read on beans are from raw beans. They look far better on a label raw than cooked.

Contrary to popular Paleo opinion, there’s no evidence that including legumes in moderation, especially when they’re properly prepared to maximize nutrient bioavailability, and they’re eaten occasionally in the context of an overall diet that’s very nutrient dense, there’s no evidence to support the idea that they’re harmful.

Legumes are more Paleo that one might think. Dr. Stephan Guyenet posted an article outlining the evolutionary history of legume consumption. (18) He demonstrates that, contrary to popular Paleo belief, legumes were part of our ancestral diet. Recent analysis of Neanderthal tooth plaque revealed that they consumed wild varieties of peas and fava beans. (10) Since early humans are thought to have eaten a more diverse diet than Neanderthals, it is safe to assume that our human ancestors also ate legumes. Dr. Guyenet also points to several contemporary hunter-gatherer groups that consumed significant amounts of legumes, including the !Kung San of the Kalahari desert and the Australian Aborigines.

Beans and legumes are the primary source of calories for many people around the world. Traditional cuisines like those of India and Central and South America eat legumes as a major staple in the diet. However, they also employ very long cooking times and lengthy precooking preparation and detoxification methods like soaking and sprouting. Today, these lengthy cooking and preparation times are frequently not utilized to accommodate busier lifestyles and the fast pace of modern life. Traditional foods like legumes are better for you when prepared properly.

I cannot reiterate enough that everyone is different. Some people tolerate beans and legumes very well. Others break out in rashes, get migraines or develop digestive issues like IBS after a few refried beans for various reasons. To see if legumes work for you, eat them and see how you feel. If you want to eat your beloved beans, go ahead, but this post will at least serve to help you know what you’re eating.

Plant Toxins

Before Monsanto, Mother Nature had her own pesticide factory. All plants contain toxins. They have evolved over millions of years to prevent being eaten by pests, most notably humans. God forbid soy goes extinct from being over consumed. Becoming poisonous is a great defense because plants can’t run away.

It can be confusing because, in food, toxins are combined with beneficial nutrients. You can’t read a food label and be bowled over by the calcium or protein content. Plant toxins are not on the label. And some of these toxins prevent some of those nutrients on the food label from getting into you. So, it’s a good idea to reduce a nutrient amount on the label by a fraction.

Plant toxins pose far more of a risk to health than pesticides sprayed on crops. Americans eat 5,000 to 10,000 plants pesticides totaling 1.5 grams daily, but only .00009 grams of synthetic pesticide residues per day. (4) We must be mindful of the food toxins we put in our pie holes. That being said, let’s look at some of the yummy potential toxins you’ll be eating along with your bowl of baked beans.

The ultimate key in determining whether to eat a food is weighing the cost/benefit ratio – eating a plant based on its nutrient density versus its toxic load. This analysis can be done on any food, but let’s review the pros and cons of potential toxins in legumes:

Not So Evil Phytic Acid

A common misconception about phytic acid is that it is going to steal nutrients away from you. Not true. It simply prevents you from absorbing all the minerals like iron, for instance, in beans. The phytic acid binds to minerals and prevents their absorption.

Regardless, humans can tolerate moderate amounts of phytates without harm because our gut bacteria produce enzymes that break down phytate. (19) In fact, there’s even evidence that phytic acid may have some beneficial effects like preventing the formation of free radicals (making it an antioxidant) and binding to heavy metals in the body.

Phytic acid is normal to most plants so you needn’t worry about it. Kale and swiss chard have far more phytic acid than beans. But just because a food has some potentially toxic effects, like phytic acid, it doesn’t mean we can’t tolerate that food in some small amounts. It’s all about the dose. Phytic acid is in many healthy foods, like green veggies and nuts.

What this does mean is that if you were figuring that you were going to absorb a lot of nutrients from beans, which are sometimes purported to be a superfood, you may not be absorbing as much as you thought you would be because of the phytic acid content. Phytates make that bowl of lentils a lot less nutrient dense than the Nutrition Facts panel would have you believe.

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Lectins

Lectins are a type of protein that can bind to cell membranes. They are vilified in the Paleo community because a few studies have shown that lectins can impair growth, linked to autoimmune disorders, damage the lining of the small intestine causing leaky gut, destroy skeletal muscle, and interfere with the function of the pancreas. Sounds serious, right?

Let’s examine this common Paleo myth. There are several reasons that these results cannot be extrapolated to humans. First, the animals consumed vast amounts of lectins—much more than a human would consume from eating a pile of legumes at lunch. And sure enough, these animals get extremely sick with leaky gut, inflammation, and a whole bunch of other problems, including cancer.  Second, the lectins were from raw legumes. Hello. Humans eat cooked legumes, and cooking neutralizes the lectins found in most legumes.

In fact, cooking legumes for as little as 15 minutes or pressure-cooking them for 7.5 minutes almost completely inactivates the lectins they contain, leaving no residual lectin activity in properly cooked legumes. (16)

Finally, if you want to avoid lectins you’d have to remove a lot more than legumes from your diet to avoid them. Lectins are found in at least 53 fruits, vegetables, spices, including carrots, zucchini, melon, grapes, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, garlic and mushrooms. Lectins are found in high concentrations in GMO food, since lectins are often spliced into modified varieties in order to enhance “natural” pest and fungal resistance. (13) Translation: Avoid GMO’s.

This is not an invitation to stop eating legumes and other foods! It’s just an illustration that almost every plant we eat contains small amounts of toxins as this is how plants defend themselves. These low levels of toxins don’t harm the vast majority, and in fact, may even provide health benefits. According to Dr. Stephan Guyenet, many of the compounds we call “antioxidants”—like polyphenols found in blueberries, dark chocolate, etc. actually cause mild oxidative stress that upregulate our body’s natural defense systems. (20)

FODMAPS

One reason some people may need to avoid legumes is that they contain FODMAPs, which are carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed by some people.  The acronym FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. These short-chain carbohydrates are incompletely absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and can be easily fermented by gut bacteria. These sugars increase fluid movement into the large bowel.

The fermentation and osmosis caused by these undigested sugars are a cause of major IBS symptoms such as gas, pain, diarrhea and other digestive symptoms. And beans are full of FODMAPs. But not everyone is sensitive to FODMAPs, so this isn’t a reason to avoid legumes across the board. Again, it’s all about individualizing your diet. If you have GI issues it may be a good idea to avoid legumes until you fix the gut issue before reintroducing legumes.

Copper Toxicity

Vegetarians or anyone who eats a lot of beans (or nuts for that matter) have a toxic guarantee in their diet – copper toxicity. It’s not so much from just beans per se, but if you eat beans, which contain a lot of copper, without a lot of zinc in your diet, you can develop copper toxicity. This can be a problem for anyone that does not eat red meat or take zinc supplements.

Copper is an essential mineral needed in our bodies, but today copper toxicity is ubiquitous. Copper toxicity reveals itself in headaches, emotional instability, fatigue, insomnia, depression, skin rashes, spaciness or detachment, learning disorders and premenstrual syndrome. Ah, the joys of copper toxicity.

I experienced many of these symptoms first hand when I was vegetarian and eating beans and nuts daily for protein. It has taken me two years to detox much of the copper I accumulated as a vegetarian and I still have a long way to go. But you don’t have to be a vegetarian to become copper toxic! If you feast often on nuts, beans and other copper-rich foods, beware.

Copper accumulates in the liver first, then the brain and the reproductive organs. Copper may affect any organ or system of the body. However, it usually affects the nervous system, the female and male reproductive system, connective tissues such as hair, skin and nails and organs like the liver.

Excess copper interferes with zinc, a mineral needed to make digestive enzymes. If severe enough, a person will become an obligatory vegetarian or reduce their consumption of meat or simply avoid red meat. This means they are no longer able to digest meat very well and may mistakenly assume that meat or red meat does not work for them. Conversely, if one becomes a vegetarian for other reasons, one’s copper level will increase.

Some people with high copper dislike all protein. Protein feels heavy or causes uncomfortable symptoms. Eating protein stimulates adrenal and thyroid glandular activity. This releases stored copper, which causes the unpleasant copper toxicity symptoms mentioned above. Why would you want to eat meat when it causes an unpleasant copper release? The person avoiding meat is unaware that meat is not the culprit. Not to fear, the taste for meat often returns when copper is brought into better balance. (15)

A Special Legume: Peanuts

Many think peanuts are nuts, but they are in fact legumes. They are in a toxic class by themselves. Like other legumes, peanuts are problematic because they contain lectins and phytic acid, but peanuts also bring a new guest to the party: aflatoxins. Aflatoxins aren’t actually part of the peanut itself; they’re produced by a mold that tends to grow on peanuts. This mold thrives on crops stored in warm, humid places, so be wary of peanuts grown in the tropics. Aflatoxin is so difficult to eliminate that the FDA has declared it an “unavoidable contaminant.” (12) Anyone with a mold sensitivity should avoid peanuts.

Organic or all-natural brands of peanuts and peanut butter aren’t any better since the peanuts still have to be stored and transported. Unless you’re picking your peanuts farm fresh, you’re probably ingesting some aflatoxin. Some research has linked long term consumption to aflatoxins with risk for diseases like liver cancer and hepatitis B. (2) This is not surprising since aflatoxin in one of the most carcinogenic substances known to man.

Adult humans have a high tolerance for aflatoxin exposure and rarely succumb to acute aflatoxicosis. (14) This being said, why ingest a toxin that your body needs to process? And which long term consumption can cause problems? You won’t know it’s you until you’re in your doctor’s office getting the news that you have liver cancer. Children, however, are particularly affected by aflatoxin exposure, which can lead to stunted growth and delayed development. (1

The one lectin we may want to avoid is peanut lectin, since both raw peanuts and peanut oil have relatively high lectin content. Peanut lectins are very heat resistant, so roasting or cooking the nuts doesn’t make them safe to eat. Some data in animals suggest that peanut lectin may contribute to atherosclerosis by stimulating the growth of smooth muscle and pulmonary arterial cells. (17)  Peanuts should be completely avoided. Sorry, no more Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for you.

The Nastiest Legume: Soy

Dr. Joseph Hibbeln at the National Institutes of Health estimates that soybeans, usually in the form of oil, ­account for an astonishing 10 percent of our total calories in the United States. (8) It’s hidden everywhere – processed foods, fast food and restaurants. It’s cheap and tasteless – a perfect killer filler.

In addition to the lectins and phytic acid found in other legumes, soy has one particular nasty downside: phytoestrogens. Like environmental estrogens, these chemicals mimic the action of estrogen in the body. However, these ‘estrogens’ don’t actually perform any of the vital functions of real estrogen.

In men, this hormonal imbalance can cause reduced libido, the development of “feminine” traits like breasts and hips, not to mention cancer. In women, it can impair fertility and lead to all kinds of menstrual and other reproductive problems like endometriosis and precocious (early) puberty. Most alarmingly, phytoestrogens have been linked to breast cancer and disruption of normal thyroid function. (7) Anyone who is overweight likely has a thyroid issue and should avoid soy like the plague. Soy is the enemy of the thyroid, which is the gland that sets your metabolism.

As well as hormones, soy also contains trypsin inhibitors, which interfere with protein digestion, and alpha-amylase inhibitors, which interfere with starch digestion. These nasties increase the body’s need for several nutrients, including Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D. Soy is very thorough in it’s destruction of your health.

Soy protein isolate powder is the worst: this is a completely processed, edible food product that shouldn’t be part of anybody’s diet. I remember when I used to read this ingredient on a label and think it was healthy. Food marketers, employed by the billion dollar soy industry, have done their job well.

How is soy protein isolate made? After removing the fiber, the beans are put in an aluminum pot with an acid wash. They absorb the aluminum (linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s) and then are treated with many chemicals including nitrates (linked to cancer). Some amino acids (proteins) are destroyed; others are rendered toxic and carcinogenic. Free glutamic acid, or MSG, is produced during the processing of soy protein isolate, while more is usually added to many soy products. The soy protein isolate is then mixed with various binders, gums, fats, flavors, and sweeteners. Hungry for that protein shake now? Soy protein fibers are difficult to digest, have a scouring effect on the GI tract and cause a marked amount of flatulence as you may have noticed.

Then there is soy milk. Soy milk is a highly processed food and should never be consumed. It is not easy turning soybeans into milk. High heat and processing deform the soy proteins, making them very difficult to digest and unrecognizable by the body. Soy’s polyunsaturated fats become rancid during all the heat processing. Soy milk’s undesirable sour, bitter, and astringent characteristics come from oxidized phospholipids (rancid lecithin), oxidized fatty acids (rancid soy oil), and the soy estrogens known as isoflavones. The last are so bitter, sweeteners and flavorings have to be added. The only way to make soy milk palatable is to remove the very toxins, the isoflavones, that the food industry has promoted as beneficial for preventing cancer and lowering cholesterol. What results from this process has to be fortified, usually by adding very hard to absorb forms of calcium and synthetic Vitamin D2, not D3, the form our bodies need. This ‘milk’ also suffers the addition of emulsifiers and stabilizers to keep all these substances from separating. Needless to say, I cringe when I hear people order soy lattes at Starbucks. Um…er…I never go to Starbucks. I mean cafes. I cringe when I hear people order soy lattes at cafes.

Of course, any argument that soy is unhealthy tends to raise the “Asian objection”: Asians are so much healthier and longer-lived than Americans and they eat a lot of soy, so it must be healthy. Soy is traditionally eaten in Asia as a condiment, not as whole meals or a replacement for animal protein. Contrary to what you might think, Asian cultures do NOT eat tons of soy! Soy is eaten in tiny quantities (1-2 tablespoons a day or 15-30g) in fermented forms like miso, natto, soy sauce, and tempeh. Fermenting mitigates soy’s anti-nutrient qualities. Therefore, I can only recommend soy be eaten occasionally and only in fermented forms. Learn more about soy in my article Little Known Dangers of Soy.

Sneaky Legumes: Soy and Peanut Oils

The most common way people unwittingly ingest beans and legumes is through cooking oils. Peanut oil (a staple in many Asian restaurants), soybean oil, and other similar vegetable oils are very common cooking ingredients, with the mistaken belief that since they don’t contain animal fat, they must somehow be “heart-healthy.” Contrary to what the mainstream medical media may tell you, industrial seed oils are one of the top toxic foods you can eat.

Even naturally produced seed oils contain high levels of PUFAs (Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids) and Omega-6 fatty acids, both of which are inflammatory. Since PUFAs are very unstable fats, these oils can easily oxidize, a process that produces harmful molecules called free radicals. When you cook with the oil, this process accelerates, producing even more. These free radicals are a major driver in inflammation and oxidative stress, the main culprit behind aging and many chronic degenerative diseases. The more PUFA’s you eat, the lower will be your energy and vitality levels and the shorter will be your lifespan. (9)

Peanut oil is bad enough even though it’s the product of a fairly simple procedure – grinding. Soybean oil is far more concerning because of the way it’s processed. From start to finish, soybean oil is a product of modern monoculture farming. To produce this particular food product, the oil company first extracts the oil from the beans using a chemical called hexane, a byproduct of the process that refines crude oil into gasoline. Hexane is a known human carcinogen, of which residues are left in the final product. If that isn’t unappetizing enough, the oils are washed and purified with various chemical solutions, heated to very high temperatures in the process, and then bleached to remove unwanted color and smells. Good stuff.

Beware when eating at Asian restaurants. Almost as a rule, they use soybean or peanut oil. But so do a ton of other restaurants, so ask what kind of oil in which your food will be soaked. In short, soy and peanut oils, as do all vegetable seed oils, contain natural plant toxins and artificial toxins introduced during industrial processing. Vegetable and legume oil consumption is associated with higher rates of heart disease mortality, depression, violence, cancer, IBS and other bowel disease and liver damage. Stir fry anyone? (9)

The Musical Fruit

Beans, beans, the musical fruit. The more you eat, the more you toot. If beans or legumes like lentils make you play your Scottish bagpipes, you likely don’t digest them well. Perhaps you shouldn’t eat them. But don’t blame your flatulence on the poor legumes directly. The blame lies instead with the loads of little critters teeming in your gut.

Bean’s natural sweetness comes from a group of sugars called oligosaccharides. These sugars are hulking, awkward molecules. They’re far too big to slip through the intestinal wall on their own, and our guts’ enzymatic tool kit doesn’t have the right stuff to break the big things apart into more manageable pieces. So the sugars get a free ride though the small intestine. No one messes with them, and they move on into the large intestine intact.

Here their journey comes to a halt when they’re greeted by some of your closest friends, the 500+ species of bacteria that call your lower gut home. Never ashamed to have at your leftovers, the bacteria dig into the sugars. As they eat, their metabolic activity produces gases, hydrogen and methane among them. All that gas accumulates and eventually escapes your body as a fart, which may or may not be blamed on the dog.

At one point in my life I was vegetarian for two years. This walk down torture lane was my attempt to figure out what healthy eating looked like. Boy did I walk down the wrong road. For two years I stuffed my face with a cup of beans everyday per Joel Fuhrman’s advice. It dawned on my husband one day that he married a fart machine. I couldn’t go five minutes without farting. Farting had become my identity. It was who I was. Today, I definitely limit my bean intake.

You Can Eat Green Beans and Peas

Green beans and peas are somewhat of a special case. When we eat green beans and similar vegetables like snow peas, we eat the pod with the seeds – the seed contains the vast majority of the problematic elements. Thus, a serving of green beans has far less toxins than a serving of soybeans. Most people aren’t horsing down green beans and peas as a staple food – most of us might have a serving once a week or so, but they’re likely not a staple food. Since they contain comparatively fewer problematic elements, and since they aren’t a major component of anyone’s diet, green beans are often regarded as an acceptable Paleo side dish.

The Final Word

 

One problem with beans and legumes is the fact that they can crowd out more healthful, nutrient dense foods like animal products.  Legumes are not as nutrient-dense as other Paleo foods—like organ meats, meats, fish, shellfish, eggs and vegetables. I don’t care what it says on nutrition facts.org. What many people don’t realize is that this is the tally for RAW beans. Once cooked, beans do not look nearly as attractive. After you factor in the phytates, etc, they are not winning any nutrient density contents.

Maximizing nutrient-density is one of the most important things we can do to improve our health, I think it makes sense to limit consumption of legumes to a few times a week, and to prepare them properly (i.e. soak for 18 hours and cook thoroughly) when you do eat them.

Legumes is not a cause for concern as long as you’re eating them in moderation and they aren’t displacing more nutrient-dense foods from your diet (like meat). This is especially true if you are soaking legumes prior to consuming them.

Take up old traditions like soaking, sprouting and using bacterial fermentation techniques for any legume you choose to keep in your diet. Fermentation methods are especially effective. Diligent preparation is necessary for the proper digestion and nutrient absorption of legumes. I would soak them for at least 24 hours with a dash of apple cider vinegar. They should be cooked for a minimum of two hours. A leaf of dried Kombu seaweed can be cooked with the beans to turn down the volume on your colon symphony. Only then should you dare to eat beans!

Peanuts, which contain aflatoxins and heat-resistant lectins, and soy, which contain phytoestrogens, are particularly problematic. These legumes are without a doubt foods to strictly avoid.

If you have the slightest hint of digestive issues like IBS, gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, GERD or acid reflux, colitis or Crohn’s, legumes are absolutely NOT to be on your menu. You will need to heal your gut and gut microbiome before reintroducing beans.

Beans and legumes may not be Paleo, but they are on a Modern Paleo diet. Cavemen ate them and so should you.

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References

1. Abbas, Hamed K. Aflatoxin and Food Safety. CRC Press, 2005.
2. Aflatoxins: Occurrence and Health Risks, Cornell University, Department of Animal Science, retrieved February 15, 2005. http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/toxicagents/aflatoxin/aflatoxin.html
3. Alcocer-Varela, J. et al. Effects of L-canavanine on T cells may explain the induction of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus by Alfalfa. Arthritis & Rheumatism 28, no. 1. January 1985. http://pmid.us/3155617
4. Ames, B. N. and L. S. Gold. Paracelsus to Parascience: The Environmental Cancer Distraction. Mutation Research 447. No. 1. January 17, 2000. http://pmid.us/10686303
5. Brown, D. L. Canavanine-induced Longevity in Mice May Require Diets with Greater than 15.7% Protein. Nutrition & Metabolism 2, no. 1. February 25, 2005. http://pmid.us/15733319.
6. Daniel, Kaayla T. The Whole Soy Story. New Trends Publishing, 2005.
7. Divi, R.L. and Doerge, D.R. Inhibition of thyroid peroxidase by dietary flavonoids. Chem. Res. Toxicol. 9, 16-23, 1996. Chem Res Toxicol. 1996 Jan-Feb;9(1):16-20
8. Gupta, Sanjay. If we are what we eat, Americans are corn and soy. September 22, 2007. http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/diet.fitness/09/22/kd.gupta.column/
9. Jaminet, Paul. Jaminet, Shou-Ching. The Perfect Health Diet. Scribner, 2012.
10. http://www.pnas.org/content/108/2/486.short
11. Kresser, Chris. Revolution Health Radio Podcast. RHR: What Science Really Says About the Paleo Diet – With Mat Lalonde. June 13, 2012. http://chriskresser.com/rhr-what-science-really-says-about-the-paleo-diet-with-mat-lalonde
12. Medline Plus. Aflatoxin. January 30, 2013. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002429.htm
13. Rhodes, Jonathan, MD. Genetically modified foods and the Pusztai affair. BMJ. 1999 May 8; 318(7193): 1284 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1115659/
14. Williams JH, Phillips TD, Jolly PE, Stiles JK, Jolly CM, Aggarwal D. “Human aflatoxicosis in developing countries: a review of toxicology, exposure, potential health consequences, and interventions”. November 2004. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 80 (5): 1106–22. PMID 15531656. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/80/5/1106.full
15. Wilson, Lawrence, MD. Copper Toxicity Syndrome. July 2011. http://www.drlwilson.com/articles/copper_toxicity_syndrome.htm
16.Lajolo, F., and M. Genovese. “Nutritional Significance of Lectins and Enzyme Inhibitors from Legumes.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 50.22 (2002): 6592-598. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 24 Sept. 2002. Web. 03 May 2015. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12381157
17. Kritchevsky, D., S. Tepper, and D. Klurfeld. “Lectin May Contribute to the Atherogenicity of Peanut Oil.” Lipids 33.8 (1998): 821-23. National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 1998. Web. 03 May 2015.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9727614
18. Guyenet, S. “Whole Health Source: Beans, Lentils, and the Paleo Diet.” Whole Health Source: Beans, Lentils, and the Paleo Diet. Whole Health Source, 23 Nov. 2013. Web. 03 May 2015. http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2013/11/beans-lentils-and-paleo-diet.html
19. Nikoley, R. “Down the Rabbit Hole: When Phytate Becomes a Nutrient.” Free The Animal. Free The Animal, 25 Feb. 2015. Web. 03 May 2015. http://freetheanimal.com/2014/02/phytate-becomes-nutrient.html
20. Guyenet, S. “Polyphenols, Hormesis and Disease: Part I.” Whole Health Source: Polyphenols, Hormesis and Disease: Part I. Whole Health Source, 13 Feb. 2011. Web. 03 May 2015. http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2011/02/polyphenols-hormesis-and-disease-part-i.html

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in Articles/Diet/Modern Paleo/Nutrition

Wendy Myers, FDN, CHHC, is a functional diagnostic nutritionist, certified holistic health coach and founder of Live to 110. Her passions include getting you healthy, Modern Paleo, retoxing and detoxing. Discover her Mineral Power Program and enjoy freedom from fatigue and brain fog with metal detox.

  • A light and interesting post.
    J

  • Yes but the way they calculate nutrients is burning it up. This is not how our digestion works. It also doesn’t account for how food toxins prevent absorption.

  • You’ll also notice this little article has no references to substantiate what’s it’s saying. A little of what it’s saying is true but it’s very complete info. And saying that soy has health benefits is a joke.

  • The references are all over. in the videos he says every single study he is speaking of…… I agree that toxins are all around us, however there is very substantial research showing that animal protein increases the carcinogenic and autogenic effects of these toxins……. How many vegans and vegetarians do you see dying from metabolic syndrome as apposed to people who are meat eaters?

  • Sorry, I didn’t catch the references. But, I politely disagree. I used to be vegan and bought into all that nonsense. Most meat eaters don’t have healthy lifestyles. This is why they are sick. They tend to drink, smoke and not exercise. Vegans lead healthier lifestyles but they also die of cancer and stroke etc. they also routinely suffer from IBS, nutrient deficiency, adrenal fatigue and low thyroid. This is inherent in eating lots of grains and skipping nutrient and mineral dense meat. I see it every day in my practice. This is exactly what happened to me. When you deal with these health conditions, i eventually leads to disease, just a different route. So, while vegans may not suffer metabolic disease or heart attacks, they are felled by other issues. If you don’t eat meat, which has sulfur- containing amino acids, the phase II detoxification pathway of your liver can’t work. So, they accumulate more toxins. You’re screwed either way – veggie or meat eating.

    • I will listen to the podcast when I have a moment, but I really don’t think the China study, the EPIC study, studies done by Loma Linda, and hundreds more showing that a whole foods plant based diet is best for optimal health are wrong.

  • I’ve studied them backwards and forwards. They suffer from what’s called the healthy user bias. What I mentioned before about vegans and veggies having healthier lifestyles. And they eat more vegetables, which is always good. I talk all about this in this article:
    https://liveto110.com/red-meat-does-not-cause-disease/
    My whole beef with the movement is that if the diet is so healthy, why did it make me sick. And why, if we ate meat for millions of years, is meat all of a sudden bad for us, factory farming aside. It just doesn’t really make sense. I don’t care what a study says. We’ve always eaten meat and our body has evolved and functions with the components of meat. The veggie books and studies don’t paint a complete picture. Therefore I deem them biased. My favorite book is the perfect health diet. It’s full of over 1000 scientific references. It’s pretty amazing. I interviewed the author Paul jaminet in the podcast. I’d check that out too. Peace.

    • I will definately look into all of these resources and get back to you. I don’t think the studies are bias. They accounted for subjects that drank and smoked. Also, paleolithic man rarely ate meat. Their diet was mainly plant based. They have fossil records of teeth with seed and plants stuck inside. They didn’t have refrigerators to keep their meat fresh for days and weeks.

      • Mike Randolph

        I agree with most of your comment,& true prehistorics had no fridge however they did have lots of ice.. and fire for drying the meats and salt for dehydrating it into jerkey which can stay good for many months.

  • Urvashi

    Interesting article. It’s well known that people react to legumes and beans differently. It certainly explains why, when I lived 3 years in the USA, I would feel violently ill every single time I had Mexican food or anything that contained for example re-fried beans. But the same was not true when I returned to India, where people at home still soak their beans or sprout them before cooking and consuming them.

    • Yes, the soaking makes a huge difference!! I have issues with beans, but I’m fine with hummus! Everyone has to figure their food journey out and determine what works for them.

  • Oh come on!!!! This article is the biggest load of BS I have ever read. Ten months ago, I was 366 pounds. I ate my fair share of beans and I still lost 161 pounds. I am also more healthy than I have ever been in my entire life. So believe nothing in this article.

    • I’m not saying that no one can eat beans. Many people do have issues with beans, you’re just not one of them. So eat your beans!!

      • Mike Randolph

        I do agree beans need to be washed & soaked to remove most of the toxins but youre simply very sensitive to beans. 90% of humans dont experience anywhere near the amount of problems with beans you do. Quit encoraging healthy vegans to drop beans& nuts. Theyre good for us and great testosterone builders.Recent research has shown that black beans provide special support for digestive tract health, and particularly our colon. The indigestible fraction (IF) in black beans has recently been shown to be larger than the IF in either lentils or chickpeas. It has been shown to be the perfect mix of substances for allowing bacteria in the colon to produce butyric acid. Cells lining the inside of the colon can use this butyric acid to fuel their many activities and keep the lower digestive tract functioning properly. By delivering a greater amount of IF to the colon, black beans are able to help support this lower part of our digestive tract. Lowered colon cancer risk that is associated with black bean intake in some research studies may be related to the outstanding IF content of this legume.

        The soaking of black beans in water has always found fairly widespread support in food science research as a way of improving overall black bean benefits. Yet, the discarding of the bean soaking water has been a topic of considerable controversy. A recent study that may help put this controversy to rest looked at many different advantages and disadvantages of tossing out the water used to soak beans. It found that the advantages clearly outweigh the disadvantages. On the advantage side of things, getting rid of the soaking water also means getting rid of some of the phytates and tannins that can lower nutrient availability. It also means reducing flatulence-related substances like raffinose (up to 33% removed along with the soaking water) and stachyose (up to 20% removed). A final advantage was the retention of resistant starch. While some of the total carbohydrate content in the black beans was lost along with the discarding of the soaking water, the amount of resistant starch remained unchanged. (Resistant starch is a type of carb that will typically make its way all the way down to the large intestine without being digested. Once it arrives in the large intestine, it can help support the growth of desirable bacteria in that area of the digestive tract.) On the disadvantage side of things was that 15% of total phenols were lost, we actually don’t think that that is an amount that is of concern. There was a slight loss of some additional phytonutrients as well as minerals. When adding up all of their findings, the researchers concluded that the many advantages of discarding bean soaking water clearly outweighed the disadvantages and then made this recommendation a firm part of their research conclusions.

        We tend to think about brightly colored fruits and vegetables as our best source of phytonutrients, but recent research has recognized black beans as a strong contender in phytonutrient benefits. The seed coat of the black bean (the outermost part that we recognize as the bean’s surface) is an outstanding source of three anthocyanin flavonoids: delphinidin, petunidin, and malvidin. These three anthocyanins are primarily responsible for the rich black color that we see on the bean surface. Kaempferol and quercetin are additional flavonoids provided by this legume. Also contained in black beans are hydroxycinnamic acids including ferulic, sinapic, and chlorogenic acid, as well as numerous triterpenoids.

        In Brazil—a country that, along with India, grows more black beans than any country in the world— beans have been given an exclusive place on the Brazilian Food Pyramid. In other words, beans are recommended as their own unique food group! The country’s 2006 Food Guide for the Brazilian Population recommends that beans be consumed at least once every day. That recommendation is actually quite close to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which establish 3 cups of cooked legumes per week, or 1/2 cup serving six days per week, as the minimum desired amount. Recent research linking bean intake to lower risk of type 2 diabetes, many types of cardiovascular disease, and several types of cancer was one of the key factors used by the Brazilian government and the U.S. government in establishing their bean intake recommendations.

      • Mike Randolph

        Sorry, but Most of your article here is bullshit and not supported by sufficient research.

        • This article was based upon Dr. Paul Jaminet’s work. He is the author of the Perfect Health Diet, which is one of the most exhaustive books on diet I have been able to find. You can take a peek and this book and the 1000 scientific studies the book quotes and see for yourself. They feel that there is not adequate research on legumes and generally recommend avoiding or limiting them.

  • CP

    This was a funny article. And here is Jaminet’s cv summary from his website: Paul Jaminet, Ph.D. Paul was an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, became a software entrepreneur during the Internet boom, and now provides strategic advice to entrepreneurial companies while pursuing research in economics (see pauljaminet.com for more information). Paul’s experience overcoming a chronic illness has been key to our views of aging and disease. Smart? Probably. Medical Doctor? Doesn’t look like it. Doesn’t look like he even started looking into any of this until quite recently. Plus, quite frankly, if you look at his picture, he seems a little, well, overweight. Just sayin…

    • Translation: he’s an incredibly smart guy. He happens to be one of the most respected food researchers in the Paleo community. His wife, who co-wrote the book is a cancer researcher. You might want to give the book a read. It cites over 1000 research studies. it’s exhaustively researched with every sentence supported by a study. The LAST degree you need to write about nutrition is an MD degree. They don’t teach nutrition in Med school. If they do, it’s a few hours.

  • bob

    I work with a woman who is on the Paleo diet. She eats alot of greens and meat, meat, meat. She hasnt’ lost weight. She bikes, runs, etc. Let’s all eat tons of read meat and clog our arteries. And as for ancient man, I believe they didn’t live pass 30 years old.

    • If someone is not losing weight on a Paleo diet it’s because their metabolism is damaged in some way. You don’t know what kind of diets she’s done her whole life to damage her metabolism. Most people who don’t lose weight have thyroid issues and adrenal fatigue. Many people eat too much fat when they’re trying to lose weight – this is especially bad if you have a slowed metabolism. They don’t burn fat as efficiently for fuel. Weight loss is not as simple as diet. One must fix their broken metabolism.

  • Yes, I have read The Blue Zone. Many of the longest lived people eat beans – but they are eating them traditionally prepared. People in the US are NOT for the most part. If you read the article completely, I said that bean are fine to eat if you don’t have an issue with them. The article is pointing out potential issues beans can pose and to not automatically assume that they work for you and are good for everyone. I did say that when they are prepared properly – cooking for hours and hours – how they are traditionally prepared in many cultures that this mitigates some of the issues I discuss in the article.

    • Bryce

      Yeah, sorry but that’s complete bullcrap right there.

      I cite your passage above: “If you read the article completely, I said that bean are fine to eat if you don’t have an issue with them. The article is pointing out potential issues beans can pose and to not automatically assume that they work for you and are good for everyone.”

      And yet, you title your article “Think Beans And Legumes Are Good For You? Think Again!” and insert “Why Beans Are Bad” with a diagram!!

      Please lady, you’re clearly one of these paleo nutters with an equally clear agenda. And hey, if that’s your thing whatever, just stand by what you write. Don’t back pedal when called out, and pass off that you’re aiming at teaching people how to properly prepare legumes – because you’re NOT. You’re pushing a crappy excuse for a diet (paleo), when no current human was alive during those times, so we can’t possibly presume to fully understand the geographical and social causes and relationships of and between different societies, thus building their respective agricultural systems and resulting diets.

      Also, below you state: “If someone is not losing weight on a Paleo diet it’s because their metabolism is damaged in some way.” Who on earth are you to make such an authoritative, broad-reaching statement??

      • Haha. I’d like to think I don’t shovel too much bullcrap. I write catchy titles to my articles because if they don’t grab your attention no ones reads them. And I don’t backpedal in the article – it’s an article that is supporting an argument for why they don’t work for some people. I’m not a diehard Paleoista. This is why my diet is called Modern Paleo. If you read more articles you’ll see that I clearly state that many people can eat and have adapted to legumes, potatoes, dairy and grains – you just have to figure out which ones word for you. Hence, I present an argument for why one may not want to eat them and then clearly state that even in light of this, you still may be able to eat them. I encorage people to experiment. You would be surprised how many people don’t tolerate legumes no matter how good they may be for you.

        As far as my statement that people’s metabolisms are damaged, this is obvious. The world is full of obese and overweight people – and it’s not just from the food they’re eating. It’s from obesogenic chemicals that cause the proliferation of fat cells – there have been at least 20 identified. Most notably, however, is adrenal fatigue and thyroid issues that are caused by nutrient deficient diets and toxicity that prevents their functioning. These glands make your hormones, energy and set your metabolism. I have never tested a person that does not have some stage of adrenal and thyroid dysfunction. They are damaged by low nutrient status, dieting, stimulants, sugar, stress, etc. So, this is what I meant when I say a “damaged metabolism.” I have so many clients that eat an insanely healthy diet and cannot lose weight for these very reasons. I help them overcome these issues so that they are able to lose weight on a diet that would promote weight loss in a healthier individual.

  • If you read the article I mentioned that legumes are cooked properly in India and other cultures, reducing the harmful properties of some legumes. In the US, people are not eating them properly and they have more harmful effects.

    • carmen22

      Sure, you mentioned reducing harmful properties. You also implied that India and Latin American countries’ (relatively recent) increases in obesity and diabetes are somehow linked to the thousands-of-years-old consumption of beans and legumes. It is infinitely more likely that the rise in these chronic health issues have more to do with the influx of highly processed foods and sugary drinks in these countries as well as decreased physical activity as they industrialize. As others have implied, the tone of this article comes off quite disrespectfully toward ancient cultures while lacking substantial scientific backing.

      • NO, I did not imply that some country’s obesity is due to legumes. In fact, I said that because these countries soak their legumes, this is why they don’t have the problems with legumes that we do in the US, where we don’t traditionally prepare them. I in no way implied that major health issues are caused by legumes. I merely talk about some of the issues that some individual can have with legumes. This is a very real issue. This article does not condemn all legume consumption. Like I have stated in the article -this article is more for people that have an issue with legumes and lets them know why.

  • Well, I certainly don’t recommend avoiding meat!! People think of it as merely protein but it is mineral rich, has fats that our bodies need etc. Please still incorporate a little! Peas and green beans seem to be the least pesky of the legumes. So, try those. And do still eat some animal protein even if it’s just in the form of dairy and eggs. People that get their proteins from plants don’t get proteins in the correct ratios, which throws them off kilter. You might get all of them from plants, but not in the right ratios.

  • Someone

    I’m one of those that was vegetarian for one and half years and ended up eating meat again due to IBS that i was creating by eating this way. I destroyed my gut, I could feel the inflammation. I actually went to the emergency room one night because I was in extreme abdominal pain and thought I had appendicitis but it was just gas!!! So after having severe bloating and pain issues I finally gave up the beans and lentils and went back to meat. I now follow the low fodmap diet as this seems to be my issue and I feel like I damaged my gut because I never had all these IBS issues before trying the vegetarian diet. I increased all the non low fodmap foods when I became vegetarian not knowing that I had issues with these fermentable sugars.

    • I hear this a lot!! Many vegetarians develop IBS or other serious intestinal conditions due to eating too many beans and grains in the diet, especially soy, which can really do a number on the gut.

  • Jake

    Wow, what a fantastic load of tosh. I can’t even bother starting to waist my time to pick this preaching article apart… References including such fantastically reliable sources such as CNN!

  • Yes, I completely agree with you. Most studies today are funded by BigPHarma or BigAgra. Not much great research going on today. I think it’s another issue where the food one consumes and tolerated is a very individual matter. I simply wanted to highlight some downsides to beans that some experience, though they are tolerated by many folks.

  • Brian

    If you want to talk about toxins coming from protein-rich foods make a smear article about meat. The number of things wrong with meat is much higher than that of a typical plant.

    • Any food can be toxic in large amounts. Beans can be toxic if overconsumed and so can meat. This article is about why some people don’t tolerate legumes. It’s not an all out smear campaign. Many tolerate beans just fine. This article is for those that don’t tolerate them well and may be wondering why.

      • The Guest

        “This article is about why some people don’t tolerate legumes.” This article is for those that (BTW, it’s “who”) don’t tolerate them well and may be wondering why.”

        No it’s not!

        “Advocates of the Paleo diet advise to avoid legumes on the basis that ancient man did not consume them. And they would be correct! I think beans should be avoided for the most part. I’m going to tell you exactly why and which beans are safe to eat.”
        It is a smear, poorly researched and written, complete gobbledygook! It’s the diet industry mouth piece getting their pants in a bunch because people are seeing the light (among other things).

  • Walker_1

    That’s not entirely accurate. Beans that don’t require presoaking like black lentils are very nutritious and contain minerals like phosphorus that are good for bones. I’m not vegetarian. I eat small amounts of fish and eggs, but I also eat lentils regularly. I think both Paleo and vegan diets are extreme.

  • The Guest

    Someone doesn’t like Fuhrman calling out the billion dollar “diet” industry, so let’s pretend beans and legumes will kill you. . . Please, this article is embarrassing. Lots of fear mongering drama and few facts. It’ll kill ya by jeepers . . . uhuh.

    • If you’ve read previous comments or the entire article, you would see this article is more for people that have an issue with beans. It talks about all the components of beans that can be problematic. And if they are prepared properly they cause far fewer issues. Many can tolerate them. this article is for the people that have issues with them and are wondering why.

  • OH all the foods, they are the top 10 foods highest in copper. they may have zinc, but if the nuts are not soaked, you may not absorb much zinc. The minerals in meat are much more bioavaibable and more readily absorbed.

    It’s not the foods that are as much of an issue, but it you overeat nuts, you can accumulate too much copper. You have to understand it’s a complex issue.

    The main causes copper toxicity are adrenal fatigue, poor liver function and exposing yourself to estrogen like birth control pills, copper IUD’s and estrogen hormone replacement. When you have adrenal fatigue, you can’t utilize copper and it builds up.

    • you didn’t read my question very carefully. The ratio of zinc to copper in nuts and legumes is often BETTER THAN THE RATIO IN MEAT. You can see this by checking nutritional data on all these foods. Have you actually looked at them or are you simply parroting what everyone else is saying about nuts and seeds and legumes vs. meat?

      Since I soak, sprout and pressure cook my legumes (and nuts, save the pressure cooking) I can’t imagine the phytates remain an issue and since the zinc/copper ratio is actually quite good (AGAIN, better than some meats in some instances).

      I will move forward that way because I’ve actually looked at the ratios.

      I really get tired of ideologically driven information and lately that’s what seems to be what one gets all over the place if one doesn’t do the source research for oneself. Please take a look at the nutritional information for yourself.

      • I did read your question very carefully. But again I reiterate that the issue is that the zinc and copper and nuts are in forms that are no as bioavailable and usable by the body. Minerals are more bioavailable in animal proteins.

        The copper is only an issue if you overeat nuts and beans like many vegetarians are doing. But the nutritional sources of copper are not really the issue. I don’t advise people to avoid nuts – just to eat them in moderation and soaked. Diet is least of people’s worries when it comes to copper. It’s more the issue with adrenal fatigue and body chemistry imbalances that foster copper toxicity.

        • “Diet is least of people’s worries when it comes to copper. It’s more the issue with adrenal fatigue and body chemistry imbalances that foster copper toxicity.”

          I appreciate that piece of info…I think stress contributes to those imbalances…and so meditation and lifestyle habits of that sort are likely to help more than diet alone.

  • I don’t buy one thing that Mark Fuhrman says. I’ve read all his books. You MUST eat meat to get adequate zinc levels. copper and zinc must be balanced. And you’re only going to get balance bioavailable zinc and copper in meat. to balance copper is very tricky. The only way I know how to do it is healing and detoxing the body with mineralpower.com. You can’t just take zinc and call it a day.

    • at this point I’m not sure I buy anything you say since you’ve clearly not compared nuts and seeds with meats. Frankly you and Mark Fuhrman strike me as very similar. Ideologues. I’m not a big fan of a lot of what he says either. I go for what the body actually needs and responds to rather than what is strictly paleo or vegan or whatever.

      • If you’ve read my site you’ll see this is not a strict Paleo site. it’s MODERN Paleo where I encourage people to find the foods that work for them even if they’re not accepted on the Paleo diet. I don’t buy the Paleo diet one bit. It needs to include healthy newer foods if they are tolerated. I’m not a fan of ideologues either.

  • Guest

    P.S2. “They have evolved over millions of years to prevent being eaten by pests, most notably humans.” this is the biggest stup… they produce toxin for pests and human are not pests, and plants can handle only small pests, they cant protect themself from rats(0.5 kg weight) not mention human. “1.5 grams daily” now look at toxic doses.

  • Mike

    Search Google for anything related to nutrition and these “primal” tool-bags now take up half the results. I don’t know what’s worse… the fact that you call yourself a “certified holistic health coach” (whatever the f— that’s supposed to be), or that people are desperate enough to pay you money.

  • Valeria

    Very interesting. However have to disagree on Asian consumption of soy facts. I live in Shanghai and have lived around Mainland China for past 10 years. Soy is not a condiment-tofu is consumed in high quantities, including what is known in English as silken tofu, which is a breakfast for a lot of people. Soy milk machines (which essentially is a blender that also heats the food up) are abundant in households, soy sauce is a condiment used for every dish. While Chinese society has its health problems like obesity and diabetes (from adoption of very fashionable “Western diet”, only the affluent used to be able to go eat at KFC and McDonalds, but now society is getting richer), breast cancer, for example, is not as common, at least in scale of population. Lung cancer is a primary killer (80% of males are smokers). Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners I have worked with never vilify soy and some recommend it particularly for menopause and retaining youth. And lastly China specifically is traditionally a mostly vegetarian society, so a lot of people do get their protein from soy products.

  • Yes, but you’re forgetting the lifestyle factors that also contributed to the 7th day adventists health. They didn’t drink, smoke, they exercise more and generally take care of themselves better. I explain this phenomenon (called the health user bias) and why it’s not necessarily their plant based diet, but their lifestyle that contributed to their longevity. Many vegetarians looking to support their diet mistakenly don’t factor in this very crucial aspect when it comes to analyzing studies. https://liveto110.com/red-meat-does-not-cause-disease/