Vegetables

food

We are told that vegetables are powerful and virtuous—that they fight off cancer, sweep our digestive systems clean, and strengthen our immune system —that they can leap tall buildings in a single bound. Yet vegetables have a dark side. They don’t want to be eaten any more than animals do, and use sophisticated chemical weapons to defend themselves…

Click HERE to watch a video of my presentation entitled “Little Shop of Horrors: The Risks and Benefits of Eating Vegetables” given at the 2012 Ancestral Health Symposium at Harvard University.

Vegetable Psychology

We think of them as virtuous, vital components of a healthy diet, yet vegetables are cunning and manipulative.

Deep down they don’t care about us.
Our health is not their top priority; their top priority is their own survival.
Plants have been on earth for hundreds of millions of years and they have learned a thing or two about survival.

Pretend you are a plant.

You can’t run away from animals that stop to dine on you.
You can’t growl to scare predators away.
You can’t wander around to meet other plants and reproduce.
You can’t brush off caterpillars that are nibbling on you.
You can’t swat away the insects that stop to bite you.

How do you protect yourself?

Well, you might have thorns or other special structures to help deter some invaders, but mostly you use chemical weapons…and very sophisticated ones, at that. Plants have been on this planet a lot longer than we have and they’ve got our number. They know what we like and don’t like. They know how our cells work. They know our strengths and weaknesses.

They have gone out of their way to make some vegetable parts taste bitter, so that we are less likely to want to eat them. In fact, the produce industry has had to work hard to breed bitterness out of vegetables so that we will be more likely to buy them. These bitter substances not only taste bad, they also function as highly specialized pesticides that are designed to kill insects, larvae, worms, bacteria, and fungi. These include things like:

  • Specialized immune system molecules that recognize invaders, attach to them, and mark them for the kill.
  • Poisons that kill cells and mitochondria by bursting their membranes open.
  • Enzyme inhibitors that interfere with vital metabolic reactions.
  • Oxidative toxins that break DNA strands

Because we believe that vegetables are good for us, we spend lots of time, energy, and money trying to prove how these bitter pesticides might be beneficial to human health. Because many of these same chemicals function as “anti-oxidants” in the laboratory, scientists enjoy studying how they might be used to fight cancer and other diseases.

Fair enough, but wouldn’t it make sense to also wonder whether these chemicals might be harmful to us?

What are vegetables?

Vegetables are any plant parts that are not fruits, seeds, or flowers. Vegetable parts include roots, tubers, bulbs, stems, and leaves. Plants want animals to eat their fruits (and interact with their flowers and seeds), but plants need to protect other body parts–their vegetable parts— from predators, so they can survive. I would argue that plants do not want their vegetable parts to be eaten.

Roots and Tubers

Examples of roots: carrots and beets
Examples of tubers: potatoes and yams

Roots and tubers are carbohydrate storage organs, so they are mostly made of starch. Starch is what plants use for energy (animals prefer to use fat). Starch is very heavy, so it’s easiest for the plant to store it on the ground or underground, in roots and tubers, instead of up top in branches or leaves.

Bulbs

Examples of bulbs: onions, garlic

Bulbs are immature plants that contain lots of starch to nourish the baby into adulthood.

Stems

Examples of stems: broccoli, asparagus, celery

The job of the stem is to hold the plant upright and deliver nutrients from its roots to its tips, so it has to be strong. This is why stems are very high in insoluble fiber, or cellulose. This is a very tough, stringy, woody type of plant carbohydrate that humans cannot digest.

Leaves

Examples of leaves: spinach, lettuce, kale

The leaf is the plant’s solar panel, catching the sun’s rays and turning them into energy through photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the magical process that plants use to turn carbon dioxide and water into sugar and oxygen, using sunlight.

Do we need vegetables in our diet?

As outrageous as this may sound, I find no scientific evidence that vegetables are essential components of the human diet, because I am not aware of a single study that compares a diet containing vegetables to a diet without vegetables.

Thankfully, scientific laboratories are not our only sources of valuable information about the world. There’s real life evidence we can turn to that can answer our question.

We happen to know that a number of populations throughout history have eaten diets containing extremely few or even no vegetables, and historical reports tell us that these people were very healthy. Eskimo populations at the turn of the 20th Century are the clearest examples of this phenomenon. Nothing grows up there, so these frozen folks had no choice but to eat an essentially all-animal diet. Physician explorers of the time (before trade routes exposed traditional peoples to outside foods) observed that cancer was virtually nonexistent in Eskimo villages. Even if the historical record doesn’t prompt you to wonder whether vegetables are really necessary in the fight against cancer, it should at least convince you that vegetables are not required in the human diet for daily bodily function. That these people were somehow able to get all of their essential vitamins and minerals entirely from animal foods I find to be fascinating and important information. These were not short-term studies lasting weeks or months or a couple of years. These were real people living entire lifetimes, being physically active, reproducing, etc., with little to no vegetable matter in their diet (and therefore virtually no carbohydrate). No biased researchers, no study subjects guessing about what they ate or cheating on their diets. I would argue that this kind of evidence is far more convincing than any scientific study.

Are vegetables good for us?

Okay, so they don’t seem to be necessary, but how do we know that Eskimos wouldn’t have been even healthier if they had added vegetables to their all-meat diet? We don’t know. So let’s look at the scientific research to see what it tells us about vegetables and health.

The reason why we are led to believe that vegetables are good for us is that there are thousands of epidemiological studies comparing high-vegetable diets to low-vegetable diets, and often (but not always), the people eating high-vegetable diets seem healthier. So why isn’t that convincing? Because when epidemiologists compare two different diets, there are usually LOTS of differences between those two diets, not just the amount of vegetable consumed.

For example, because people believe vegetables are healthy, people who eat more vegetables tend to be more health-conscious in general. However, health-conscious people also tend to do lots of other things differently from the average person—they may eat less processed food, drink less alcohol, smoke less, eat less sugar, count calories, exercise more, etc. These other differences are very hard to account for in studies. The only way to really figure out if vegetables are healthy is to compare a diet with vegetables to a diet without vegetables. I know of no scientific study that has done this.

So, epidemiological studies suggest that people who eat more vegetables might be healthier. In order to prove this hypothesis, we need to do experiments. What do actual clinical experiments tell us?

I compiled the following information for a recent presentation I gave at the Ancestral Health Symposium:

As of this writing (August 2012), there are 762 clinical studies listed in PubMed (a scientific search engine) having to do with vegetables and human health. Most of these are studies of how to get people to eat more vegetables; there are very few clinical trials attempting to show that vegetables are healthy. There were only 38 clinical studies designed to evaluate specific health effects of actual vegetables (as opposed to special concentrated vegetable extracts or isolated vegetable nutrients), and the vast majority of these (31 of the 38), unfortunately, used fruits and vegetables, instead of just vegetables. Fruits are so different from vegetables that it’s like comparing apples and oranges…except that it’s even worse, because at least apples and oranges are both fruits! However, let’s try to ignore these major design flaws and see what researchers found.

18 of these 38 clinical studies were “negative”, meaning the researchers did not find the health benefit they were looking for.  The remaining 20 studies were “positive”, meaning researchers found a health benefit when they compared groups of people who ate more (fruits and) vegetables to those who ate less of these foods.

20 positive studies is nothing to sneeze at, so at first glance, one might think that eating more (fruits and) vegetables might be a good idea. However, upon closer scrutiny, flaws become obvious that make it impossible, unfortunately, to know whether the results are actually due to the (fruits and) vegetables and not to some other factor.

Of the 20 “positive” studies, 10 did not take refined carbohydrate into consideration. This means that the group of people who ate more (fruits and) vegetables might have been healthier because they were eating less refined carbohydrate than the group that ate fewer vegetables.

The remaining 10 “positive” studies did not simply increase the amount of (fruits and) vegetables people ate; they also changed other aspects of lifestyle, such as fat consumption, alcohol intake, smoking, exercise, salt use, and/or refined carbohydrate intake. Therefore, we do not know whether the people who ate more (fruits and) vegetables were healthier because of the vegetables or because of some other aspect of the intervention.

Oh, and In case you’re wondering, of the 7 lonely studies that did look only at vegetables (instead of fruits and vegetables together), 6 of those 7 studies just happened to fall into the negative category, meaning that the vegetable(s) did not provide the health benefit expected. Hmmm.

So, we don’t have any clear scientific proof yet that vegetables are healthy for us. However, just because scientists have not yet conducted the kinds of studies that can tell us whether vegetables are healthy does not mean that they are not good for us; it just means that the idea that vegetables are good for us remains an unproven hypothesis.

Don’t we need to eat vegetables for fiber?  

Fiber is an important enough topic that I gave it its own page on the site.

Aren’t vegetarians healthier than other people?

For detailed information about this question, please see vegetarian diets and vegan diets.  

Aren’t vegetables important sources of vitamins and minerals?

Below is a copy of a PowerPoint slide I prepared for a presentation at the 2012 Ancestral Health Symposium entitled “Little Shop of Horrors: the risks and benefits of eating plants.” In this slide you can see that animal products are superior sources of most essential vitamins and minerals, including 4 that do not exist in plant foods at all:


Aren’t vegetable antioxidants important for health?

This is a very complicated topic, and I’ll be writing lots more about this over time. For starters, many vegetable antioxidants that appear to have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties in laboratory studies also happen to be the same chemical weapons that plants use to defend themselves.  Therefore, it makes sense that many of these isolated compounds not only have the power to kill cancer cells, they also have the power to kill healthy, normal cells. Like any form of chemotherapy, the most powerful vegetable antioxidants are, at best, double-edged swords.

Since antioxidants from each vegetable family are numerous, unique and complex, they will be explored in detail in the special occasional articles in my food blog. From cruciferous vegetables like broccoli to nightshades like white potato, you will discover the clever ways in which each vegetable family protects itself in the world, and how its specialized defensive chemicals affect your body.

The first Veggie blog post feature is already available:  Click HERE to read “Is Broccoli Good for You? Meet the Crucifer Family.”

The second Veggie blog post feature is now available:  Click HERE to read “How Deadly Are Nightshades?”, which includes lots of interesting information about potatoes, as well as about tomatoes and eggplants (which are actually fruits masquerading as vegetables).

Bottom Line about Vegetables

There is no scientific evidence proving that vegetables are necessary, let alone good for us.  However, most vegetables are naturally filling, low in carbohydrate, and low in calories, and therefore may be useful alternatives to junk food, sweets, baked goods, dairy products, and seed foods (grains, beans, nuts and seeds) when trying to control weight. Very sweet and starchy high glycemic index vegetables, such as white potatoes and beets, are exceptions to this rule.

Due to high fiber content, vegetables can be hard to digest, especially if eaten raw.

Vegetable nutrients are harder for us to absorb and use than animal food nutrients.

Vegetables contain naturally-occurring defensive chemicals that are designed to harm creatures that try to feast upon them.  These chemicals are very toxic to living cells, however, the concentrations that exist in most types of whole vegetables may be relatively safe for most people to eat in moderation.  Vegetable extracts and concentrates may not be as safe as whole vegetables because the “dose” of vegetable chemicals is much higher in these products. Some vegetable families contain more potent toxins than others, so watch my food blog for my “Vegetable of the Month” feature to learn which vegetables are most likely to cause trouble for sensitive people.

Some vegetables are actually fruits, because they contain seeds.  Examples of fruits masquerading as vegetables include:  cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, and squashes. Pureed preparations of these “vegetables” which include pureed seeds are probably riskier choices, as seeds contain especially harmful chemicals that are released when seeds are pureed.

Some vegetables are actually legumes.  Examples include green beans, wax beans, and snow peas.  The pods or beans inside of these vegetables pose special risks to our health.  For more information, see the grains/beans/nuts/seeds page.

Young vegetable sprouts contain higher concentrations of potentially harmful chemicals than mature vegetables because baby plants are vulnerable and need more protection from predators.

As a general rule, toxins are more likely to be concentrated in the skins of vegetables, to protect the plant on its outer surface.  Sensitive individuals may therefore want to skin vegetables before eating. Cooking can also reduce the activity of some of these chemicals.

We and most of our ancestors have been eating vegetables for as long as 2 million years, so our bodies have adapted some ways of handling their natural toxins that may reduce their risk to our health.  This is probably not true of “newer” foods, such as seed foods (5,000 to 10,000 years), refined carbohydrates (100-150 years), and artificial food additives (about 70 years).  Therefore, vegetables are likely to be superior choices when compared to these newer foods.

 

 

  • John Deming

    This is very useful information. Although I’ve studied nutrition and diet as a layperson, I was unaware of much of the data in this post. I’ll certainly be eating more meat from now on. And rethinking all the supplements I take. I look forward to reading Dr. Ede’s posts and articles on her common sense approach to diet.

    • suse

      I am so glad to have found this!
      I’ve wondered for years why kids innately dislike so many vegetables–and I think you’ve found the answer. otoh is the sweetness of fruit designed to appeal to humans?
      I find myself craving meat and fat, and wish I didn’t have to prepare vegetables. i’m going to think about it for real now. thank you!

      • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

        Hi Suse
        I’m glad you found the information interesting! Yes, the sweetness of certain fruits is probably designed to attract us and other creatures who like the taste of sweet things. See my blog post about cranberries or my fruits page for more fascinating fruit facts:)

  • Des

    Hi Dr. Ede, very interesting post. So, why do you suppose veggies exist then, if they don’t want to be eaten? How do veggies spread their “genes”?

    • Michal Piják

      I asume that they want to be eaten only by certain animals, e.g. true herbivores and omnivores (depending on species). :)

      • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

        It appears as if I never responded to Des’ original question–my apologies for the oversight!
        Veggies spread their genes through fruits and seeds..veggies are just the non-fruit, non-seed parts of the plant. They are simply structural components of the plant and exist to support the plant, much like our bones support our bodies.

  • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

    Hi Des,
    Vegetable parts are, by definition, the non-reproductive parts of the plant. Plants use fruits, flowers, and seeds for reproduction.

  • http://twitter.com/ambimorph L. Amber Wilcox-O’He

    Dear Dr. Ede,

    I just became aware of your work, and I wanted to thank you, and briefly tell you my story.

    I had recurrent treatment-resistant depression my whole adult life, that started rapidly turning into Bipolar II about 10 years ago (I’m 39). I knew that if I was consistent with a very low carb, ketogenic diet, it was somewhat better, but it wasn’t preventing the decline.

    Three years ago I cut vegetables out of my diet, and started eating only meat. This relieved my symptoms within a couple of weeks, and I have been in remission ever since — including being completely off drugs. This is utterly amazing to me now, as I understand that my life had turned into a semi-private hell.

    Very recently I had my only taste of a relapse: I had a theory that the reason I see such a huge difference between merely low carb and a carnivorous diet is that I have candida, and that it flourishes on a minute amount of carbohydrates. So I started “treating” it with herbal anti-fungals, i.e. concentrated plant poisons, like garlic, turmeric, and oil of oregano.

    Within a month, I was having severe mood disturbances that terrified me. I stopped all the herbs, and it took only a few days to get most of the way back to normal. So now, although I know I am very carb-sensitive as well, I understand that at least some plants are also significantly hurting me through a mechanism unrelated to carbohydrates.

    I have two blogs which are both in their infancy: one is http://www.ketotic.org, which is aimed at describing the ketogenic diet as a therapy for different conditions, and a more personal blog, http://www.empiri.ca. I wrote a brief post there last week which refers to your AHS talk and your site. I also discussed the only study I knew of that compares eating (fruits and) vegetables to not eating them: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12064344 It shows less oxidative damage in the no fruits and vegetables group!

    Anyway, thank you very much for helping me accept and legitimize my seemingly bizarre response, which is not so bizarre after all.

    Best regards,
    Amber

  • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

    Hello, Amber

    Thank you so much for sharing your fascinating and inspiring story with us. Even I, who view vegetables as inherently untrustworthy and potentially damaging to the health of some individuals, would not have dared to speculate aloud that their complete elimination could cure bipolar spectrum disorders. Yet, your experience makes sense, given what is known about vegetable chemicals.

    The study you cite above is an intriguing one, and I’d only become aware of it myself a couple of weeks ago. People in the study were allowed to eat animal foods, grain foods, eggs, coffee, potatoes and carrots. If the authors had been brave enough to go all the way and remove the potatoes and carrots (or better yet, all plant foods!), I wonder if the results would have been even more striking:) This is the kind of study that really challenges our beliefs about food!

    For those of you who have not visited Amber’s sites, they are excellent and I highly recommend them. She is not only an excellent writer but also a thoughtful and methodical examiner of scientific evidence.

  • Des

    Hi Dr. Ede, What do you think about juicing or blending vegetables in order to make them more absorbable? Does that make veggies any better for us? Juicing is big in the U.S ((think “NutraBullet” and the like).

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Depends on the vegetable and the method and whether or not skins and/or seeds are included, etc.

  • Aldert

    “Photosynthesis is the magical process that plants use to turn sunlight and water into sugar and oxygen.”

    It should be: Photosynthesis is the magical process that plants use to turn carbon dioxide and water by the means of sunlight into sugar and oxygen.

    Thanks for your wonderfull blog!

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Aldert, thank you so much for catching this! It is very important to me that the information on this site is as accurate as possible. I corrected it this morning, and thank you for reading! If you notice any other problems, please let me know:)

  • Libby

    Hi– It’s Libby (I posted yesterday 2/14 over on the blog post about ketosis). I found the video and the information about vegetables absolutely fascinating. It makes sense when you think about it that vegetables would have defense mechanisms against “predators” (whether they be insects or humans) but then your mind pulls you back to the conventional wisdom that vegetables are so good for you. Your take on vegetables, and the research you have done to support it, is eye-opening.

    I learned about glycoalkaloids the hard way, in my gut (pun intended) I believe my last Crohn’s flare was set-off by eating red-skinned potatoes with the skins on. It was at a point in my dietary journey that I had taken out gluten but was still eating other grains and starchy vegetables. We had some roasted potatoes and I thought I am feeling pretty good and have been tolerating more vegetables lately so let’s leave the skins on (they are the “healthy” part after all). Well within less than 24 hours I was descending into a several months long Crohn’s flare-up.

    I have been rebuilding my intestinal health since that flare and all signs indicate remission of Crohn’s at this time. I had been trying to build-up my tolerance for vegetable matter again but was struggling to add to my small list of well-tolerated, usually well-cooked, veggies (including fruits masquerading as veg) without seeing an increase in Crohn’s symptoms. But now I see that maybe I stick with what I tolerate because my gut is feeling good and because just maybe those vegetables don’t have my best interests at heart!

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Hi Libby

      Thanks so much for watching the veggie video and sharing your feedback about it. Your personal experiences with potato skins is fascinating (such a hard-won lesson, no?) It is true that well-cooked veggies usually are better tolerated than raw veggies. Also, skinned/peeled veggies are usually better tolerated (since the skins are where most of the defensive chemicals are). If you like vegetables it makes sense to stick to the ones you discover you can tolerate—to go with your “gut instinct” so to speak. I used to love vegetables but they betrayed me…so the only true vegetable I eat with any regularity these days is lettuce. I unfortunately have become very suspicious of these supposedly “healthy” foods. It is wonderful to hear that your Crohn’s is currently in remission! I hope you continue to feel well.

    • Michal Piják

      Nightshade which include potato, tomato, eggplant and pepper) are rich source of lectins. The intestinal lining of people with Crohn’s disease and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) appear to be more sensitive to the effects of food lectins because the lining is constantly being replaced by new tissue that is made up of immature cells that are more glycosylated and thus more susceptible to lectin attachment. It becomes a vicious cycle. Blood group antigens as glycoconjugates are found on the surface of cells lining the digestive tract in addition to the blood cells and are frequently the target of specific lectins resulting in agglutination reactions.

  • rita

    Dear Dr. Ede,
    Do you know if vegetables can cause post nasal drip?

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Hi Rita

      I don’t know of any scientific information to suggest this, but I wouldn’t put it past ‘em:) Seriously, though, dairy products are far more likely to cause sinus issues. Of the vegetables, the garlic/onion/leek family can cause sinus irritation for some people. And of the other plant foods, the seeds (see my grains/beans/nuts/seeds page) can be irritating to many body systems–particularly gluten and soy. On a more general note, ANY food someone is mildly allergic to can cause sinus irritation…it can be hard to sort out post-nasal drip because it is such a common issue, but if you have chronic issues with it, it’s worth it to do a few experiments to see if you can figure it out. Good luck!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1656314999 Colleen Nusser

    This is very interesting. Your viewpoint here is not one I have ever encountered. I have read a lot of books and seen a few documentaries about food in general, and food as medicine, several of which were about or referenced the Gerson therapy, which has cured many cases of cancer. The therapy is based on the juicing of raw, organic vegetables. I’d be interested to hear your take on that. Thanks.

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Hello, Colleen

      Thank you for your question. I looked up the Gerson diet on line and learned that it is a low-fat, low-protein vegetarian diet that encourages fresh organic juices and whole foods. This would make it a low-calorie diet free of processed foods, modern chemicals, and refined carbohydrates. If this diet has been successful in curing cancer, then any or all of these variables could be the reason why. It may or may not have anything to do with the presence of vegetables… When I looked for scientific articles about the Gerson diet, I could only find one–the abstract is below. I’m not convinced based on this quick bit of research I did that the Gerson diet has cured cancers, but if you know of evidence supporting that claim I would be happy to take a look at it.

      Int J Cancer Suppl. 1998;11:69-72.
      Alternative nutritional cancer therapies.
      Weitzman S.
      Division of Hematology-Oncology, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada.

      Abstract

      Increasing attention is being paid to the role of nutrition in cancer. Dietary measures, such as decreased consumption of calories, fat, alcohol and smoked or pickled foods have been shown to reduce the incidence of specific “adult” cancers, while increased dietary fiber appears to have a protective role. However, no clear scientific evidence exists that dietary manipulation is a successful primary therapy for established cancer. A significant percentage of adult and child cancer patients take unproven therapies during their illness. Alternative nutritional therapies, of which there is a wide variety, are the commonest of these reflecting current public interest in “natural” remedies. The efficacy and potential toxicity of commonly utilized dietary therapies are here reviewed, in particular the macrobiotic philosophy, the Gerson diet, the Livingstone diet, and the use of vitamin and mineral therapy. While details may differ, most alternative approaches involve fresh whole foods, with strong emphasis on low-fat vegetarian diet. Most are nutritionally adequate, at least for adults. No anti-cancer diethas been shown to cure established cancers, even those whose incidence is decreased by dietary changes. Careful dietary manipulation may at least improve quality of life for adult cancer patients, and, together with conventional therapy, may prolong survival in selected cancer patients. Assessment by carefully controlled prospective clinical trials is essential; those in pediatric patients must be controlled very strictly, since tumors in children have not been shown to be influenced by diet, and the diets described may be inadequate for children with malignant diseas

      • Michal Piják

        Dr. Ede, I fully agree with your opinion regarding Gerson´s diet.

  • jake3_14

    Where are we supposed to get calcium and magnesium, if not from vegetables? Don’t say “sardines bones” for calcium, because sardines are gross. You’d have to eat a lot of dairy to get even the RDA of calcium, and RDAs are usually just enough to prevent symptoms of frank deficiency. Mg. is just darned hard to get enough of from any food source without excluding those highest in Mg: goitrogenic leafy greens and nuts and seeds that are extremely high in omega-6 fatty acids.

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Hi Jake

      I believe that the RDA for calcium is incorrect, partly because of how it is determined and partly because I believe that there are chemicals within common plant foods that interfere with calcium absorption, metabolism, and utilization. There is some information on my dairy page about calcium and dairy products if you have not yet seen it. The bones of prehistoric (non-dairy-eating) peoples appeared healthier than those of post-agricultural peoples, and while I suspect that his may be due to the introduction of grains into the diet, we really do not know why.

  • jake3_14

    I didn’t mean to imply I advocate a vegetarian/vegan diet, but I phrased my question poorly. I should’ve asked something along the lines of “How do you get enough calcium and magnesium in a purely carnivorous diet?”

    But thanks for the B-6 information.

  • Samantha

    Hi Dr. Ade,

    Do you know how I could get in touch with L.Amber Wilcox-o’Hearn?? I have been bed ridden for 3 years and have just started the all meat and fat approach. It seems to be helping me, but I have a few questions for her……………..Let me know if you can help me get in touch with her? I looked on her website but there is no contact info……….

    Thanks!

    Blessings,
    Samantha

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Hi Samantha

      She posted a comment on my histamine blog post, so you might try responding to her comment there and asking her for her contact information?

    • Mama Pongkey

      Hi Samantha,
      She is the same Amber who has the http://www.ketotic.org site. You could try getting in touch with her through her site.

  • Erik Berggren

    Dear Dr. Ede,

    What is your take specifically on multivitamins with added veggie and fruit concentrate or whole food/yeast vitamins. I can see why it is unnecessary now, but can those types of vitamins be harmful or upsetting? In other words, should i throw out my multivitamins for having veggie concentrates? Also what is your take specifically on yeast derived multivitamins and liver derived multivitamins? Have you heard of these non synthetic vitamins? Maybe i should just eat more organs.

    Thanks!

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Hi Erik
      My general opinion about multivitamins is that they should not be necessary if we eat a proper diet. Some vitamins are poorly absorbed or irritating, and some have even been shown to be harmful. We were not meant to be exposed to purified vitamins; we were meant to extract vitamins from whole foods. Last summer when I was eating a mostly-meat diet without organ meats my folic acid levels fell below normal, but that was easily corrected by adding chicken liver to my diet once a week. When I tried to take purified folic acid supplements I developed gastrointestinal distress. That is just my own personal experience with one supplement as an example; everyone responds to these things differently.

  • Erik Berggren

    Im curious about sea vegetation. Do they have defense chemicals?

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Hi Erik
      Yes, they do. I haven’t explored sea vegetables in detail yet, but there is a little bit of information about seaweed in my blog post entitled “Foods that cause Hypothyroidism.”

  • Afshin

    Thank you Dr. Ede,
    I have a question:
    Don’t we need potassium from vegetables? Can we get enough potassium from animal food ?

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Hi Afshin
      Good question. Potassium is widely available and plentiful in animal and plant foods, so no, we do not need to eat vegetables to obtain potassium.

  • hvacigar

    Quote Dr Ede – ” I find no scientific evidence that vegetables are essential components of the human diet, because I am not aware of a single study that compares a diet containing vegetables to a diet without vegetables.”

    How about studying yourself and the others on this list who believe in what you are presenting. Submit full bloodwork analysis, including stress testing and angiograms. Also include studies of bone density, and calcium secretion in urine throughout the study. Another recommendation would also be to offer your treatment to patients that have been given a death sentence by their doctor for heart disease. These people are at the end of the road with recommended treatments from their doctors and are usually willing to sign waivers. Track their progress in regression of the disease and number of years they stay alive compared to their doctor’s prediction while eating only meat and dairy (no vegetables at all).

    Quote Michael Pijak – “I asume that they (fruits/veggies) want to be eaten only by certain animals, e.g. true herbivores and omnivores (depending on species). :)”

    Lets stick to mammals here as to try to keep the conversation compact. How exactly does one classify a species as herbivorous, carnivorous, or omnivorous. I am curious. Is it the ability to breakdown food? Is it the ability to take in food without negative impact? Is it physiology? What you are proposing in this article is that humans are not herbivorous or omnivorous…we are indeed carnivorous, just like a lion, and we should just eat meat (but you also include dairy, which no natural herbi, carni, or omni takes in after weening). I like to lean on physiology in this case. If you take a look at the closest species to humans, apes, you will see physiology that is very similar to humans in digestion (opposed to a true carnivore whose digestion system resembles nothing of our digestive system). At the very best we are omnivorous, but even the most ardent to propose omnivorism amongst the apes would say that their diet should be more plant-based than meat based. What about cholesterol? Sure, your body manufactures it, but why? Does a canivore’s body manufacture cholesterol (No)? As mammals we both need it. How about vitamin C? Again, we have a distinction here. Carnivores generate it in their body, herbivores (if it makes you feel better omnivores) do not. These are two very critical nutrients for all mammals, and they define food sources that are needed to make systems work (and keep you alive). Lets say you are eating Beef. Why does beef provide you with all the nutrients you have listed in the article? Where did the cow that provides you those nutrients get the nutrients in the first place. Well, while not a nutrient, the cow generated the cholesterol clogging your arteries in the same way you do. All the nutrients you list, including your favoured B12, were products of the cow eating plants, living in sunshine, and allowing their bodies to perform the same functions your body performs when you eat plants (the B12 actually comes from bacteria in the soil). Humans have the wonderful possibility of being herbivorous, and skipping the middle man, or cow, altogether.

    On a final note, have you thought through what your diet proposes for the planet and feeding 6-9 billion people? How will you continue to thrive when land is unavailable for herding or resources for feed and live-stocking are dried up? Again, isn’t it better to consume the nutrients in the way the cow, chickens and pigs consume their nutrients and skip on growing cows pigs and chickens that use up too many resources?

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Hello, hvacigar
      I appreciate your questions, concerns, and your skepticism. I am not a clinical researcher and do not have the ability to conduct clinical human diet studies but would love to see the kinds of studies you are proposing, particularly with people who have failed standard medical approaches. I do not pretend to know with scientific certainty what the ideal human diet is, and I agree with you completely that humans are omnivores, by virtue of the fact that we are able to derive energy, nutrients, and sustenance for many decades from a variety of plant and animal foods. I am simply wondering whether plant foods are necessary to our health, and I find no evidence that they are. We manufacture cholesterol because it is an essential component of every cell in our body but our bodies also efficiently absorb and recycle the cholesterol we eat because it is very hard to make it from scratch (please see cholesterol page under “food” drop-down menu). As for Vitamin C, we need only very tiny amounts, and there is enough of it in animal foods for our purposes. [Please see Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories for additional information about Vitamin C requirements and why they may be much lower if we are not eating refined carbohydrates.] Beef (or any muscle meat) does not provide everything we need; we need also to eat liver and fat in order to meet all of our nutritional requirements. It is not that we can’t also meet these requirements by eating plant foods–we can–we have the flexibility to do this, which I believe is what makes us omnivories.

      As for the environmental questions, I must leave those to people who study those matters in detail, as my focus is solely on trying to understand which foods are healthiest for humans. I do know there is a lot of controversy about which foods are most sustainable, but more than that I can’t say. I can say, though, that my current diet, even though it is a mostly-meat diet, probably contains no more meat than the average American’s diet–I eat about 10 ounces of meat, chicken, or fish per day. If other sources of protein agreed with me without causing me health problems, I’d be happy to eat them.

    • Dave Lightseer

      The arguments in favor of a “plant based diet” are essentially religious. If one believes in it, then one looks for “proof” that it must be true. In science this is called confirmation bias. I commend Dr. Ede for taking an objective look at this cultural belief in the need for plants in the diet in order to be healthy. That said, if eating vegetables works for you, then more power to you!

      Physiological comparisons with other large primates don’t prove anything. Several million years of adaptations separate humans from the apes. Let’s be clear on this point, too: We didn’t descend from the apes as they exist today, but we share a common ancestor. As far as our supposed need for vitamin C, it has been proven quite satisfactorily that humans do not develop scurvy on a diet of animal flesh. Ever heard of pemmican? Ever heard of the Bellevue Hospital experiment?

      It is laudable to be concerned about feeding the billions of hungry people on this planet. However, the consumption of cheap starches is the CAUSE of overpopulation, not the solution. This “experiment” has been conducted repeatedly for thousands of years in multiple civilizations. Every single time it has ended in population overshoot, environmental degradation, and die off. Pre-industrial agriculture turned many of the ancient cradles of civilization into deserts. With the development of international trade, empires were built by exploiting the productive capacity of more and more bio regions, and it became feasible to export excess population to new areas.

      The only way the current world population is fed is because humans learned to convert fossil fuel energy into food at the further expense of natural ecological systems. The development of the modern feed lot is a consequence of the cheap and subsidized overproduction of plant starches. It is extremely naive to think that the teeming masses of humanity could be fed if only we didn’t “waste” all that grain on the animals we eat.

      It helps to think of humanity as a subset of Earth’s ecology. We need the Earth, but the Earth doesn’t need us. I think there will be no socially acceptable solution to our current trajectory. Instead, I mostly see people suggesting that we do more of the same, only bigger, and then somehow things will be okay. Agriculture, which I define as the overproduction of plant derived starches which cause a subsequent increase in a human population, has been the engine of environmental destruction for recorded human history. The religious belief in the supposed superiority of plant foods blinds people and governments to the actual causes of our predicament.

      Suggested reading: What Is Sustainable by Richard Adrian Reese; Unlearn

      Rewild by Miles Olson.

      • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

        Hello, Dave

        Thank you for taking the time to share your well-articulated perspective here, and especially for the references. It probably goes without saying that I would tend to agree with your position on these matters.

  • you’re a twat

    This blog is a clear testament to your ignorance and lack of knowledge about human nutrition. If you believe that the only way to ascertain whether vegetables are good for us or not is through a randomized control trial that has been double-blinded, then you clearly know nothing about epidemiology. RCTs, because of their cost, are in fact a poor source of information, often riddled with poor external and internal validity, using small population sizes, for very short periods of time, yielding results of a low power and difficult to generalize to the population as a whole.

    I am horrified by your pot-stirring write-up which, in my opinion, was just a tactic to draw attention to yourself and to give yourself 15 minutes of fame. Congratulations. Mission accomplished.

    If you research a little further you will find essential nutrients in vegetables/fungi and other plant products. Your assertion that K2 is not found in plants – it is, in fermented soy called natto. Vitamin D is found in mushrooms. while plants do contain high levels of selenium – it is the quantity eaten that is toxic, not the plant itself – giving testament to the idea of moderation and not doing things to excess.

    You are a travesty of a person and an embarrassment to the medical profession. Various cultures evolved to consume the food indigenous to their region – including consuming the local vegetation. Good luck getting a population of 7 billion to eat like the eskimos – you will devastate the whale and seal population, you moron.

  • Kaiti

    I would like to share an anecdotal story here. I wont go into my whole diet, but I have been vegetarian for a good while now, including cheeses and butter mainly as my animal sources (occasionally fish). Only recently did I start upping my veggie intake- especially organic, which I understand after reading a gaiaresearch article about it, can be even higher in toxins. Result: especially after two nights of a veggie stew type thing of carrots, kale, celery, romaine, spinache, red potatoes, flax seed, grassfed butter, iodized sea salt: passed out on the bus on the way to work, ambulance was called, very scary situation, thought i was dying. Blamed it on bad habits like coffee and cigs and lack of sleep, which im sure played a role. Then it happened again, tonight, after the same meal. At the hospital, they said my potassium levels were low, which made little sense to me other than my lack of fruits for the past couple days beforehand due to lack of money (blasted a bunch on organic veggies, blah). I seemed to stabilize just fine after an IV bag was mostly drained, and they sent me home with a potassium rx. Like I have 50 bucks for that crap, ha. I looked into it further and discovered that I have been eating tons of vasodilators, and I have on the low end but considered healthy blood pressure and heart rate as it is. Both instances happened while sitting down. I am thinking this could have played a role, especially combined with stimulants. Thoughts?

  • Kaiti

    I would like to share an anecdotal story here. I wont go into my whole
    diet, but I have been vegetarian for a good while now, including cheeses
    and butter mainly as my animal sources (occasionally fish). Only
    recently did I start upping my veggie intake- especially organic, which I
    understand after reading a gaiaresearch article about it, can be even
    higher in toxins. Result: especially after two nights of a veggie stew
    type thing of carrots, kale, celery, romaine, spinache, red potatoes,
    flax seed, grassfed butter, iodized sea salt: passed out on the bus on
    the way to work, ambulance was called, very scary situation, thought i
    was dying. Blamed it on bad habits like coffee and cigs and lack of
    sleep, which im sure played a role. Then it happened again, tonight,
    after the same meal. At the hospital, they said my potassium levels were
    low, which made little sense to me other than my lack of fruits for the
    past couple days beforehand due to lack of money (blasted a bunch on
    organic veggies, blah). I seemed to stabilize just fine after an IV bag
    was mostly drained, and they sent me home with a potassium rx. Like I
    have 50 bucks for that crap, ha. I looked into it further and discovered
    that I have been eating tons of vasodilators, and I have on the low end
    but considered healthy blood pressure and heart rate as it is. Both
    instances happened while sitting down. I am thinking this could have
    played a role, especially combined with stimulants. Thoughts?

  • Zoum

    Dr. Ede,

    Would not an all meat diet result in an imbalance in PH to the acidic side?

    Thank you,
    Alex Zoum

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Hello, Zoum
      The body regulates pH without error, so long as key organ systems are functioning properly (particularly the kidneys and lungs). This is a topic of interest to me that I hope to be able to write more about in the future; thank you for the question!

      • alan2102

        Yes, of course the body regulates pH without error. That’s not the issue. The issue is what it has to do (e.g. withdraw calcium from bone? etc.) to accomplish that error-free state.

  • Auxane

    Hello,
    I have just downloaded your Top Ten TIps for Healthy Eating and the very frst tip says ‘eat vegetables’. I thought the hypothesis of your entire blog was based on the deleterious effect of vegetables. Could you please clarify? Is there a list of ‘safe’ vegetables somewhere (you mention green beans for example…)?
    Thanks.

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Hello, Auxane
      Yes, good point–my general recommendations about healthy diets include vegetables–if they don’t bother you–because most people would not be willing or able to try an all-meat diet and prefer to include some variety in their menu. I believe that we have evolved defensive strategies to protect us from the deleterious effects of vegetables but that some of us have suffered a deterioration of these defense mechanisms and are therefore more sensitive to the natural chemicals within certain vegetables than others. As far as I can tell, the vegetable groups most likely to cause problems in sensitive people are the cruciferous vegetables, the nightshades,and the garlic/onion/leek family.

  • donna

    I am a fitness trainer of 25 years and have eaten very clean and healthy all my life! I had blood work done and now I am on thyroid medication & cholesterol :( a big part of my diet was raw….I am reading how toxic it is eating kale, spinach & arugula in my smoothies! Help!!!! any suggestions?

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Hi Donna

      You may find my blog post about foods and hypothyroidism helpful.

  • Max

    Some things that are not mentioned in the article, that people need to consider before they make their own decisions about diet:
    * Vegetables have developed symbiotic relationships with animals that eat them. Wild pigs (or humans) digging in a bed of root vegetables for food will soften the soil for new growth, pull out leafy plants that compete with root plants for sunlight and unfinished pieces of tubers will fall meters or kilometers away from the mother plant where they can start new growths (similar to how potatoes are planted these days by farmers) increasing the chances of the root plant species survival.
    * The small amount of the toxins in vegetables and the fact that it concentrates mostly in the skin, usually very thin compared to the rest of the tuber, suggests that it is primarily a method to deal with small or microscopic animals that would eat the vegetable (such as insect larvae). If the root vegetable truly didn’t “want” itself eaten by anything, it would be better served to spread the toxin throughout the root evenly.
    * The amount of energy and water stored even in wild (non-cultivated) tubers, appears far out of proportion to what would be needed for supporting the plant’s ability to sprout, except perhaps after a prolonged a drought. But larger-than-necessary tubers would appeal more to large and fast animals such as wild pigs and humans, which in turn would help distribute the plant wider. (Birds would perform the same function with the plant’s seeds).
    * The small amounts of toxins in fruit seeds (e.g. apples, tomatoes), also suggests that the toxin is intended to protect the seed from incests and microbes while the seed is in soil, rather than while it is inside the animal that is transporting it after eating the fruit.
    * Root vegetable skin contains microbes from the surrounding soil that can be logically assumed to be either harmless to human health or very important.
    * One major difference between humans as they evolved and us today, is the amount of physical activity. The many sensitivities that civilized human seem to be afflicted with may largely be a result of their rooted existence. :-) Conversely, the almost-immobile (by natural standards) civilized humans don’t need and cannot metabolize as much energy as their active ancestors, and because tubers appear to mostly contain energy, it may indeed be less important for coach potatoes to eat them. :-)

Last Modified: Feb 1, 2013 at 7:05am