Should you be eating plants?

The purpose of this article is to make you aware of some of the pitfalls of eating vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds so that you can best avoid or mitigate the potential problems.

Eating plants can be dangerous. There are several factors at work here and lets touch on a few.

Herbicides, Pesticides and Fungicides

How do you end up with a perfect looking bunch of grapes, or an unblemished apple? Yes, that perfect looking fruit has been repeatedly sprayed by a barrage of pesticides and fungicides from the flowering stage till harvest.

Plant breeders have also bred stronger varieties that better resist pests and fungi though improved natural defences – otherwise known as plant toxins – see below.

Crops are now routinely sprayed with herbicides to brown them off so that they can be efficiently machine harvested. Grains, beans and tubers are basically guaranteed to contain herbicides.

Plants have been genetically altered (GMO) to make them resistant to herbicides such that a whole field can be sprayed and only the GMO crop remains alive. The result is that the GMO product contains many times the level of herbicide than non-GMO crops.

If you want to avoid these man-made toxins then you need to seek out organic fruit and vegetables, pay a lot more for them and be prepared to put up with less than perfect looking items.


Lectins are natural toxins that protect plants from being eaten. They can mimic normal human proteins and trigger an autoimmune response. Some people may have a severe response while others may experience a mild discomfort.

Plants high in lectins:

  • beans
  • peas
  • lentils
  • peanut
  • potato
  • tomato
  • eggplant
  • capscium
  • corn
  • fruit in general
  • grains in general
  • elderberries

You can minimise the harm lectins are doing to you by following proper preparation techniques that remove and/or neutralise lectins:

  • fermentation
  • peeling and de-seeding
  • proper soaking
  • pressure cooking (high temperature and pressure)

Cyanogenic glycosides

Some plants release hydrogen cyanide when consumed.

Some of the more common plants in this category:[1]

  • almonds
  • stone fruit
  • apple products (containing seed)
  • cassava
  • linseed/flaxseed
  • lima beans
  • chick peas
  • cashews
  • elderberries

You can minimise the harm cyanogenic glycosides are doing to you by following proper preparation techniques that remove and/or neutralise these compounds:

  • soaking
  • fermentation
  • aging
  • boiling (discard cooking water)

Oxalic acid

Oxalic acid is contained in many plants and has a number of undesirable effects (a) it binds with minerals to prevent their absorption, (b) cause mineralisation in organs and lead to symptoms such as calcium deposits and kidney stones, and (c) death if excessively consumed[2] High oxalate foods are best avoided or consumed only in small quantities:

  • grain and grain flours,
  • soybean,
  • parsley,
  • almonds,
  • cashews,
  • peanuts,
  • spinach,
  • rhubarb,
  • beet greens,
  • swiss chard, and
  • gooseberries.


Urushiol is the toxin most often associated with poison-ivy[3] It is present in the following foods:

  • mango skin
  • pistachios
  • cashews


Cucurbitacins provide a bitter taste deterrent for some plants, notably cucumbers, zucchini, and squash/pumpkins.[4] consumption can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and hair loss.


Selenium is an important trace mineral but excessive consumption can make you severely ill. Eating five brazil nuts will put you over the upper recommended dose.

An overdose of selenium can cause kidney failure, heart attack or heart failure – as well as tremors and difficulty breathing.

The Bottom Line

If you have embraced a low-carb or ketogenic diet and are still experiencing chronic symptoms associated with inflammation, then consider removing potential plant irritants from your diet. You should consider removing all plants for several weeks.

If symptoms diminish or disappear, you can try adding back plant ‘foods’ one at a time until you find the culprit. You can then consider if you really want to eat that toxic plant, or look at ways to better prepare it to reduce its impact on your health.

References   [ + ]