Back when I was fat, I’d wake up feeling noticeably weaker and slower on some days than others. I figured these were symptoms of being overweight, but I didn’t understand why they were so much worse from day to day. As I researched the Bulletproof Diet, I realized that there were 4 things in my diet that were slowing me down and killing my ability to think and focus. These 4 things were different types of anti-nutrients, toxins that are used to keep animals, bugs, and fungi from eating the plants so the plants can reproduce. The key to turning my life around and finding mental clarity was cutting these 4 anti-nutrients out of my diet.
Anti-Nutrient 1 - Lectins
A lectin is a type of protein that permanently attaches itself to the sugars that line your cells, disrupting small intestine metabolism and damaging gut villa or even your joints. There are thousands of types of lectins, and they are part of most life forms. Not all of them are toxic or cause intestinal damage. The lectins we’re concerned with are specific compounds made by plants that bind to joints, irritate the gut, lead to bacterial overgrowth, and contribute to leptin (with a P!) resistance, a condition that causes the brain of an overweight person not to receive the signal that the stomach is full[i].
A few of these anti-nutrients are found in lots of plant and animal foods, but certain plants such as beans, nuts, and grains contain dramatically higher levels than others. The more of those lectins you consume, the more you risk damaging your body, and there is no benefit to choosing high-lectin foods.
Luckily, most lectins are destroyed by heat and can be reduced or eliminated by certain cooking methods. But there are some foods, including the nightshade family of vegetables, whose lectins are not destroyed by heat. The Bulletproof Diet helps you steer clear of the problems caused by lectins by eating fewer of the high lectin foods.
Anti-Nutrient 2 – Phytates
Phytates are another plant defense system that exists to prevent animals and insects from eating them. They function by binding to dietary minerals that animals need to be healthy, particularly iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium. This slows or prevents the minerals’ absorption[ii] so you get little nutrition from the food. Whole grains, nuts, and seeds are the major sources of these anti-nutrients. Your body can handle a certain amount of phytates, and eliminating them from your diet completely wouldn’t be possible, but it’s a good idea to minimize the main sources so your minerals will be absorbed.
Cooking certain foods that are high in phytates and then draining the water or soaking them in something acidic like lemon or vinegar minimizes phytates, but many of the grains and seeds that contain phytates are irritating to the gut even when cooked. It’s best to avoid most direct sources of phytates and eat more grass-fed cows and sheep, because their stomachs are equipped to digest the phytates for you.
Anti-Nutrient 3 – Oxalates
Oxalic acid (oxalates) is another anti-nutrient that forms in plants to protect them from predation by animals, insects, and fungi. They’re found in raw cruciferous vegetables such as kale, chard, and spinach, as well as buckwheat, black pepper, parsley, poppy seed, rhubarb, amaranth, beets, chocolate, most nuts, most berries, and beans.
When oxalates bind to calcium in your blood, tiny sharp oxalic acid crystals form and can be deposited anywhere in the body and cause muscle pain. Larger doses can lead to muscle weakness, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, especially in people with a high body burden of oxalates.
As with phytates, soaking in acid or cooking and draining away the cooking water minimizes oxalates, so I don’t recommend eating raw kale, spinach, or chard in salads or even smoothies.
Anti-Nutrient 4 - Mold Toxins
The final major class of anti-nutrients in your diet is mold toxins (mycotoxins). Most people are exposed to chronic low doses of mold toxins in every single meal, but they are invisible and particularly hard to identify.
Mold grows on crops and secretes toxins long before the food is harvested, making this widespread problem that is not news in the agricultural community. The main sources of mold toxins in your diet are coffee, wheat, corn, and other grains, but peanuts, fruit, chocolate, and wine are often tainted with mold toxins, too. Mold toxins accumulate in the milk from cows that ate contaminated grains[iii]. In fact, grain-fed animal products often pose a higher mold toxin risk than the grains themselves because the mold toxin controls on animal feed are much more lenient than the controls on grains in our human food supply, and corn-fed and grain-fed animals accumulate mold toxins in their fat.
The Bulletproof Diet gives you strategies to cut mold out of your diet. For example, with food it’s best to avoid gluten grains and most dairy products and replacing them with high-quality proteins, fats, and vegetables. For coffee, one way you can avoid mold is by buying high-quality beans from a single source.
By avoiding these nutritional landmines, your body and mind will be able to function at their best so you can experience mental clarity and alertness throughout your day. The Bulletproof Diet gives you a clear road map that will help you make better choices so you can eat more of the foods that move your health and performance in the right direction and fewer of the anti-nutrients that are killing your ability to think and focus.
- [i] http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6823/5/10
- [ii] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10395614?dopt=Abstract
- [iii] http://www.springerlink.com/content/43254u3310042577/
Dave Asprey is a Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur who spent 15 years and $300,000 to hack his own biology, losing 100 pounds, upgrading his IQ, and lowering his biological age. He runs the No. 1-ranked iTunes health podcast and The Bulletproof Executive blog about using biohacking to increase human performance — and he invented Bulletproof Coffee.
You can find more about biohacking, the art of changing your environment and your biology so you perform better in his new book The Bulletproof Diet, and also on The Bulletproof Executive website, Facebook and Twitter.