The Keith Snow Show
The Keith Snow Show covers current events, farming, cooking, finance, homesteading, culture, politics, and much more. My aim is to entertain and educate you on a wide range of important information you will benefit from hearing.

Many of you reading this are aware that some plants contain toxins as well as physical defenses that can injure. Some good examples are rhubarb leaves and wild mushrooms, both of which can make you very ill and possibly kill you. We all should know not to pick mushrooms without either having an expert forager with us or at the very least a field guide that shows which to avoid so you don’t die from poison.

Additionally think about very common physical defenses such as thorns on roses, blackberry and raspberry bushes, stinging nettles, cactus, poison ivy, oak, sumac, etc. There is much available evidence to demonstrate that plants do aggressively defend themselves with an arsenal of tools, none of which we enjoy.

Even though this is common knowledge most don’t equate plants having thorns or toxins as a way of defending themselves. Rhinos don’t have giant tusks just for show, those are weapons just like antlers, canine teeth, bear claws, etc. But plants don’t growl or run after you, they stay in place and hope their defenses keep them alive. Pretty amazing intelligent creations if you think about it.

Inside plants are also some pretty tough defenses, in the form of chemicals, enzymes, and other toxins. A few that you may have heard of are lectins, found in many beans, and oxalates, found in many plants, fruits, seeds, roots, etc. Of course, the “health experts” scream from the rooftops about NOT eating meat but instead healthy plants like kale, spinach, almonds, peanuts, and whole grains yet they do not mention the defense chemicals in these “foods”.

A great recent example of plant defenses happened the other day. I bought home a beautiful fresh pineapple, I cut it open and my daughter Ava gobbled up half a pineapple along with grapes and mangoes. Later she started getting rashes and hives all over her body, she thought it was a new deodorant she tried. My other daughter ate three or four pieces of pineapple then some nachos and blamed the nachos for her piercing stomach ache which had her in the fetal position for a few hours. The next day she also bought some fresh cut pineapple and ate it with a snack, within an hour she came home from work and laid on the bed miserable until I gave her club soda which seemed to help.

The next day Ava’s feet, and lips were STILL very swollen, she had to take allergy meds and Advil to curb the swelling and pain. So you see these innocent-looking plants can really mess with us humans.

In my quest for health, I have tried just about every fad diet there is in an effort to eliminate psoriatic arthritis that can damage joints and make a mess of your skin. Veganism destroyed my health (and my wife’s) in 5 mos, and we were forced to abandon the diet to heal. Paleo dieting which is rife with kale and nuts did not help me much either, yes it was better than vegan but still, I suffered from skin and joint pain.

For the last few years, I have read much about the carnivore diet which promotes eating grass-fed meats, organs, eggs, dairy and limited fruits, and very limited plants. While I love meat, the one thing I did not miss at all on a vegan diet was meat, the cheese is what got me most upset. I have been tinkering with a carnivore light diet and have started to research how plants defend themselves and if these defenses can affect me, and low and behold they do!

When I eat high oxalate foods my joints swell and my skin immediately shows signs of problems. It usually is nuts like almonds, peanut butter, and plants like broccoli that affect me. All of those are high oxalate. Oxalates bind with calcium and not only cause gut health issues they rob vital minerals too, making your electrolyte balance go whacky.

My father-in-law eats a few things in his daily regimen; black tea (he’s English), chips, peanuts, chocolate, potatoes, bread, all high oxalate foods, he shows many of the symptoms of oxalate poisoning; skin that bleeds easy, stomach issues like bloating, cramping, diarrhea, joint pain, mental fog, plus a history of kidney stones and gout. Of course, he just gobbles Advil and keeps going but will not change his ways, stubborn man he is! His doctors have never mentioned oxalates or any plant defense chemicals, yet they wear white lab coats :)

The list of high oxalate plant foods is long but the good news is many plant foods have tolerable amounts of oxalates. Both lists are below but first, let’s discuss what oxalates are.

There is much debate about whether cooking reduces oxalates in food, some say yes, some say no.

Here are some high oxalate foods:

beans, grains, bran, sesame and other seeds, peanuts, almonds, and other nuts, swiss chard, spinach, beets, potatoes, chocolate, rhubarb, figs, kiwi, blackberries, black pepper, cumin, turmeric.

Here are low oxalate foods:

meats, dairy, eggs, fats and oils, and other non-plant foods
arugula, avocado, Bok Choy, cabbage, cauliflower, cilantro, cucumber, garlic, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard greens, mushrooms, green peas, watercress

A few words from the website of the foremost oxalate expert Sally K Norton who is. avast resource on oxalates and has a degree from Cornell University in nutrition.

A Small Bite of Oxalate Chemistry

When oxalic acid, which is water-soluble,  combines with mineral ions it yields various oxalate “salts.” These mineral salts form minute crystals. Some types of oxalates remain soluble, such as sodium oxalate, and some form insoluble solids, such as calcium oxalate. The mineral calcium has a strong affinity for oxalate and thus can draw the oxalic acid away from the sodium ion and form calcium oxalate. (Thus, a soluble form of oxalate becomes insoluble.) Calcium oxalate is the predominant form of oxalate found in soils, plants, and in the human body.

Crystals of calcium oxalate start out as particles and nano-crystals that have a tendency to grow bigger. Plants take advantage of this and create a number of fascinating crystal shapes in specialized cells. Oxalate crystals can also amalgamate into “stones.”

A Bite of Health Science

Tiny oxalate crystals attach to healthy cells and to damaged cells or cellular debris. When the cells can’t contain, dissolve, and discard the attached crystal, it will attract other available oxalate particles and grow. This type of pathological crystal formation in the body may be fairly common in arteries, the thyroid gland, and elsewhere. This famously happens in the kidneys when oxalate crystals amass into kidney stones. Oxalate ends up in our urine because our bodies can’t alter it and must excrete it. Otherwise, it can do serious harm inside your body.

Deposits in Kidneys and Beyond

In humans and animals, kidney stones typically consist of calcium oxalate. When kidney stones block the flow of urine, they become very painful and dangerous. Kidney stones are a challenging medical problem.

I realize this is a lot to digest (no pun intended) but for me, it simplifies life because focusing on a few food groups and eliminating many vegetable nuts, and fruits is easier to manage and also informs my future plans for a homestead and what I want to grow and raise.

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