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Why You Should Rotate Your Greens (and Other Vegetables)

By rotating foods you'll achieve nutritional diversity, which is key to good health. In contrast, by eating the same foods day in day out you may end up developing a nutritional deficiency. Even if the foods you eat are generally considered healthy, they may not be able to provide all the vitamins and minerals your body needs. For example, vegans who only eat plant-based foods have a high risk of becoming deficient in vitamin B-12, calcium, vitamin D and iron.

In addition, a monotonous diet may expose your body to an unnecessary large amount of a certain anti-nutrient. By rotating foods, on the other hand, you will minimize your exposure to any single anti-nutrient. Anti-nutrients, such as oxalates and phytic acid, are naturally occurring substances that reduce the nutritive action of foods. In most cases, they exert their negative effects by preventing the absorption of health-promoting nutrients or by being toxic themselves. Some of the most common anti-nutrients include oxalates (or oxalic acid), phytates (or phytic acid), lectins and goitrogens. The effects of these anti-nutrients are discussed below.

Oxalates, Phytates, Lectins and Goitrogens

Oxalates interfere with the absorption of calcium and magnesium. Plant-based foods that contain oxalates in significant amounts include spinach, rhubarb, purslane, buckwheat, amaranth, cacao, tea leaves and coffee beans.

Phytates, which may be abundant in your body if you eat a lot of seeds and grains, can hinder the absorption of zinc and iron and – to a lesser extent – calcium and magnesium.

oxalates in foods

Lectins are yet another group of anti-nutrients. Foods that include significant amounts of lectins include grains (especially wheat), seeds, legumes, dairy products and nightshade plants such as eggplant and tomatoes. Lectins have been shown to initiate allergic reactions in the gut and to aggravate existing inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis; however, the extent to which lectins can affect us depends largely on each individual's genetic makeup.

Furthermore, there are compounds that have been shown interfere with iodine metabolism, thereby preventing the thyroid from making enough iodine-containing hormones which are essential for the proper functioning of the body. These harmful compounds are commonly referred to as "goitrogenic substances". Foods that contain significant amounts of goitrogenic substances include soy beans, brassica vegetables, cassava and a handful of other foods.

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