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Should You Eat Stressed Plants to Stay Healthy?

Stressed plants grown without fertilizer or pesticides produce their own defensive compounds. Eating them may also benefit our own biology.
Senior man and mature woman wearing apron and picking vegetables at farm garden. Senior farmers looking at plants. Worried retired couple examine plants at backyard garden during the harvest.

Over the last decade or so, people have become accustomed to the idea of plant-based diets. Even those who don’t wish to follow a vegetarian pattern of eating are looking to incorporate more plants, especially whole relatively unprocessed plants, into their diets. Researchers have demonstrated that individuals who eat more vegetables are generally healthier than those who load up on processed foods. But does it matter which plants you choose? Specifically, should you be eating stressed plants? And if so, how do you find them?

Stressed Plants as a Tool to Slow Aging:

Q. You interviewed a doctor on your radio show who recommended eating stressed plants. What does that mean? Where would I find them? And what is the point?

A. Dr. David A. Sinclair, author of Lifespan: Why We Age—and Why We Don’t Have To, is an expert on the factors that contribute to good health in later years. He has studied the effects of plant compounds such as resveratrol and sirtuins on aging in mice (for example, Free Radical Biology & Medicine, Sep. 2019).

Plants make a range of such defensive compounds when insects start eating them or they don’t have enough water. So the stressed plants you seek would be grown in your own backyard or at the farmers’ market. Organically grown fruits and vegetables have to work harder to defend themselves than plants grown with fertilizers and pesticides. Consequently, they could be a good choice at the supermarket.

Dr. Sinclair offered a number of other suggestions beyond eating stressed plants for aging well. For more information, you might want to listen to Show 1198: How You Can Age Better.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
Show 1198: How You Can Age Better
Free - $9.99

A leading aging researchers describes how you can age better. Get out of breath sometimes, eat stressed plants and spend time with friends and pets.

Show 1198: How You Can Age Better
Citations
  • Palmeira CM et al, "Mitohormesis and metabolic health: The interplay between ROS, cAMP and sirtuins." Free Radical Biology & Medicine, Sep. 2019. DOI: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2019.07.017
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I think crops grown under the conditions of industrial agriculture are also stressed, but in different ways:
* A restricted community of helpful organisms in the soil
* Annual tilling of the soil
* Applications of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides

This seems totally obvious to me. Our ancestors evolved over many,many thousands of years eating nothing but “stressed” plants. There wasn’t anything else. “Better living through chemistry” is an advertising construct coming out of the twentieth century based on the make-money paradigm.

I understand wine grapes are stressed. How can I de-activate the alcohol at my house – like decanting?

If you wanted to, you could look for alcohol-free wine. But you might want to look elsewhere for your stressed plant compounds.

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