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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.
Should You Eat Stressed Plants to Stay Healthy?
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. .
  • 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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