top of page

NBSV 121


Transcript of the No-Bullsh!t Vegan podcast, episode 121

Gut health, “anti-nutrients”, and nutrition BS-busting with RD Desiree Nielsen

Karina Inkster: You're listening to the No Bullshit Vegan podcast, episode 121. Registered dietician Desiree Nielsen is on the show to discuss gut health, so-called anti-nutrients, her new book, and also to do some bullshit busting around how we approach and talk about nutrition.

Hey, welcome to the show. I'm Karina, your go-to, no BS, vegan fitness and nutrition coach. In case you haven't yet downloaded our free vegan-specific portion guide, you can do that at It's an alternative to calorie and macro counting and my team and I put it together specifically for vegan diets. So you can get your hands on it for free at

Today, I'm excited to welcome Desiree Nielsen to the show. She's a registered dietician with a focus on plant-based and digestive health nutrition, host of the All Sorts podcast, and author of Eat More Plants, and the upcoming Good For Your Gut cookbook. This new book is a 100% plant-based digestive health manual and full-length cookbook. It includes education on how to care for your gut, whether you're feeling great, or you have issues like constipation, IBS, or reflux. The book includes low FODMAP vegan recipes, which are very hard to find. And the book is coming out on May third. Desiree's favourite vegan meal is cashew Alfredo and a kale Caesar salad. Hope you enjoy our discussion.

Hey Desiree. Nice to meet you. Thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Desiree Nielsen: Thank you for having me.

Karina Inkster: You are from my hometown, which is basically like vegan Mecca. At least that's how I see it every time I go back to Vancouver, haha.

Desiree Nielsen: I know it feels like that now. It's like what? Like not city just has multiple vegan restaurants everywhere we turn?

Karina Inkster: I know! That's basically my M.O when I go to Vancouver, is how many vegan restaurants can I hit up in the least amount of time?

Desiree Nielsen: Yeah. And then all the fancy groceries, bring them home.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm. Yeah, yeah. My carry-on actually, cause I usually take the little tiny plane - it's like either 12 or 19 people - my carry-on is entirely food. So last time it was Vietnamese food, like full-on like curries and stuff, haha.

Desiree Nielsen: That's amazing.

Karina Inkster: Priorities, eh?

Desiree Nielsen: Oh exactly. I do exactly the same thing. I was just in the US for the first time in two years and I went straight to the Whole Foods. I was like, what can I buy?

Karina Inkster: oh yeah, of course. As one does!

Desiree Nielsen: Haha.

Karina Inkster: That's awesome. Well, can you give me and our listeners a little bit of background about what you do? Like, I know you have a podcast, you've got a new book coming out. We will talk about those pieces for sure. But just kind of on a basic, background level, who is Desiree Nielsen?

Desiree Nielsen: So, you know, on the non-existential level, I'm a dietician.

Karina Inkster: Oh, we should do the existential level as well.

Desiree Nielsen: We could do that in like a second take! You know, I'm a registered dietician. I've been one for, gosh, let's just say over a decade, we're definitely like clearly over a decade. And you know, I've always sort of focused on digestive health and plant-based nutrition and I've had a private practice. I don't see one-on-one clients anymore, but we still have a practice with an amazing dietician at the helm. 

So I've really focused in the last five years on education work and writing. So just wanting to put as much evidence-informed nutrition information out there as possible because the internet is the Wild West and I wanna try and be one more voice helping to give people a reality check.

Karina Inkster: Yes! Well, that's exactly why this podcast exists. I started it three years ago because of this vast amount of pseudoscience and bullshit and just, you know, sometimes it's harmless, but in a lot of cases it's actually negative for folks’ health. Like it's dangerous in a lot of cases, when it comes to nutrition, especially.

Desiree Nielsen: It's super dangerous because people are like, oh, well, it's just food. And if you've had an experience that you've worked through yourself, you know, via nutrition, you're really excited about the power of nutrition. You naturally wanna share that and tell people what you did, but there's so much language and delicacy around how we talk about nutrition because even just general nutrition advice can be really triggering for people. And the way that we spread misinformation - like there's so much guilt and shame wrapped up around our food choices and then it impacts our relationship with food and our bodies. And food should be joyful. Food should be an opportunity to heal. But the vast majority of the content that we consume around food and nutrition is like the opposite. It just makes us feel nervous and shameful, and like we're doing everything wrong, and we're super confused and don't even know what to eat anymore.

Karina Inkster: Oh, well this could be a whole podcast series on how we talk about food, and what we think is not great about the current health and fitness industry, because there’s a lot of that. As you probably know, I’m a coach. I run a coaching business and a lot of what coach colleague Zoe and I do is breaking down some of these ways that folks think about food, and it's hard to do. And sometimes our clients don't even realize that they have certain mindsets that might not be psychologically helpful to them. Sometimes they do, but it's a huge topic. And we definitely need more professionals like you who are legitimately qualified nutrition professionals talking about food in ways that aren't like, oh, how many calories does this food have in it? And oh, how many calories am I gonna burn from doing this cardio workout? And that's it.

Desiree Nielsen: Exactly. And there are so many people, you know, who really focus on this work, on this sort of like weight-neutral, non-diet, you know, avenue and nutrition. And for me as a dietician, it's like, I feel like no matter what, cuz my focus is plant-based nutrition and gut health, but that no matter what your focus, how we convey those messages and how we counsel people and educate people, needs to be infused with that sort of spirit of like true non-harming. Because a lot of what we think of nutrition is really just like super harmful diet culture stuff.

Karina Inkster: Yes, absolutely. So in your work then, whether it was as in the past with one-on-one clients or now where it's more kind of broad education, what are some of the ways that you have found are useful to actually approach some of these harmful messages about food?

Desiree Nielsen: You know, I think it's really important to give people sort of like this higher-level awareness of like what food and nutrition is because I think one of the biggest challenges is that we hear about something, like anti-nutrients, or we hear about something, like canola oil, and then all of a sudden we get hyper-focused on this minutia of nutrition when really the most important thing is what we are doing most often. What is the bulk of our action towards our health that we do most often? So I'll see people who are like, oh, I never touch gluten because gluten is inflammatory. And then when I look at their diet, the vast majority of their diet is hyper-processed foods, which, you know, absolutely, I love a Beyond Burger every now and then.

Karina Inkster: Don't we all? Yeah!

Desiree Nielsen: But if you're not eating fruits and vegetables, if you're not eating legumes, if you're not eating whole grains, the way that you are eating is contributing so much more to how you're feeling than whether or not you're eating gluten.

Karina Inkster: Oh, absolutely. Yes! So this whole idea of focusing more broadly on what are you doing most often, versus is this one single food gonna have such and such effect on me.

Desiree Nielsen: And that is typically how a lot of people think about nutrition. Like my DMs are always like, what foods are best for hypothyroidism? Or, you know, like what food do I eat for constipation? And I was like, it is not just one food. We gotta talk about like, how are you hydrating? How much fibre are you getting? You know, is your pelvic floor healthy enough to actually integrate the release of your stool? I will always bring it back to bathroom talk. I just can't stop myself.

Karina Inkster: Well, you can't talk about gut health without going into detail!

Desiree Nielsen: Without talking about a little poop! You know, it's always so much more holistic and nuanced than we really think it is.

Karina Inkster: Yeah, absolutely. That's really cool. Well, again, I feel like we could do a whole section on just how we think about food. There's a couple of things I wanna loop back on though. One is you mentioned anti-nutrients, we're gonna talk about those for sure. And the other is just kind of your general focus on gut health. So what's the deal there? Like how did you decide? Was there a catalyst? Was there an experience? Why gut health?

Desiree Nielsen: You know, the funny thing was that my interest, when I first came out of school, was actually oncology. I found oncology really fascinating because there's a really high use of what we called at the time, complementary and alternative medicine. And that's always been, like integrative medicine has always been a really interesting focus for me. And right now that term is a little bit wishy-washy because it’s often used by a bunch of hucksters to sell a whole bunch of stuff with no evidence. But for me it was really like the whole idea that nutrition was in medicine, was integrative medicine. So what happened was I ended up, my very first role ever, was as the nutrition manager for a local chain of grocery stores here called Choices Markets.

Karina Inkster: Oh yeah. Choices. I remember them.

Desiree Nielsen: Yeah, right?

Karina Inkster: They’re amazing.

Desiree Nielsen: They’re like the family-owned Whole Foods kind of thing. And overwhelmingly, every day I was getting questions about gut health. Like I came outta my internship, just having a vague awareness of celiac disease of course, and gluten-free diets. Not really knowing a ton about actual nutrition for digestive to diseases like Crohn’s, colitis, but I could not believe how many people, every single day were asking me, they're like, I've got these issues with my stomach, I'm really bloated, or I'm constipated, like all of these issues. And I was like, okay, it's time to learn because folks have all of these questions. We didn't have, especially then, like a ton of gold standard nutritional evidence. Back when I started the low FODMAP diet for irritable bowel syndrome, which is now considered an evidence-based clinical diet, was considered controversial back then.

Karina Inkster: Wow. That’s not even that long ago in the scheme of things, you know?

Desiree Nielsen: No, it's just like just over a decade ago. So I knew that I had to learn and I had to interact and understand what people were going through, understand what their questions were, and their concerns and figure it out. It's literally a decade of me trying to just figure out how to help people who weren't getting the help they needed elsewhere.

Karina Inkster: Mmm interesting. So this is kind of a listen to the client, listen to the customer, listen to what's out there and what's needed and then fill that niche.

Desiree Nielsen: Yeah. You know, it's funny because a lot of my dietician colleagues that I went through school with very early on, particularly because I worked at Choices, which as a dietician was considered kind of out there over a decade ago. They’re like, you're the weird dietician. Whenever we have a client or a patient we don't understand, we think to ask you because we're like, Desiree will probably know something about it. So yeah. I kind of made a name for myself as being that dietician who would interact and engage with things like fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome, things that other professionals at the time weren't really focusing on.

Karina Inkster: Interesting. Well, that's the way to do it. That's like a, not that it's a full-on like business enterprise necessarily. I mean, it kind of is now, what you're doing. But you know, when you were working with clients, one-on-one is kind of just filling the need, which is smart.

Desiree Nielsen: It was filling the need and I think that's the biggest thing as a dietician is we are here to guide you in whatever way possible, through a nutrition approach that's gonna help you feel your best. That is our role. If you don't feel great right now, or you're just looking to like improve your health, we can use food as a tool to help you feel your best. And I'm just so grateful and I so deeply love this work because you just watch people transform. And particularly if they haven't been feeling well. And so often clients will come through our practice and it's not just that they haven't been feeling well for six months. Like this is five years, 10 years, 15 years, thinking that nothing is gonna work. And then in six months to see they're like, oh wow. I never thought I could feel so much better. And it's pretty selfish because it makes you feel really, really good.

Karina Inkster: Well, not entirely selfish. I mean, I get it. But you’re affecting folks' quality of life. I mean, it doesn't get better than that, really.

Desiree Nielsen: Yeah. It's a huge privilege to get to do this work.

Karina Inkster: Yeah, absolutely. So on this gut health trajectory then, you are coming out with a new book. You've got a book out already, but this is your next one coming out.

Desiree Nielsen: Yeah.

Karina Inkster: Can you tell us about this, Good for Your Gut? Clearly, it's all about gut health. It's all plant-based. What is the deal?

Desiree Nielsen: Yeah. So Good for Your Gut is a therapeutic nutrition guidebook. It's a full-length cookbook with over 90 recipes. So even if you just like really yummy plant-based food, you can buy the book and just enjoy the recipes. But if you have a particular interest in digestive wellbeing, whether or not you're just like it's trending and you wanna learn more about it, or you have something that you wanna fix - you're constipated, you have IBS, you have reflux, the book has a hundred pages upfront to teach you how your gut works. Like how does the digestive tract actually work? What is the microbiome? How does it interact with your health? You hear about the gut-brain connection all the time. What does that even mean?

And then take you through, what does your digestive tract need to function? What helps it function optimally? And then we go through all of the different conditions from the everyday stuff like constipation and you know, reflux to the more challenging situations like irritable bowel syndrome and like gastroesophageal reflux disease, which we know as GERD, or like chronic reflux. And like these are the nutrition tools to move through. And then the recipes are also in three different categories depending on your needs. So there's protect, and these are the high fibre or high FODMAP foods that are gonna help, you know, like drive fermentation, feed the microbiome. Then we have the heal recipes, which are all low FODMAP. And it's really challenging, doing this work for this long, it's really challenging finding nice vegan, low FODMAP recipes.

Karina Inkster: Yes. Absolutely.

Desiree Nielsen: So a third of the book is vegan and low FODMAP.

Karina Inkster: This is gonna be a great resource.

Desiree Nielsen: Yeah. And then the last half are the soothe. So particularly for our clients who are newly diagnosed celiacs or have really severe IBS in a flare, or have Crohn's or ulcerative colitis, they will often come to us eating things like white bread and you know, drinking pop because those low fibre foods in the moment don't hurt their gut. But the lack of nutrients, the lack of fibre perpetuates the inflammation that keeps their disease process humming along. 

And so our goal is always to get even these clients who think they can't eat plant foods onto more plant-based diets. And the way we do that is with really easily digestible foods. So like everything in soothe is lower in fibre, gluten-free, but also somehow digestion assistance. So that's where like the juices are and the smoothies are and the dips are cuz people are like I can't eat a chickpea, well, we're gonna blend that in some dip, and then you can start with a tablespoon or two and increase your tolerance really slowly and really cautiously so that you can start to get the benefits of these plant foods.

Karina Inkster: That is amazing. We have a lot of clients and coach Zoe and I, of course, are not registered dieticians. So we work within our scope of practice and refer out if people wanna get more details, to registered dieticians like yourself, but we come across folks who are on low FODMAP diets once in a while. I mean, generally, that's not in our scope of practice, but often we're working with someone on fitness and then they have someone else that they're working with on nutrition. And we have heard so many times how difficult it is, or how few resources there are out there. It might not actually be difficult, but the resources out there are not plentiful right now on being plant-based and on a low FODMAP diet. So the fact that 30% of these recipes are gonna fit that, is really exciting.

Desiree Nielsen: Yeah. It was something that was so important to me because we had a lot of clients coming through where they're like, okay, so I have IBS and now, you know, my practitioner is telling me I can't be plant-based anymore. And I was like, oh no, no, no, no!

Karina Inkster: Ha!

Desiree Nielsen: I was like, hold up! There is literally no reason why you can't continue your vegan or plant-based lifestyle and also meet your needs nutritionally for whatever you're going through. And yeah, there's still that sort of thought out there that plant foods are too hard to digest and plant foods have FODMAPS. Therefore you have to like, just eat a ton of meat at dinner. We're like, no, no, no. That's not the way!

Karina Inkster: Well, unfortunately, that's still the case in a lot of ways, right? There's fitness coaches out there who are like, well, you're not gonna get super strong unless you're doing your whey protein shakes and your chicken breast! And there's nutrition professionals out there who just don't understand a) the plant-based diet at all and b) how to fit it to certain clients when they're inside situations like IBS or Crohn's or celiac or any of those kind of specific digestive issues. So this is gonna be awesome. And so is it coming out in May, is that right?

Desiree Nielsen: It comes out May 3rd.

Karina Inkster: May 3rd.

Desiree Nielsen: Which is exciting because the process takes so long. Like I started writing this book I think in November of 2019.

Karina Inkster: Well that sounds about right.

Desiree Nielsen: Yeah. Yeah. People always think that's amazing! Like you just wrote this last year! And I'm like, oh my gosh, no, I wrote it a long time ago. And there was so much editing and like so much that has to go through before it comes out. But it's so incredible when you finally hold the actual book in your hand and you're like, oh, I did this thing.

Karina Inkster: I did this thing! I know. It's pretty great hey? My first book came out in 2014 and I started it in 2011. So it was kind of the same situation. Subsequent ones, they're still exciting, but it's not quite the same. This is your second book, right?

Desiree Nielsen: Technically it's my third. My first was a long time ago, before I had much of a platform and it was on an independent publisher. So subsequently a lot of people didn't interact with it, which is totally fine because my philosophy's changed since then.

Karina Inkster: Yeah. Yeah. I hear you.

Desiree Nielsen: So yeah, most people think Eat More Plants is my first book and I'm totally fine with that.

Karina Inkster: I understand. Well, why don't we go into some of the things that I wanted to touch on. So for folks listening, I did a solo episode on lectins, which are also sometimes called anti-nutrients. I don't even remember when it was, but it was episode 66, back in the day, and we're in the like 120s right now. So it's been a while. And it was a super overview kind of, you know, addressing a couple of points around anti-nutrients. 

But today I wanted to go into a little more depth about that. Maybe how it relates to digestion and gut health and some of the things that you're focusing on. So if our listeners wanna go back to episode 66, I kind of feel like that would be very overview, just kind of research-based, and then what we're gonna talk about today will be more details, hands-on, kind of in-depth, if that makes any sense. So Desiree, can you start us off with what the hell are anti-nutrients? Why the hell are we even talking about anti-nutrients?

Desiree Nielsen: I know they sound so scary, right? They're like anti-nutrients! You're like, I thought nutrients are good! We need the nutrients! So anti-nutrients are completely naturally occurring compounds in plant foods that don't contribute to human nutrition and combined nutrients. So the idea that they combined nutrients is what gives them the anti-nutrient moniker. And so we typically hear about three things with respect to anti-nutrients. So there are lectins, which are definitely like anti-nutrient du jour because of that book that will not be named -

Karina Inkster: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah!

Desiree Nielsen: phytates and oxalates. And before we even sort of get into this discussion, the best sort of reality check on anti-nutrients - because they do sound really scary, and binding nutrients sounds like a bad thing - is that by this definition, fibre is an anti-nutrient.

Karina Inkster: Because it binds to things?

Desiree Nielsen: Because it has the ability to bind other nutrients. And we know that fibre is one of the most critical components of plant foods with respect to digestive wellbeing, but also moderating the inflammatory response in the human body. So this anti-nutrient is actually critically important to human health, even though we don't digest and absorb it and it doesn't contribute to human nutrition.

Karina Inkster: Right. So it's a little bit of a misnomer then, because sure, it binds to other nutrients, but a lot of them are also required for overall health and maintenance.

Desiree Nielsen: Yeah. And you know, when you understand what these substances do in the plants, it makes a lot of sense. Like oxalates, for example, we hear about like oxalates with respect to kidney stones. Oxalates bind calcium and oxalates in the plants serve the purpose of helping them to regulate calcium balance.

Karina Inkster: For the plant itself right?

Desiree Nielsen: So oxalate was designed to bind calcium for the plant itself, so it could regulate calcium balance in it cell. The same thing with phytates. Phytates are a storage form of the mineral phosphorus in plants. The rhetoric that, you know, plants evolved these substances because they didn't want to be eaten. No, they have all these substances cuz they needed a way of regulating minerals in their cell cytosol, haha!

Karina Inkster: Interesting.

Desiree Nielsen: They serve a really important purpose. And if through evolution plants that have these things thrived because they generally pass through the digestive tract unchanged and therefore like if an animal eats a fruit and the seed of that fruit is hard to break down, well then it passes through their gut and then the seeds can grow more plants. But that doesn't mean that the food itself harmed the animal.

Karina Inkster: Good point. Good point. So other than foods that are high in fibre, what are some other foods that would have these three so-called anti-nutrients in high concentrations?

Desiree Nielsen: Yeah. So you know, the biggies are legumes and whole grains with respect to lectins. Potatoes and tomatoes are also higher lectin foods, but with processing, there's a whole bunch of ways that we reduce these things. So cooking is a really great example. Cooking vastly reduces the hold that many of these anti-nutrients have on the minerals. And then also processing, because you know, one of the arguments made against particularly lectins is, well we eat so much wheat, so many potatoes, so many tomatoes in North America, those are high lectin foods, therefore lectins are making us sick. However, the forms in which we eat these foods, white flour, highly processed potato chips, and French fries, and then things like ketchup, and tomato paste - that processing vastly reduces the lectin content of these foods. 

So even though we eat them a lot, we're actually consuming very little lectin when we do. Vis-a-vis the whole food, which I would love to say in North America we're all eating tons of, but we just aren't at this point.

Karina Inkster: Unfortunately yeah. I think when I was doing research for the kind of mini-episode on lectins, it was something like 90 or 95% or something of lectins in particular that are broken down when you cook a kidney bean and like, dude, who's sitting around eating raw kidney beans? I mean that would be a problem!

Desiree Nielsen: Yeah. There is a reason we don't eat raw kidney beans. Yeah. I actually pulled the number cuz I had it in my blog because the particular lectin in kidney beans, which is phytohemagglutinin - it's a hard one to say, even for me, all this time, haha. The levels in raw kidney beans can be over 70,000 units. But as soon as you cook them, it goes down to like less than 500. And so yes, if you ate like a whole cup full of raw kidney beans, you could be very violently ill, but the dose makes the poison and really great example again, to sort of like reality check is technically you could drink so much water that you killed yourself.

Karina Inkster: Oh yeah, technically. You could do that with any food, right?

Desiree Nielsen: Yeah, exactly. Technically you could overload your electrolyte balance with water and get really, really sick. But we don't call water toxic because of that. And we recognize the value of hydration and how beneficial water is to human health. So it's exactly the same thing with lectins and even using this kidney bean example, most lectins are completely nontoxic. The lectins and tomatoes are completely nontoxic. So just eat all the tomatoes.

Karina Inkster: That's a good point because there are some lectins out there, like isn't ricin a lectin that is technically very toxic and could kill you, but you can't paint them all with the same brush, can you?

Desiree Nielsen: Exactly. Because I think, you know, we think of lectin as one thing. Like lectin is one thing, but lectin is a class of molecules. And so within that class of molecules, there are ones that are really not okay. It's the same thing with bacteria, right? We are so into probiotics and probiotics are a type of bacteria and not all bacteria are probiotics. Just like not all bacteria make us sick.

Karina Inkster: Right. Of course.

Desiree Nielsen: So it's like probiotic bacteria are a big thing. And some of those are probiotics and some of those are nasty little bugs that make us really sick.

Karina Inkster: Yeah. That's a good analogy actually. You can't paint all bacteria with the same paintbrush either.

Desiree Nielsen: Exactly.

Karina Inkster: Okay. So why are anti-nutrients such a big deal? I mean, okay. So yeah, there was a book that came out in 2017 I think it was, that just freaked everyone out about lectins. So that's a whole thing, but I think people have been talking about anti-nutrients since before 2017. Why?

Desiree Nielsen: They have, and I think it's just, you know, with the book coming out in 2017 and the ferociousness with which we engage with each other online now really sort of blew it up. But there have been really great examples of quote-unquote, “traditional nutrition” for example, where they’re like always soak your grains, always soak your beans, and nuts and seeds really well, because it loosens the hold of these anti-nutrients. However, there are very few instances where we would be worried about consuming so many anti-nutrients that it would actually harm human nutrition in a place like North America because many of us are very fortunate to consume adequate food and a wide variety of foods. And many of these, you know, oxalates and phytates occur in high mineral foods because that's the purpose that they serve.

So spinach is a really great example. Spinach is really high in calcium, but it's also really high in oxalate, which makes sense because the plant uses oxalate to manage those calcium levels. So it's not when we eat these foods that are higher in anti-nutrients, particularly if we cook them, it's not like the anti-nutrients are robbing these minerals from our body. It just means we absorb less of those minerals from the food. And I would say that if you eat a wide variety of cooked and raw foods, if you eat a wide variety of foods in general, this is a non-issue. The only time where I would say that perhaps soaking grains, nuts, and seeds would be more beneficial is if you had someone on a hundred percent raw diet.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm. Yes.

Desiree Nielsen: Which is not typically a mode of eating that I recommend for 99.9% of folks. But if people were into that, and I'm like a little bit older, so like a decade ago people were super, super into raw. So like, well, no, if you're eating so many of these, in particular nuts, you might wanna make sure that you're getting as many minerals as possible from them. And so a little bit of soaking doesn't hurt. But for most of us, it's also not really necessary.

Karina Inkster: Well, it's a really good point you just made about anti-nutrients not robbing our systems of nutrients. It's not like they're going in there and stealing iron from our blood or anything. It's basically just, well maybe we're absorbing a little bit less of what's in the food that contains these compounds. And so I think that maybe just the name I think probably freaks people out; oh, it's an anti-nutrient! Well, I don't wanna eat that because I wanna get as many nutrients as possible.

Desiree Nielsen: I know. And you know, I think there's another name that we can use for them that is also accurate. And I think would assuage most people's fears and that's phytochemical. Because we hear all about how phytochemicals are so important, how they have antioxidant capacity, they help with inflammation, and in the respect of things like lectins and oxalates and phytates, that also may be true for many of the chemicals within these categories. So phytic acid is also known as something called IP six, which has been researched for potential anti-cancer properties. So it's interesting because when we focus on this name, anti-nutrients, it sort of blinds us to the fact that these molecules, in addition to having a really useful effect for the plants and helping with plant nutrition and metabolism, might

actually have a benefit to us as well.

Karina Inkster: Well, isn't that interesting! I feel like that's the case with a lot of things. Like folks who don't wanna eat too much soy because of potential phytoestrogens, which is a whole other episode that we've done on myths around soy. But when in fact, if you look at the peer-reviewed research, it shows the exact opposite, that you know, it can actually help with hormone balance and cancer prevention and all of these amazing things. So, there seems to be a parallel here with a lot of these plant compounds, not all of them, but you know, the ones that we're talking about in a nutrition sense, that can be super beneficial for us.

Desiree Nielsen: Yeah. And I think once a message resonates with us, and this is one of the great opportunities and challenges in nutrition, is that are our beliefs and ideas about nutrition are really deeply held. So once a message is shared, that really resonates with us, we tend to hold onto it. And I was honestly speaking with like another neighbourhood mom, maybe like a month ago, and she was saying, oh soy’s okay? I was like, absolutely soy is okay! I eat tofu and tempeh and drink soy milk every single day. She's like, wow. She's like, I don't think I've eaten soy in like over five years because I heard it was bad for me.

Karina Inkster: Oh no! You're missing out.

Desiree Nielsen: Yeah. I was like, you have missed out, haha. I'm like, you need to eat double for the next five years to make up for it!

Karina Inkster: To make up for it. Yeah exactly!

Desiree Nielsen: Yeah, because despite the science, despite the evidence, hearing about this stuff is pretty boring. Like hearing that, oh soy is actually beneficial and you know, may help to prevent some forms of cancer and may improve cardiovascular disease outcome - that doesn't elicit a really exciting emotional response like soy has estrogen and will spike your estrogen! And they're like all of a sudden now more scared.

Karina Inkster: It’ll man boobs, Desiree. Didn't you know?

Desiree Nielsen: Oh my be, gosh. Yeah. So it's the psychology of how we share these messages. And particularly now with social media, like you can be inflammatory on a blog, but there's still something very passive about reading something on the internet versus now with like our really video-based social media, where we create these really deep attachments with the people sharing these messages and we trust them, even though what they're saying is like absolute garbage that has like no basis in human or plant physiology whatsoever. You know, another great example of that is just yesterday I had my one-millionth question on, “I heard you can only eat fruit on an empty stomach.”

Karina Inkster: Oh dear.

Desiree Nielsen: You know, because we’ve debunked that one, this idea that fruit, which came from Fit For Life in like the seventies. And I was like, okay, anytime we're quoting nutrition from the seventies, like ding, ding, ding, that should be your first clue. We have moved on. Science has moved on. But the idea that you know, fruit can rot in the stomach if you consume it with other food, that completely shows that there's no basis of understanding of how a stomach actually works, because as soon as you put food in the stomach, it gets incredibly acidic and fermentation is rotting.

Karina Inkster: Yes!

Desiree Nielsen: Rotting requires a high number of bacteria which cannot survive in the stomach, and time. And your stomach starts in 20 minutes and usually within a couple of hours, it's completely empty post-meal. There was literally no time! Where things brought in ferment is in your colon because even though it's very short, stuff stays in there like 12-24, if you're really sluggish, like maybe 36 or 48 hours. That's where fermentation happens. And I hate to break it to you, but we want that stuff to rot in our colon cuz that keeps our microbiome healthy and therefore we're healthy.

Karina Inkster: Mm yes. Well, okay. So I am on social media of course, because who isn't these days? Luckily we don't use it very much if at all in our business; we're on there basically just to show that we're humans and that's pretty much it. So for someone who is on social media, who has more of a presence on social media, perhaps more experience, how do we go about talking about some of these things that seem kind of boring, that aren't messages like, oh dude, you're gonna get man boobs if you eat soy every day - how do we go about sharing information that is actually scientifically accurate and have it stick?

Desiree Nielsen: You know, it's difficult because, particularly as a dietician, the way that we do everything, the way that we practice, is highly regulated. And we have really stringent ethical standards. So the way that we present ourselves on social media, like a lot of the gimmicks and gags that other folks use to sort of like reel you in, a dietician isn't gonna do that, because we literally aren't allowed to.

Karina Inkster: Ah, okay!

Desiree Nielsen: But I think the most important thing for me that I try to do, and I'm by far not a social media expert, cuz I would've grown way faster if I was - would’ve been nice - but I sort of like come back to my grocery store days. What are the questions that people are asking? Because I think often, particularly when I was like new as a dietician, I had this idea of like, this is what nutrition is.

And like I would do a seminar and have like 90 slides filled with research and people would be like, I didn't get half of that. And really come back to like, what is the question? How can you say it as briefly and as clearly as possible? And I think sometimes, you know, video does help in that, where I can make that analogy. It's like, okay, so you're worried about like lectins. So let's talk about kidney beans, but like let's also make that analogy with water. So now do you see? Can we make the connections that resonate with you? 

And it is very much about sort of exploring language and sometimes using the emotional response of, you know, the folks that are saying this stuff don't actually care about what they're saying. They honestly just want to bind you to them. They want the followers and the juicier it is, particularly on social media. So trying to just educate people on like how social media works and why those emotional attachments to folks who are unregulated and kind of saying whatever they want, because it's novel.

Karina Inkster: It's a lot of 'em out there.

Desiree Nielsen: There are so many. And I think in all fairness, I think a lot of people don't understand that they are being incorrect, you know?

Karina Inkster: Yeah, probably.

Desiree Nielsen: Some people should, absolutely. Like anyone with letters behind their name, they know. The person who wrote that book on lectins knows because the science was garbage and they should know better. But like other folks, if you read, you know, if you Google, “soy is bad for you,” millions of hits come up. So you're like, how can I read millions, like just hundreds of articles that all say the same thing and it not be true? Like, someone's gotta be fact-checking this! And people are often surprised, like as an author, people think your book is fact-checked and they're really surprised that no one fact checks.

Karina Inkster: Yeah, they’re not. Yeah. So that's why if you're in grad school or if you're writing a peer-reviewed journal article, books don't count as peer-reviewed sources for that exact reason.

Desiree Nielsen: Yeah, exactly. And I think it's really surprising to people because there's so much authority lent to you once you have a book and people are like, this must be a hundred percent true. And it's like, you know, the grammar is going to be exceptional.

Karina Inkster: That has been checked many times by many folks on a team.

Desiree Nielsen: Like fine-tooth comb. Like 30 Passovers on grammar, zero on fact-checking.

Karina Inkster: Well, that's actually a really good point and maybe ties also into why things like anti-nutrients are even on the discussion table to begin with because there's a fricking book about it. There's a book about everything. I mean, honestly, if you take the top five or 10 diet books and take all their advice, you'd basically be sitting there just drinking water and nothing else.

Desiree Nielsen: It's true. By the time you go, like, yeah, no oil vegan/keto, well I guess no oil vegan and keto would not work at all, but oh yeah, avocados! And then paleo, literally all you would have left is like kale and water. I pretty much a hundred percent agree.

Karina Inkster: Yeah.

Desiree Nielsen: And that's why people are so confused. And that's why people have such a hard time choosing foods for themselves. And I think one of the most important messages that I try to convey is that food still needs to be joyful and yes, food can contribute to your healing and your wellbeing, but also it's just food.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm.

Desiree Nielsen: Because, you know, people get so up in arms, particularly that statement I made earlier in the episode that like, you know, if someone's diet is exclusively hyper-processed foods, that's gonna contribute to them not feeling well, but also there are folks for whom that is all that they have available. And then we take it to the other end of the spectrum where people just get so concerned and like intent on their health that just because eating exclusively hyper-processed foods is not a great idea that any hyper-processed food is somehow wrong, or bad, or the word that I hate the most, “toxic.” Right?

Karina Inkster: Oh dear. Yes.

Desiree Nielsen: Like I love kale, like all the food that I share, the recipes that I share in my book,  this is truly how I live. Like I could eat a kale salad every day and not just be okay with it, like, love it. I love this stuff. I love plants so much. This girl is also eating spicy dill chips on a Saturday night.

Karina Inkster: Yes! Who are we kidding here?

Desiree Nielsen: And that's not a, oh I guess that's okay. Like that is part of a healthy life. You don't need to eat exclusively quote-unquote, “healthy foods” to live a healthy life. And the more we sort of like focus and perseverate on the virtuousness of our diet, that actually diminishes our health in like a psychological and energetic way that has a really true physiological impact on our body as well.

Karina Inkster: Oh, a hundred percent. Hey, how would you feel about doing a follow-up discussion on how folks talk about food and what kind of psychological impact that might have, and what that means about our health? And I have like 50 more topics along that line that I think would be really interesting, actually.

Desiree Nielsen: I would love it. Any chance I get to nerd out on this stuff with someone who gets it is a real joy, so.

Karina Inkster: Well, I'm thinking we get coach Zoe in on the deal as well and we’ll have a discussion about all of these things; how we, as fitness coaches, can approach, you know, talking about nutrition and I think that'd be amazing.

Desiree Nielsen: I'd love that.

Karina Inkster: Yeah. Well then we'll make it happen. So Desiree, thank you so much for coming on the show. You've got a podcast as well. So can you tell us a little bit about that and where to find you and your show?

Desiree Nielsen: Absolutely. So it is called The All Sorts Podcast, because although nutrition is definitely our main bag, we're gonna talk about all sorts of things.

Karina Inkster: Love it.

Desiree Nielsen: There's some fitness in there. There is, you know, sustainability, justice conversations. You can find it on my website if you wanna listen directly,, or of course all of the podcasty things like Apple and Spotify.

Karina Inkster: Excellent. All the podcasty things. I like that. Haha, awesome. Well, Desiree, thank you so much. I loved speaking with you. I look forward to follow-up conversations and congrats on your new book. Hey, by the way, is it out for pre-sale, like, can people pre-order?

Desiree Nielsen: It is, and pre-orders are so helpful to us as authors, cuz they tell the bookstores that, hey, this book is kind of hot. Maybe we should order it.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm, yes.

Desiree Nielsen: And I do have a pre-order bundle for anyone who orders. So if you pre-order it via your local indie bookshop, or if you go online, you just have to go to my website and I'll tell you how to get your pre-order bundle.

Karina Inkster: Ooh. That's very exciting. Cuz this episode is likely coming out right before your book comes out. So I think it'll be good timing.

Desiree Nielsen: Yeah. Just enough time. Yeah.

Karina Inkster: Amazing. Well, thank you so much. So great speaking with you. Thanks for coming on the show and I look forward to the follow-up.

Desiree Nielsen: Thank you so much for having me.

Karina Inkster: Desiree, thanks again for joining me on the show. Check out our show notes and get your hands on Desiree’s new book, Good For Your Gut Cookbook at Thanks so much for listening.

Download your free vegan strength training ebook by Coach K!

  • White Facebook Icon
  • White Instagram Icon
bottom of page