You probably have some idea of what nutrients are.
Macronutrients include carbohydrates, fats, and protein make up most of what we eat and provide our bodies with energy.
Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals which play important roles in our bodily functions and keeping us healthy.
So what then, are antinutrients?
These are compounds that can prevent nutrients from being properly absorbed by the body.
This doesn’t mean they are all bad – many antinutrient containing foods also have beneficial properties.
But it is something to keep in mind.
As a clinic of naturopathic doctors in Toronto, today we’re here to help you understand more about antinutrients, what foods they are found in, and how to ensure they aren’t affecting your body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
What Are Antinutrients?
Simply put, antinutrients are substances that block your body’s ability to absorb the nutrients it needs to function properly.
The number of nutrients blocked can be affected by a number of factors, including individual metabolism, the way foods containing them are prepared, and what other foods are eaten at the same time.
Antinutrients only affect the nutrients in foods eaten at the same time, so timing your meals and snacks can be useful to reduce their effects.
Most Common Antinutrients
There are a number of common antinutrients which are found in foods many of us eat daily.
Let’s take a look at what they are and the foods they are found in.
Tannins are a type of antioxidant polyphenols, which can decrease absorption of iron.
They are notably found in coffee, tea, and wine, and they are what give them their bitter flavour.
2. Calcium Oxalate
Calcium oxalate is a form of calcium found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach.
Because calcium binds to the oxalate, it makes it difficult for the body to absorb.
Also known as phytic acid, phytates are found in nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains.
These antinutrients limit the absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.
Lectins are present in plant-based foods, notably whole grains, seeds, beans, peanuts, and soybeans.
They can block absorption of minerals, including zinc, iron, calcium, and phosphorus.
5. Protease Inhibitors
Found in plant-based foods, including seeds, grains, and legumes protease inhibitors interfere with the body’s ability to digest and absorb protein.
This is because of the way in which they interact with and inhibit digestive enzymes.
How To Reduce Antinutrients In Your Food
There are a number of strategies you can use to reduce the antinutrients in your food.
These can allow you to enjoy the foods you love, without sacrificing the nutrients in them.
They’re also useful as many of the foods which contain these substances are good for you in their own right.
Let’s have a look at some of the ways to lower the number of antinutrients in your food.
When a plant begins to come out of a seed, this period is called sprouting.
A 2001 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found germinating, or sprouting seeds reduced the amount of phytates in them.
The process for sprouting seeds is fairly simple, and involves rinsing seeds to remove debris, and then soaking in cool water for two to twelve hours.
Sprout People is a website which has specific instructions for sprouting different types of grains, legumes, and other foods.
Soaking legumes overnight can help to decrease the amount of many antinutrients including calcium oxalate, lectins, tannins, phytate, and protease inhibitors.
A study in the journal Plant Foods for Human Nutrition found that soaking peas for 48 hours lowered the amount of antinutrients in them.
Additionally, a study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutritionsoaked taro leaves for 18 hours, and this resulted in a 26% reduction in the soluble oxalate content of the leaves.
Soaking works because antinutrients are often found in a food’s skin, and then are dissolved during the soaking process.
Exposing antinutrients to high levels of heat, like boiling, can degrade them, as was shown in a study in the journal Plant Foods for Human Nutrition.
Boiling is effective for degrading antinutrients such as tannins, lectins, and protease inhibitors, however it doesn’t work as well with phytates, which are resistant to heat
In most cases, the longer a food is cooked or boiled, the greater a reduction of antinutrients will be achieved by boiling.
Fermentation is a process that occurs when microorganisms such as yeast and bacteria digest carbohydrates in food.
When fermentation happens unintentionally it often results in spoiled food, however, there are many foods which use controlled fermentation as part of their processing, including beer, wine, kombucha, kimchi, and yogurt.
Fermentation is also used in making sourdough bread, and a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found the fermentation process degrades antinutrients and increases the bioavailability of nutrients.
Book an Appointment at Annex Naturopathic
Do you worry your body may not be absorbing nutrients effectively?
Perhaps you have a condition which affects how well you digest food.
Maybe you would just like some overall nutritional guidance to get you feeling your best.
Annex Naturopathic can help.
We offer naturopathic solutions for digestive health to help ensure your body is functioning at its peak.
Contact us today for a consultation, or to set up an appointment.