What are antinutrients? The general public is well aware of the term nutrients or “our” nutrients.
If you have read at least a little more about food, then you probably know what the word nutrients means. Nutrients are important parts of food that are good for us and our health.
But did you know that there are also antinutrients? And did you know that they can also affect our health and physical activity?
Logically, unlike nutrients, antinutrients have negative implications for digestion. However, the story of antinutrients is a little more complex than this conclusion.
Antinutrients can be of natural or synthetic origin. And their main feature is the obstruction of the absorption of the necessary nutrients (usually the minerals with which the antinutrients react).
But also inhibitory effect on digestive enzymes (interfere with their enzyme function).
Digestive enzymes are key to the proper breakdown of the food system, which later allows for optimal absorption of food.
Antinutrients are commonly found in healthy foods and beverages. They are also part of the various leafy vegetables, in some fruits, legumes, roots, teas, coffee, etc.
What is the good news about antinutrients?
It is important to note that in smaller quantities they are not only not harmful, but can also have a beneficial effect (except in people with high sensitivity).
In addition, there are appropriate ways in which we can significantly reduce the concentration of antinutrients in food.
Read more about these available ways and the most famous and common antinutrients.
Most common antinutrients
Phytic acid is an antinutrient
Phytic acid is perhaps the best-known antinutrient, found in large quantities in cereals and legumes. This acid, by binding various important minerals, prevents its proper absorption in the digestive tract.
Phytic acid can “capture” a huge percentage of the mineral content of food: calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and even phosphorus.
In addition, it inhibits the work of some of the essential digestive enzymes, such as trypsin, amylase, and pepsin.
Amylase is required for the breakdown of carbohydrate foods, while trypsin and pepsin are essential for protein digestion.
Some studies show that up to 80% of the phosphorus and zinc in foods rich in them remain inaccessible for absorption indigestion in the presence of said acid.
The same can be said for 40% of the magnesium in foods rich in this mineral. These are foods such as: pumpkin and sunflower seeds, cashews, chickpeas, etc.
At the same time, phytic acid acts to inhibit the absorption of calcium and iron. Obstruction itself increases the risk of developing anemia and bone loss.
On the other hand, eating foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits or berries, can reduce this effect of phytic acid.
Specifically, vitamin C will improve the absorption of these important minerals. Additionally, foods rich in vitamin A (sweet potatoes, carrots, etc.) can have the same effect.
Tannins are a type of enzyme inhibitor that interferes with the digestion of proteins. This can ultimately lead to protein deficiency and gastrointestinal problems.
Excessive amounts of these substances can also cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and other digestive problems.
Tannin substances are most common in wine, green and black tea, followed by beer, cocoa, various seeds, nuts, etc.
Similar to tannins, oxalates are found in large quantities in sesame seeds, legumes, and millet. These antinutrients act on the reduced absorption of proteins from the mentioned foods.
They also bind calcium, which reduces its absorption and increases the risk of developing kidney stones.
May cause symptoms such as vomiting, stomach upset, gas, etc.
The most important thing about lectins is that they can enter the cells of the digestive tract and damage their membranes.
This damage leads not only to impaired absorption of nutrients but also to disruption of the beneficial intestinal microflora, as well as stimulating autoimmune reactions.
In a similar way to lectins, they can penetrate and cause damage to the gastrointestinal tract, causing unpleasant symptoms.
They can even enter the bloodstream, triggering an immune response. Foods that are a good source of saponins: legumes, spinach, certain teas, onions, oats, etc.
Trypsin and chymotrypsin inhibitors are found in many kinds of cereal, but also legumes such as soy.
As the name suggests, they inhibit the work of trypsin, an important enzyme for breaking down protein foods.
Polyphenolic antinutrients are mostly found in soy. They can cause digestive problems but act in the direction of hormonal changes.
Solanine and Hakone
Higher concentrations can be found in eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, etc. They are usually quite useful, but if taken in very large concentrations, they can cause symptoms.
Specifically, there is abdominal pain, headache, diarrhea, cramps, acid-like symptoms, etc.
What can we do about antinutrients?
Avoiding foods rich in these antinutrients is not the answer. As you saw above, these are foods that are usually particularly healthy and nutritious food.
So, in addition to antinutrients, they are rich in a number of other extremely important nutrients:
- quality carbohydrates,
- healthy fats,
In addition, most of the mentioned substances have a number of benefits for our health if they are consumed in smaller quantities and if the food is properly prepared.
For example, most of these substances are strong antioxidant components.
They can protect us from chronic inflammatory processes – one of the main risk factors for most chronic diseases.
For most of these substances, even anticancer properties have been found. Fortunately, there are procedures we can take on our own in order to have a healthy diet in which we will moderately consume it from antinutrients.
3 Procedures we can take in order to have a healthy diet
- The first is to avoid directly combining foods rich in antinutrients and minerals.
- Second and perhaps more important: there are several ways to prepare food, which reduce its amounts of antinutrients.
- The main way that can reduce the concentrations of most of these antinutrients is heat treatment, ie cooking or baking.
Additionally, these methods of preparation make food generally more easily digestible.
Specific procedures you can take to protect yourself from excessive concentrations of antinutrients in healthy foods:
- Before use, soak food in water (you can also grind it) – soak legumes, cereals, and even nuts rich in some antinutrients overnight.
- You can do the same with the seeds. Fortunately, most seed recipes are prepared by soaking them in water – chia, flaxseed, etc.
In this way, it is easier to use some other components, which would otherwise be poorly used.
Such as omega 3 fatty acids from chia and flaxseed. Let the seeds, grains, and legumes germinate – this way too many of the antinutrients can be degraded.
According to some studies, this increases the absorption of vitamin B12, zinc, iron, magnesium, etc.
Use Fermentation – Organic acids formed during the fermentation process promote the breakdown of phytic acid and many other antinutrients.
Additionally, this process will enrich the food with probiotics. Lactic acid from yogurt can also help us a lot.
How to reduce the effect of antinutrients?
Spinach – blanch the spinach.
Bring water to a boil, then add raw spinach and leave in water for 3 minutes.
Then drain immediately. Another good way to prepare spinach is to fry it.
Put a little butter, and if you want onions, in a pan on high heat (but not maximum). Add the raw spinach and fry for 3 minutes.
You can squeeze a little lemon on the prepared spinach, which will not only improve the taste but will also add vitamin C which increases the absorption of minerals.
Broccoli – Put a bowl half full of water to boil.
Wrap the raw broccoli in aluminum foil and lower it into the water. It will not sink, but make sure the edges of the foil are raised so that there is no contact with water (a convenient way to steam).
Leave the broccoli for 10 minutes, then you can serve it.
Another way is to add a little butter and fry the broccoli at a moderately high temperature, but not longer than 5 minutes.
Antinutrients unlike nutrients have negative implications for digestion. Unfortunately, we can not avoid antinutrients as much as we want.
We can found in the daily diet and in various foods. Because antinutrients also have beneficial properties for our health.
There are several ways to reduce their effects.
The first is to avoid combining foods rich in antinutrients and minerals. Second, there are many ways to prepare food that can help reduce the number of antinutrients.
The main way we should use, and which can reduce the concentrations of most of the listed antinutrients is the heat treatment, ie digestion or baking of food.
Feel free to eat, but you will now know more about antinutrients, and you can use our tips. With our tips and proper food processing, you will mitigate the effect of antinutrients.