ANTI-NUTRIENTS

The subject of anti-nutrients is definitely one where new theories and researches constantly appear. They are a sort of defense mechanism that allows seeds to live and breed more easily because they are safe from bacteria and inedible for various harmful insects and predators. At the same time, many of them can also have positive effects – some lower cholesterol, others reduce inflammation.



Some of the most common anti-nutrients:


1. Phytates (phytic acid)

They are most frequently present in whole grains, seeds and nuts, and legumes.

They bind important minerals in our body (such as phosphorus, calcium, zinc, magnesium, copper, and iron) and inhibit their normal absorption which can, in the long run, have serious consequences for the health of our bones, teeth, hair and nails, and our blood work (further issues with anemia).


2. Enzyme inhibitors

They impede the natural function of our digestive enzymes and lead to non-effective absorption of consumed foods, to needlessly wasting our energy as it extends the time of our digestion process. However, in people with sensitive intestine, irritability and similar problems can only be exacerbated. In combination with phytates that further block three important enzymes: amylase, pepsin, and trypsin, may lead to the malnutrition of important nutrients and the weariness of the organism.


3. Glucosinolates

They are naturally present in the vegetable group called brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, turnips, kale, etc.) and they interfere with the absorption of iodine in our bodies which leads to difficulties in the synthesis of the thyroid hormones, and the size of the thyroid gland; also, iodine is an important element for the health of ovaries, breasts, and prostate. If we would like to strengthen the above-mentioned organs, we must be careful in the consumption of anti-nutrients of this group. It is especially important to emphasize that everyone with hypothyroidism (this is the reduced function of the thyroid gland) should avoid the consumption of the brassicas (especially raw). While those with increased performance (hyperthyroidism) do not need to avoid them. Thyroid health is directly related to our metabolism and energy and mood levels, therefore caution is recommended if we have problems with fatigue, somnolence, irritability, hair loss, weight gain, and decreased metabolism.


3. Lectins

They appear in our bodies when we consume different legumes and grains. They are not exactly welcome because they are indigestible in the individual's gut, they glue themselves to the epithelial cells of the gut and damage them, and these cells are important for the correct immune response of our body. Gradually, abnormal and ineffective metabolism may lead to more serious and visible hormonal and immunological imbalances, mineral malnutrition, changes in the balance of intestinal bacteria, and increases and/or atrophy of tissues or individual organs.


5. Oxalates

They are present in many foods - to emphasize dark leafy vegetables (spinach, chard, kale, etc.), as well as beans and beetroots - and affect calcium absorption. Oxalates are normally present in our bodies. A problem may occur if they excessively accumulate in our bodies. This can lead to oxalate kidney stones, problems with malabsorption, and other chronic gastrointestinal problems. People with osteoporosis or a more sensitive intestine should avoid consuming them or take calcium as a food supplement with such meal.


6. Tannins

They are present in large quantities in green and black tea, cacao, coffee, red wine, cranberries, pomegranate, etc. These are series of polyphenols with many antioxidative benefits and they reduce inflammation in the body. However, despite their positive side, there are also records where people have studied poor protein metabolism, the occurrence of intestinal problems, bloating, and even negative effects on growth in connection with tannins; our bodies are not supposed to be most effective in modifying and using tannins.


7. Saponins

They are present in legumes, quinoa, millet, etc. They are said to have both positive (antioxidative, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory) and negative effects, just like tannins. Caution should be exercised when using foods full of saponins in people with intestinal permeability problems, as they act similarly to lectins.


Let us conclude by pointing out that whole-grain is not necessarily healthy for all bodies and gut if the body is already facing health challenges. However, most of the inhibitors can be neutralized or eliminated by different food preparations:

At the same time, we need to realize that all nutrients are not present in a single type of food, and therefore we should choose a diverse range of nutritious meals. Whenever possible, we choose organically produced foods and avoid additional unnecessary anti-nutrients such as pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, etc.


Chung, et. al. Tannins and Human Health: a Review. (1998)
Harvard T. H., Chan. Are anti-nutrients harmful?
Vasconcelos, et. al. Anti-critical Properties of Plant Lects. (2004)


"The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not necessarily reflect the views of Login5 Aphrodite Limited."


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