Nutrients are found in food which gets used by the body to stay healthy and perform its many functions. But on the other hand, there are nutrients found in food, specifically plants, which are not digested; these are called antinutrients. Unlike nutrients – which the body can absorb – antinutrients work to block this absorption, minimizing the benefits we receive.
Generally, you don’t have to worry too much about antinutrients if you consume a balanced diet. But for those at risk for malnutrition, antinutrients can make the condition far worse. Even individuals who stick with a diet mainly consisting of legumes and grains are at higher risk of the consequences of antinutrients.
If you’re concerned about antinutrients, there are a few things you can do to reduce the amount in your food. Here are some tips to reduce antinutrients in food.
It is important to note that not all antinutrients are “bad.” Like everything else in life the good comes with the bad. Here are the most common antinutrients to avoid:
Phytate (phytic acid): Reduces absorption of nutrients. Found in grains and seeds.
Tannins: Antioxidant polyphenol. May impair digestion, but sometimes can be good and offer benefits.
Lectins: Found in plants, seeds, grains and legumes. Can be harmful in high dosages.
Protease inhibitors: Found in plants, seeds and legumes. Interferes with protein digestion.
Calcium oxalate: Found in vegetables like spinach. Can cause kidney stones.
Saponins: Cannot be digested and if entered into the blood stream can lead to immune responses.
Trypsin inhibitors: Commonly found in grain products. Can be broken down with heat.
Solanine: Found in tomatoes, eggplant and peppers. Can lead to symptoms of nausea, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Chaconine: Found in corn and potatoes. In small portions it provides antifungal properties. In large amounts it can lead to digestion discomfort.
Gluten: Hard to digest and causes digestive distress. People with celiac disease cannot break it down at all and can lead to nausea, constipation, diarrhea and stomach cramping.
The key with antinutrients is moderation. We have provided you with some tips to reduce the amount of antinutrients found in your food. Although some antinutrients can be beneficial, small dosages are key.
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