Inflammation – Nutritional Landmines

What are Anti-Nutrients?

Anti-nutrients are natural compounds found in a variety of foods that interfere with the absorption of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.  These include:

  • Lectins
  • Phytates
  • Oxalates

Lectins

Lectins are a type of protein that are found in beans, nuts, grains and nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant).

Lectins can damage the intestinal lining.  When lectins affect the gut wall, it may also cause a broader immune system response as the body’s defenses move in to attack the invaders.  Symptoms can include skin rashes, joint pain and general inflammation.

Luckily, you do not need to avoid all foods that contain lectins because many of them (like almonds) are nutritious.

Neutralising lectins

Soaking, fermenting, sprouting and cooking will decrease lectins and free up the good nutrients.

Sprouting seeds, grains or beans decreases the lectin content. Generally, the longer the duration of sprouting, the more lectins are deactivated.

Soaking and cooking – Soak beans and legumes for at least 12 hours and change the water often. Drain and rinse again before cooking. Adding baking soda to the soaking water may help neutralise the lectins further.

Fermenting – Fermentation allows beneficial bacteria to digest and convert many of the harmful substances.

Phytates

Phytates bind with nutrients such as zinc, iron and magnesium, inhibiting absorption and can raise the risk of iron and zinc deficiency.

Grains, nuts, legumes and seeds are high in phytates.

Neutralising Phytates

Fortunately, there are several methods you can use to significantly reduce the phytate content of foods.

  • Soak, sprout, ferment, and cook plant foods.
  • Consume vitamin C-rich foods with meals that contain phytic acid.  Vitamin C-rich foods include guava, bell pepper, kiwi, oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, papaya, broccoli, sweet potato, pineapple, cauliflower, kale, lemon juice and parsley.
  • Use vinegar in salad dressings and cooking to enhance mineral absorption and offset phytic acid.

Oxalates

Oxalic acid are naturally occurring chemicals found in plants and animals.  Oxalic acid binds with minerals such as calcium and magnesium which form a salt known as an oxalate and when bound, renders these minerals useless to the body.

Oxalates can become problematic if they overaccumulate inside our body. The key site for problems with overaccumulation is our kidneys.

Symptoms of high oxalates retention in the body are:

  • Inflammation in the joints
  • Gout
  • Kidney stones
  • Bloating
  • Other digestive disorders.

Foods high in oxalates:

  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Beet greens
  • Rhubarb
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Cocoa

Neutralising Oxalates


Fortunately, high oxalate foods are tolerated by most people who are not at special risk of kidney stone formation, as long we don’t excessively consume them over long periods.

  • Drink plenty of water, water will dilute the ratios of oxalate in your body.
  • If you like your green drinks:
    • Rotate your greens – have spinach one week, kale the next, lettuce the week after and so on.
    • Include cucumbers, they are an excellent choice for juicing due to high levels of nutrients and high water content.
  • Cook foods that are high in oxalate, however, don’t overcook the food as overcooking results in the loss of many different vitamins and minerals.  There is no reason to overcook an oxalate-rich food for the purpose of reducing its oxalate content as it is very likely to be much less nutritious.

 

Summary

Anti-nutrients can significantly reduce the nutritional value of many plant foods.  However, unless a qualified doctor has diagnosed you with a medical condition that warrants limiting your intake of foods that are high in anti-nutrients, there is absolutely no health benefit to avoiding these foods because many of them are nutritious.

A better solution is to neutralised the anti-nutrients with a few simple methods such as heating, boiling, soaking, sprouting and fermenting.  By combining different methods, many anti-nutrients can be degraded which allows you to enjoy these highly nutritious foods.

All material in this article is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, exercise, or other health program.