Updated: Jun 11
Most people underestimate the value of a healthy diet. And today, I’m going to use science to explain why paying attention to what you eat is incredibly important for your health.
Because unbeknownst to many, everything we consume is made up of smaller parts - phytates, oxalates, polyphenols, and more. Do you need to know what each one is? No.
But having a general understanding of something like anti-nutrients can help you navigate your way through unwanted symptoms and even reach a new level of optimal.
Anti-nutrients are “defense” chemical compounds found in plants that help the plant avoid being attacked by animals, by making the animal sick and therefore avoiding the plant in the future.
And so as you can imagine, anti-nutrients from some plants can also pose problems for some humans when consumed, particularly in regular quantities.
The big problem is that anti-nutrients can cause inflammation, because the chemicals work to inhibit digestive enzymes from properly digesting food. This inflammation wreaks havoc on the stomach, intestines, and can spread throughout the body if not properly addressed.
The ‘Good’ Anti-Nutrients
Some anti-nutrients are good for our bodies, while others remain harmful.
The most beneficial anti-nutrients are polyphenols which are found in many fruits and vegetables. Popular ones include epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in green tea and resveratrol in grapes and wine.
These compounds act as antioxidants and help combat harmful environmental effects like UV rays, and protect against cancer, diabetes, and other neurodegenerative diseases. Studies have found they can have antidepressant-like activities in the brain and can prevent allergies!
Foods high in polyphenols include berries and spinach, as well as coffee, black or green tea, or dark chocolate in moderation.
And the Bad Ones
The most common anti-nutrients are gluten, phytates (also known as phytic acid), tannins, lectins, and oxalates. Some people are more sensitive to anti-nutrients in general, while other bodies might be more sensitive to one or the other.
Phytates are found in grains, nuts and seeds and can impair mineral production. While phytates are also antioxidants, people who already have mineral deficiencies should be mindful to prepare these foods properly (see below).
Lectins are often found in legumes, as well as a class of plants called nightshades, which include peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and white potatoes.
Oxalates are often found in raw, cruciferous vegetables like kale and broccoli, as well as spinach, soybeans, black pepper, and chocolate.
All can be problematic, depending on the body.
Anti-Nutrient Symptoms and Preparation
Symptoms of anti-nutrient overload can include: bloating, nausea, abdominal pain, arthritis, headaches, brain fog, and skin rashes. And one easy way to figure out if anti-nutrients are causing your symptoms? Work with a functional medicine health coach! But also…
Soaking, sprouting, steaming, sautéing, and even fermenting certain foods is the key to reducing anti-nutrient exposure.
Soaking and dehydrating nuts can be a game changer for consumption, as it reduces the anti-nutrients available in the nuts and makes it easier for your body to digest them.
Antinutrients in beans and legumes can be reduced through soaking and boiling. And the great news is that this preparation step also significantly improves their nutritional value.
Paying attention to your body can be a game changer - because it can truly allow you to thrive in other areas of your life.
What does your unique body need? Book a free Discovery Session with a functional medicine health coach like my lovely self so we can chat more about your optimal. I believe in you.
In good health,