“Anti-Nutrients”: Myth or Threat?

(AscendHealthy)- The internet is bursting with controversial and contradictory health, fitness and diet advice. And right in the middle of all the chaos are anti-nutrients. Many would have you believe that you should avoid them, but doing so contradicts the majority of medically sound diet advice available. For example, avoiding anti-nutrients would mean eating white rice instead of brown, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. Let’s learn more about this controversial diet fad.

Should You Avoid Foods that Contain Anti-Nutrients? Get the Full Story Below!

What Are Anti-Nutrients?

In the most simple terms, anti-nutrients are substances (compounds) that block the absorption of nutrients, says Harvard School of Public Health. They are found in common foods and can prevent the absorption of healthful nutrients. Let’s take a look at some of the most common anti-nutrients:

  • Glucosinolates – Found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage, glucosinolates can prevent iodine absorption. The problem is worse in individuals with an iodine deficiency or hypothyroidism.
  • Lectins – Found in beans, soybeans, peanuts, and whole grains, lectins can interfere with the absorption of calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc.
  • Oxalates – Found in green leafy vegetables and teas, oxalates can prevent the absorption of calcium.
  • Phytic Acid – Found in whole grains, seeds, legumes, and nuts, phytic acid can interfere with the absorption of iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium.
  • Tannins – Found in coffee, tea, and legumes, tannins can interfere with iron absorption.

At this time, it is not known how much anti-nutrients affect the nutrition absorption of all individuals. This is because different cooking methods can alter the effects of anti-nutrients and individuals may metabolize them differently.

The Myth of Anti-Nutrients

The ability of anti-nutrients to interfere with nutrient absorption has caused many to swear off eating them. The result? Many diets, health enthusiasts, and nutrition blogs put anti-nutrients in the “bad” or “do not eat” categories. However, much research has shown that anti-nutrients aren’t bad for you.

Not only is it a bad idea to swear off healthy, nutrition-packed foods because they contain these compounds, but there is also evidence that these compounds may actually be good for you. Fiber, for example, used to be considered an anti-nutrient because it was believed to bind to minerals and prevent their absorption. Now, however, we know that fiber prevents many diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

How to Incorporate Anti-Nutrients into Your Diet

Unless you have a medical condition that makes it a bad idea to eat certain anti-nutrients, you should not be afraid to consume them. But it is a good idea to eat them in moderation as part of a well-balanced, varied diet. For example, do not consume too many servings of anti-nutrients at one meal. Instead, have one serving of, let’s say, beans and opt for fresh vegetables over whole grains and/or tea at the same meal.

It’s true that certain foods contain compounds that make it more difficult for your body to absorb nutrients. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid them. Most of the time, these foods are very good for you and have a lot of nutritional value — even after you subtract the nutrients your body won’t absorb.

~Here’s to Your Healthy Ascension!

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