Antinutrients: what they are and where to find them

Everyone knows that following a varied and balanced diet is essential when it comes to enjoying good health, since maintaining a healthy diet is of vital importance to provide our body with all the essential nutrients that we need every day for its proper and correct operation.

We can mention, for example, vitamins and minerals, known from a nutritional point of view as micronutrients. We can also name the macronutrients, such as proteins, carbohydrates or fats, all suitable in their recommended daily amounts. But did you know that there are also antinutrients ?


Indeed, as its name suggests, they are compounds that interfere or prevent the absorption of nutrients . They can be natural or synthetic, and different scientific studies carried out for decade have found this type of antinutritional compounds in a wide variety of foods and beverages. That is to say, Antinutrients prevent our body from being able to absorb the nutrients we get through food , by interfering with digestion. And, even if you do not believe it, we consume it every day.

These antinutrients tend to be toxic. For example, we can usually find them in grains and seeds, becoming a mechanism of defense of plants by preventing the seeds from germinating before time and the insects end up eating all the seeds. An example is the phytic acid , which we find in the husk of grains, seeds and nuts, as well as oats, beans, lentils, peanuts and corn, and forms insoluble complexes with magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc and copper, preventing their proper absorption.

Another example is found in the oxalic acid , which is combined with calcium and prevents our body from absorbing it normally. Paradoxically we find oxalic acid in spinach, which becomes a great source of calcium.

Antinutrients: what are they?

But we can also find certain nutrients that, although healthy and fundamental, influence the absorption of other nutritional compounds. It is the case of flavonoids , fundamental antioxidants to reduce the action of free radicals and that we find in red berries or in wine, but that nevertheless prevent the correct absorption of iron.

Luckily, today most seeds and plants that we consume every day are "domesticated", which means that they actually contain small amounts of antinutrients. On the other hand, putting the beans in soaking or cooking them decompose the antinutrients tend to decompose and disappear . It is most appropriate before cooking vegetables or eating oatmeal, or opt directly for roasted peanuts instead of raw ones.

There are also other traditional methods of preparation that by reducing specific antinutrients (such as oxalic acid or phytic acid) increase the nutritional quality of vegetables and fruits; highlight fermentation and malting.

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