Antinutrients: what are they?
Antinutrients are compounds that interfere with the absorption of nutrients. They are found in foods naturally or synthetically. Finding them in food and drink is more common than we would think.
It is useless to try to avoid them, sooner or later, they will cross our path. The good news is that once we know of their existence, we can learn to better combine the food to get the most benefit.
Antinutrients: enemies of health?
All excess hurts. In the case of antinutrients, we are talking about chemical compounds. These, when in contact with certain substances, create a negative effect on the absorption of nutrients. A common example is phytic acid. It forms new compounds when it comes in contact with calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc. The result is that the minerals, once they reach the intestine, are not properly absorbed. It is common to find them in grains, in seeds and in walnut shells.
Flavonoids can also be considered antinutrients. They are found in tannins. When they encounter metals such as zinc or iron, they inhibit digestive enzymes and hinder the absorption of nutrients, even proteins. This is a two way street, since tannins, so present in red wine, have also anticancer properties.
Another example can be found in legumes. Some contain proteins such as trypsin and lecithin, which hinder the digestive process because they inhibit enzymes. One more case occurs with diet breakfasts that carry egg whites. In their raw form they carry avidin, which is a protein that prevents the absorption of Vitamin B7 in the intestine. Ideally, to avoid this, it is always better to cook the egg white.
How to reduce the intake of antinutrients?
It really is almost impossible. However, something that is viable is learning to combine the ingredients. For example, to the extent that we know the properties of foods and their respective nutrients, it is easier to create an optimal diet. Antinutrients will always exist, but it is up to us if we choose healthier ways of cooking or recipes that favor us.
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