Maybe you’ve heard of antinutrients before, maybe this concept is totally new – either way, I’m going to tell you what you need to know about one of these poorly understood bad boys.
To start, what is an antinutrient? Basically, an antinutrient is a compound that disrupts the absorption of vitamins or minerals that do provide us with nutrients. However, they may also have some interesting benefits that we should be aware of.
A major example of an antinutrient is phytic acid, which may also be referred to as phytate. Phytic acid can be found in nuts, seeds, legumes and grains. The reason it is considered an antinutrient is because it has been shown to block absorption of zinc, iron, magnesium and calcium (to a lesser degree) by binding them and making them unavailable to us.
Phytic acid is the reason why it is often recommended that we soak our grains and beans overnight. Soaking overnight helps to significantly reduce the amount of phytic acid that we ingest. Sprouting, cooking and fermenting are other methods often used to reduce phytic acid.
Although it might sound a bit scary that phytic acid can reduce absorption of important nutrients, it really isn’t a problem for the majority of people. Vegans and vegetarians may have to be a bit more careful, but generally, with a well-rounded diet, consuming phytic acid-containing foods is very unlikely to result in mineral deficiencies. So is it okay if you forget to soak? Yes – don’t sweat it.
In fact, phytic acid may have some benefits – as an antioxidant, it helps to neutralize free radicals in the body that can cause cellular damage possibly leading to cancer. Phytic acid consumption appears to be associated with lower incidences of breast, colon and prostate cancers. Other benefits may include reduced cholesterol, risk of heart of disease and osteoporosis occurance.
Once again, this is a reminder to try and consume a varied diet with an abundance of whole foods.
Reach out if you have any questions!
Shauna MS, RD