Should I worry about anti-nu­tri­ents?

Kapi-Mana News - - OUT & ABOUT -

Q: I re­cently heard some­one talk­ing about anti-nu­tri­ents. What are they and where are they found? Thanks, Su­san.

Foods don’t just con­tain nu­tri­ents; some foods also con­tain what are of­ten re­ferred to as antin­u­tri­ents when eaten in ex­ces­sive amounts. Any­thing con­sumed in ex­cess can be harm­ful. Some com­mon anti-nu­tri­ents are phytic acid, ox­alates and lectins. Al­co­hol and caf­feine also have antin­u­tri­ent prop­er­ties. Let’s look at phytic acid, lectins and ox­alates.


Phytic acid or phy­tates per­form many im­por­tant func­tions for plants. Phytic acid is found in whole­grains, nuts, seeds and beans and are con­sid­ered to be anti-nu­tri­ents be­cause they rep­re­sent a po­ten­tial ab­sorp­tive road­block. Phytic acid is the prin­ci­pal stor­age form of the min­eral phos­pho­rus in many plant tis­sues, es­pe­cially the bran por­tion of grains and other seeds.

For hu­mans, the phos­pho­rus in this mol­e­cule is not read­ily

Ask Dr Libby

Email your ques­tions for Dr Libby to askdr­libby@fair­fax­me­ Please note, only a se­lec­tion of ques­tions can be an­swered. avail­able. Com­po­nents of the phytic acid mol­e­cule also bind with other min­er­als – such as cal­cium, mag­ne­sium, iron and zinc – sowe are un­able to ab­sorb them. Soak­ing whole­grains, beans, nuts and seeds overnight is one of the most ef­fec­tive ways to re­duce their phytic acid con­tent.


Lectins are pro­teins found in an­i­mals and plants, par­tic­u­larly grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. They have many pro­tec­tive func­tions, from recog­nis­ing pathogens to help­ing reg­u­late pro­tein lev­els in the blood.

How­ever, lectins can con­fuse the im­mune sys­tem in some peo­ple, and drive it to cre­ate an­ti­bod­ies. Lectins can also mimic other pro­teins typ­i­cally present in blood. Al­most every­one has an­ti­bod­ies to some di­etary lectins, so our re­sponses to lect­in­con­tain­ing food can vary. Eat­ing a va­ri­ety of foods re­duces the im­pact and some peo­ple ben­e­fit from fer­mented foods, such as sauer­kraut and kom­bucha. Cook­ing, sprout­ing or soak­ing your grains, legumes, nuts and seeds helps de­crease lectins.


Leafy green veg­eta­bles, nuts, seeds, most berries, cer­tain other fruits, soy, meat and dairy all con­tain small amounts.

The main area of con­cern for ox­alic acid is in re­la­tion to kid­ney stones. Ap­prox­i­mately 80 per cent of kid­ney stones are com­posed of cal­cium ox­alate. Ox­alic acid binds with other min­er­als such as cal­cium, which un­der cer­tain con­di­tions form a salt known as an ox­alate. Ox­alic acid in­ter­feres with the ab­sorp­tion of cal­cium and iron, mak­ing it un­us­able by the body. Some in­di­vid­u­als are more prone to prob­lems with ox­alates than oth­ers.

While some plant foods con­tain these anti-nu­tri­ents, the ben­e­fits of the vi­ta­mins, min­er­als, an­tiox­i­dants, and ben­e­fi­cial phy­to­chem­i­cals that they also con­tain far out­weigh any po­ten­tial neg­a­tives. It’s the dose that is im­por­tant – if we con­sumed huge quan­ti­ties of one par­tic­u­lar food, anti-nu­tri­ents may be of con­cern, but so would nu­tri­ent de­fi­cien­cies.

When we eat a wide range of nu­tri­tious foods, there’s no need to worry about anti-nu­tri­ents.

Dr Libby is a nu­tri­tional bio­chemist, best-sell­ing au­thor and speaker. The ad­vice con­tained in this col­umn is not in­tended to be a sub­sti­tute for di­rect, per­son­alised ad­vice from a health pro­fes­sional. See dr­


Soak­ing beans overnight is an ef­fec­tive way to re­duce their phytic acid.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.