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ANTI-NUTRIENTS

 

Anti-nutrients are synthetic or natural compounds which, when consumed, can interfere with the absorption of beneficial and essential organic nutrients and inorganic minerals. Anti-nutrients either bind to nutrients to prevent their absorption, react with nutrients to form un-digestible compounds or inhibit digestive proteins from breaking down a nutrient so it can be used by the body. Two methods used to inactivate anti-nutrients are fermentation and cooking. Alcoholic drinks, carbonated drinks, coffee and tea, pharmaceutical drugs, tobacco, legumes, plant members of the nightshade family, nuts, pulses, seeds and whole grains all contain various anti-nutrients.

Alcohol, lectins, oxalates, phytates, phosphoric acid, polyphenols, protease inhibitors and saponins are protective compounds produced by plants to upset the digestive process as a defence against their seeds being eaten or to protect against harsh environments or damage by microbes etc.

ALCOHOL

Alcohol slows down the metabolism while also slowing down the processes related to the digestion of protein, carbohydrates and fat, the main nutritional components necessary for one’s daily diet. Even with careful diet planning, with the consumption of all the best nutritional foods, combining the diet with alcohol is completely counter-productive. Alcohol also forces expulsion of zinc and inhibits absorption of the B complex of vitamins. See Dangers of Alcohol

AVIDIN

Egg whites contain high levels of avidin, a protein that binds to vitamin B7 (biotin) and stops it being absorbed. Cooking egg whites reduces this effect slightly but excessive egg white consumption, even if it is cooked,  can lead to vitamin B7 deficiency.

Vitamin B7 plays a role in the Krebs cycle, which takes place within the mitochondria. It is also required for healthy hair and skin, healthy sweat glands, nerve tissue and bone marrow and helps to regulate the blood sugar and reduces muscle pain.

Deficiency of vitamin B7 may result in dry scaly skin, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, mental depression as well as tongue inflammation and high cholesterol. It may also lead to the appearance of severe rashes, fungal infections, brittle hair or even hair loss, depressive mood and mood swings.

The nervous system can also be affected and symptoms can include seizures, lack of good muscle tone and lack of coordination. Muscle cramps related to physical exertion can also be a symptom, as the body will have an impaired system to effectively use sugar as fuel.

LECTINS

High levels of lectins which are specialised proteins, may be found in grains (also known as cereals or pulses), legumes (or beans which includes peanuts), dairy products and plants in the nightshade family such as aubergines, bell peppers, chilli peppers, potatoes and tomatoes. Gluten is the most well known lectin. found in grains such as wheat. See Lectins under Food Allergies.

OXALATES

These are molecules that can link up with calcium and crystallise under some conditions, including when it encounters damaged tissues, which may lead to painful bladder, kidney and urinary tract stones. Because it is so reactive, oxalate also interferes with the duties of many other positively charged ions like copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc and more. Oxalate specifically impairs iron's intracellular release and interferes with the whole class of vitamin B7 (biotin) dependent enzymes called carboxylases. These disruptions of cell chemistry only happen when oxalates are not bound to calcium. The human body can also make oxalates, especially when certain enzymes are unbalanced in their activity because of genetic differences or because someone has deficiencies in enzyme cofactors like vitamin B1, vitamin B6 or magnesium. Oxalate also can be generated in the body when someone is consuming high doses of vitamin C or fructose.

PHYTATES

Phytates are most commonly found in whole grains particularly wheat bran They are also found in legumes, nuts and seeds. Phytates bind to calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and vitamin B3 (niacin) and causes them to be carried out of the body before they can be absorbed.

Pseudo grains are foods that resemble grains from the perspective of the person eating them, but are not biologically members of the same group. Biologically speaking, cereal grains are the seeds of grasses and belong to a group called monocots. In contrast, pseudo grains are the seeds of broadleaf plants and belong to a different group called dicots.

The three major pseudo grains (also called pseudo cereals) are amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa. All grains should be prepared in a way that maximise nutritional availability while reducing the phytate/phytic acid content by activating an enzyme called phytase. This enzyme is why cows and other ruminants have no trouble eating grains as they produce it naturally. Ruminants are mammals that are able to acquire nutrients from plant-based food by fermenting it in a specialised stomach prior to digestion, Humans, on the other hand, have to introduce it through special preparation methods. These methods include germinating or sprouting grains, roasting them and soaking them in an acidic medium (water with a splash of vinegar or lemon juice). The best solution is traditional sourdough fermentation as, when done properly, it can eliminate phytates almost completely.

POLYPHENOLS

Coffee and tea are grown because of their polyphenol content. Polyphenols are antioxidants that have a role in the prevention of degenerative diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases, however, they also inhibit the absorption of iron which means tea and coffee should never be consumed with meals or within 30 minutes after a meal.

PHOSPHORIC ACID

Carbonated drinks contain phosphoric acid which is an anti-nutrient. It neutralises the hydrochloric acid in the stomach and destroys the capacity of the body to absorb essential elements such as calcium, iron and magnesium.

SAPONINS

Agave (pure unrefined), alfalfa, aloe vera, ash gourd, baobab fruit, chickpeas, corn silk, horse chestnuts, potatoes and soybeans contain saponins which are anti-nutrients but can also help to prevent colon cancer. Bile acids excreted in the bile (primary bile acids) are metabolised by bacteria in the colon, producing secondary bile acids, which may promote colon cancer. By binding to primary bile acids, saponins reduce the formation of the secondary bile acids and hence the risk of colon cancer.

EFFECT OF PHARMACEUTICAL DRUGS ON VITAMIN AND MINERAL ABSORPTION

DRUG

TREATMENT

NUTRIENTS AFFECTED

Antibiotics

Bacterial infection

Vitamins A, B9, B12, C, K and magnesium

Aspirin

Pain, fever, circulation

Vitamins B1, C and K

Cortisone

Allergy, inflammation

Vitamins B6 and B9, C, D and K, calcium and zinc

Phenobarbital

Seizure disorders

Vitamins B9, C and D, calcium, magnesium and zinc

Ritalin

Hyperactivity, ADD

Suppresses appetite

Tetracycline

Infection

Vitamins B2, B3, B9, C, D and K, calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc

See also Medication Dangers

NATURE CURES FOR ANTI-NUTRIENTS

The best way to avoid the negative impact of anti-nutrients is to eat a diverse diet of whole organic foods. One should also cook whole grains, legumes and cruciferous vegetables before eating them. Sprouting and brine pickling are also good ways to prepare foods to reduce anti-nutrients. If soy foods are to be part of the diet, then one should consume mainly fermented soy like miso and tempeh.

See also Food Allergies

"Nature cures not the physician..." Hippocrates 460 BC

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