News from CRIS: Trending - Anti-nutrients

September 20, 2022

What are anti-nutrients?

Anti-nutrients are the compounds found in food that can inhibit our bodies from completely absorbing some beneficial vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.

Why are anti-nutrients present?

Many grains, legumes, vegetables, and more have evolved to product anti-nutrient compounds as a defense mechanism against threats such as pests and animals from their surrounding environment (1,2).

What are anti-nutrient compounds? What foods contain them?

There are many types of anti-nutrient compounds. Common compounds include (1,2):

  • Glucosinolates found in broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and more can alter thyroid function by reducing or inhibiting the thyroid’s ability to release iodine
  • Lectins found in cereals, grains, legumes, and nuts can impact the absorption of calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc
  • Oxalates found in spinach, chard, beet, rhubarb, and more can bind to minerals such as sodium or potassium, calcium, iron, and zinc and increase the risk for conditions like kidney stones
  • Phytates found in cereals, pulses, nuts, and seeds can reduce the absorption of zinc, iron, and calcium
  • Saponins found in grains and legumes can impact typical nutrient absorption.
  • Tannin found in tea, coffee, legumes, wine, and more can impact iron absorption. 

Does this mean the foods containing anti-nutrients are not nutritious?

No, not at all. In fact, many of the listed foods contain additional properties that are protective of our overall health.
Regularly consuming many of the listed foods is associated with better glycemic control and cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the body and reduced inflammatory response, cardiovascular disease, body weight, and even the risk of health-issue-related mortality (1).
There’s additional research showing that anti-nutrient compounds may be able to treat specific diseases (1).


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