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What is an Antinutrient?

There is a part of plants that we need not be scared of, but do need to discuss. They are called antinutrients. Simply, they are compounds that may reduce our ability to absorb nutrients we need to get from our food.

Phytic acid (the storage form of phosphorus) is called an antinutrient, which some food plans tell you to avoid, but like anything else, there are two sides to the story. It’s often considered an antinutrient because it binds minerals in the digestive tract, making them less available to our bodies. Yet these same antinutrient properties can also help in the prevention of chronic disease.

While in the intestines, phytic acid can bind the minerals iron, zinc, and manganese. Once bound, they are then excreted in waste. This can be a good or bad thing, depending on the condition. It’s a bad thing if you’re having trouble building up iron stores in your body and have developed something like iron-deficiency anemia. That is why many times we feel we are getting what we need from our food but our blood work shows differently.

Metabolites of phytic acid may also have secondary messenger roles in cells. Some experts even suggest that it’s the phytic acid in whole grains and beans that lends them their apparent protective properties against cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes! Hint: the grains with little to no phytic acid are the refined ones. Keep it whole!

Another antinutrient I want to point out is called oxalic acid, or oxalate. Once consumed, oxalate can bind to minerals to form compounds, including calcium oxalate and iron oxalate. This mostly occurs in the colon but can also take place in the kidneys and other parts of the urinary tract. Foods with oxalate include leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, cocoa, nuts, and seeds.

What? But these are like my whole morning smoothie!

Are you thinking that? While these are all foods we need to be consuming often, having too much of one type can cause kidney stones. Easy fix - switch it up. Some of the oxalate you eat can be broken down by bacteria in the gut, which happens before it can bind to minerals. This is why I am dedicating so much of this book to gut health! What happens in the microbiome has a significant effect on other areas of the body. A great effect if running optimally, a detrimental effect if not.

Do not freak about consuming these antinutrients. If you are consuming a variety of foods and a lot of water, plus have your gut functioning correctly, they should not be an issue for you. But their potential work against the body is something to note. This is just one reason why I advise my clients to get something new each time they grocery shop. If you buy kale one week, try another leafy green the next. Love almonds? Fantastic. Get macadamia nuts to help add variety. We Americans, even while eating healthy, get way too stuck on our top meals and snacks. We don’t often stray, which is why our blood work often shows levels out of range. New week, new green, new nut, new seed.



Jes Royston | Green Mama Tribe

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