What are antinutrients and how to remove them

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Have you ever heard of antinutrients? We are used to hearing the different benefits present in the nutrients of food. However, antinutrients are usually quite unknown to many people. These components, which are found naturally in some foods, are so called because it reduces the nutritional values of edibles and can prevent the absorption of nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.

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Antinutrients are a compound found mainly in seeds and legumes, although they can also appear on some leaves and fruits. It is important that before consuming such foods, we eliminate these components so that they do not produce any adverse effects on our health. That is why in the following article of we will explain what antinutrients are and how to eliminate them. Read!

What are antinutrients and what foods are they in?

As we have said, antinutrients are compounds that are found naturally in some foods and that can reduce their nutritional value, either because they prevent the absorption of some nutrients such as proteins, minerals or vitamins, or inhibit the function of enzymes that are responsible for facilitating the assimilation of some edibles.

These types of components are mainly found in seeds, cereals, legumes and nuts, although they are also part of some leaves and fruits such as spinach, cocoa or tea leaves. Although it may seem that antinutrients have no use, they are actually found naturally in these foods for an explanation: these compounds are responsible for protecting these edibles from predators that consume them because if they are consumed without eliminating them, antinutrients can produce adverse effects on the dysgestive system such as belly pain, indigestion and gas or flatulence.

What types of antinutrients exist

There are different types of antinutrients depending on the food where it is found and the nutrient it affects. Therefore, below we will explain the main antinutrients that we can find in food:

  • Phytates: it is a compound found in bread and cereals such as oats, millet and brown rice and that can prevent the absorption of minerals such as zinc and iron. However, it has been proven that by soaking cereals, phytate is converted into an inositol, an antioxidant compound that improves the properties of these foods.
  • Oxalates: it is a substance that is part of different vegetables and seeds such as spinach, beets, chard, nuts, buckwheat, cocoa and rhubarb, among others. Oxalates prevent the correct assimilation of some minerals, especially iron and calcium.
  • Avidin: is a protein found inside raw egg white. This antinutrient prevents our body from assimilating some vitamins, especially vitamin B8. That is why the egg is a food that should always be eaten cooked.
  • Tannins: This antinutrient is mainly found in the leaves of tea and coffee and can prevent the assimilation of minerals such as iron, manganese and calcium. Tannins can also reduce the absorption of some vitamins, especially thiamine and vitamin B12.
  • Saponins: this component is present in the outer skin of some legumes such as chickpeas, soy and quinoa. Saponins are the antinutrient that gives that characteristic bitter taste to these foods and also, if it is not eliminated correctly, it can both cause irritation in the stomach and reduce the absorption of minerals such as iron.

How to remove antinutrients with soaking and cooking

In foods such as legumes and cereals, antinutrients can be eliminated by soaking and cooking these foods. On the one hand, soaking not only helps hydrate these vegetables but also activates the seeds and reduces the phytate and saponin content of these foods. On the other hand, cooking enhances the power of soaking and also heat manages to inhibit the effects of antinutrients since it changes the structure of these substances. To use this method, you will simply have to follow these steps:

  1. First of all, you will have to wash the cereals or legumes to remove the dirt and reduce the saponins it contains.
  2. Once washed, you will have to let them soak in a container with plenty of warm water. Although there is no specific time, what is most recommended is to leave them in the water as long as possible. We can also add a little lemon juice to the water to enhance the elimination of phytates.
  3. Finally, we will boil the seeds or cereals for the time indicated on the product packaging. We can add a little salt in the water with which we will boil the vegetable so that the food is more digestible.

Germination to remove antinutrients

Germination is a method to eliminate this type of compounds (especially phytates) and consists of the soaking time lasting much longer. In this way, the seeds manage to germinate managing to reduce antinutrients and increase the release of minerals and vitamins.

To use this germination method to remove antinutrients from food you will have to follow these steps:

  1. Wash the seeds to remove dirt.
  2. Then let them soak for 2 to 12 hours in cold water.
  3. When the indicated time passes, rinse the seeds and then drain all the water.
  4. Place the seeds in a container to germinate and leave them in a place where they get sunlight.
  5. You will need to rinse and drain about 3-4 times every 8 hours until the seeds have germinated.

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