Are Anti-Nutrients Safe For Eating Or Not – Know More About Them

Anti-nutrients in food

Eating healthy and working to achieve a fit body requires a lot of lifestyle modification and personal habits change. Individuals focus on diet, calorie-intake, nutrient intake, exercise and many other elements to enhance their health condition. Yet they miss considering anti-nutrients and their impact on health.

However, when individuals do things or eat edible items that they know nothing about, it can damage their health. Furthermore, people need to know and understand their body requirements and physiological condition before initiating any diet plan or exercise routine. Knowing about your body before following any diet plan and exercise routine will enable you to have better results.

Everyone is eager to eat a healthy diet rich in nutrients and omits low nutritional value items. Focus entirely on foods that contain a combination of nutrients with the highest levels of vitamins, minerals, fibers, and carbohydrates. 

Eating one or a few specific food items and neglecting others is not suitable in the longer run. It can yield pathological conditions or occurrence of unfavorable events that can cause long-lasting or short-lasting impact. An unbalanced diet alters nutrients and anti-nutrients that individuals consume, which will impact their health sooner or later.

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All of you have heard of the term nutrients, but few of you know about anti-nutrients. Anti-nutrients are not lethal or harmful substances but are different from macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients.  In addition, they act as a hindrance in the path of nutrient absorption from the gastrointestinal tract. 

Anti-nutrients do not act like evil substances or toxins in your body. Furthermore, individuals need not worry about anti-nutrients as long as they consume a balanced diet consisting of various healthy food items. 

Anti-Nutrients – Are They Dangerous For The Human Body?

Scientists have discovered that anti-nutrients are not lethal for the human body. In fact, they do have some positive impact on the health of individuals. These substances are found naturally in plant and animal foods. 

Usually, when individuals eat food, the nutrients absorb into the bloodstream after passing through the intestinal lining. But anti-nutrients either block or limit the absorption of nutrients from the intestinal lining into the bloodstream. As a result, a portion of the nutrients present in your food is not absorbed by the body. The absorption of calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc become slow, or the amount of these minerals absorbed decreases. 

The anti-nutrients are substances that the plant produces for its defense; these compounds protect the plant against insects, parasites, bacteria and fungi. However, some of these substances cause the food to become bitter in taste. The bitter taste protects the plant-based food as due to it, animals won’t eat the plant. 

Anti-nutrients have a vital role in protecting and encouraging the growth of seedlings and overall plants. Furthermore, the anti-nutrients also block the digestion of seeds that are eaten. As a result, seeds disperse unchanged when they come out in the animal fecal matter. 

Do Anti-Nutrients Do Any Good For Human Health?

Overall, anti-nutrients are safe to consume and naturally enhance the survival of plant species. Researchers have discovered that no matter how dangerous anti-nutrients may sound to individuals, they are safe to eat. Furthermore, the dangerous impacts only generate when individuals consume ultra or unrealistic amounts of anti-nutrients. 

Eating anti-nutrients in a small amount has no harm in-fact; it will generate beneficial outcomes. Initially, scientists believe that dietary fibers cause a reduction in absorption of nutrients and hence through grain processing, fibers were removed from the food. However, later scientists discovered the significance of dietary fibers and their vital role in reducing hypertension, heart diseases, diabetes and gastrointestinal diseases.

Similarly, anti-nutrients were considered bad for health, but later, the facts and numerous benefits of their consumption appear, which enhances their importance. Anti-nutrients like saponins, lectins, tannins, phytates, and glucosinolates are present in various plants. 

Plants Containing The Substances And Their Impact

Legumes containing saponins boost the immune system, lowers cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of cancer. Furthermore, saponins in legumes lower the blood sugar response to foods that lower the chances of cavities. The risk of kidney stones and blood clotting also lowers with saponin consumption resulting in a decreased risk of heart attack and strokes.

Lectins are mostly present in legumes and cereal grains. Lectins lower the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, some cancers and obesity. Glucosinolates found in brassica vegetables lowers the formation of tumor cells. 

Bacteria, yeast, fungi and virus growth cease in the presence of anti-nutrient tannins. The tannins are present in teas, coffees, processed meats and cheeses. Furthermore, they are antioxidants and may control hypertension and decrease cholesterol levels.

Another anti-nutrient, Phytates, has antioxidant properties and lower inflammation. They are present in whole wheat, barley, rice and corn. They also reduce cell growth and spread by killing cancer cells and increasing immune system activity. 

The Harms Of Oxalates

There are a few anti-nutrients that only do more harm than good and impact badly on health. Moreover, oxalates are normally present in common food items, including legumes, beets, berries, cranberries, oranges, chocolate and tofu. It is also present in wheat bran, soda, coffee, tea, beer, dark green vegetables, and sweet potatoes. 

Oxalates cause diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, sleep disturbances, dry mouth, low energy, nausea, orgasm problems and abnormal sexual function. Oxalates increase the risk of kidney stone formation. It also reduces the absorption of calcium from the intestine. Oxalates bind to the calcium present in the lumen of the gastrointestinal tube and increase calcium removal from the body in bowel movements. 

Thus, oxalates presence in individuals’ bodies can increase the risk of deficiency of calcium. Furthermore, deficiency of calcium will lead to osteoporosis or other bone abnormalities. Weak bones will, in turn, reduce the mobility and overall activity of individuals.

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How to Eat Anti-nutrients Safely?

If you compare the pros and cons of anti-nutrients, then the pros will overcome the cons. It is ideal to consume these substances in balanced amounts as only ultra-consumption of these compounds causes harmful impact. Furthermore, most anti-nutrients removal from food is possible by cooking or processing the food. 

It is also essential not to omit food items containing anti-nutrients as those foods contain other beneficial nutrients. Furthermore, the plant-based anti-nutrients are healthiest as they protect from various diseases. 

You can select different times for consumption of nutrients and anti-nutrients; this way, they will not alter absorption. Make sure you do not pair your daily intake with oxalates. Furthermore, try to purchase dairy products fortified with calcium. You can soak legumes before cooking that will remove anti-nutrients from it. 

Consuming multivitamins daily according to daily recommended doses will enable you to overcome any mineral and vitamin deficiency. Furthermore, try to eat iron and zinc with foods rich in vitamin C, like citrus fruits. Eating in such a manner will ensure that you get a sufficient amount of nutrients and anti-nutrients for a healthy body.

Adeena Tariq Lari
The author is a graduate of dental surgery from the Dow University Health Sciences, Karachi. She has an academic background in content writing as well as English literature, giving her an edge in the field. Adeena is always curious about physical and mental health. She is always passionate about research and delivering high-quality reliable content to users.