Anti-nutrients: Perhaps they're not as bad as they sound.

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Anti-nutrients: Perhaps they're not as bad as they sound.

Post by NHE » Tue Dec 11, 2018 2:55 am

Anti-nutrients might sound scary, but they’re not so alarming. ... -alarming/
If nutrients are good, anti-nutrients must be bad, right? Not so fast. As with many things, the answer is "yes and no," and the reasons might surprise you.

Anti-nutrients are naturally occurring compounds found in many plant-based foods — think pulses (beans and lentils), whole grains, nuts, seeds and many vegetables. A number of bloggers, authors and other "experts" claim we should avoid foods that contain anti-nutrients. They cite a few reasons, including that anti-nutrients can theoretically bind to certain nutrients, reducing the body’s ability to digest and absorb them.

The most common anti-nutrients are phytates (also known as phytic acid) and lectins. Phytates can bind to iron and zinc, and — to a lesser degree — calcium, magnesium and potassium. Lectins, a protein found in most plants and especially in beans and whole grains, can bind to carbohydrates. Much has been made of the idea that lectins are a threat to gut health, but the only evidence supporting that claim comes from studies that fed either isolated lectins or raw beans to animals. This definitely falls in the "don’t try this at home" category.

Another reason anti-nutrients aren’t a problem? They’re typically found in foods we don’t eat raw, and are largely rendered inactive by cooking, soaking, sprouting, fermenting or otherwise processing the food.

They also offer some potentially important health benefits. Phytates have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and research suggests that they may help prevent cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer, including colon, breast and prostate cancers. Since phytates are found primarily in high-fiber foods, this may be one reason high-fiber diets are associated with lowered cancer risk. Both phytates and lectins can lower a food’s glycemic load, which helps maintain stable blood-sugar levels.

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