Nutrients, everyone knows. These are the substances in the food that nourish the body. But have you heard about anti-nutrients?

Your food contains anti-nutrients, which are substances that do not feed you, but even worst, are toxic. Plants have developed these chemical defense mechanisms to weaken their predators and deter them from eating them.

The plants are not primarily intended to feed us: they seek above all to perpetuate their species.

Since the discovery of fire, culinary transformation became possible, and has allowed humans to consume new foods. However, humans, by nature, are not equipped with enzymes to assimilate these new foods, even after culinary transformation (which only partially neutralizes anti-nutrients).

The anti-nutrients present in the seeds (of cereals, vegetables, nuts), the leaves, the roots, the flowers of the plants, but also the eggs, are intended to prevent the predators from eating them, or to protect them from the digestive process if they are ingested. They also prevent early germination of seeds.

To cope with these anti-nutrients, animals have developed different systems to neutralize them. They are able to eat and digest some pantes. Each species is able to digest certain types of plants (herbivore), other animals (carnivore), or both (omnivore). It is therefore necessary to identify the foods (animals and plants) that are really suitable for our digestive system.

For humans the neutralization of anti-nutrients is very complex. Some foods must be processed before being consumed to reduce their anti-nutrient content. The operation is not simple because all the anti-nutrients are not sensitive to the same types of culinary transformations. In addition, these processes can also alter the good nutrients in the food.

There are 5 types of neutralization of anti-nutrients:

  •     cooking
  •     soaking
  •     germination
  •     fermentation
  •     peeling

As a reminder, here is a classification of the main foods:

  •     Cereals: wheat, barley, rye, oats, millet, corn, spelled, kamut, sorghum
  •     Pseudo-cereals: quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, teff
  •     Legumes: soy, dried beans, chickpeas, peanuts
  •     Nuts: almond, hazelnut, cashew nut, pine nut, pistachio, all nuts
  •     Seeds: sesame, flax, poppy, sunflower, squash
  •     Animal Chairs: red meat, white meat, fish, seafood, eggs
  •     Fruits: sweet fruits, acids, semi-acids
  •     fruiting vegetables: tomato, cucumber, aubergine, chilli, squash, zucchini, sweet pepper
  •     Tubers: potatoes, carrot, sweet potato, Jerusalem artichoke, cassava, yam
  •     Leaf vegetable: spinach, lettuce …
  •     Vegetable flower: cabbage, broccoli …
  •     Solanaceae: potato, tomato, aubergine, pepper, sweet pepper
  •     Dairy products: milk, cheese, yogurt, cream, butter, etc.

Here is the non-exhaustive list of anti-nutrients and the foods in which they are found:

  •     uric acid: comes from purines found mainly in the flesh, offal, eggs and dairy products
  •     the sulfur: comes from the amino acids (methionine and cysteine) present mainly in the flesh, the eggs, the soya and some nuts and seeds.
  •     phytic acid: it is found in cereals, pseudo-cereals, legumes, nuts, seeds and potatoes
  •     lectins: in cereals, pseudo-cereals, legumes, nuts, seeds, solanaceae, dairy products and eggs
  •     saponins: in legumes, pseudo-cereals, potatoes, and wine.
  •     oligosaccharides: in legumes
  •     avidin: in the egg white
  •     oxalate: (oxalic acid) comes from certain foods (cereals, nuts, soy, spinach, rhubarb, chard, chocolate, black tea), but is also a metabolite of yeasts and dysbiotic flora. It also comes from the metabolism of amino acids (glycine and serine), metabolism of vitamin C and sugar metabolism.
  •     cyanide: in beans, tapioca and fruit stones
  •     canavanine: in alfalfa (alfalfa) sprouted
  •     Goitrogens: in soybeans, peanuts and cruciferous vegetables
  •     tannins: in legumes, tea, chocolate, wine, coffee and vinegar
  •     trypsin inhibitors: in cereals and legumes
  •     inhibitors of alpha-amylase: in cereals, legumes, skin of nuts, and leaves of stevia
  • allicin and mustard oil: in onions, garlic, chives and leeks
  • salicylates: in berries and nuts
  • calcitriol, solanine and nicotine: in green potatoes, aubergines, pepper, tomatoes and goji berries.

One of the methods of attack of these anti-nutrients is the use of the minerals of the predator’s organism which generates its demineralization. Another method of attack is molecular mimicry to disrupt the proper functioning of the endocrine: the lectins have a spatial conformation that resembles insulin, they will attach to the insulin receptors and will stay there for a long time by sending to the body the message to store glucose molecules in the form of fats. Another technique (lectins and saponins) is the attack of your gut by breaking the tight bonds of the enterocytes, which over time causes a porous bowel (permeable gut syndrome) that will give way to many diseases. autoimmune and inflammatory. Goitrogens, in turn, affect the proper functioning of the thyroid.

However, anti-nutrients have positive effects on health, as their damage is partly neutralized. For example, allicin helps fight against cancer and hypertension, but prevents scarring and anemia.

Some anti-nutrients are present in fruits and vegetables in minute amounts, so the detrimental effect on health is small when the food is consumed in a moderate way. In contrast, some drugs concentrate these anti-nutrients, and have a very powerful therapeutic effect, and sometimes harmful side effects.

In the diet the dose and the duration make the poison. Thus a healthy person can neutralize anti-nutrients from fruit and vegetables without problem, but those of cereals and seeds will gradually jeopardize his health (intestine permeability).

The health of the intestine is a major criterion for good health in the long term – this topic is covered in another article.

Below are the means of neutralization for these anti-nutrients, when they are neutralizable or partially neutralizable. Caution: some anti-nutrients such as gluten are not neutralizable.

  •     uric acid: neutralized by the liver and kidneys, causes fatigue of these organs in the long term
  •     sulfur: neutralized by calcium, causes long-term osteoporosis
  •     phytic acid: partially neutralized by soaking, germination, fermentation, cooking, causes long-term iron, zinc and calcium deficiencies
  •     lectins: partially neutralized by soaking, germination, fermentation, cooking (the wheat lectins, called gluten, soy, peanuts, and solanaceous vegetables, are very resistant to neutralization), cause long-term porosity of the intestine, neurodegenerative and inflammatory diseases, and autoimmune infections
  •     saponins: neutralized by soaking, cooking, fermentation, cholesterol and bile, cause long-term porosity of the intestine and disruption of digestive enzymes
  •     oligosaccharides: neutralized by germination, fermentation and certain bacteria of the colon, causes gas
  •     avidin: neutralized by cooking, causes vitamin B8 deficiencies
  •     oxalates: partially neutralized by cooking, cause long-term deficiency of calcium and magnesium, kidney stones, disruption of digestive enzymes and hyper-oxaluria
  •     cyanide: neutralized by cooking and liver, causes long-term or high-dose brain damage and lethargy
  •     Canavanine: neutralized by cooking, liver and kidneys, can cause long-term lupus
  •     the goitrogens: neutralized by the cooking and the fermentation, provoke in the long term hypothyroidism
  •     tannins: neutralized by saliva, partly by soaking and cooking, 90% by germination, cause long-term deficiency of zinc and iron, slowing growth, disruption of mineral absorption, inhibition of enzymes digestion, acceleration of coagulation and liver necrosis
  •     trypsin inhibitors: partially neutralized by cooking and germination, they cause long-term inhibition of growth, and pancreatitis
  •     inhibitors of alpha-amylase: partially neutralized by cooking and germination, they cause long-term dysbiosis (candidiasis)
  •     allicin and mustard oil: neutralized by cooking, liver and kidneys, causes long-term bad breath and bad body odor, acid reflux, upset stomach, anemia, poor healing, allergic reactions, natural abortions
  •     salicylates: neutralized with an enzyme (sulfotransferase), causes long-term bleeding of the stomach and intestines, dyspepsia, skin reactions, liver poisoning, and allergic reactions
  •     calcitriol, solanine and nicotine: neutralized by cooking, liver and kidneys, they cause long-term calcinosis, muscle pain, arthritis, insomnia and vesicle problems

Neutralization of anti-nutrients is not 100% effective. In addition, it also causes a loss of nutrients (proteins, minerals and vitamins) that are denatured or destroyed during this operation.

Some foods contain a very large amount of anti-nutrients: pulses and soy, followed closely by gluten cereals and pseudo-cereals.

If your health is correct, you can preventively limit the consumption of the most nutritious foods, with the aim of preserving your health in the long term.

If your health is already impaired, it is best to first repair the permeable gut, then analyze your diet, remove foods rich in anti-nutrients, and neutralize others, to improve your health.

Author: Perrine TERRASSE