In the pursuit of sustainable and healthy living, people are switching to a vegan lifestyle where they eliminate the use of all types of animal products. The most popular aspect of this movement is the vegan diet, and it is famed for its health benefits. However, one of the issues following this diet is that certain nutrients found in plant-based food are not readily available to the body because of the presence of antinutrients. The purpose of this article is to investigate antinutrients in plant-based foods.
Antinutrients In Food
Food, water, and air are the three basic components required for sustaining life. Of these, food determines the prosperity, development, and lifestyle of a person. Next comes malnutrition, and it is a fundamental problem faced by humanity as it causes diseases. The topic of discussion of this article, i.e. antinutrients is one of the major contributors to malnutrition, as it affects the quality of nutrient absorption by the body.
Antinutrients are compounds or substances that affect the dietary absorption of nutrients, and they can be natural or synthetic in origin. So, they interfere with the intake, digestion, and utilization of the compounds found in food, and may produce adverse effects. Bloating, nausea, headaches, and nutritional deficiencies are some of the common symptoms caused by antinutrients found in food. Their effects can be reduced by common food processing methods like soaking, heat processing, pounding, milling, boiling, and so on. Also, you must know that people’s sensitivity to antinutrients varies.
Antinutrients In Plant-Based Food
Plant-based food used for vegan meal prep like grains, legumes, beans, and nuts have the highest amount of antinutrients, and this makes absorption of certain micronutrients difficult. Some of them are phytates, oxalates, lectins, and tannins. The antinutrients in plant-based food are a cause of concern, especially if you are consuming them in raw and uncooked form. For instance, raw spinach, broccoli, kale, and soybeans contain oxalates that prevent the absorption of nutrients by the body. Likewise, tannins found in tea, chocolate, wine, and some fruits inactivate the enzymes responsible for protein absorption. Phytates present in nuts, seeds, and grains reduces mineral absorption.
Different Types Of Antinutrients In Plant-Based Food
Lectins are abundantly found in plant-based food, and they are glycoproteins or nonimmune in origin. They are harmful because they can reach any part of the body as they bypass the human immune system. Because of this, they cause diseases like Crohn’s disease, colitis, and coeliac sprue, etc. Furthermore, always remember that not all lectins are toxic and damage intestinal tissues.
Lectins are present in beans, peas, quinoa, whole wheat, and rice, etc. They are usually found in the hull of whole grains and seeds, and dehulling reduces their lectin content. So, consuming white rice helps to reduce dietary lectin intake. Compared to sweet potatoes, white potatoes have higher lectin content. Similarly, almonds have more lectins in them than peanuts. Cooking plant-based food sources also reduces their lectin content.
Phytates are present in many vegetables, legumes, seeds, and nuts. In legumes, phosphorus is stored in their husk as phytic acid in the form of phytate salts or phytin. When consumed in the diet, they affect the bioavailability of minerals, solubility, and digestibility of carbohydrates and proteins. The cotyledon layer of legumes is the prime source of phytic acid. In whole grains, its concentration is highest in its bran. The digestive enzyme named phytase releases the phosphorus present in phytic acid. Also, keep in mind that phytic acid can impede the absorption of minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
Tannins found in plant-based food are a type of antioxidant polyphenol, and they are water-soluble compounds. Besides, they are found in grapes, tea, wine, and the bran of legumes. They are a topic of interest for nutritionists and scientists because of their antinutritional properties that inhibit the absorption of macronutrients like proteins. Tannins shrink protein molecules by binding to them forming the tannin-protein complexes. This complex molecule can inactivate certain protein-digesting enzymes, and thereby reduces the digestibility of proteins.
These are insoluble or soluble salts that are formed by oxalic acid. The majority of the plant-based foods that are ingested as a part of following the vegan diet contain oxalates. Vegetables like kale, spinach, cauliflower, radish, broccoli, chard, beets, parsley, nuts, rhubarb, black pepper, beans, and berries like blackberries and blueberries have high amounts of oxalates in them. This antinutrient also inhibits the absorption of calcium from food. Also, insoluble salts like calcium oxalates have a deleterious effect on human health as they cause the accumulation of kidney stones. Moreover, most people can consume plant-based foods rich in oxalates, but those with health conditions like enteric and primary hyperoxaluria must reduce their dietary intake.
We hope that the details shared above gave you a good understanding of the common antinutrients found in plant-based foods, and will help in your vegan meal prep.