Antinutrients are plant compounds that reduce the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients.

They are not a major concern for most people, but may become a problem during periods of malnutrition, or among people who base their diets almost solely on grains and legumes. However, antinutrients aren’t always “bad.” Under some circumstances, antinutrients like phytate and tannins may have some beneficial health effects as well including antioxidative property, which is important in protecting cellular oxidative damage, including peroxidation of lipids.

The most widely studied antinutrients include:

  • Phytate (phytic acid): It is a major phosphorus storage compound of most seeds and cereal grains, contributes about 1 to 7% of their dry weight. It may account for more than 70% of the total kernel phosphorus. Mainly found in seeds, grains and legumes, phytate reduces the absorption of minerals from a meal. These include iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium.
  • Tannins: A class of antioxidant polyphenols that may impair the digestion of various nutrients. However, They may also protect LDLs against oxidation and inhibit platelet aggregation and therefore prevent cardiovascular diseases.
  • Lectins: Found in all food plants, especially in seeds, legumes and grains. Some lectins may be harmful in high amounts, and interfere with the absorption of nutrients.
  • Protease inhibitors: Widely distributed among plants, especially in seeds, grains and legumes. They interfere with protein digestion by inhibiting digestive enzymes.
  • Calcium oxalate: The primary form of calcium in many vegetables, such as spinach. The calcium bound to oxalate is poorly absorbed.

Check out my YouTube video to learn more and how to reduce the content of antinutrients in foods.