We are all aware of how superfoods are filled with health-enhancing nutrients that are essential to our well-being. But, did you know that there was actually such a thing as anti-nutrients?
These anti-nutrients can greatly affect our health and negate the positive qualities that the superfoods contain. To better understand exactly how we can get rid of these anti-nutrients, it’s important to understand what they are first.
Some foods have high levels of anti-nutrients in them naturally as a defence against predators, humans included. While we have grown accustomed to some of foods defences, like the pungency of onions or the heat of hot peppers, some of these defences have negative affects on our bodies.
Most Common Anti-Nutrients
Apart from fruit, most plant foods contain anti-nutrient compounds. Although they exist in negligible quantities now do to centuries of selective breeding by farmers, they are still present in some of our dietary staples. There are a few different anti-nutrients in different foods, but these are the ones that are found in some of your favourite superfoods.
Also known as phytic acid, this anti-nutrient restricts your body’s absorption of essential minerals. The phytic acid binds with these minerals in a way that the body can’t absorb. These anti-nutrients are found in food staples broccoli and spinach. By restricting our absorption of minerals, we open ourselves up to illness like osteoporosis, anemia, and even schizophrenia.
This anti-nutrient is part of a consists of specialized proteins that interfere with the actions of enzymes that help our bodies digest protein. Protein is essential to our well being because it acts as the building blocks of our muscles, helping them heal and fueling our body. This anti-nutrient can be found in beans and other legumes, radishes, and potatoes.
Lectin is another type of anti-nutrient protein that inhibit nutrient absorption in your small intestine. Your small intestine is lined with cylindrical structures called villi that absorb nutrients from digested foods. The lectin creates a protein layer over the villi, creating a sort of non-stick coating. The nutrients pass through the villi without being absorbed and used by the body.
Although anti-nutrients have the potential to harm us, we have actually come up with a solution for them millions of years ago. We made fire.
By cooking foods that contain anti-nutrients, we can diminish or destroy their effects and increase the nutritional value of some of our favorite foods. But we need to be careful when cooking these foods, as overcooking them decreases their nutritional value as well as their flavor.
The following techniques work best for cooking the foods mentioned previously, and they’re easier than you think.
Bring a pot of water to boil and add your spinach to it. Let it sit in the water for about 3 minutes before removing them and dunking them into a bowl of ice water to immediately stop the cooking process. This method rids the spinach of its anti-nutrients while making the leaves tender and keeping their vibrant green color.
Bring a half pot of water to a rolling boil and place a colander with your broccoli over top. Let them sit there for 3 minutes as the steam cooks them. If you don’t have a colander, you can wrap your broccoli in aluminum foil and let them float over the water. Steaming cooks the broccoli tender, while ridding it of its anti-nutrients.
Boiling is not as quick as the previous two methods, but it works to rid sturdier foods like beans and potatoes of their anti-nutrients. Beans and potatoes are two foods that would benefit from boiling, and all you have to do is leave them in the pot for 10 minutes until they’re cooked.
However nasty the word ‘anti-nutrient’ sounds, eating some raw broccoli or spinach isn’t going to poison you. With our diet and nutrition it is important to remember that, with anything, moderation is key to being healthy.