Ways Of Reducing Antinutrients In Foods
Do you know that nutrients in plants are not easily digested? This is because plants have antinutrients. Antinutrients are plant compounds that reduce nutrient absorption from the digestive system. It is a matter of concern in countries where diets are based on grains and legumes. In this post let us discuss ways to reduce the amount of antinutrients in foods.
But first let us have a look at the most widely studied antinutrients
Phytic acid is present in grains, legumes and seeds. It reduces the absorption of minerals from a meal and these include iron, magnesium, zinc, and calcium.
Tannins are antioxidant polyphenols that affect the digestion of various nutrients.
Lectins are found in all food plants like seeds, grains and legumes. In high amounts they are harmful and can interfere with nutrient absorption.
Protease inhibitors are widely distributed among plants, especially in seeds, legumes and grains. Protein digestion gets affected as protease inhibitors inhibit digestive enzymes.
It is the form of calcium that is present in several veggies such as spinach. The calcium that is bound to oxalate is absorbed poorly by the body.
Ways of reducing antinutrients in foods
Beans and legumes are often soaked overnight in water to improve their nutritional value. Most of the antinutrients in beans and legumes are found in the skin and most of them are water-soluble, so they get dissolved when soaked.
Soaking legumes decreases protease inhibitors, phytate, lectins, tannins and calcium oxalate. However, in soybeans, kidney beans and faba beans soaking reduces protease inhibitors only a bit.
You can even soak leafy veggies to get rid of some of the calcium oxalate.
Soaking is usually combined with other methods like sprouting, fermenting and cooking.
Sprouting refers to the period in the life cycle of plants when they begin emerging from seeds.
Sprouting is one process that increases the availability of nutrients in seeds, legumes and grains.
The process of sprouting is different for various legumes but you just need to soak the seeds in clean water and cover with a lid with a hole that allows some air into the vessel. This works pretty well in the case of moong dal.
This process reduces phytic acid in grains and legumes and slightly degrades protease inhibitors and lectins.
Fermentation is an age-old method of preserving food. It is a natural process in which bacteria or yeasts start digesting the carbs in food. Foods that are processed by fermentation are curd, cheese, wine, coffee, cocoa, soy sauce and beer.
In various legumes and grains, fermentation is effective in degrading phytic acid and lectins. For instance, fermenting brown beans that were pre-soaked for 48 hours resulted in 88% reduction in phytic acid.
High heat, that too while boiling can help degrade antinutrients such as lectins, tannins and protease inhibitors. In one study, boiling pigeon peas for 80 mins reduced protease inhibitors by 70 percent, tannin by 69 percent, lectin by 79 percent. Calcium oxalate is reduced by 19-87 percent in boiled green leafy veggies.
However, phytic acid is resistant to heat and do not degrade easily by boiling.
Combining various methods
Combining the methods mentioned above can substantially reduce antinutrients, at times even completely.
For example, soaking, sprouting and fermentation decreased phytic acid in quinoa by 98 percent.
Here is how you can eliminate main antinutients from food:
- Phytic acid by soaking sprouting and fermenting.
- Lectins by soaking, boiling, heating and fermenting
- Tannins by soaking and boiling
- Protease inhibitors by soaking, sprouting and boiling
- Calcium oxalate by soaking an boiling
Isn’t it great that we can get rid of antinutrients by simple methods!
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