Antinutrients: not as healthy as you’re led to believe

This week as we delve into the Paleo lifestyle we are going to hit some topics that may be unfamiliar ground for you. Before we get into the big dogs like wheat, beans, and potatoes, I figured a nice introduction and a reference post would be nice. That way you and I are both prepared going into the other topics. Have you heard of antinutrients before? Chances are many haven’t. Why would the government or health organizations tell us about something that makes up a majority of there pyramid and that liters groceries stores? We have been led to believe many foods are so nutritious for us, we should eat 12 servings, when really they are choke full of antinutrients. Simply this means that they rob your nutrient stores rather than fueling them. They can harm your gut. In doing so, they really pick up steam and damage when they enter your bloodstream and interfere with your normal bodily functions. As you can probably guess this leads to a host of problems, like illnesses and diseases. A big antinutrient is found in grains (and nuts/seeds), called phytates. Again they bind to your vitamin and mineral store, making them unavailable and leave you malnourished (it’s funny in our country that many of our malnourished are overweight. We eat too much of the wrong things and starve our bodies of what they truly need).  Let’s look at another one, Lectins:

  • In nature lectins are a protective mechanism for plants. For the most part they can be harmless, except the ones found in whole grains and legumes. Wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) is the lectin whole and refined wheat. It sucks because it bypasses the gut barrier and dumps into your circulation. From there it latches onto you red blood cells, where it can be taken to virtually any cell in your body. From there it is free to cross over in the nuclear pore and bond. This then blocks hormones, not allowing them to do your job. Especially harmful, is that it does this to vitamin D (a nutrient many are lacking in) because it needs to get into the pore to get its job done. Phytohemagglutinin (PHA) is the lectin in many beans (although there are several different ones). This one blows period because cooking will not eliminate it and eating raw beans is sure to make you sicker. The big problem with lectins: Leaky Gut
  • Saponins are another antinutrient with guess what? Soaplike properties, which punctuate the membranes lining your cells. The more saponins you ingest the more cellular damage. They’re good at busting into your bloodstreams. In big enough quantities they can rupture red blood cells (hemolysis), which jacks with your oxygen. Big problem with saponins: they can increase intestinal permeability (a hop skip and a jump away from autoimmune diseases).
  • This one may be confusing because often when I write about polyphenols it is a positive light, but not all polyphenols are good for you. Example: tannins and isoflavones. Tannins will f*** with your protein digest and bind with minerals like iron. They too can damage the gut (leaky gut is quite the star in today’s post), allowing nasty bacteria that is supposed to remain in our guts, into our bloodstreams. From there we’re at risk for low-level inflammation, before we head into heart disease, cancer, or autoimmune diseases. Isoflavones on the other hand tend to act like female hormones (think soy with this one, men step away from soy products). For women this can mess with your menstrual cycle (think back to the vegetarian women with menstruation problems, they tend to consume more soy…hmm?). Other effects could be goiters and thyroid enlargement.
  •  Protease inhibitors: Enzymes (proteases) break down proteins into amino acids. Inhibitors obviously get in the way of this. This is why, even though they claim soy and such can give you protein, the inhibitors make it less available than say meat. Cooking may get rid of some, but not all of the inhibitors.

I think that’s enough for today. Get friendly with these terms because  you’ll be seeing them a lot the next couple of days.

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