Our Products
About Us
Contact Us
Hello Sign In
Your Account
My Cart

Are You Harming Your Body with Anti-Nutrients?

Pin it
Eat healthy but still don’t feel well? You could be harming your nutrient intake with dangerous anti-nutrients. Read more about anti-nutrients and how to counteract their effects below.

Did you know that even if you eat vegetables every day for every meal, you still might not be getting all the nutrients your body needs?

In addition to losing some of your nutrients through various cooking methods, some plants actually contain anti-nutrients along with nutrients that are essential for your health. These anti-nutrients can block the body’s absorption of vital nutrients, causing you to get much fewer vitamins and minerals that you think.

Find out more about anti-nutrients and how to counteract their effects below:

What Are Anti-Nutrients?

Anti-nutrients are compounds that make it harder to absorb and use nutrients. Most of these anti-nutrients are found in plants like legumes and grains. If you eat a lot of grains and legumes, you are probably getting a lot less nutrients and vitamins that you think.

Luckily, it is possible to reverse the effects of some anti-nutrients. Common anti-nutrients include phytate, tannins, protease inhibitors, calcium oxalate, and lectins. It is also important to recognize that these compounds are not always bad. Although it blocks some nutrient absorption, phytic acid, for example, also acts as a antioxidant and can lower cholesterol.

However, if your diet is high in anti-nutrients, you might have a problem absorbing your vitamins and minerals. Learn a bit more about the common anti-nutrients below:


Phytate is found in grains, seeds, and legumes. Phytate’s biggest block is on nutrient absorption. Studies show it can block the absorption of magnesium, zinc, calcium, and iron.


Tannins are ordinarily thought of as beneficial because they are powerful antioxidants. Tannins are present in wine and are one reason why many doctors recommend patients drink a glass of red wine each night. However, tannins can also block the absorption of some nutrients. According to a 1998 study published in Trends in Food Science & Technology found that tannins could interfere with the absorption of many vitamins and minerals by creating a protein that makes digestion more difficult.

Calcium Oxalate

Calcium oxalate is found in dark leafy greens (yes, the ones that are so good for you and contain so many nutrients). Calcium oxalate makes it harder for the body to absorb calcium. Calcium found in leafy greens is much harder for the body to use than calcium found in dairy products and animal products.

Protease Inhibitors

Protease inhibitors make it harder for the body to absorb protein. The inhibitors make the body work harder to produce digestive enzymes. Protease inhibitors are found in grains, seeds, and legumes and may be one reason why eating a meal full of bread products tends to make you feel sluggish and bloated.


Lectins are present in all plants, but there are more found in legumes, seeds, and grains than in other plants. When consumed in large amounts, lectins can interfere with the absorption of other nutrients. A 2004 study published in the journal Toxicon stated that at high levels, lectins can have a dangerous effect on the health of the consumer. “At high intakes, lectins can seriously threaten the growth and health of consuming animals,” the study authors stated.

Grains: The Common Denominator

As you can tell from the above studies, grains contain more of these anti-nutrients than most other plants. Grains, legumes, and seeds all have high levels of these anti-nutrients. This is one reason why a largely grain-based diet can be harmful to your health. In moderation, grain and legume consumption can be healthy (unless you have a gluten allergy), but grains should always be a smaller part of the diet in favor of vegetables and healthy protein sources.

How to Counteract Anti-Nutrients

If you eat a healthy diet filled with plenty of vegetables, fruit, and protein, then you probably won’t have to worry a lot about antinutrients. However, if you find that your nutrient levels are abnormally low, or just don’t feel as energized as you should, you can take advantage of these simple methods that can help counteract some of the negative effects of anti-nutrients.

Interestingly enough, these food preparation methods were used by our ancestors thousands of years ago and only recently fell out of used during the agricultural revolution when food manufacturing began on a much larger scale. Getting back to ancestral food preparation methods can counteract much of the damage offered by anti-nutrients.

Soak Your Food

Soaking beans, legumes, and grains is a simple way to reduce the anti-nutrient content of these foods. For example, when you soak beans overnight, they are easier to digest and actually provide more minerals and nutrients than if they are eaten fresh out of the ground. A lot of anti-nutrients are found in the skin of plants, which means that when you soak them, the skin either dissolves or is lifted away, exposing the nutrient-rich center.

When legumes are soaked, the phytate, protease inhibitor, tannins, and lectin content is significantly reduced. Soaking legumes for 12 hours can reduce anti-nutrients by up to 30 percent. You can even soak some leafy greens to reduce the calcium oxalate content. When used in conjunction with other ancient food preparation methods, soaking is a highly effective way to make sure your grains and legumes are not blocking your nutrient absorption.

Sprout Your Seeds

Germination is the start of all seed growth. When seeds germinate, they release all of the nutrients contained inside the seed into the tiny plant shoot. This makes the nutrient concentration in spouts much higher than that of fully grown plants. You can sprout almost any seed, grain, or legume. Follow the simple steps outlined below to sprout your seeds:

How to Sprout Seeds
  • Rinse the seeds in running water for 2-3 minutes.
  • Soak the seeds for 12 hours or overnight.
  • After soaking, rinse the seeds for another 2-3 minutes under running water.
  • Discard any seed shells or casings.
  • Drain the seeds and place them in a sprouter. You can also sprout seeds placed between two damp paper towel sheets if you remember to keep the towels damp.
  • Wait for the seeds to sprout.
  • Change the water every 12 hours and rinse the seeds again to prevent the spread of bacteria and mold. Within a week or two, your speeds will start to sprout and you can eat them.
  • Try eating them on sandwiches raw or cooking them in stir fry.

Some studies have found that sprouting seeds can reduce their phytate content by up to 81 percent.

Boil Anti-nutrients to Reduce Negative Effects

Boiling food typically reduces the nutrient content in that food. However, boiling also reduces the anti-nutrients in plants. Boiling has been shown to reduce the levels of lectins, protease inhibitors, and tannins in grains and seeds.

A 2006 study published in the Journal of Food Processing and Preservation found that when pigeon peas were boiled for an hour and a half, their anti-nutrient content was reduced by up to 80 percent. This suggests that the ancient practice of boiling a pot of bean or pea soup for 12 hours or more can have extremely beneficial effects on the anti-nutrient content of legumes. 

Ferment Foods for a Nutrient Boost

Throuought ancient history, food was fermented to help it last longer. Many foods, like pickles, cheese, yogurt, alcohol, sourdough bread, and sauces originated from the fermentation arts. Most regions of the world have traditional foods that use fermentation. During the fermentation process, microorganisms digest the carbs from food. In its fermented form, anti-nutrients are greatly reduced in all food types. This is because the anti-nutrients are converted into usable nutrients through the fermentation process.

In one study published in 1995 in the Journal of Food Science, it was found that fermenting beans for 48 hours reduced the phytate content by nearly 90 percent. All fermented foods have less phytates, lectins, and other anti-nutrients.

Anti-nutrient Reversal Overview

Use this simple guide to determine how to remove all anti-nutrients from your food.

Calcium oxalate: Boil or soak the food

Tannins: Soak or boil the food

Lectins: Boil, soak, or ferment the food

Phytates: Sprout, ferment, or soak the food

Protease inhibitors: Boil, sprout, or soak the food

Ensure Your Nutrient Intake is High

Eliminating anti-nutrients won’t do a whole lot of good if you do not also make sure that you are getting enough nutrients in your day-to-day diet. The right balance of nutrients can counteract many common health problems, such as a sluggish thyroid, joint pain, and even memory loss. The best way to ensure you are getting enough nutrients is to eat as many sources of natural nutrients as you can from vegetables, fruit, healthy fats, and protein.

Organically-grown foods tend to have slightly higher nutrient content than non-organic foods, so purchase organic foods when possible. If you are also trying to counteract a common preventable health problem naturally, you may also want to supplement with any missing nutrients. For example, individuals who have a sluggish thyroid are often low in magnesium, iron, calcium, and B vitamins. Supplementing with high-quality versions of these vitamins can help reduce some of the symptoms of common health problems.

Eventually, if you eat well and counteract anti-nutrients, you may not need to supplement any longer. Anti-nutrients Can Destroy a Healthy Diet You can be eating all the healthy foods in the world, but if you cannot absorb them, it can be a big problem. Whenever you are choosing foods to eat, watch out for sneaky anti-nutrients that can prevent the absorption of vital nutrients. If you do choose to eat foods with anti-nutrients, boil, spout, ferment, or soak the foods before eating to reduce their anti-nutrient content. With traditional food preparation methods, the anti-nutrient content of foods can be reduced by up to 90 percent, which means you are getting just about 90 percent more usable nutrients in your day-to-day diet.





[+] Show All
Next Article: Edema Diet: Foods to Avoid for Edema