If you’ve read our post What Are Antinutrients, and Why Are They Harmful?, you should have a good idea what antinutrients do, what foods contain them, and why you might want to minimize your consumption of them. This guide outlines the best techniques for avoiding foods that them, and minimizing their impact when they can’t be avoided. Not all of these antinutrients are problematic for all people, so try following an elimination diet to identify the ones that cause issue for you, and avoid those in particular.
- Read labels carefully. Gluten is incredibly common, both in obvious wheat-based foods like bread, beer, pasta, and cereals, and in some foods you wouldn’t immediately suspect like soy sauce, processed meats, salad dressing, chewing gum, seasoning blends, and canned soup. So avoiding it isn’t always a simple task.
- The easiest way to avoid gluten is to prepare fresh whole foods yourself, so you know exactly what is going into them. If you buy any packaged or prepared food, only trust that it’s gluten free if it’s specifically labeled as such. Many additives and fillers used in processed food contain gluten, though the ingredients listed may not make it apparent.
- Choose your restaurants and food stores wisely. Avoiding gluten has become somewhat easier as more people are recognizing the health issues it causes, and many grocery stores and restaurants are starting to get serious about providing many gluten free options.
- Be very careful with alcohol. Most hard liquors, even those derived from grains should theoretically be gluten free, but not all manufacturers distill sufficiently to remove all traces of gluten. Opt for liquors such as potato vodka, or 100% agave tequila, and choose brands that specifically state their products are gluten free. Beer and any malt beverages are absolutely out.
- Use alternative to grain-based flours in baking, like coconut flour or almond flour. These are not only gluten free, but are more nutritious and usually have a higher fiber content.
- Avoid foods that come from the nightshades family of plants. This includes all types of peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, tomatillos, and certain type of berries such as goji berries and ground cherries. The lectins in nightshades (along with those in wheat) can’t be substantially reduced or eliminated by cooking, unlike the lectins found in many other foods.
- Sweet potatoes have some amount of lectins, but far less than white potatoes. They also provide more fiber, and more vitamins and minerals.
- Choose tree nuts like almonds, walnuts, and macadamia nuts over peanuts. Peanuts are the seeds of legume, and the lectins found in them commonly cause inflammatory response. Avoid peanut butter, and instead opt for almond butter.
- Never consume raw grains or legumes, as they often contain vastly more lectins raw as compared to cooked. For example, raw kidney beans cause a type of poisoning due to a high concentration of a particularly harmful lectin. They contain more than 100x the amount of lectins raw versus cooked.
- If you eat rice, choose white over brown. The lectins found in rice are in the hull.
- Skip raw veggies like kale, chard, or spinach in smoothies. These raw greens have high quantities of oxalates, meaning your green smoothie may actually be working against your health.
- Always cook cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and radishes. Their high oxalate content can be greatly reduced by cooking them in water and draining.
- Black pepper contains oxalates, so if you use a lot cut back, or only add it during or before cooking, not after.
- Supplement with zinc and magnesium, which bind to oxalates and reduce their absorption in your digestive system.
- Like lectins, phytates are found in the hulls of rice. So if you are going to eat rice, choose white instead of brown.
- Avoid legumes like kidney beans, soy, and lentils, because the phytates in these aren’t adequately removed even with thorough cooking.
- Choose coconut oil, avocado oil, butter, or ghee over canola, sesame, or sunflower oil for cooking. Seed oils generally have high phytate content.
- Many types of nuts like brazil nuts, almonds, and hazelnuts contain a fairly high concentration of phytates. However nuts are typically consumed as snacks, separated from meals, so the antinutrient effect on the body’s processing of protein is minimized. But eating large amounts of nuts, especially close to protein rich meals, can be a problem for some people.
- Raw nuts have higher phytate content compared to roasted nuts, but soaking raw nuts is an even more effective way to minimize phytate content. So if you like raw nuts, try soaking them in salt water overnight, then drying them in a dehydrator or the oven on the lowest setting.