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I asked one of my meat-fanatic athletes (an ex-vegetarian) to write an article about anti-nutrients in things like nuts, seeds, and legumes. A good read for those who think they are getting their minerals from these products.

I have a confession to make. I eat everything.
As a follower of LBEB, that shouldn’t be anything to be ashamed of, but in my case “everything” means that if I come at the dinner table from the wrong direction, I’ll happily fill up on grilled asparagus before I even make it to the rib roast. Tofu? Delicious. Polenta? Yes please. I once ate an entire bag of prunes in one sitting. My roommate  threatened to move out.

I have an unfortunate attraction to food that stinks/makes you stink/draws prowling vegetarians to your doorstep in droves. My most recent obsession was with lentils (Lens culinaris), a disc-shaped legume native to the Middle East that comes in a wide variety of colors and sizes. 
In meat-loving circles, lentils have a reputation as being one of the million ways vegetarians apologize to their bodies for depriving them of flesh. At first glance, they seem to have a lot in common with soy — the dangers of which are outlined here. Both are legumes and both contain high amounts of phytic acid and trypsin inhibitors.

Phytic acid is a molecule found in plant tissue that stores phosphorus. It is most concentrated in/around the seed of the plant, as phosphorus is one of the many nutrients essential for proper plant growth and development. This is great for the baby plant, but humans lack the appropriate enzymes to pull the molecule apart and make use of it. Worse still, it binds readily to (“chelates”) minerals like iron, zinc and calcium, preventing your body from absorbing them.

is an enzyme that allows you to absorb protein. A trypsin inhibitor, as you can probably guess, stops this from working, resulting in farts, fail and unabsorbed protein passing straight through your gut. I’m not an expert, but something tells me that the regulars here would want to avoid that.
Both of these chemicals are found to varying degrees in virtually all nuts, seeds and grains – food crops that our species relies on heavily.

Lentils in particular are one of the best plant sources of protein out there. They’re also rich in fiber, iron, B-vitamins and potassium. Don’t like lentils? Linger a little longer near the bulk foods and help yourself to some beans of your choice. Most have comparative levels of minerals and fiber and almost as much protein.
Silly Rabbit, you might ask, why would I need protein from a plant when I can eat this cow instead?
 Well, variety, for one. They’re delicious, for another. They’re also astonishingly cheap: a pound of dry lentils from the bulk food aisle of your local grocery store should cost you less than a dollar (if not, find yourself a new grocery store).
First, we have to get around the phytate and trypsin inhibitors in order for these cryptic little seeds to do us any good.

The answer is simple. Soak your seeds in warm water for at least a day. The longer, the better. This removes a considerable amount of the offending chemicals and also makes them cook faster. Ideally, you’ll want to change the water two or three times to leach as much of the anti-nutrients from the seeds as possible. Whatever you do, discard the water and rinse! The water doesn’t destroy the unwanted elements, it only draws it out. If you want to neutralize them even further, you can try sprouting them. Lentils and chickpeas sprout somewhat more easily than other legumes I’ve tried this with.
While phytic acid isn’t removed by cooking, heat will remove around 90% of trypsin inhibitors. As long as you’re cooking your legumes and they’re part of a well-rounded, meaty diet, you won’t notice any adverse effects from residual anti-nutrients: just an extra helping of tasty protein.
Article written for by Michelle Kim.

2 thoughts on “Antinutrients

  1. Obstacle Race Training has skyrocketed in popularity. This year there will be more than a million people climbing, running, rolling and crawling through obstacle races across the U.S.

  2. Good article but I am missing the oxalic acid….

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