Most people would answer the question “why soak your nuts?” with the answer that soaking sprouts the seed/nut which is then in a more nutritious form to eat. And they would be right! But, there is a second answer that would be right as well. The second answer to “why soak your nuts”, would be that it also neutralizes or at least minimizes the antinutrients in some foods.
So Now You Have A Question For Me, Right?-What is antinutrient
Antinutrients are naturally occurring substances found in nuts, seeds, beans, and even some green vegetables!, that prevent early germination. They are also a protection for the plant from predators and such.
So in their dormant state, nuts and seeds have these compounds that need to be neutralized by soaking or cooking in order to make them digestible and in order for us to take be able to take up the nutrients they provide.
Some of these antinutrients can even interfere with enzymes already in our bodies and block them. We would be in trouble without our enzymes!
Enzymes help to carry out thousands of daily functions in our bodies. Let us go into detail on some of these antinutrients so you can be forewarned about them and know what you should be doing in order to get maximum nutrition and protection for you and your families bodies.
How To Eliminate Antinutrients
Boiling, fermentation, sprouting, peeling, de-seeding, and pressure-cooking (except for red kidney beans, the temperature is sometimes not high enough) are the ways in which to eliminate or at least reduce dramatically the amount of antinutrients in foods.
Did you know that ingesting just four to six raw red kidney beans can land you in the hospital? That is why they are not good candidates for cooking in the slow cooker. There are antinutrients in most foods, but foods high in them need to be prepared in one of the ways just mentioned in order to be safe.
A small amount of antinutrients do not cause any problem, in fact our body uses them for some common body functions. They also act as food for the natural bacteria in our G.I. tract.
Antinutrients You Need To Know About
Oxalates: This antinutrient is found in high amounts in sesame seeds, brown and black millet, soybeans, spinach, bran flakes, rhubarb, beets, potato chips, french fries, and nuts (yes, nut butters too) This substance interferes with our absorption of the proteins in plants, as it binds to the amino acids (what make up protein) causing all plant protein at that meal to be of poor quality.
Tannins: These fall into the category of enzyme inhibitors. Tannins are found in grapes, pomegranates, most berries, sorghum, barley, nuts, chocolate (with cocoa at 70% or higher), rhubarb, squash, and legumes (beans), Some drinks, such as tea and coffee also contain tannins.
Heads up on the spices too! Cinnamon, vanilla, cloves, and thyme all have tannins in them. The food eaten with tannins is poorly digested, causing large molecules to go thru the gut lining. Leaky gut syndrome can be caused by this type of action. One way you can know this is happening is that there is usually a gastrointestinal upset.
Lectins: These compounds are found in high amounts in wheat and beans (another reason to go gluten-free!). Just like the other antinutrients effect us, lectins also disrupt our digestion and proper absorption of our food and the nutrients in the food. They can cause bloating, gas, and indigestion.
Plant lectins, when only partially digested, can penetrate the cell wall of the cells lining the G.I. tract. Lectins can also shift the bacteria in our gut letting the bad bacteria become dominant. As mentioned before some susceptible people can develop autoimmune problems because of this going on in their gut. Other symptoms are joint pain and skin rashes.
Phytic Acid: This antinutrient is also called phytate, and it is the storage form of phosphorus in plants. It can bind to vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients we ingest, making them difficult to absorb. Phytates can block up to eighty percent of phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc in our food. It also interferes with calcium and iron absorption. The iron blockage is sometimes severe enough to cause an iron deficiency in some (anemia).
Eating foods rich in vitamin A can help rid you of the phytates, eliminating them. Another trick is to eat foods containing phytates with vitamin C containing foods, as vitamin C also eliminates the phytates. I always squeeze some fresh lemon juice into my spinach smoothie!
Oligosaccharides: This is a type of sugar/carbohydrate that is difficult to break down and is found in varying amounts, depending on the type of bean. We can break this down, using bacteria found in our gut, but the byproduct of such breakdown is gas (phew!)
You can help by soaking beans and legumes in water containing baking soda overnight. This causes the oligosaccharides to leach out into the water, causing much less gas.
There are so many foods containing the oliogosaccharides, I won’t take up space listing them, just know that most nuts and beans contain them. Fortunately, when you soak, sprout or ferment, you are good to go!
Mycotoxins: This is just a fancy word for mold and fungus, and most raw grains, seeds, and nuts have mycotoxins. Peanuts, walnuts, and cashews are especially prone to this toxin. Soaking deactivates the mycotoxins to the level they are safe to eat.
Some individuals who are especially sensitive to them can have a reaction to these types of antinutrients. In such cases it is best to just eliminate the culprits from the diet.
Chaconine: This one is beneficial as long it is eaten in small amounts, as it is a natural antiifungal. It is prevalent in the solunaceae family of vegetables which includes potatoes. It can cause digestive issues in some people if eaten in large amounts or in a raw state.
Isoflavaones: This is a type of polyphenol antinutrient and is found in high levels in soybeans. It can cause hormonal changes in both men and women, and also digestive upsets if eaten in large amounts. The hormonal changes are due to its being an estrogen mimicking substance.
Isoflavones have been shown to have a strong anti-inflamatory action, and because of that, it is being tested by researchers to see if this beneficial action can be separated from the more destructive attributes it has as well.
There are over six thousand family members in this antinutrient class, so I won’t be listing them. It can be found in soy, peanuts, chickpeas, alfalfa, and fava beans, just to name a few.
Solanine: This one is found in the nightshade family of vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers). Beneficial in most cases, it has been know to “poison” those individuals sensitive to it.
Some test studies have found a coralation between solanine and joint pain. Commercial varieties of potatoes are screened for solanine levels, and most have a solanine content of less than 0.2mg/g. But potatoes that have been exposed to light and started to turn green can show concentrations of 1 mg/g or more. If that is the case, a single unpeeled potato can result in a toxic level dose.
Gluten-What You Need To Know
Most people are unaware that gluten is hard to digest for all of us. It’s just the sensitive people that you hear about all the time, but everyone is affected in some way. It is an enzyme inhibitor, meaning it will also inhibit our preexisting enzymes too. Best known for its digestive disruption in “gluten intolerant” people, it can also cause “leaky gut syndrome” in some. Autoimmune disease can be caused by ingesting gluten. Research has shown that cognitive function can be impaired by gluten.
When the reaction to gluten is extreme, it is called Celiac’s Disease. Celiac’s is a chronic inflammatory condition of the G.I. tract that damages the small intestine and because of that, reduces the area left for absorption of nutrients and it is also an autoimmune disease. It is found in wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten sensitivity causes less severe reactions in a high percentage of people, (most of these people are not aware that is what is happening to them) and those reactions include joint pain, headaches, fatigue, and poor memory.
So now you see why you should take the time and make the effort to soak and sprout your raw nuts and seeds. You should also be soaking your beans overnight with baking soda. This reduces the amount of antinutrients, preventing allergic reactions, leaching out most of the antinutrients, creating gas and creating better digestibility/absorption of your nutrients.
Also, make sure the toddlers don’t eat the raw red kidney beans out of the garden this summer! Cook them well, and don’t use a slow cooker for your great chili recipe if it contains red kidney beans (remember, sometimes the temperature is just not high enough to be safe. I hope this article tells you something you didn’t know before you read it, and if you found it valuable, please share!
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