Diet and Nutrition: What Are Antinutrients?

Fiber can help to control lipid and blood glucose levels in the body. However, in large amounts, it can also interfere with the absorption of iron and calcium.
Diet and Nutrition: What Are Antinutrients?

Last update: 12 August, 2020

Antinutrients are substances which are capable of partially blocking the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals. It’s important to bear them in mind if you’re looking to improve your diet, as they can have a decisive influence when it comes to treating conditions such as anemia.

However, their ability to block the absorption of certain substances doesn’t mean that antinutrients are harmful to our health. Far from it, in fact. Fiber and other antioxidant compounds, such as tannins or phytic acid, are also considered antinutrients, and are essential for our health. However, the secret is knowing how to incorporate them into your diet.

In large quantities, fiber is an antinutrient

Fiber has the ability to partially block the absorption of certain substances, including cholesterol. As a result, large amounts of dietary fiber can alter a person’s lipid profile, as stated in an article published in the journal, Postepy Higieny i Medycyny Doswiadczalnej (Advances in Hygiene and Experimental Medicine).

Fiber also has the ability to reduce the speed with which sugars are absorbed by the body. This alters blood glucose levels and reduces the overall impact that sugars have on the pancreas.

For this reason, experts recommend increasing fiber intake as a way to help prevent and manage type 2 diabetes, even in cases where the disease is already present.

However, not all that glitters is gold… large amounts of dietary fiber can interact with calcium and iron in the diet, reducing their bioavailability. However, you’d need to consume fairly large amounts of this antinutrient for it to cause significant mineral loss.

A bowl of breakfast cereal.

Antinutrients: tannins

Tannins are substances that can be found in food such as grapes and have a powerful antioxidant effect. As a result, they can be useful when it comes to preventing diseases in the medium and long term, according to a study published by Current Alzheimer Research in 2017.

However, these substances are also capable of interfering with the absorption of minerals such as iron and calcium. As such, a high intake of foods that are rich in tannins must also be accompanied by sufficient doses of vitamins C and D.

Both of these micronutrients are capable of increasing the bioavailability of minerals, thereby improving their absorption. This helps to reduce the impact of antinutrients.

But just because tannins can hinder the absorption of minerals, doesn’t mean you should exclude them from your diet entirely. In fact, they’re actually essential and provide the body with highly beneficial antioxidants. As a result, regular consumption of tannins has been linked to good health.

The key thing to remember is that grapes shouldn’t be mixed with dairy products or foods that are rich in iron. This combination reduces the number of minerals that can be absorbed by the body, and they simply go to waste.

A varied diet is essential for good health

Generally speaking, you don’t need to worry too much about the effect of antinutrients – unless you suffer from conditions such as anemia. Simply ensure that you eat a varied and balanced diet that provides all the nutrients your body needs.

Red and green grapes.

This is the best way to prevent a whole host of different diseases. What’s more, it’ll allow the body to carry out all of its physiological functions correctly.

Antinutrients – essential substances

Antinutrients are a group of substances that are essential for the body to be able to interact with certain minerals. Regular consumption of antinutrients has been linked to a good state of health.

However, you need to be especially careful if you suffer from any condition nutrient-related diseases. In these cases, a high fiber or tannin intake can reduce the bioavailability of nutrients and minerals in your diet.

Fortunately, this is fairly easy to avoid. Both vitamin C and vitamin D are able to promote the absorption of calcium and iron. By increasing your intake of these vitamins, you can significantly reduce the risk of developing a calcium or iron deficiency.

This will also mean that you won’t need to worry about the impact of antinutrients on your health, and can instead focus on eating a varied and balanced diet. At the same time, you’ll also need to manage your energy intake. If you can do all that, you’ll be able to maintain a healthy weight, and stay in good health.

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  • Mackowiak K., Torlinska Walkowiak N., Torlinska B., Dietary fibre as an important constituent of the diet. Postepy Hig Med Dosw, 2016. 70: 104-9.
  • Braidy N., Jugder BE., Poljak A., Jayasena T., Mohammad N., et al., Molecular targets of tannic acid in alzheimer’s disease. Curr Alzheimer Res, 2017. 14 (8): 861-869.