Staying healthy is more like a math equation than you may think. And while most people HATE math, this is good news, because if you can do some simple addition and subtraction you can easily calculate your chances at staying healthy.
Most people who take their health seriously pay close attention to eating a diet that provides a sufficient amount of the essential vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) their bodies need in order to stay healthy and prevent disease. However, that is the addition part of the equation. The part where you are adding up all the essential micronutrients you are getting through your daily intake of food and/or supplementation.
Unfortunately, the equation doesn’t end there. There is still the subtraction part of the equation that most people conveniently seem to just forget about. We are talking about the naturally occurring compounds, found in even some of the “healthiest,” most micronutrient-rich foods such as kale, chia seeds, soy, nuts, wheat, sweet potatoes, and berries, called “anti-nutrients!” These anti-nutrients act just like you might think they do – they steal or block your body’s ability to absorb or utilize the essential vitamins and minerals you need to be healthy. Too many anti-nutrients and even the “healthiest” diet can quickly add up to disaster. Now, don’t worry you don’t have to get rid of all the foods that contain anti-nutrients. Some can be reduced by proper preparation methods, making the foods safer to consume while allowing you to enjoy them and their micronutrient benefits, as well.
Let’s take a closer look at 5 anti-nutrients found in our foods and drinks.
- Phytates (Phytic acid). Phytic acid works similarly to fiber, in that it binds to substances in our intestinal tracts. However, unlike fiber, which lowers cholesterol by binding to cholesterol-like compounds in the digestive tract, phytic acid reduces micronutrient absorption by binding to vitamin B3 (niacin), calcium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, and zinc. Additionally, phytic acid accelerates the metabolism of vitamin D, meaning your body will use vitamin D at a faster than normal rate leaving it deficient if you don’t get more. Rickets, caused by a vitamin D deficiency, as well as osteoporosis are common in populations with high phytic acid intake.
Where it is found: Wheat and soy are among the worst offenders, but if you are following our Micronutrient Miracle plan we have already eliminated these foods from your diet. Other foods high in phytic acid include corn, beans, seeds (including flaxseed and chia seeds), nuts, cereal grains, brown rice, and oats.
- Oxalates (Oxalic Acid). Did you know that your morning green smoothie may be contributing to your osteoporosis, high blood pressure, or kidney stones? It’s true. All those raw greens may be to blame. As with phytic acid, oxalic acid also binds, or chelates, to specific micronutrients in the intestinal tract. Oxalates in your food bind to the calcium, magnesium, and iron in that same food (or in foods eaten with it), and they block their absorption. In the case of spinach, this results in leaving a mere 2 and 10 percent of the seemingly plentiful supply of iron and calcium, respectively, and it reduces the absorption of magnesium by 35 percent. However, it is the ability of oxalates to bind with calcium that brings 1 out of every 1,000 Americans annually to the hospital with kidney stones. Seventy-five percent of all kidney stones in patients in the United States are made of calcium oxalate, crystalized oxalate acid bonded to calcium.
Where it is found: The foods highest in oxalates include spinach, wheat, buckwheat, peanut butter, beets, beet greens, Swiss chard, nuts, rhubarb, and beans (green, waxed, or dried). Oxalates can be found to a lesser extent in many other foods, including collard greens, sweet potatoes, quinoa, celery, green rutabagas, soy, white potatoes, okra, tomatoes, and carrots.
- Lectins. A plant’s goal is self-preservation, and lectins are its premier defense system. Lectins are sticky proteins that coat your intestinal tract, making it difficult to properly absorb micronutrients. While micronutrient loss is our key concern, it is also important to understand that lectins make us fat in two unique ways. First, they attach to insulin receptors on fat cells. Remember, insulin is the fat-storage hormone. And once attached, lectins never detach, indefinitely telling the fat cell to store more fat!
To add insult to injury, lectins also attach themselves to the receptor sites for leptin, the hormone that tells your brain when you are full, and block its effect on satiety. The end result is that you are prone to overeating because you never get full and more of what you eat gets stored as body fat. That harmless bowl of lectin-containing nuts over cocktails hardly seems harmless anymore, does it?
Lectins also aid in the creation of leaky gut by binding to your intestinal walls and acting like chisels, forcing apart the cells that protect the rest of you from the undigested foods inside. Many food allergies are actually immune system reactions to lectins.
Where it is found: Lectins are present in about 30 percent of the American diet. Foods with high levels include brown rice, wheat, spelt, rye, barley, tomatoes, beans, soybeans, seeds, nuts, corn, potatoes (skin), eggplant, and bell and hot peppers.
- Trypsin Inhibitors. While trypsin inhibitors are a plant’s natural pest repellent, humans still consume them, not realizing the havoc they can have on digestion. Trypsin inhibitors put your amino acids as well as fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K and vitamin B12 in jeopardy as they interfere with the pancreas’s ability to create enzymes necessary for proper digestion.
They also put your pancreas in great danger. Your body responds to a lack of trypsin (which has been “inhibited”) by increasing both the size and the number of pancreatic cells. Digesting too many of these trypsin inhibitors stresses the pancreas and can lead to pancreatitis and even pancreatic cancer, now the fourth-leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women.
Where it is found: Most of the USDA studies performed over the years have looked at trypsin inhibitors in soybeans, but these anti-nutrients are also found in other beans, as well as grains, nuts, seeds, and vegetables of the nightshade family (potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant).
- Sugar. Remember, for us, micronutrients come first. And this anti-nutrient is one of the biggest roadblocks on your path to micronutrient sufficiency because it can deplete your body’s micronutrients as well as block micronutrients from being absorbed. Additionally, unlike other micronutrient-leaching ingredients you will meet later on, there is absolutely no evidence of any health or nutritional benefit to eating refined white sugar.
While sugar’s sweet flavor may be appetizing, its depletion of calcium, magnesium, chromium, and copper is not, especially when you consider the negative side effects of becoming deficient in these essential minerals. And vitamin C is also affected by sugar; because of similar chemical structures, vitamin C and glucose (a type of sugar) compete for entry into your cells. Even slightly elevated blood sugar levels can block vitamin C from getting in and can cause a weakened immune system.
Where it is found: Almost all prepackaged goods in the grocery store under an assortment of misleading names such as agave, cane sugar, fructose, and molasses. Americans average 40 teaspoons (160 grams) a day, or 3 pounds of sugar per week.
AND THE LIST OF ANTI-NUTRIENTS GOES ON…
If you look at the list above you might think there are anti-nutrient in just about every food in the grocery store. But, the list doesn’t end there. There are 6 other micronutrient-depleting anti-nutrients found in your foods that we cover in The Micronutrient Miracle.
- Phosphoric acid
So, you can see total avoidance of the foods that contain these anti-nutrients would be nearly impossible. Remember, we aren’t telling you to simply cut out all of these foods all of the time. Just because a food is listed as containing an anti-nutrient doesn’t mean you need to throw it in the trash sack immediately. You may be able to include it in moderation or replace it with a version that follows the proper preparation guidelines that can reduce or eliminate the anti-nutrient all together.
For example, we don’t want you to remove all nuts, even though they deplete you with oxalic acid, phytic acid, lectins, tannins, and trypsin inhibitors. There are some great micronutrients and healthy fats in an occasional small handful of nuts or pinch of nut flour. However, because those five EMDs are inherent to nuts, we want you to only purchase those that meet the proper preparation guidelines. So, we want you to either eliminate nuts and seeds or only purchase those that are properly soaked or sprouted.
HOW DEPLETED ARE YOU?
When you start to think about the micronutrient depleting effects of these 11 anti-nutrients, how sufficient in your vitamins and minerals do you think you are? Do you still eat sweets? Is there bread, cereal or wheat filled snacks still in your cupboards? Do you drink a “healthy” raw food green drink in the mornings? All of the anti-nutrients found in those foods add up and slowly rob you of the health producing vitamins and minerals you have taken in through your diet and supplementation. Adding a daily multivitamin is likely necessary to help to reach sufficiency after all these anti-nutrients take their toll.
In order to assess your risk, and discover the specific vitamins and minerals your current diet is leaving you deficient in, download our FREE worksheet below. Just do some quick and simple tabulations to discover if your diet is leaving you with diminished micronutrient reserves. Could these anti-nutrients be leaving you deficient in your vitamins and minerals and be the real reason you don’t always feel as vibrant as you should? Could reversing these deficiencies by taking a well-formulated multivitamin be the simple solution to your health complaints that you have been looking for?