What are Anti Nutrients in food?

There are certain kinds of food, either natural or synthetic, that can interfere with the absorption of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Furthermore, they can even get in the way of digestive enzymes (they help the body absorb more nutrients and improve the gut). This evil compounds are called anti nutrients. 

Anti nutrients are present in more kinds of foods that you would ever imagine. Synthetic ones include sugar, carbonated beverages and trans fats. Then, there are natural versions that include certain vegetables, roots and beans that make it hard for the body to digest them without leaching certain nutrients out of the body.

The theme today is going to focus on the natural anti nutrients which include vegetables, roots, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. Sugar and trans fats will not be mentioned further because these are foods that give no nutrients to the body and should be highly reduced, if not banned from your diet.

Anti nutrients

Oxalates and Phytates

These compounds adhere to minerals such as calcium and iron, leeching them out of our bodies. If our diet is not balanced we might become mineral deficient. But we must keep in mind that these kinds of foods are usually the highest in calcium and iron, so some of it does get absorbed by our bodies.

Main foods containing oxalates: Spinach, beets, rhubarb, wheat bran, cashews, pecan, almonds and berries.

Main foods containing phytates: Whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes.

What to do: The best way to increase the bioavailability of these foods, especially beans, is by soaking and sprouting them.


This compounds interfere with the iodine uptake by the thyroid gland, meaning that they ‘reduce the thyroid’s ability to produce the hormones your body uses to function normally’  If you have thyroid issued, you might be advised to limit the uptake of this foods.

Main foods containing goitrogens: Broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, mustard, kale and turnips.

What to do: Cooking inactivates goitrogens, so the solution is fairly easy.


Lectins are a type of protein that can bind to cell membranes. They are a defence against pests and insects and are resistant to human digestion. This is why some foods create intolerances in our bodies. 

This is why we usually soak beans for a few hours and even overnight. It is often done so they are cooked faster and for them to become easier to digest (Who hasn’t been gassy at times from beans!). Well, this is a half truth, the subject gets a bit more complex because what happens with beans is that they are filled with lectins when they have not been well managed before eating. This is the reason why they might bloat us and make us gassy.

Main foods containing lectins: Grains, legumes, nuts, dairy, soy, nuts and nightshade vegetables. (Tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers) 

What to do: Sprouting might work for some legumes, the more you sprout the less it will be present. But watch out because for example red kidney beans must be soaked and cooked! Soaking and cooking also deactivates lectins and makes it easier for us to digest it.


A recipe that I like and is very simple to make is Aubergine Lasagna. In this case I don’t use pasta to cut back on the carbohydrate in this meal. But if you want to, you can add it, just add a layer of the lasagna sheets.

Ingredients: Aubergine, tomato sauce (freshly made or canned), vegan cheese or cheese (I usually use goat’s cheese), mushroom, olives, parmesan cheese or vegan parm,salt and pepper. Optional: Minced meat, minced chicken or shredded tempeh.

  1. Cut the aubergine into thin slices. Soak them in a bowl with water and salt for at least 30 minutes. This will reduce lectins.
  2. Pre heat oven to 200C.
  3. Take the aubergine out of the water, you might want to wash and dry it before using.
  4. Mix the tomato sauce with the olives and mushroom. If you are using meat, chicken or tempeh, mix it in too.
  5. Take your tray and begin making layers with the sauce, aubergine and cheese, in that order.
  6. Repeat step 5 a few times until you have nearly reached the top of the tray.
  7. Top the lasagna with parmesan cheese or vegan parm.
  8. Put into the oven for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

Note: I do not give you amount of ingredients because it all depends on how big or small you want your lasagna to be. It can be used as a side plate, or as a main meal. It is up to you. And it also depends on how cheese you want it to be.