What We Should Know About Antinutrients

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Our Monday green news brings you the latest on nutrition, good causes and child education:

antinutrients, lentils

Photo courtesy of Jessica Spengler via Flickr

  • What we should know about antinutrients: Plant nutrients are not always easily digested, since some plants may contain antinutrients-compounds that reduce the absorption of essential nutrients from our digestive system. They are mainly of concern for people who base their diets largely on grains and legumes, or during periods of malnutrition. However, antinutrients aren’t always bad, under certain circumstances they may have some beneficial health effects as well. The most widely studied antinutrients include: 1. Phytate (or phytic acid): reduces the absorption of minerals from foods including iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium. It’s mainly found in seeds, grains and legumes. 2. Tannins: class of antioxidant polyphenols that may impair the digestion of various nutrients. 3. Lectins: in high amounts they may be harmful and interfere with the absorption of nutrients. They are in all food plants, especially in seeds, legumes and grains. 4. Protease inhibitors: they interfere with protein digestion by inhibiting digestive enzymes; are widely distributed among plants, especially in seeds, grains and legumes. 5.Calcium oxalate: calcium bound to oxalate is badly absorbed; it’s the primary form of calcium in many vegetables, including spinach. There are several simple ways that can help improve nutrients absorption. Those include soaking of beans, other legumes but also leafy veggies; sprouting, which increases the availability of nutrients in seeds, grains and legumes; fermentation or boiling. Read more details about these methods in the original article.
  • Top twelve universities serving locally-grown food: Universities can play a significant role in local and state economies; and many of them are now even supporting local agriculture by serving locally sourced food in their cafeterias. The top twelve universities leading the way in sustainability are: 1. American University in Washington, DC; 2. Boston University; 3. Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine; 4. Cornell University in Ithaca, New York; 5. Duke University in Durham, North Carolina; 6. McGill University in Montreal, Quebec; 7. Middlebury College in Vermont; 8. Oberlin College and Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio; 9. University of California, Berkley; 10. University of Illinois; 11. University of Wisconsin—Madison; 12. Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.
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