The recent years have witnessed a significant rise in the number of vegans all over the world. One of the main reasons for this increase is because people began to realize that a plant-based meal plan offers far more nutrients. Plant foods provide us with enough nutrients to keep our body healthy and prevent several chronic health disorders.
It is important to note that there are some nutrients in plants that are not easily digestible. These nutrients are called antinutrients. They have the powers to reduce the ability of the body to engross imperative nutrients. They can create problems among people who include more grains and legumes in their diet.
Phytate, lectins, tannins, protease inhibitors, and calcium oxalate are some of the most common antinutrients found in plant foods. Thus, reducing the antinutrients in plant foods before their consumption is vital. Following are some of the simple ways to minimize the antinutrients in your plant-based food.
Soak The Food In Water
The best and easiest way to reduce the number of antinutrients in foods is by soaking them in water. Plant-based foods like legumes and beans are soaked in water overnight to reduce the antinutrients and improve their nutritional value. Since most of the antinutrients are water-soluble and found in the skin of these foods, the antinutrients will dissolve when you soak the foods in water.
Soaking legumes in water significantly decrease the number of antinutrients like protease, phytate, lectins, tannins, inhibitors, and calcium oxalate in them. It is observed that if you soak peas for about 12 hours in the water, the phytate content in them will be reduced by 9 %. In another study, it was observed that the number of lectins decreased by 38-50 % and tannins by 13-25 % when the pigeon peas were soaked in water for about 6-18 hours.
However, the type of legume also plays an important role in the decrease of antinutrients. The soaking reduces protease inhibitors only slightly in soybeans, kidney beans, and fava beans. Like legumes, leafy vegetables also get benefited by soaking because they also contain antinutrients, including calcium oxalate.
Fermentation Can Reduce Antinutrients
Preservation of the food items is the original use of the fermentation process. Fermentation occurs when the microorganisms like yeasts and bacteria start to digest the carbs in food. That said, foods that get fermented accidently either get spoiled or becomes unusable. Many food manufacturers utilize the controlled fermentation process in food production. Cheese, yogurt, beer, wine, and soy sauce, etc. are some of the fermented foods.
Sourdough bread is another food that is fermented and the process significantly reduces the antinutrients in the grains, which helps in better absorption of nutrients into the body. Some studies are showing that, when compared to yeast fermentation in typical bread, sourdough fermentation can reduce antinutrients in grains more effectively.
The fermentation process effectively reduces the number of lectins and phytate in various legumes and grains. An 88 % reduction in phytate was observed when pre-soaked brown beans were fermented for about 48 hours.
Sprouting is a natural process that increases the nutritional availability of seeds, legumes, and grains. Rinse the seeds to remove the dirt and soil and soak the seeds in cool water for 2-12 hours. Drain the water and place the seeds directly under the sunlight in a sprouting vessel. Repeat the process 2-4 times every 8-12 hours.
The sprouting process creates some changes within the seed that will reduce the antinutrients in the seeds, such as protease inhibitors and phytate. It is observed that this process can reduce the phytate content in legumes and grains by 37-81 %. It was also observed that the number of antinutrients like lectins is also reduced in seeds after the sprouting process. If you want to do sprouting, make sure to get all the instructions right because the steps may be different for various types of grains, beans, and legumes, etc.
Boil The Food In Water
Boiling the foods in water is one of the most effective ways of reducing antinutrients like tannins, lectins, and protease inhibitors. According to a recent study, a 79 % decrease in lectins, a 69 % decrease in tannin, and a 70 % decrease in protease inhibitors were observed when the pigeon peas were boiled in water for 80 minutes.
A significant reduction of calcium oxalate was also observed when green leafy vegetables were boiled. However, baking and steaming are not as effective as boiling for decreasing the antinutrients in foods. The time required for boiling mainly depends on the type of antinutrients, food, and the method of boiling. If you boil the food for a longer period, the reduction in antinutrients will also be high.
You can also combine all these methods to reduce the antinutrient content in plant foods. A 98 % reduction in phytate content was observed when quinoa underwent sprouting, soaking, and fermentation.