Newswise — May 9, 2022 – Many of us consider the nutritional value of foods as we choose them. For example, you might add some strawberries to your morning cereal to get a boost of vitamin C and other nutrients (besides the nice flavor!) The May 7th 2022 Sustainable, Secure Food Blog explains that foods also contain naturally occurring compounds that scientists refer to as anti-nutrients.
According to bloggers Julianne Kellogg and Emily Klarquist, anti-nutrients may interfere with the absorption of essential nutrients. It is important to consider anti-nutrients in crops because of their impact on human, animal, and environmental health.
Effect of anti-nutrients on human diets
Human diets high in plant-based foods can result in moderate to high intakes of anti-nutrients. Some common anti-nutrients are known as phytates, tannins, lectins, and phytoestrogens. For individuals with existing nutrient deficiencies or conditions that affect nutrient absorption, anti-nutrients can further deplete their stores of essential nutrients.
For people who eat a wide variety of foods in their diets, anti-nutrients are not a concern. In addition, common food preparation methods such as soaking, germinating, fermenting, and cooking reduce levels of anti-nutrients in foods.
Not everyone has access to a diverse diet, food fortification, or supplementation. Such situations can result in micronutrient deficiencies. Health officials consider iron deficiency one of the leading contributors to global disease. Over 1.2 billion cases of iron deficiency anemia were reported in 2016.
One of the tools to tackle micronutrient deficiency is breeding staple crops, such as corn or beans, to be higher in micronutrients. Breeders must increase the amounts of micronutrients – like iron – without increasing the amounts of anti-nutrients that would diminish the bioavailability of the targeted micronutrients.
Effect of anti-nutrients on animal diets
Livestock feed high in anti-nutrients compromises non-ruminant livestock health. It can also contribute to nutrient excess in livestock waste and environmental pollution. Creating low anti-nutrient crops can also reduce the amount of minerals removed from agricultural soils. That may reduce the amount of fertilizer needed. With less fertilizer, we reduce the chances of environmental pollution and extract less from our global reserves of critical limited resources. Researchers working towards a healthy and sustainable food system must consider anti-nutrients.
Anti-nutrients are naturally occurring and are important to human, animal, and plant health. Their effect on human and animal health can sometimes be negative because they interfere with the absorption of important nutrients. A diverse diet is the best way to avoid nutrient deficiencies but isn’t possible for everyone. It is critical to consider anti-nutrients in research, such as identifying and developing crop varieties low in anti-nutrients, while consumers focus on diversifying their diet.
About us: This blog is sponsored and written by members of the American Society of Agronomy and Crop Science Society of America. Members are researchers and trained, certified professionals in the areas of growing the world’s food supply while protecting the environment. Members work at universities, government research facilities, and private businesses across the United States and the world.