By Shana Daniel, Wellnessessity Inc. registered holistic nutritionist
In my practice of holistic nutrition, it has become evident that the majority of my clients are unaware of how impactful food composition is in their bodies, until they learn how to harness its power in order to increase their wellness goals.
Welcome to the world of anti-nutrients. Seems almost oxymoronic, doesn’t it? Read on, you’re in for an eye opener.
Phytic acid is found naturally in most grains, seeds, legumes and nuts, but our bodies don’t produce the enzyme to metabolize and absorb it. Phytates can react with certain minerals (like iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc) and some starches and proteins, binding to them and making them less available for our bodies to use. Avoiding all foods that contain phytic acid is a bad idea because many of them are nutritious, healthy and tasty. Fortunately, several preparation methods can significantly reduce the phytic acid content of foods.
The most commonly used methods are: soaking (cereals and legumes are often soaked in water overnight to reduce their phytate content), sprouting (the sprouting of seeds, grains and legumes, also known as germination, causes phytate degradation) and fermentation (organic acids, formed during fermentation, promote phytate breakdown). Lactic acid fermentation is the preferred method, a good example is the making of sourdough bread.
Lectins are thought to play a role in immune function, cell growth, cell death and body fat regulation. Since we don’t digest lectins, we often produce antibodies to them. Almost everyone has antibodies to some dietary lectins in their body. This means our responses vary. Certain foods can even become intolerable to someone after an immune system change or the gut is injured from another source. The presence of particular lectins can stimulate an immune system response. When lectins affect the gut wall, it may also cause a broader immune system response as the body’s defenses move in to attack the invaders.
Symptoms can include skin rashes, joint pain, and general inflammation. Other chronic disorders may be correlated with leaky gut — for example, researchers have even noted that children with autism have very high rates of leaky gut and similar inflammatory GI tract diseases.
The effects of dietary lectins only extend for as long as they are in the body, and the effects can be reduced by eating a variety of fruits, vegetables (rather than high amounts of one type) and foods with beneficial bacteria (e.g., fermented foods).
So what’s the answer?
Sprouting seeds, grains or beans decreases the lectin content.
Generally, the longer the duration of sprouting, the more lectins are deactivated. In some cases, the lectin activity is enhanced by sprouting. The lectins in some grains and beans are in the seed coat. As it germinates, the coat is metabolized – eliminating lectins.
So when you’re perusing the shelves for your next favourite loaf of bread, look for the term ‘sprouted grains’ and feel like a superstar.
We’ve evolved as practitioners who educate based on new findings in research and the inquiring minds who feed it. Take information like this and apply it to your every day. When it comes to balancing all we do in this informational overload age, take the fact over the fiction route and live your most optimized life based on what you know by learning each and every day.