Nutrition is a complex topic.
First you learn about calories.
Then you learn about the macronutrients.
Then the micronutrients.
Then the phytochemicals.
And then you learn about little things called “anti-nutrients.”
Anti-nutrients are exactly what they sound like. They either inhibit nutrients from the food you eat from being absorbed, or they bind to nutrients in your body.
There are a few different anti-nutrients you should know about.
- Phytic acid and phytates
Phytic acid is found within the hulls of nuts, seeds, beans and grains. It is a known chelator (binds with minerals like zinc, magnesium, iron and calcium) and inhibits the absorption of these nutrients. That’s why it is so important to soak your grains, nuts, beans and seeds before you consume them. Why do plants contain phytates that inhibit the absorption of nutrients? Well, unlike animals, plants cannot move. In order to survive, they needed to create defense mechanisms so they can continue to reproduce and not go extinct. By holding on to nutrients, it gives them enough to grown when the seeds are evacuated from who/whatever eats them.
The primary way that plants traveled from one spot to another and continued their existence in this world for millions of years was through the wind and poop of animals that ate them. Animals would eat the grains or seeds, they would travel through the intestinal tract of the animal and they would eventually be evacuated out along with everything else. Phytates were a survival mechanism adapted by plants so that the nutrients required for them to germinate remained intact within the seed. That way, when they were pooped out, they could begin to grow and germinate new lands.
How To Disable Antinutrients And Safely Eat Nuts, Seeds, Beans And Some Grains
People have found out that soaking grains, beans, nuts and seeds disables these anti-nutrients and makes them easier to digest. Soaking times vary drastically. While some people can tolerate non-gluten grains, I don’t believe anyone should be eating gluten-containing grains, even if soaked. I advocate removing all grains from your diet for the most part because acne, intestinal permeability aka leaky gut and blood sugars are intricately linked. All grains can bother leaky gut and increase blood sugars. Even after soaking, there are still anti-nutrients in the grains and soaking grains only makes them slightly easier to digest. If you don’t have any signs of IBS or digestive discomfort when eating soaked beans, nuts, or gluten free grains, they may be fine for you. Keep in mind though that vegetables contain drastically more nutrients than even sprouted grains. I suggest loading up more on vegetables than anything else.
Lectins are another class of anti-nutrients. They are proteins that bind to carbohydrates and create glycoproteins (protein-sugar molecules) and are found in almost all foods, but more in carbohydrates. Grains, dairy, nightshade vegetables (white potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes and peppers) contain more lectins than other foods. The potentially dangerous lectins I recommend avoiding are those in grains, soy, white potatoes and legumes. Nuts and seeds also contain lectins, but the biological effects on the body are different and don’t seem to bother people as much as the other sources. To lessen the damage done by lectins in nuts and seeds, you can soak them and remove the outer coating if there is one. Ideally, raw and soaked are how they should be consumed. Nuts and seeds should be consumed in small amounts. We don’t want to eat half a jar of almond butter in one sitting. (I’ve been known to do that). Keeping the nuts to a couple handfuls a day is better.
Lectins don’t get broken down by digestion. Since gut problems are such an epidemic — and, in my opinion, most people with acne have gut issues — we need to do everything we can to repair the lining on our intestines. Lectins can damage the intestinal wall when they’re ingested. If the cells don’t repair themselves fast enough, then undigested food particles, bacteria, bacterial metabolites, harmful proteins and other things we don’t want can enter into our body. Remember, the inside of our intestines (called the lumen) is technically still on the outside of our bodies. It’s only when things pass through the intestinal wall, which is only one cell thick, that things enter our body. We want to make sure that that process runs smoothly and that damaging things don’t enter our body. By avoiding the more harmful lectins in wheat, rye, barley, soy, dairy, white potatoes, legumes and peanuts, we remove a possibility of developing (or exaggerating) leaky gut, and we stop any damage that might be occurring from eating these things. Once we’re healthy, experimenting with soaked organic beans or gluten free grains may be something to try, but for the first few months I suggest avoiding them.
Saponins have a soap-like consistency. These weaken the membrane of the small intestines. Cell membranes are made of fatty acids, and saponins can break down the cell membrane and create holes in them, similar to how dish soap breaks down the left over fat on plates in the sink. By creating holes in the cells lining the intestines, saponins can create routes for undigested proteins or toxins to enter the body and create an immune response if the person is susceptible.
If you’ve ever soaked quinoa you might notice that it looks like you washed it with soap. That’s because there are a lot of saponins in quinoa. When I stopped eating gluten-containing grains, I switched over to eating quinoa. I ate quinoa and other non-gluten grains for months until I learned about the problems associated with all grains. Some people (most healthy people, in my opinion) can handle these non-gluten grains like quinoa and buckwheat in small amounts if prepared properly. Because of my personal difficulties with digestion, I decided to completely avoid all grains. I advise you to try this for a few months because of all of the anti-nutrients and gut-harming ingredients in grains, even gluten-free ones.
The connection between acne and poor gut health is extremely strong. The connection between grains and how they negatively affect the gut is extremely strong as well. Putting the two together, grains should be avoided for at least 3 to 6 months to help repair the intestines. Properly prepared non-gluten grains may be OK in moderation. And gluten-containing grains are something I would never eat.
- There are anti-nutrients in grains, beans, nuts and seeds.
- Grains seem to cause the most problems. Substituting vegetables in place of grains is a good idea. This is especially helpful for those with digestive issues.
- If you’re going to eat grains, beans, nuts and seeds, soaking them before cooking will help to release the anti-nutrients, making them easier to digest with greater bio-availability of their nutrients.
- If you have a lot of digestive issues or any autoimmune issue, it’s recommended to remove these foods from the diet for a couple months and then reintroduce them and guage how you react.
For more awesome nutrition information like this, sign up to the Clear Skin Nutrition Newsletter and get your free Clear Skin Guide with over 20 dietary changes you can make to get clearer skin and live an optimal life.