Do you know that many foods, particularly plants and legumes, contain naturally-occurring toxins and anti-nutrients that can be reduced or neutralized with proper food preparation or cooking techniques? Or that many food nutrients only become bioavailable with proper preparation or cooking techniques? Choose the proper preparation and cooking methods that reduce naturally-occurring toxins while enhancing nutritional bioavailability.
Food Toxins are Commonplace
While an organic diet helps to reduce exposure to manmade chemicals, organochlorines, pesticides and herbicides, there are many naturally-occurring toxins and anti-nutrients found in everyday foods and organic produce.
These include the alkaloids, solanines and/or chaconines found in nightshades; lectins; goitrogens; phytates and phytic acid; sopanins; tannins; oxalates; hydrazines and more.
Lectins are Poisons in Seeds, Grains and Legumes
Lectins are toxic protein compounds found in heavy amounts in many plants, especially seeds, grains and legumes. Many lectins are proinflammatory, immunotoxic, neurotoxic and cytotoxic.
Excessive lectins can damage the heart, kidneys and liver, lower blood clotting ability, destroy the lining of the intestines, and inhibit cell division.
High lectin foods include nightshades like tomatoes, potatoes and peppers; all legumes like lentils, beans, peanuts, and chickpeas… and more. Consider soaking and cooking techniques to help neutralize lectins.
Enzymes are Essential to Survival
Enzymes are critical for many bodily functions, including food digestion and ultimately, the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Without adequate enzymes, we become malnourished.
This can lead to degeneration, arthritis, heart disease, and cancer.
Raw, living foods that are not overcooked provide enzymes. Cooking above 117°F typically destroys enzymes. Some foods release their enzymes when slightly cooked. For instance, slightly cooking carrots breaks down their tough cellular wall, and makes nutrients more available to the body.
Dry nuts, grains, seeds and legumes have built-in protection in the form of enzyme inhibitors. These inhibitors prevent enzymes from being activated until the seed is germinated, or sprouted. To activate their enzymes and make them bioavailable, we need to soak and sprout nuts, grains, seeds, and legumes.
According to Dr. Axe, “Sprouting foods that contain antinutrients (or cooking them in the case of most vegetables) increases absorption of beneficial vitamin B12, iron, phosphorous, magnesium and zinc, plus it makes the food easier on digestion; decreases risk of allergic reactions; and releases more vitamins, amino acids and fiber from within the seeds. While sprouted grains and other nutrient-blocking seeds won’t be completely free from all antinutrients after soaking and sprouting, it’s a much better option than eating them unsoaked.”
Soak and Sprout Your Nuts, Grains, Seeds, Beans and Legumes
Sprouting involves soaking nuts, grains, seeds, beans and legumes in water for 8 hours to 12 days. Sprouting books and charts available on-line and at many health food stores provide specifics and make this process easier. Consider Sprouting Activates Enzymes the Dial Sprout Chart and Sprouts. Soaking and cooking legumes are effective in removing or reducing anti-nutrients.
Cook Your Foods Properly for Nutrient Bioavailability
To release or maintain more of the nutritional value in foods, choose proper cooking methods. Some foods require low and gentle heat, some are best prepared by steaming, and some are most nutritious in their raw form.
For example, below are the effects of boiling broccoli on some if its nutrients from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrition Database for Standard Reference:
Units Raw Boiled % Change
Calcium mg 47 40 – 15%
Iron mg 0.73 0.67 – 8%
Magnesium mg 21 21 – 0%
Potassium mg 316 293 – 7%
A mcg 31 98 + 216 %
C mg 89 42 – 53%
E mg 0.78 1.45 + 86%
K mcg 102 141 + 39%
For more information on how cooking methods impact nutrients, consider How Cooking Affects the Nutrient Content of Foods, the USDA Table of Nutrient Retention Factors, and International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science, among others.
by Tirza Derflinger
Founder, Author, Lead Educator, Speaker, CTT, MBA
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