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  • Writer's pictureDr. Kari Young

10 Antinutrients & How to Avoid Them

Updated: Nov 24, 2022

Simply speaking, antinutrients are chemicals in plants that keep your body from absorbing nutrients. Plants are constantly evolving, and have created mechanisms to protect themselves from being eaten or from becoming extinct.

Some animals have learned to stop eating antinutrient-rich plants, and others have evolved in order to digest them. Antinutrients are found in their highest concentrations in grains, beans, legumes, and nuts but can also be found in leaves, roots, and fruits of certain varieties of plants.

We humans continue to eat these foods, even though they are highly toxic to our bodies. Eating a steady source of antinutrients can lead to gut issues, inflammation, arthritis, and brain fog, which is why it’s wiser to eat foods that don’t pose potential risks.

Below are just a few of the most nutrient-dense foods available:


Consume organic clean proteins, about 1 gram per lb. of body weight. The best are grass-fed beef, bison, free-range chicken, and wild fish.

Good Fats

Get plenty of organic good fats, such as butter, ghee, tallow, coconut oil, and avocado oil.

Fruit & Honey

Limit to 1-2 servings of organic fruit and honey, based on activity level. The best fruits are bananas, mangos, papayas, pineapples, berries, and apples.

Water & Bone Broth

Drink plenty of distilled water and organic bone broth.


** IF tolerated** Include some raw goat or cow dairy, butter, cream, milk, or Keifer.

Cooked Vegetables

** IF health allows ** Organic cooked vegetables - choose the least toxic types, if tolerated.


The most common sources of lectins include grains, legumes, and nightshades. Even if you do NOT feel a negative effect, it does not mean it is not damaging your gut. Many people experience inflammation, brain fog, migraines, stomach issues, acne, or joint pain after eating a lectin-rich meal.

Lectins are a common autoimmune trigger and can cause sensitivities in many people. When you eat a lot of lectins, your gut wall develops holes, and its contents pour into your bloodstream, causing leaky gut syndrome.

Dr. Young’s Tips:

  • Better choices are white rice instead of brown rice since the lectins are found in the hull. (Although no rice is best for a grain-free diet).

  • And choose sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes since they also contain a higher level of lectins.

Phytic Acid

Phytic acid, also known as phytates, blocks the absorption of nutrient heavy-hitters like magnesium, zinc, calcium and iron, amongst others.

Phytates are found in whole grains, nuts, soybeans, and seeds.

Phytates also inhibit digestive enzymes, which then cause issues breaking down food properly for absorption.

Dr. Young’s Tips:

  • Avoid canola or other seed oils, and instead cook with butter, ghee, tallow, avocado oil, & coconut oil.


Your beloved green smoothies, and raw spinach or kale salads are causing more harm than good.

Oxalic acid is an antinutrient compound found in many plants, like raw cruciferous vegetables such as kale, radishes, cauliflower, broccoli, chard, spinach, parsley, beets, black pepper, chocolate, nuts, berries, and beans.

Like phytates, oxalates can be reduced by cooking and draining the water or by soaking in acid.

Dr. Young’s Tips:

  • Never add raw kale, spinach, or chard to salads or smoothies.

  • When seasoning meals, skip the black pepper to avoid oxalates.

  • Cook your vegetables and choose the least toxic ones to consume if at all.


Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and oats that can cause intestinal permeability, known as leaky gut.

The problem with gluten is that no human can digest it. It’s impossible to digest the gluten proteins that are in wheat, barley, and rye because the protein in grains today is denatured and our bodies do not recognize it.

Modern food production practices have changed the form of proteins in gluten-containing grains and commercial dairy, resulting in tears in the gut lining. When those tears become more severe, the result is leaky gut syndrome. This problem is similar to the A2 Beta Casein in dairy that has been converted to A1 Beta Casein.

Even if you are not allergic or sensitive to gluten, it is still damaging your gut lining. Indigestible substances in the digestive system cause an immune response. This creates inflammation in your body that results in symptoms such as brain fog, digestive discomfort, fatigue, and other symptoms.

Dr. Young’s Tips:

  • Substitute cassava flour for any wheat-based flour you may be using to avoid gluten.

  • If you must drink alcohol, skip the beer and reach for an organic wine or Malbec instead. In moderation, of course.


Polyphenols, known as phytochemicals, are antinutrients that are most touted for their health benefits. A few examples are dark chocolate, flaxseed meal, cocoa powder, and vegetables containing polyphenol compounds.

Small amounts of polyphenols may have health benefits, such as body weight regulation and decreased blood pressure. However, studies show that in high doses, polyphenols can cause kidney damage, tumor development, and altered thyroid hormone production.


Similar to oxalates, tannins are also enzyme inhibitors. Tannins are found in teas, coffees, wines, and legumes. They can interfere with iron absorption and have been shown to impede the digestion of nutrients.


Glucosinolates are found in cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, and brussels sprouts. They can prevent the absorption of iodine, which can interfere with thyroid function.

A study with over 100,000 participants found that those who ate the highest levels of glucosinolates had a 19% greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.


Saponins are found in legumes and whole grains. They can interfere with normal nutrient absorption, particularly iron and zinc. Like lectins, it can affect the GI lining, causing leaky gut and autoimmune responses.


Solanine is found in nightshades, such as potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes, and peppers. For some, these can cause inflammatory bowel disease and autoimmune conditions.


Salicylates are compounds found in a variety of foods, medications, and other products and cause adverse reactions in those who are intolerant.

Many studies have been done on the connection of salicylates to food intolerance, attention-deficit disorders, and cardiovascular disease.

Animal foods are considered the optimal and perfect food for humans. They have the highest nutrient density and all the nutrients the human body needs to function optimally, with none of the antinutrients found in plants.

We actually don’t need plant molecules to achieve optimal antioxidant status; they’re redundant. And we often see they have negative effects somewhere else on the human body because they’re not from our biochemistry.

Plants simply do NOT want to be eaten, and they contain MANY defense chemicals that are designed to damage your digestive process. The fact is, the vast majority of plants are inedible, if not toxic to humans, due to these defense chemicals.

Some chemicals in vegetables may have pharmaceutical functions within the body, much like medicine, but all pharmaceuticals have side effects. In the case of plant defense chemicals, I believe the risks of these side effects outweigh the benefits.

Fruit is a different story. Plants WANT their fruits to be eaten and the seeds to germinate in a new location. This explains why plants make their fruit sweet and colorful, adding far fewer plant defense chemicals than vegetables.

Some argue that plant chemicals are useful for hormesis. However, this effect is redundant, and would be better achieved without the negative gut-damaging effects.

Instead, your body can achieve this through the following:

1. Infrared saunas

2. Cold plunging

3. Exercise

4. Fasting

Remember, animals that graze on grass can digest those nutrients in their stomachs, much different from our human stomachs. And we can absorb the nutrients from animals.

Plants do indeed contain some vitamins and minerals, although better absorbed and in more concentration from organs, meat, and fruit. And in addition, there are many nutrients in animal foods we CANNOT get from plants in appreciable quantities, such as creatine, carnitine, choline, biotin, anserine, taurine, K2, B12, riboflavin, B6, collagen, and peptides like BPC-157.

As mentioned previously, humans can undoubtedly eat just about every food group, including processed, man-made concoctions, but that doesn’t mean we thrive on this type of diet.

While humans as a species do live longer than ever before, we now suffer from certain illnesses to a degree never before seen in the past.

Examples are diabetes, obesity, and ailments such as hay fever that continue to climb. When populations around the globe started converting to agriculture around 10,000 years ago, regardless of their locations and what they were growing, a similar trend occurred: The height and health of the people declined.

On the advice of medical experts, we’ve eliminated most of the healthiest food in our diets, such as fatty red meat, pork, eggs, and bacon, and supplemented the fats with grains, fruits, fibers, vegetables, and plant oils. Despite following nutritional recommendations from the experts, we haven’t become healthier.

The number of people suffering from Crohn’s Disease, Irritable Bowel, and other autoimmune diseases has skyrocketed. Today, the NIH estimates that over 23 million Americans suffer from an autoimmune disease. We may be living longer, but we sure aren’t living healthier.

There is significant scientific evidence positively correlating the Western diet to acne, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, metabolic syndrome, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and the so-called “diseases of civilization.”

The consumption of processed foods has been a major driver of chronic disease, spurred by vegetable/seed oils, refined wheat flour, trans fats, and sugar consumption, the core components of processed foods. Nearly three-quarters of our diet comprises nutrient-deficient, toxic processed foods.​​​

Humans have evolved to eat meat because it was the source of fuel we required to become the brainier, more skilled apex predators that we are.

We can survive on meat alone. We don’t require the fiber, sugar, carbs, phytochemicals, and toxins that come from fruits and vegetables.

We eat non-meat foods not because they’re essential but because they are readily available, and we’ve been taught to consider them necessary components of a healthy diet.

You may aspire to do a 100% animal-based diet while healing from chronic disease or autoimmune, or 80/20 or 70/30 because your health status allows you to and want more variety. Knowing and understanding our ancestral heritage and healing principles is valuable in order to have your mindset on board when making powerful and healthy lifestyle changes.

Your body can heal itself.

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