What is an Anti-Nutrient ?

The expressions anti-nutrient, antinutrient and anti nutrient tend to be used inter-changeably in books and articles about substances that adversely affect the uptake and use of nutrients by the human body.

Definition of anti-nutrient :

Anti-nutrients are substances that adversely affect the overall nutritional value of all foodstuffs consumed (including both food and drinks) by interfering with body processes such as*:

  • absorption of nutrients such as vitamin and minerals
  • the body's metabolic rate
  • toxic effects.

There are many anti-nutrients. Their individual effects on the body vary because different antinutrients affect the absorption, metabolism, utilization and / or excretion of different nutrients, including micro-nutrients.

Depending on which nutrients are affected, the severity of the effect, and the intake (i.e. how much) of the anti-nutrients and affected nutrients, various nutritional deficiencies and their effects can occur.

Examples of sources of anti-nutrients:

  • Coffee - contains caffeine
  • Tea (but not all fruit / herbal teas) - contains caffeine and tannin
  • Carbonated Soft Drinks - often contain acids and caffeine
  • Alcoholic Drinks - contain alcohols
  • Antibiotics - some kill even so-called 'friendly bacteria' in the gut
  • Tranquilizers - reduce metabolic rate and depress appetite
  • Contraceptive Pills - affect uptake and activity of some nutrients
  • Cigarettes - see chemicals in cigarettes
  • Medication - a huge category that includes many different types of drug. See ref. below for more about drugs as antinutrients.

See also common anti-nutrients and their effects

Examples of effects of anti-nutrients (in general):

Nutrients, especially vitamins and minerals, that can be affected by anti-nutrients in general include:

Vitamins, including:

Minerals, including:

  • calcium (Ca)
  • chlorine (Cl)
  • copper (Cu)
  • iron (Fe)
  • magnesium (Mg)
  • manganese (Mn)
  • nitrogen (N)
  • phosphorus (P)
  • potassium (K)
  • selenium (Se)
  • sodium (Na)
  • zinc (Zn)

Amino Acids:


For more about anti-nutrients, see which body systems are affected by anti-nutrient intake, which includes notes about how specific anti-nutrients affect body systems.

See also vitamins, minerals, amino acids, common anti-nutrients and dietary needs for different life stages.

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