Avoiding Antinutrients with the Paleo Diet

Advocates of the Paleo Diet strongly believe that man was never meant to eat certain foods. Because we are a relatively young species, our digestive tracts have not yet sufficiently evolved to absorb only the good nutrients and eliminate the bad, which are called “antinutrients”.

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Antinutrient” is a less alarming term for toxins that are present in some foods. Paleolithic man has avoided consumption of foods containing antinutrients because they have limited their diets to edible items that can be hunted or simply gathered from plants and consumed raw. Grains, legumes and potatoes were not considered edible. In fact, they have discovered that these particular foods are toxic. The reason for this, as Paleo Diet researchers have found out, is the presence of antinutrients in these foods.

Let us take a look at these antinutrients which prompted Paleo Diet developers to exclude grains, legumes, potatoes and other foods containing these substances from the program.

Enzyme Blockers

As their name obviously denotes, enzyme blockers are substances that block enzymes in the digestive tract that break down food. Good examples are protease inhibitors which block enzymes that digest proteins and amylase inhibitors which block enzymes that break down a form of starch known as amylase.

Research has shown that grains, beans and potatoes contain large concentrations of enzyme blockers. A diet loaded with these foods causes an increase of enzyme blockers in the digestive system. As the actions of the digestive enzymes are inhibited, the pancreas starts to release even more enzymes. This causes a number of gastrointestinal disorders to develop including acute gastroenteritis and peptic ulcer disease.

Even more disturbing is that these enzyme blockers have a preservative action. In fact, grains have been used in the mummification process of the Pharaohs of Egypt. This alone will tell you that these foods are toxic.


Lectins are natural proteins in grains, beans and potatoes which scientists have long suspected to be the root cause of a number of unexplained diseases. This antinutrient binds to the cell receptors, producing harmful effects to the body.

Documented harmful effects of lectins include the following…

  • Destruction and damage of the cells lining the small intestines
  • Induces abnormal cell division (such as in cancer)
  • Promotes clot formation by binding with the red blood cells
  • Induces growth and/or shrinkage of lymphatic tissues
  • Induces cell death
  • Causes pancreatic enlargement
  • Induces the development of autoimmune diseases


Exorphins are morphine-like substances that can be found in wheat and other grains, as well as daily products. Much like the body’s own endorphins, exorphins bind to receptors on nerve cells causing them to send or block signals going to and coming from the brain. Eating foods with high exorphin content has been implicated in cases of chronic pain, and it also aggravates addictive behavior.

As you can see, Paleo Diet proponents have a sound scientific basis for restricting grains, potatoes, legumes, and other foods that contain these antinutrients. The next time you dine, check out the foods that you are eating. You might want to consider switching to the Paleo Diet to improve your overall health and well-being.

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