Phytic acid is an antioxidant placed in seeds, nuts, and grains as a defense mechanism to repel predators so that they can grow to full maturity. Examples of phytic acid foods are maize, millet, sorghum, wheat, cereals, legumes, seeds, and nuts. When people eat phytic acid foods, it prevents the body from absorbing the vitamins and minerals from that food during digestion. The acid binds to calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium and causes these beneficial trace minerals to be excreted and lost.
Most of the time, you will be able to get those nutrients from other foods. But if you are vegan, vegetarian, paleo, or following another diet plan that relies heavily on seeds, nuts, and grains as the main source of vitamins and minerals, you may want to take some simple extra steps to reduce phytic acid foods.
Preparing phytic acid foods
Phytic acid only constitutes 1% to 5% of the content of a nut or seed. By taking the proper measures, the already small amount of acid in these phytic acid foods can be reduced by 60% to 80%.
- Bread making. The process of milling and bread making removes nearly all of the phytic acid from wheat, millet, rye, and sorghum. Yeast and other microorganisms further break down the phytic acid in flours that are made into bread. Remember to only eat 100% whole-wheat or whole-grain breads.
- Soaking. For nuts, seeds, and legumes, soaking and cooking effectively reduce phytic acid. Research shows that 18 hours of soaking reduces phytic acid content by up to 37%. Any seeds and nuts that are eaten raw should be soaked before consuming them.
- Choose sprouted seeds. Seeds have the same nutrient content as raw seeds, but without the phytic acid. You can purchase them or sprout them at home. Soak the seeds in fresh water for four to 12 hours (depending on the seed). Drain and rinse the seeds with clean water, then place into a sprouting bag or jar with a piece of fabric on top. The sprouts should be damp, but not wet. Rinse them each morning and night to ward off mold. You’ll see sprouts in anywhere from 8 hours to 5 days on average.
Benefits of phytic acid foods
Although phytic acid foods can inhibit the absorption of some vitamins and minerals, studies have found that it has beneficial effects, too. A 2008 study in Toxicology found that the chelation of excess iron away from brain cells can have a protective effect in patients with Parkinson’s disease. This scavenging of iron also confers a beneficial antioxidative effect by blocking hydroxyl radical production and by suppressing the peroxidation of fats. Phytic acid also shows promise in preventing and treating cancer.[8,9] Considering that the quantity of phytic acid that is typically consumed in nuts and seeds is very small, these positive effects may outweigh the detriment of a few lost minerals.
Nuts, seeds, and legumes are extremely nutritious
Many phytic acid foods are healthy additions to any diet and they are nearly irreplaceable for vegetarians or vegans. They often contain complete proteins, antioxidants, lipids, vitamins, and minerals, while containing no bad fats and very few calories. If these are your main source of calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium, you can take a few simple steps to reduce phytic acid and get the full benefits of these nutritional powerhouses. If you are not on a strict vegetarian, vegan, or paleo diet, you will likely get plenty of these nutrients from other food sources. In that case, don’t worry with the need to soak your seeds, nuts, and grains or sprout your own seeds. Just enjoy their fabulous flavor and super nutritious benefits.
Share your experience with phytic acid foods
Are you concerned about phytic acid foods in your diet? Have you tried sprouting, soaking, or cooking to reduce it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. You can also visit us on Facebook and follow up on Twitter to keep up to date on the latest natural health news.