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Phytic Acid: Anti-Nutrient or Essential Phytochemical?

Phytic Acid: Anti-Nutrient or Essential Phytochemical?

Phytic acid is a phytochemical that naturally occurs in plants such as legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains.

The highest concentration of phytic acid is found in rice bran, wheat bran, wheat germ, almonds, and walnuts.

This post will touch on health benefits and some of the undesirable effects of consuming foods that are high in phytic acid.

Health Benefits

Phytic acid acts as a “sponge” in your gut by binding to any heavy metals (the metals we don’t want too much of) that may have hitched a ride with your food.

It can also help to reduce risks of kidney stones, heart disease, and even some cancers.  In addition, it is known to deliver antioxidant benefits when consumed.

Phytic Acid the Mineral Reducer

Phytic acid is also know as an “anti-nutrient” for its ability to bind essential minerals such as iron, zinc, and calcium and prevent them from being fully absorbed when eaten.  This is why phytic acid is known as a “mineral reducer.”

Phytic acid’s effects apply only to mineral-containing foods in the current meal. Once digested, there is no mineral reduction on any future meals and there is no impact to the minerals your body has already absorbed.

How to reduce phytic acid

Phytic acid shouldn’t be a huge concern, unless your main foods at most meals are nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes. Because many of these are nutritious foods, you probably don’t want to cut all of them completely out of your diet.

Considering both the good and bad properties of phytic acid, you may still want to reduce how much you consume. Maybe you want to increase your mineral intake. If so, here are two popular methods to naturally reduce phytic acid:

  • Soaking – Place nuts, seeds, grains or legumes in a bowl, cover with water and leave overnight. Then drain the water and rinse before eating or preparing.
  • Sprouting – After soaking, draining, and rinsing, place damp nuts, seeds, grains or legumes into a container that’s exposed to the air (like a mason jar with a mesh lid). Every 8 hours or so, re-rinse them and drain the water. Continue doing this for a few days until you see sprouts peeking out.

Why do soaking and sprouting help reduce phytic acid? Being wet is a “sign” to leave their dormant (dry) state and start a new life.  Enzymes activated during soaking and sprouting deactivate phytic acid to use its energy and stored minerals for the plant as it begins to grow.

Conclusion

Phytic acid known as as a mineral reducer. It’s found in nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes. Yes, it most definitely prevents absorption of critical minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium, if they’re in your gut at the same time. Phytic acid in food can become a health concern if you are deficient in these minerals, or if your diet is largely based on nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes.

But, if you eat a varied diet, then phytic acid shouldn’t be as much of a concern. In fact, phytic acid does have some health benefits as we’ve discussed.

If you want to reduce it in your food, you can soak or sprout your nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes.

Almond Vanilla Latte Smoothie (Serves 1)

  • ¼ cup almonds, soaked overnight & rinsed
  • ½ cup strong coffee, cold (or chai tea if you prefer)
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ banana, frozen

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend on high until almonds are smooth.
  2. Add ice, if desired

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: By using soaked almonds, they tend to blend up smoother than hard and crunchy dry almonds do.

In Health,

Dr. Anna ND

References

How to Reduce Antinutrients in Foods. https://authoritynutrition.com/how-to-reduce-antinutrients/

Phytic Acid 101: Everything You Need to Know. https://authoritynutrition.com/phytic-acid-101/

Phytates and phytic acid. Here’s what you need to know. http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-phytates-phytic-acid