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Phytic Acid – The Bane of Grains

Phytic Acid - The Bane of Grains - Holistic Squid

Your Grains May be Deceiving You!

Many health-conscious folks eat whole grains (such as whole wheat, millet, rye, quinoa, brown rice, and oats) as a healthy source of fiber and nutrients.  So, you may be surprised to learn, grains actually contain a substance called phytic acid that acts as an anti-nutrient by blocking absorption of essential minerals, rendering your healthy meals essentially nutrient deficient.  Mineral deficiency is associated with a whole host of conditions: anemia, bone problems, tooth decay, depression, anxiety, hormone imbalance and much, much more.

What is Phytic Acid?

Phytic acid (or phytate) is the principal storage form of phosphorus in plants, especially present in grains and seeds.  This substance is not digestible to humans, so the phosphorus is essentially trapped in the compound, unavailable to your body.  Furthermore, the molecular structure causes essential minerals (including calcium, zinc, niacin, copper, iron and magnesium) to bind to it, thereby preventing their absorption.

Phytate is actually an anti-oxidant (like vitamin C), and some research suggests that this compound can lower blood glucose, reduce the risk of heart disease, and - reduce colon cancer by lowering absorption of iron and other minerals that the cancer cells need for growth.  In the case of excess iron, phytic acid can be therapeutic in reversing the condition.  Unfortunately, phytic acid’s role as an anti-nutrient out-weights its benefits as it deprives the body’s healthy cells of the minerals needed for health.

Phytase is the enzyme that neutralizes phytic acid and liberates phosphorus.  Unlike pure herbivore mammals (such as goats or rats), humans do not produce enough phytase to safely consume large quantities of high-phytate foods on a regular basis. However, probiotic lactobacilli, and other healthy digestive microflora can produce phytase. Therefore, humans who have good intestinal flora will have an easier time with foods containing phytic acid.  Unfortunately, most modern diets are deficient in probiotic forming foods, so the average American often lacks healthy flora.  Luckily, phytase also co-exists in plant foods that contain phytic acid and can be partially freed-up by preparing grains through the traditional methods discussed below.

Neutralizing Phytic Acid

Nearly all of the modern preparations of grains that we consume today (whole or refined) contain phytic acid.  Whether you’re eating brown rice and quinoa or cookies and white pasta, most modern grains (as well as nuts and legumes) are not properly prepared.

Back in the olden days, traditional cultures throughout the world prepared grains with great care.  Our ancestors were unknowingly neutralizing the phytic acid in the grains, thereby optimizing their nutritional value.  To get the most out of grains, nuts, and beans, prepare prior to cooking or eating by using one of these three techniques:  soaking, sprouting and souring

1.  Soaking – Soaking grains and beans before cooking releases phytase, allowing the phytic acid to be neutralized.  Soaking can also make grains easier to digest, as it neutralizes enzyme inhibitors that prevent the grain (seed) from germinating under poor growing conditions. When soaked, grains are prepared for growth into a new plant. During this process beneficial enzymes are produced and vitamin content is boosted.

Soak grains for 12 to 24 hours in water with 1-2 Tbsp of whey, vinegar, lemon juice, yogurt, buttermilk or kefir. Rinse well to remove any acidic taste and cook as usual in fresh water. Read more about the benefits and practice of soaking grains here.

Soaking grains is the easiest way to reduce their phytic acid – It just takes takes a bit of discipline.  Every night after dinner or before bed, scoop your grains in a bowl and top with filtered water.  In the morning, you will have oats, rice, or grain of your choosing ready to go.

 2. Sprouting – Sprouted grain is highly nutritious. In addition to neutralizing phytic acid, sprouting activates food enzymes and increases vitamin content. Sprouted grain has more protein and less starches compared to non-sprouted grain, and has a lower glycemic index value.

To sprout grains, choose high quality, organic grains and rinse them thoroughly. Place in a ceramic pot or glass jar and add enough filtered warm water to cover all grains by several inches. Soak the grains overnight; then drain and rinse well. Rinse them several times the first day, and continue rinsing them until they have sprouted. Rinse and drain before using, refrigerating, or dehydrating to make sprouted flour.

While homemade is usually best because you know where your grains came from and how they were prepared, most well-stocked health food stores sell delicious sprouted breads, and crackers.  Sprouted pastas, in my opinion are awful.  Cultures for Health sells wonderful sprouted flour for baking. You can find out more about sprouted grain and the sprouting process at NourishedKitchen.com.

3.  Souring – Souring neutralizes phytic acid, and grains fermented with this process also contain beneficial bacteria. Souring or lactic acid fermentation enhances the body’s ability to take advantage of the nutrients in  grains (as well as other foods). Typically, grains are soaked and allowed to sour for between 12 hours and several days. Most “sourdough” bread is not prepared with traditional souring time, and therefore does not have the same health benefits.  I’ve heard that 48 hours is ideal, but don’t quote me on that one.  Ask your baker or contact the company that makes your sourdough to find out how they prepare theirs.

You can research fermenting specific types of grains online, or purchase a book that focuses on fermented foods, such as Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. Read more about the benefits of lactic acid fermentation at NourishedKitchen.com.

You can have your grains and eat them too, but for the sake of health, make sure you prepare your grains or buy grains that have been properly prepared.

Read more here:

Cure Tooth Decay Naturally

PhyticAcid.org

Phytic Acid - The Bane of Grains - Holistic Squid

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Comments

  1. [...] a good article about phytic acid and soaking grains.  Phyticacid.org also has a great deal of info and is a website I recommend you [...]

  2. [...] Oats, wheat, rice and other grains properly prepared [...]

  3. [...] is still done by traditional cultures throughout the rest of the world. The soaking will neutralize the anti-nutrient – phytic acid, improve flavor, and reduce cooking [...]

  4. [...] prepared any grains I did eat via soaking, sprouting, or souring.  This reduces the anti-nutrient, phytic acid which blocks mineral absorption in the body leading to weak bones and teeth.  Most importantly, I [...]

  5. [...] change from standard pasta and chicken dishes. Fill a shallow bowl or baking dish with rice (pre-soaked for optimal nutrition) under filets of grilled salmon topped with toasted sesame seeds, and [...]

  6. [...] wheat promotes health.  Grains and nuts contain phytic acid, an anti-nutrient which blocks the absorption of minerals.  When wheat is sprouted, soaked, or soured it becomes more digestible, more delicious, and less [...]

  7. [...] when don’t eat grains, beans, and white potatoes – even when the grains and beans are properly prepared through soaking, sprouting, or fermenting. I feel less bloated, less cranky, and even have clearer skin. Problem is, I’m on a budget, [...]

  8. [...] promotes physical activity, recommends eating a variety of fruits and vegetables and encourages the consumption of whole grains.  The pyramid, has generally been received as confusing and [...]

  9. [...] it’s extremely important that you process by either soaking, sprouting or souring to reduce phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors.  Soaking and sprouting are both super easy – you can find instructions [...]

  10. [...] nuts contain enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid that act as anti-nutrients in the body. Because of their delicate oils, nuts should also not be [...]

  11. [...] written about the problems of phytic acid in grains and its negative effect on health. Unless your are eating your grains soaked, sprouted, or soured, they can be causing much more harm [...]

  12. [...] or traditionally soured grains promotes health.  Grains and nuts contain phytic acid, an anti-nutrient which blocks the absorption of minerals.  When wheat is sprouted, soaked, or soured it becomes more digestible, more delicious, and less [...]

  13. [...] Prepare all grains (rice, quinoa, oatmeal) for the week. [...]

  14. [...] If you are eating grains, do so in moderation, and be sure to prepare them properly to reduce their phytic acid [...]

  15. [...] kinds of real food but aim for grain free meals (especially avoiding wheat that hasn’t been traditionally prepared) because I personally consume less food and generally feel better when I [...]

  16. [...] though modernized foods were certainly present (dried and canned milk, peanut oil, and sweets).  Grains were eaten in moderation and traditionally prepared, and meats were always grass fed, [...]

  17. [...] other words, I recently discovered the benefits of soaking, sprouting, and/or souring whole grains before cooking them. I’m not going to get into all the details here (because it would literally [...]

  18. [...] * ”Crisp Pecans” refers to pecans that have been soaked (for 7-10 hours) and dehydrated. Raw nuts, seeds, legumes and pulses contain phytic acid, which can make their digestion more difficult for us and actually block our absorption of nutrients. Soaking the pecans will minimize their phytic acid content. You can read more about the why and how of preparing grains and nuts here. [...]

  19. [...] Prepare all grains (rice, quinoa, oatmeal) for the week. [...]

  20. [...] prepare any grains I did eat via soaking, sprouting, or souring.  This reduces the anti-nutrient, phytic acid which blocks mineral absorption in the body leading to weak bones and teeth.  Most importantly, I [...]

  21. [...] 9 – Soak, sour, or sprout grains –  if you eat them – to optimize digestibility and neutralize the anti-nutrient, phytic acid. [...]

  22. [...] promotes physical activity, recommends eating a variety of fruits and vegetables and encourages the consumption of whole grains.  The pyramid, has generally been received as confusing and [...]

  23. [...] Why is phytic acid an anti-nutrient?  Read more here. [...]

  24. [...] don’t do well with soaking (a technique that is necessary in most nuts and grains to remove phytic acid), adding extra convenience to this already easy recipe.Most dried cranberries will contain sugar, [...]

  25. [...] helps to break down the anti-nutrients (such as phytic acid) in corn and makes the niacin (vitamin B3) more bioavailable. Throughout history traditional people [...]

  26. [...] is still done by traditional cultures throughout the rest of the world. The soaking will neutralize the anti-nutrient – phytic acid, improve flavor, and reduce cooking [...]

  27. [...] substances that can prevent the body from absorbing the full nutritional value of the grain. Phytic acid is one such inherent substance and is said to be an “antinutrient” because it can bind with [...]

  28. [...] when I don’t eat grains, beans, and white potatoes – even when the grains and beans are properly prepared through soaking, sprouting, or fermenting. I feel less bloated, less cranky, and even have clearer skin. Problem is, I’m on a budget, [...]

  29. [...] change from standard pasta and chicken dishes. Fill a shallow bowl or baking dish with rice (pre-soaked for optimal nutrition) under filets of grilled salmon topped with toasted sesame seeds, and [...]

  30. [...] the proteins, the ratio of vitamins and minerals improve as well. Sprouting reduces some of the phytic acid in the grain. Since this substance binds with minerals, sprouted wheat has more bioavailable [...]

  31. [...] wheat, rice and other grains properly [...]

  32. [...] For some grains, nuts, and seeds, it’s simply enough to soak overnight to begin the germination process, which releases phytase, the enzyme which is necessary to break down phytic acid – thereby making the grain more digestible. Learn more about phytic acid and other anti-nutrients in grains here. [...]

  33. [...] #3 – Properly prepare your grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts by souring, soaking or sprouting. This will ensure that your body has access to their full nutritional profile and that anti-nutrients do not block absorption of minerals from the rest of your food. Read more about properly preparing grains here. [...]

  34. [...] wheat promotes health.  Grains and nuts contain phytic acid, an anti-nutrient which blocks the absorption of minerals.  When wheat is sprouted, soaked, or soured it becomes more digestible, more delicious, and less [...]

  35. [...] a grain, it still contains the phytic acid, saponins, and lectins, making it an antinutrient. To neutralize the antinutrients (phytic acid) in quinoa, as per information on various websites, I soaked my quinoa overnight in water with [...]

  36. […] making them unavailable to the body.  This is complicated so for more information, you can read this article which also tells us how best to prepare our grains if we would still like to eat […]

  37. […] If you are eating grains, do so in moderation, and be sure to prepare them properly to reduce their phytic acid […]

  38. […] kinds of real food but aim for grain free meals (especially avoiding wheat that hasn’t been traditionally prepared) because I personally consume less food and generally feel better when I […]

  39. […] oils and high fructose corn syrup are toxic to your body, as are grains that have not been properly prepared.  Also, take a look around your house and see how you can reduce toxin exposure there.  Be sure […]

  40. […] enzyme inhibitors are deactivated so that a plant can grow. Similarly, when we soak them (learn how here and here), we deactivate the phytates and enzyme inhibitors to make their nutrients more accessible […]

  41. […] 2. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or put a lid on the bowl to prevent it from drying out. Leave the dough at room temperature for at least seven hours. It takes at least 7 hours for the sourdough to process the phytic acid in the whole wheat. What is phytic acid? Read about it here. […]

  42. […] nuts contain enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid that act as anti-nutrients in the body. Because of their delicate oils, nuts should also not be […]

  43. […] though modernized foods were certainly present (dried and canned milk, peanut oil, and sweets).  Grains were eaten in moderation and traditionally prepared, and meats were always grass fed, […]

  44. […] 2. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or put a lid on the bowl to prevent it from drying out. Leave the dough at room temperature for at least seven hours. It takes at least 7 hours for the sourdough to process the phytic acid in the whole wheat. What is phytic acid? Read about it here. […]

  45. Lea says:

    Really helpful post, Emily! While I’m Paleo due to autoimmune issues, I’m looking to round out my family’s meals with grains that won’t destroy its neighboring food. What do you think about store-bought sprouted brown rice? I’ve been on the fence about it since I didn’t know if white rice was overall a safer bet. And does store-bought sprouted grain need to be soaked at home as well?

    Thanks!

    • Emily says:

      Hi Lea – Thanks for your question. I don’t believe sprouted brown rice needs to be soaked, however I think white rice is safer if your looking to avoid phytic acid.

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