There is lot of data and research material available to tell us that food grains contain something called as ‘Phytic Acid’. And soaking releases phytic acid from grains, unbinds micro-nutrients for better absorption.
So, what is Phytic Acid?
Phytic acid – the storage form of phosphorus – is one of those pesky “anti-nutrients” that inhibits absorption of minerals. It’s often considered an anti-nutrient because it binds minerals in the digestive tract, making them less available to our bodies.
Phytic acid (known as inositol hexakisphosphate (IP6), inositol polyphosphate, or phytate when in salt form), discovered in 1903, a saturated cyclic acid, is the principal storage form of phosphorus in many plant tissues, especially bran and seeds. It can be found in cereals and grains.
What’s the big deal?
Phytic acid is well documented to block absorption of not only of phosphorus, but also other minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. It also negatively affects the absorption of lipids and protein. I would guess that one reason this is true is because phytic acid also inhibits enzymes that we need to digest our food such as pepsin (which helps break down protein), amylases (convert starch into sugar for digestion) and trypsin (also used in protein digestion). While whole grains have a much higher mineral content than processed grains, we won’t get the full benefit of that nutrition if phytic acid blocks us from absorbing it. Phytate has been labeled by the World Health Organization as one of the main causes of anaemia (iron deficiency).
Any potential problems with phytic acid for Vegans and Vegetarians?
Phytic acid can bind minerals in the gut before they are absorbed and influence digestive enzymes. Phytates also reduce the digestibility of starches, proteins, and fats.
Vegan eaters often consume more iron than omnivores. Yet, they also consume more anti-nutrients, including phytates, and these reduce the amount of iron available to their bodies. Consuming 5-10 mg of phytic acid can reduce iron absorption by 50%.
This is why vegetarian eaters should eat more iron than omnivores (33 mg for veg eaters vs. 18 mg for omnivores).
How much difference does it make to remove phytic acid?
It is well documented that removal of Phytic Acid from grains gives better absorption of minerals. Not just iron but many other nutrients essential for a healthy living.
How do we remove Phytic Acid from our food grains?
Soak, sprout or ferment!! That’s all.
But, is Phytic acid all bad?
Ramiel Nagel did an excellent job summarizing some of the latest research on phytic acid having positive effects. Here it is.
“As evidence of the detrimental effects of phytates accumulates, reports on alleged beneficial effects have also emerged. In fact, a whole book, Food Phytates, published in 2001 by CRC press, attempts to build a case for “phytates’ potential ability to lower blood glucose, reduce cholesterol and triacylglycerols, and reduce the risks of cancer and heart disease.”
So, my dear readers, the call is yours. I would consume more of iron, calcium, vitamins and other nutrients to balance the lower absorption due to phylates instead of avoiding phylates all together. But if you are Vegan then it is strongly recommended that you avoid phytic acid by consuming grains that are soaked or sprouted only.
Make the right modifications to your grains depending on your diet and food you consume. For example, our Granola is an excellent food for anyone (read: Vegetarians) looking for power-packed nutrients and very low phytic acid as against a regular Indian hot breakfast, why even museli.
Hope you enjoyed reading this article. I have read at least 50 research papers on Phytic Acid before putting this together.
So, Eat Healthy and Be Happy! 🙂