Phytic Acid And Why You Need To Know About It

I used to eat a lot of grains, but over the last few years I’ve heard more and more negative things about a diet high in grains, especially wheat. So I made a point of cutting back and upped my intake of nuts, seeds, beans and legumes to help “take up the slack.” Then I found out that all 4 food groups contained phytic acid, which, it turns out, can cause all sorts of problems for the body. So, unfortunately, I apparently hadn’t been eating as healthy as I thought.

How depressing! It’s one thing to know something is bad for you and decide to eat it anyway, but another thing to think you are doing what’s healthy and find out otherwise. And nuts, seeds and beans are high in nutrients and good sources of protein, so I didn’t want to give them up, which is why I was glad to find out that soaking and/or sprouting can go a long way to decrease the level of phytic acid and other toxic substances and nutritional inhibitors, and increase beneficial enzymes and vitamins in the foods and make them more easily digestible. Woohoo!

Here’s an article that will help explain everything….

By: Delicia Beaty and Sharon Foutch from FoodMatters.tv

Soaking nuts, grains, seeds, and legumes 
Nature has set it up so that the nut, grain and seed may survive until proper growing conditions are present. Nature’s defense mechanism includes nutritional inhibitors and toxic substances that can be removed naturally when there is enough precipitation to sustain a new plant after the nut, grain or seed germinates. When it rains, the nut, grain or seed gets wet and can then germinate to produce a plant. So we are mimicking nature when we soak our nuts, grains and seeds.

Nutritional inhibitors and toxic substances found in nuts, grains and seeds can be minimized or eliminated by soaking. These inhibitors and toxic substances are enzyme inhibitors, phytates (phytic acid), polyphenols (tannins), and goitrogens.

What are Enzyme inhibitors?
There are digestive enzymes and metabolic enzymes. Digestive enzymes help break down food. Metabolic enzymes help every biological process the body does. Enzyme inhibitors will clog, warp or denature an active site of an enzyme. They may also bind to the enzyme, which will prevent the intended molecule from binding. “Once again, the habits of traditional peoples should serve as a guide. They understood instinctively that nuts are best soaked or partially sprouted before eaten. This is because nuts contain numerous enzyme inhibitors that can put a real strain on the digestive mechanism if consumed in excess.”

What are Phytates?
“All grains contain phytic acid in the outer layer or bran. Untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and especially zinc, in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in unfermented whole grains may lead to*serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss. The modern misguided practice of consuming large amounts of unprocessed bran often improves colon transit time at first but may lead to irritable bowel syndrome and, in the long term, many other adverse effects.”

*Personal note: This may help explain how/why I ended up being diagnosed with anemia, calcium,  magnesium and zinc deficiencies, plus degenerative bone loss a number of years ago. I grew up eating lots of grains and used large amounts of wheat and oat bran to add fiber to my diet. At the time all this seemed like a healthy thing to do. 😦

Why soak nuts, grains and seeds?

  • 1. To remove or reduce phytic acid.
  • 2. To remove or reduce tannins.
  • 3. To neutralize the enzyme inhibitors.
  • 4. To encourage the production of beneficial enzymes.
  • 5. To increase the amounts of vitamins, especially B vitamins.
  • 6. To break down gluten and make digestion easier.
  • 7. To make the proteins more readily available for absorption.
  • 8. To prevent mineral deficiencies and bone loss.
  • 9. To help neutralize toxins in the colon and keep the colon clean.
  • 10. To prevent many health diseases and conditions.

“Soaking allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to break down and neutralize a large portion of phytic acid in grains. Soaking in warm water also neutralizes enzyme inhibitors, present in all seeds, and encourages the production of numerous beneficial enzymes. The action of these enzymes also increases the amount of many vitamins, especially B vitamins. During the process of soaking and fermenting, gluten and other difficult-to-digest proteins are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption.”

What can be used to soak nuts, grains and seeds?
I have found many references to soaking nuts, grains, and seeds in water, salt water, or a warm water mixture with something *acidic like yogurt, whey or lemon juice. It seems within 7 to 24 hours the enzyme inhibitors are neutralized and the anti-nutrients are broken down regardless of the method you choose. There is evidence that the process works when you see sprouting begin.

*Personal Note: I’ve also read you can use ACV.

How long does the soaking process take?
“As little as seven hours of soaking in warm acidulated water will neutralize a large portion of phytic acid in grains. The simple practice of soaking cracked or rolled cereal grains overnight will vastly improve their nutritional benefits.” “Flour products should be soaked at room temperature for at least twelve hours, but better results may be obtained with a twenty-four hour soaking.”

Are the nuts, grains and seeds used wet?

I have enjoyed almonds wet. If you choose to try consuming anything in the soaked state, make little batches and store them in the refrigerator. Usually everything that is soaked is dried in a dehydrator or oven on the lowest possible setting for 24 – 48 hours to remove all moisture.

Wheat berries can be soaked whole for 8 to 22 hours, then drained and rinsed. Some recipes use the whole berries while they are wet, such as cracker dough ground right in the food processor. You can also dry sprouted wheat berries in a low-temperature oven or dehydrator, and then grind them in your grain mill and use the flour in a variety of recipes. Nuts, grains, seeds and legumes can be ground up to use as flour in many recipes after they have been dried.

Any advice on what to do with legumes?

Maureen Diaz recommends soaking any beans or legumes in water and vinegar for at least twelve hours before cooking. Soaked and dried beans may be ground up and used as flour for thickening and baking. This is helpful for those on a gluten-free diet.

One recommendation includes placing soaked kombu or kelp seaweed in the bottom of the pot when soaking legumes. Add one part seaweed to six or more parts legumes. This is for improved flavor and digestion, more nutrients, and faster cooking. “Soak legumes for twelve hours or overnight in four parts water to one part legume. For best results, change the water once or twice. Lentils and whole dried peas require shorter soaking, while soybeans and garbanzos need to soak longer. Soaking softens skins and begins the sprouting process, which eliminates phytic acid, thereby making more minerals available. Soaking also promotes faster cooking and improved digestibility, because the gas-causing enzymes and tri-saccharides in legumes are released into the soak water. Be sure to discard the soak water. After bringing legumes to a boil, scoop off and discard foam. Continue to boil for twenty minutes without lid at beginning of cooking to let steam rise (breaks up and disperses indigestible enzymes).”

Source (pdf): wss.nourishingconnections.org

PERSONAL NOTE: I highly recommend using structured water for soaking because it has the ability to neutralize anything that would be non-beneficial to the body.

And here’s an excerpt and chart that also addresses the issue of phytic acid; it’s from my post on pumpkin seeds:

….In the article by Dr. Mercola it mentioned that pumpkin seeds, like grains, nuts and seeds, contain phytic acid that can cause a number of health problems and render nutrients less bio-available. That’s why whenever you eat any of these types of foods you should really soak and/or sprout them first to help lower phytic acid.

Soaking the seeds at home is one way to get around the issue of phytic acid; another way is to buy Go Raw Organic Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds. That way the work is already done for you and they are the best tasting seeds I’ve ever had. The only problem is you may have a hard time stopping with just a handful! They aren’t cheap, but they are nutrient dense, so a little goes a long way. And you can get them at a discount from iHerb.com (use code CJG192, if you are a new customer, and spend more than $40 and you will get $5 off your purchase). Plus, shipping is free on orders of $20, AND you get an extra 5% off on orders over $60. 

You can also get them at Vitacost, which is another favorite store of mine for health supplements, many food items, and personal care products. Great discount prices, ever-expanding inventory, free shipping on $49 and up, and if you sign-up for an account at Rakuten (formerly eBates) and then shop there (or at iHerb or 100s of other stores), thru the Rakuten portal, you will get a $10 reward for your first order of $25, plus earn cash back from the store where you’re shopping. And Rakuten now has an easy to activate “Shop Smarter” button that lets you know when you are on a site that offers cash back. Great idea!

FYI, Go Raw also makes sprouted sunflower, watermelon, and flax seeds, plus a spicy seed mix. With flax seeds being touted so regularly as something everyone should add to their diet, I think it’s good for people to know that they are really not easily digestible unless they are sprouted, otherwise you are missing out on a lot of their nutritional value. So I’m grateful that they are now available already sprouted, in case we forget to, or don’t want to, take the time and effort to soak and sprout them ourselves.

 Read the rest of the post:

http://selfhelphealth.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/all-things-pumpkin-especially-the-seeds/

And here are a couple of more links for learning about the pluses and minuses of phytic acid and ways to off-set it:

https://foodrevolution.org/blog/phytates/

http://www.scoop.it/t/phytic-acid?page=1

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-phytates-phytic-acid

Salud!

p.s. Be sure to subscribe to Self-help Health so you don’t miss any future posts. Also check out my Evolution Made Easier website’s To Your Health page and my other blog for more helpful information, tips, tools and resources.

Disclaimer: Please note that any information here is provided as a guideline only, and is not meant to substitute for the advice of your physician, nutritionist, trained healthcare practitioner, and/or inner guidance system. Always consult a professional before undertaking any change to your normal health routine.

Watch Out For These Anti-nutrients!

Here’s an interesting article from  about anti-nutrients. I was already aware of some of the items mentioned, like phytic acid, which I have been hearing more and more about these days and plan to do a post on. And I knew that spinach could interfere with calcium absorption because of oxalic acid, but I didn’t realize that other foods that are so good for you, e. g. broccoli and cauliflower, also contained potentially harmful substances. And I’d always read that flavinoids are one of the good things about citrus and other fruits, but apparently there can be a down-side to them as well. Just goes to show you how complex the issue of eating healthy can be!

 

The Benefits of Soaking Nuts and Seeds

(photo from wakeupworld.com)

Anti-Nutrients: What They Are and How To Avoid Them

You can eat, and eat, and eat, but until the nutrients in the food are processed and used, it’s all just exercise. Food is only useful when it can be used by the body to maintain vital functions, and perform routine maintenance. Fortunately for our survival, it’s not that hard to process most foods, and humans have the widest range of possible food sources of any other creature on the planet that has ever existed. Our digestive systems can digest most any organic, non-toxic matter, except for things like cellulose.  And the things we can’t digest raw, we can cook to make them edible. But this wide range of food is a two-edged sword. Our increased food supply has allowed another item to enter our diets….anti-nutrients.

Anti-nutrients are compounds that interfere with our ability to use certain nutrients from the foods we eat and things we drink. They can be natural, or even artificial. They usually do their sinister work by interfering with enzymes and proteases that break up our food into usable compounds. Before the advent of agriculture, it wasn’t much of a problem, because we mostly ate meat and fruits, which contain minimal anti-nutrients. But grains, cereals, beans, and other vegetables contain much larger amounts of these compounds…enough to be problematic in some cases. The good news is that modern crop varieties contain less anti-nutrients than their Neolithic forebears, and with genetic engineering, it may be possible to eliminate them entirely, but that may have it’s own problems, which we will discuss later.

There are several types of anti-nutrients we need to be concerned about:

  •  Lipase Inhibitors – these interfere with the enzymes we use to process fats. This may not sound like such a bad thing, since most of carry around a good bit of fat to spare, but in reality, there are many kinds of fats that are essential for goods health, like Omega 3s. Lipase Inhibitors do not discriminate between fats. They are equal-opportunity vandals, and can keep you from absorbing the fats you need. A common commercial variety is used as a weight-loss option, that allows fats to pass through your system unprocessed.
  • Amylase Inhibitors – these interfere with the enzymes that allow us to process complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are vital for your body to function properly. Like Lipase Inhibitors, these are commercially produced to be used as weight-loss aids, and to treat obesity. Amylase Inhibitors are found naturally in beans and other legumes.
  • Glucosinolates are found in broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts and cauliflower. These interfere with your ability to absorb iodine, a vital mineral needed by the thyroid gland. Insufficient iodine can lead to all sorts of health issues such as goiters, and worse.
  • Protease Inhibitors interfere with the ability to process proteins, vital to many biological functions. They also interfere with digestion, and can cause gastric troubles. Protease Inhibitors are found in soybeans.
  • Oxalic Acid is present in many leafy green vegetables such as spinach. It interferes with the ability to absorb calcium, vital to many body structures, like bones.
  • Phytic Acid interferes with the absorption of several minerals, such as calcium, zinc, magnesium, iron, and copper.  These are needed to support various chemical reactions within the body. Phytic Acids are found in the hulls of grains like rice, wheat, corn, and also seeds and nuts.
  • Trypsin Inhibitors and Lectinsfound mostly in legumes, interfere with digestion.
  • Flavinoids not only interfere with the absorbtion of zinc, copper, and iron, but can actually remove them from the body in a process known as chelation. They can also interfere with proteins and digestion.
  • Saponins, found in tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and some potatoes, can cause digestion problems, and are linked to some autoimmune disorders.
  • Salicylates, present in berries, citrus fruits, squash and other vegetables and fruits, have been linked to behavioral/emotional disorders such as autism, ADD, etc…, and chronic inflammatory disorders such as arthritis, asthma, and digestive problems.

Excessive amounts of normal nutrients can also have the same effect as anti-nutrients. Too much fiber can slow down and block the flow of food through the intestines, so much that other nutrients cannot be absorbed. Minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc are all vital to body functions, but they all share the same transporter mechanisms. Too much of any one, or more of these can cause the others not to be absorbed.

In a balanced diet, anti-nutrients are not usually a problem, because most of the things we eat have a lot more nutrients than we need. But in the modern world, especially in the US, most of us do not really have a well-balanced diet. Remember when we said earlier that it may be possible to completely eliminate anti-nutrients from most food sources? This may not be a good thing, because some anti-nutrients may have beneficial effects, at least some of the time. The best course is just to be aware of what we eat, and make adjustments as needed 2..

You can reduce the amounts of anti-nutrients in your diet by making good food choices, but also by using certain food preparation techniques. Fermentation, pickling, malting, soaking, and cooking all reduce the amount of anti-nutrients in foods. You can avoid foods that contain certain additives that have anti-nutrients, such as soy lecithin, soybean oil, trans-fats, and hydrogenated oils.

It is not the author’s intent to scare you, or cause you to obsess over your food. For most people in average health, anti-nutrients pose little risk. But should you ever become sensitive to certain foods, or develop an autoimmune disease, this knowledge could be invaluable.  In any case, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of what you are putting into your body.

Bon apetit

This article is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute medical or nutritional advice in any way. If you feel you have a medical issue, always consult a licensed physician.

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References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antinutrient

http://chemistry.about.com/b/2013/06/08/what-is-an-antinutrient.htm

http://paleolithicdiet.wordpress.com/2008/06/22/antinutrients-your-key-to-bad-health/

Salud!

p.s. Be sure to subscribe to Self-help Health so you don’t miss any future posts, and tell your friends to do the same. Also check out my website’s To Your Health page and Evolution Made Easier blog for more helpful health tips, tools and information.

Disclaimer: Please note that any information here is provided as a guideline only, and is not meant to substitute for the advice of your physician, nutritionist, trained healthcare practitioner, and/or inner guidance system. Always consult a professional before undertaking any change to your normal health routine.