This substance is found in most plant foods. Legumes, cereals, non-germinated seeds, and cereals contain the antinutrient inositol hexaphosphate, also known as phytic acid
Porridge, bran, seeds, nuts – now you can find a lot of information about the benefits of these products for the human body. But it turns out that they can also be harmful: cause intestinal upset, iron deficiency and bone loss.
This is due to phytic acid. This substance is found in most plant foods. Legumes, cereals, non-germinated seeds, and cereals contain the antinutrient inositol hexaphosphate, also known as phytic acid.
Features of phytic acid
The antinutrient is not good for the body, it also takes the benefit of nutrients. The fact is that acid does not allow minerals from food to be absorbed into the blood, binding to each other and forcing the body to remove them as waste. By consuming mineral-rich foods along with saturated phytic acid, you’ll get virtually no benefit.
The high concentration of antinutrients in plant foods, according to experts, is designed to protect seeds from being eaten by animals and people, giving them the opportunity to germinate. They also need energy to grow. Phytate – it is also phosphorus in the composition of the acid – stores this energy until the conditions suitable for the appearance of the germ: a moist, warm environment. Fruits and berries reproduce differently, so they practically do not have this substance.
Its quantity is not the same in different products. Depending on the type of soil, climate, environmental conditions, the concentration of phytic acid will be higher or lower. Cereals contain acid in the shells – bran, legumes in the seed itself. They, as well as whole grains, are the most concentrated sources of matter.
A number of studies of phytic acid have shown that it can fight chronic diseases and act as an antioxidant, preventing free radicals from forming in the intestines. Acid binds not only beneficial substances: cadmium, lead and mercury also leave the body thanks to it. The absorption of phytic acid by cancer cells may indicate its usefulness in the fight against tumors, but there is not enough data to confirm this theory.
Consequences of Using Phytic Acid
By preventing the body from absorbing minerals and absorbing starch, proteins, and fats, acid can cause osteoporosis. And the fact that we do not have enzymes for its digestion leads to the appearance of irritable bowel syndrome. A shortage of important minerals ultimately leads to iron deficiency anemia. Most often, vegetarians face this, for which plant food is the basis of the diet. Even five milligrams of acid reduces iron absorption by 50%. However, it is worth noting that phytic acid affects the assimilation of only the food with which it enters the body. That is, if you eat something rich in iron in a couple of hours after eating the seeds, it will usually be absorbed.
How to reduce harm
It may seem that the right decision is not to use products with inositol hexaphosphate, but this is not so. After all, they contain many other substances that are useful for our body: fats, carbohydrates, fiber. In fact, such nutrition, or rather the cultivation of different cultures, was very important for all stages of the formation of civilization. People throughout history have consumed foods that are high in phytate without much concern. They ate them in the form of whole grains, not bread or bran. And in all cultures, cereals and legumes passed a long period of soaking or souring in milk. Today in India, Africa, a number of countries in Latin America and the East, seeds saturated with phytates are necessarily soaked for several days and fermented. Let’s tell you how to reduce the harmful effects of antinutrients before cooking.
Since acid stores seeds until conditions are good for germination, you can create them artificially by soaking the seeds in warm water. Different products need different times to neutralize phytates:
- whole grain oats – 10 hours,
- rye and spelled – 8 teas,
- brown rice and wild rice – 12 hours,
- white – 9 hours,
- millet – 5 hours,
- barley – 6 hours,
- chickpea – 18 hours,
- quinoa and amaranth – 3 hours,
- bean – 12-16 hours,
- nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds – 12 hours.
Ideally, soak the seeds until they germinate directly, then complete acid degradation will occur. Sugar, gluten and other substances that are difficult to digest will break down into simple ones, and the absorption of B vitamins will also increase. When germinating, it is important to change the water at least once every twelve hours.
You can reduce the concentration of phytates in products by thirty to fifty percent if subjected to prolonged heat treatment. But, so as not to destroy vitamin C, the temperature of the water should not exceed forty degrees.
Seeds germinate more readily in an acidic environment. Therefore, when soaking, and during heat treatment, you can add other acids to the water: ascorbic, citric, and acetic. To break down twenty-five milligrams of phytates, you will need approximately eighty milligrams of ascorbic acid.
Add animal protein, vitamin A, and beta-carotene to your meals if you want to reduce the harmful effects of acid. Vitamin A helps the iron to be absorbed, creating a powerful bond with it. And protein allows minerals to be better absorbed. But not dairy. Casein is present in it, which also negatively affects absorption.
Probiotics, thanks to lactobacilli and organic acids in the composition, also have a positive effect on the absorption of substances that phytates try to remove from the body. Therefore, the fermentation of lactic acid is one of the most effective methods of preserving minerals.
Definitely you should not avoid cereals, legumes, and nuts in your diet. These products are healthy, tasty and nutritious. But the presence of phytic acid in them forces them to be pretreated. If you approach her with responsibility, you will be able to get all the necessary substances from food and avoid diseases.