Phytic acid is the best known anti-nutrient and interferes with the absorption of minerals. It locks up a high % of phosphorus, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
Research shows that 80% phosphorous found in phosphorus foods like pumpkin or sunflower seeds, along with 80% of zinc found in zinc foods like cashews and chickpeas, can be blocked by phytate. The same goes for magnesium-rich foods.
At the same time, phytic acid interferes with calcium/iron absorption, which increases the risk of anemia (caused by iron deficiency) and bone loss. It also inhibits the essential digestive enzymes called amylase (breaks down starch), trypsin and pepsin (breaks down protein).
Why do these foods have anti-nutrients?
These harmful substances are nature’s way of storing genetic plant material until it has a chance to grow into a plant. This way they can remain potent for 1,000's of years. Given the right conditions – fertile soil, water, sunlight – all grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds grow into sturdy plants.
Un-soaked grains, beans, nuts, and seeds can lead to loss of minerals and bone.
Un-soaked, un-germinated grains, beans, nuts, and seeds present a real problem. This is because the enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid* bind to proteins and key minerals in our digestive tract. Once bound, proper absorption of vital nutrients found – esp. calcium, copper, iron, and zinc – is blocked and unable to be assimilated.
When ingested, phytic acid and inhibitors prevent the body’s own enzymes from working properly and prohibit proper absorption of nutrients and minerals.
Consumed on a regular basis, un-soaked and un-germinated grains, beans, nuts, and seeds irritate the digestive tract and can lead to a variety of health issues like leaky gut, IBS and food intolerances. If you have weak digestion and/or are on The Body Ecology Diet or GAPS to heal this, then start soaking!
Soak, sprout, or cook!
Enzyme inhibitors and toxic substances can be minimized, or eliminated, in as little 8-24 hrs. Do this by soaking them in warm water with an acid (yogurt, whey, lemon juice). This simple step mimics Nature’s germination process, fooling the seed to sprout and activate its enzymes. See below for how.
Once you soak these foods, they're full of good enzymes that can increase the availability of vitamins to our body and allow nutrients to be absorbed. They are now living, enzyme-rich foods with significantly higher amounts of bio-available calcium, iron and zinc. For ex. vitamin A content doubles; B vitamins are 5 – 10x higher; and vitamin C increases!
Properly prepared these foods have a ton of bio-available calcium, iron and zinc.
Our modern way of preparing these foods often overlook this crucial soaking and germinating step. Yet traditional civilizations have practiced it for thousands of years in various forms. Taking the necessary steps to minimize and eliminate the harmful inhibitors and toxic substances is good.
You can't always soak...
Maybe you're traveling or eating out and eating these un-soaked plant foods. Here are some tricks: eating foods rich in vitamin C, like leafy green vegetables or citrus fruits, can counteract phytate and increase iron absorption. Foods rich in vitamin A like sweet potatoes or berries can also help improve iron absorption.
Traditional Method of Soaking Grains
Traditional Method of Soaking Nuts & Seeds
Traditonal Method of Soaking Beans
*Phytic acid is found in all grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and requires an acidified liquid to encourage the activity of phytase – an enzyme required to break down phytic acid.
Axe, J. (2017). 10 Antinutrients to Get Out of Your Diet & Life. Retrieved from https://draxe.com/antinutrients/
Fallon, S. (2001). Nourishing Traditions. Washington, DC: New Trends Publishing, Inc.
Fallon, S. and Enig, M. (2000). Be Kind To Your Grains…And Your Grains Will Be Kind To You. The Weston A. Price Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/be-kind-to-your-grains
Nagel, R. (2010). Living with Phytic Acid. The Weston A. Price Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/1893-living-with-phytic-acid.html
Nourished Kitchen. (2009). Sprouted Grain: Benefits, Preparation and Recipes. Retrieved fromhttp://nourishedkitchen.com/sprouted-grain/
Passionate Homemaking (2008). Soaking Methods for the Dairy Intolerant. Retrieved from http://www.passionatehomemaking.com/2008/10/q-a-soaking-for-the-dairy-free.html