Phytic acid is a popular anti-nutrient that interferes with mineral absorption in your gut by locking a high percentage of phosphorus, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, and zinc. For example, 80% of the phosphorous found in pumpkin seeds and 80% of the zinc found in chickpeas is blocked by phytate. Same goes for magnesium-rich foods.
Phytic acid interferes with calcium and iron absorption, which increases risk of anemia (caused by iron deficiency), tooth decay, and bone loss. Also inhibits the essential digestive enzymes called amylase (breaks down starch), trypsin and pepsin (both break down protein).
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.
Mineral & Bone Loss
Un-soaked, un-germinated grains, beans, nuts, and seeds present a real problem because enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid* bind to proteins and key minerals in our digestive tract. Once bound, proper absorption of vital nutrients – especially calcium, copper, iron, 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, start soaking!
Soak, Sprout, Cook
Enzyme inhibitors and toxic substances can be minimized, or eliminated, in as little 8-24 hrs. You do this by soaking them in warm water with an acid, like yogurt, whey, or lemon juice. This simple step mimics Nature’s germination process, fooling the seed to sprout and activate its enzymes.
Once you soak these foods, they’re full of good enzymes that can increase the bio-availability of vitamins and allow their valuable nutrients to be better absorbed into our body. They’re now alive and enzyme-rich foods with higher amounts of calcium, iron, and zinc. For example, the vitamin A content doubles, B vitamins increase 5 – 10 times the original amount and vitamin C increases as well.
Properly Prepared = More Calcium, Iron, & 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.
If you travel or eat out and come across un-soaked grain, beans, nuts then I’m going to give you a couple tricks to prevent the nutrient loss they can cause:
- Eat vitamin C-rich foods rich (i.e. leafy greens, citrus fruits) to counteract phytates and increase iron absorption.
- Eat vitamin A-rich foods (i.e. sweet potatoes, berries) to improve iron absorption.
*Phytic acid is in all grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and requires an acidified liquid to encourage the activity of phytase; an enzyme that is capable of breaking down/neutralizing 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