Phytic acid is a unique natural substance found in the seeds of plants. It often causes concern because of its effects on mineral absorption. It is said that it prevents the absorption of iron, zinc and calcium and can promote mineral deficiencies.
That is why this acid is called an antinutrient. It’s not that simple, though: Phytic acid also has a number of health benefits.
Phytic acid is a natural antioxidant found primarily in grains, nuts, and seeds. Foods rich in phytic acid include grains, legumes, and certain vegetables. It is considered an antinutrient because it impairs mineral absorption. More recently, studies have also shown health benefits such as prevention and treatment of some conditions, including cancer.
People who have an existing mineral deficiency should be aware of the amount of phytic acid-containing foods they eat and may want to consult with a dietitian or health care provider. However, some people seem to be immune to the antinutrient effects of phytates. The researchers hypothesize that this immunity may be due to the presence of beneficial gut flora that can break down acid. In addition, when consumed together with animal fats that provide soluble vitamins A and D, the effects of fats are reduced.
It is also known as IP6, phytate or inositol hexaphosphate.
For what do you use it?
Phytic acid is an antioxidant. Antioxidants help remove free radicals from the cells of the body. These are the highly reactive byproducts of cellular metabolism. If left unchecked, free radicals can contribute to the development of certain diseases and cancer.
Foods that contain phytic acid are rich in nutrients, in general. For most people, it’s important to include these foods in a healthy, well-balanced diet.
Studies have shown that phytic acid can protect against certain types of cancer . Phytic acid may be particularly protective against colon cancer by suppressing oxidative damage to intestinal cells.
Other research has shown that phytate consumption appears to have a protective effect against osteoporosis. Studying postmenopausal women, those with lower amounts of urinary phytate (indicating less in the diet) had a higher risk of bone loss and hip fracture than women with higher amounts of urinary phytate (indicating more in the diet). the diet).
Foods with phytic acid
Phytic acid is found only in foods that come from plants. All edible seeds, grains, legumes and nuts contain phytic acid in varying amounts. Small amounts are also found in roots and tubers.
The following foods are high in phytate, and we show the percentage of dry weight:
- Almonds: 0.4–9.4%
- Beans: 0.6–2.4%
- Brazil nuts: 0.3–6.3%
- Hazelnuts: 0.2–0.9%
- Lentils: 0.3–1.5%
- Corn: 0.7–2.2%
- Peas: 0.2–1.2%
- Rice: 0.1–1.1%
- Rice bran: 2.6–8.7%
- Sesame seeds: 1.4–5.4%
- Soy: 1.0–2.2%
- Tofu: 0.1–2.9%
- Walnuts: 0.2–6.7%
- Wheat: 0.4–1.4%
- Wheat bran: 2.1–7.3%
- Wheat germ: 1.1–3.9%
The phytic acid content in these foods can really vary. For example, the amount contained in almonds can range from very little to more than 20 times that amount.
How to reduce it?
Avoiding all foods that contain phytic acid is not ideal, because many of them are healthy and nutritious. Furthermore, in many developing countries, food is scarce and people must rely on cereals and pulses as their main staple foods.
Instead of avoiding these foods, you can try various preparation methods that can significantly reduce the acid content of foods. The most used methods are:
- Soaking. Cereals and legumes are often soaked in water overnight to reduce phytate content.
- To sprout. The germination of seeds, grains and legumes causes the breakdown of phytate.
- Fermentation. Organic acids, formed during fermentation, promote the breakdown of phytates. Lactic acid fermentation is the preferred method, as in making sourdough.
The combination of these methods can substantially reduce the phytate content. For example, cooking legumes for 1 hour can reduce their phytic acid content by up to 80%. In addition, sprouting and lactic acid fermentation help break down (break down) phytic acid.
Phytic acid impairs (prevents) the body’s absorption of zinc, iron, calcium, and other minerals. This applies to a single meal, not to overall nutrient absorption throughout the day. That is, phytic acid reduces the absorption of minerals during the meal, but has no significant effect on subsequent meals.
For example, eating nuts between meals might reduce the amount of iron, zinc, and calcium you absorb from these nuts, but not from the food you eat a few hours later.
However, when we eat phytate-rich foods with most meals, mineral deficiencies can develop over time. This is rarely a concern for those following well-balanced diets, but can be a major problem during periods of malnutrition and in developing countries where the main food source is grains or legumes.
Phytic acid is not usually taken in supplement form. Instead, the source of phytic acid is in the foods we eat and the food choices we make.
There is no recommended dietary intake for phytic acid. A typical Western diet is relatively low in phytate with 250-800 milligrams of phytate. Vegetarians may have a higher intake of phytate. People in developing countries, whose diets consist mainly of grains and legumes, can have up to 2,000 mg of this substance in their diet.
Experts also recommend that if you eat a diet based on quality animal fats and proteins along with bioavailable vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin C, and zinc, 400-800 mg of acid per day may be safe.
Fortunately, there are ways to prepare phytate-rich foods that reduce the presence of phytates.