There is phytic acid in food and it matters. Researchers have found that if you can reduce the phytic acid in your food, you can improve your iron absorption markedly. A 2003 study examined the change in iron absorption when phytic acid was removed from various grains. Check out the graph at right that displays the results.
You are seeing correctly. The study found that participants absorbed 1160% more iron when phytic acid was removed from wheat. Iron absorption was improved about twelve times.
Would you like to eat twelve pieces of bread (and get fat in the process) or just one? I like bread but that’s a lot of bread.
Phytic Acid In Grains
Do grains have phytic acid (phytates) and should we care?
Generally speaking, grains have high levels of phytic acid, a substance that reduces our absorption of minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium. As an example, compare the milligrams of phytic acid in grains to a random collection of other foods. (This is a small sample of phytic acid levels as listed in a review article by Harland and Oberleas in a 1987 article.) See the list here: phytic acid in grains.
The list will basically tell you that, yes, grains do have a lot of phytic acid.
Phytic Acid In Grains Remedies
To reduce phytic acid in grains, you may soak or sprout them. You may also bake them using a long rise time and good pH content. Many people make “soaked flour” breads to reduce phytic acid but this is not the optimal approach for flavor, texture, or phytic acid reduction. In the phytic acid paper there are a number of recipes that are far better and will open up a whole new world of baking. In the paper, I describe the research so that you know what techniques are best for you in your own kitchen.
Phytic Acid In Beans
Like grains, beans do have a high phytic acid content. There is also a wealth of scientific literature on reducing phytic acid in your beans. Some years ago I posted an article on the Internet about soaking beans, displaying the food science findings about the effect of temperature and time on reducing phytic acid. (Read it here: soaking beans.) People liked “seeing” the research in that article, that it inspired the phytic acid paper (which is available for purchase here if you are an information junkie like me).
Phytic Acid And Sprouting
Does sprouting grains reduce the phytic acid content of the grain? Absolutely.
To sprout your grains, you soak them overnight in whole form (the whole spelt berry for instance), drain them well, and place them in a container (usually a tray or a jar) with a a cheesecloth cover. In a day or two, they will begin to send out little tails, the sprouts. You grain seed is transforming itself from a seed to a seedling. The nutrition content of the seed changes, including a reduction in the phytic acid content.
Watch my video on this topic here: Phytic acid and sprouting.
Phytic Acid In Soy
When you turn over a tub of tofu or a carton of soy milk and marvel at the amount of magnesium in that bean curd, beware that precious little of it will make it into your brain cells. Likewise, little of the native calcium, zinc, or iron will nourish your body.
Soy is high in phytic acid which binds to these minerals and keeps you from digesting them. Check out a food science experiment on this topic and a video here: Phytic acid in soy milk.
Phytic Acid In Edamame
We know that soy has high levels of phytic acid. What about the immature form of soy, edamame?
Edamame is often enjoyed as a snack. You can purchase the pods and pop out the beans to eat as a crispy treat. Should we be concerned about the phytic acid? Find more information: Phytic acid in edamame.
Coconut Flour And Phytic Acid
With the increase in popularity of coconut flour in gluten-free diets, consumers have wondered if they should be concerned about phytic acid in coconut flour. There is not really any food science research on this topic to speak of but that in itself is telling. Read more and watch the video: Phytic acid in coconut flour.
Corn And Phytic Acid
Corn does contain phytic acid and it is actually an interesting grain because it is difficult to reduce the phytic acid in corn with typical techniques. Read more: Corn and phytic acid.
Phytic Acid White Paper
If food science and reducing phytic acid in your food interest you, check out the white paper on phytic acid. It displays the food science literature on phytic acid in grains and legumes (and the bit there is on nuts and seeds) and puts it together for you providing a kitchen process for you that is not only easy, but helps your food taste better. There are no “soaked flour” recipes in this paper (a popular approach to reducing phytic acid in flour). The method I provide is more efficient and has a better end-product. Check out the phytic acid paper.