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Facts on Phytic Acid
Mineral deficiencies come from foods high in phytic acid.
A wonderful new study on phytates or phytic acid and how they are involved with whole grains was published by Ramiel Nagel in the Wise Traditions Journal 2010.This well-researched article really adds to the basic information we have had up till now and goes into much more depth about what we are dealing with in phytic acid. The news is worse than we thought!! Everyone who uses whole grains, nuts, seed and beans in their diet needs to know about phytic acid! People who now promote the use of whole grains and seeds etc. and do not teach about the beneficial, traditional method of preparation to remove the phytic acid do a dis-service to humankind.
What is phytic acid?
Ramiel Nagels defines it as “the principal storage form of phosphorous in many plant tissues, especially the bran portion of grains and other seeds.” p.1 We have known that it is present on the outside(and some on the inside) of the kernels of grains and some seeds, but they are a factor in all seeds, grains, nuts and beans. All of these are seeds, of course, technically speaking. All of these have phytic acid present there to fulfill a purpose in nature when the seed is placed in the earth and begins to grow.
When we go to eat the whole grains however, there is another story. Phytic acid, un-neutralized, bind to the essential- for -good- health minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron etc. and prevent them from being absorbed by the body during the digestion of our food. Luckily, we know how to neutralize many of them and get them out of the way. This is knowledge had by all peoples in the US and other countries that use wheat, up until about 3 generations ago or the early 1900s. Proper preparation was common knowledge for eons of time before that. Proper preparation insured that the nutritional essence of the grains, nuts, seeds and beans could be taken up by the body when the food was eaten, and the common people knew it, at least they were taught by their parents the method.
How do we take care of the phytates?
Located in these foods is a helper that we can enlist to help us. It is called the phytase enzyme. When it is activated in the soaking step of the bread-making or sprouting process it can and does neutralize the phytic acid. They are not washed away,they are gone. However, they are not gone 100%. Some foods have more phytase enzyme than others. Rye is very high in phytase and so rye is a good grain with which to make your starter. Rye flour may be a good choice to place in any soaking water to help get rid of the phytates.
We humans also produce some phytase in the intestines. We are greatly helped in by having the good bacteria present in the gut also.
Quoting from the Nagel study:”In general, humans do not produce enough phytase to safely consume large quantities of high phytate foods on a regular basis. However, probiotic lactobacilli, and other species of the endogenous digestive microflora can produce phytase. Thus, humans who have good intestinal flora will have an easier time with foods containing phytic acid….Sprouting activates phytase, thus reducing phytic acid.”p.3
I also recommend that we put either starter, vinegar, buttermilk in the soaking water when we make sprouts. Just a tsp. or two dissolved in the water does the trick.
We run into trouble when we have lots of phytic acid in our diets. The way oatmeal is processed in these modern times, with heat, almost all of the enzyme is gone. We have nothing to neutralize with. We have to import from rye flour for the soaking but then how many people like to soak their oatmeal for 8 or more hours? I happen to like it soaked in yogurt like the the Swiss do it along with honey and fruit and nuts. Soak at least 8 hrs.
Wheat is not a grain that has as much phytate trouble as other grains. I will share a chart to compare as soon as I can get it loaded. One can have fairly good success with phytic acid elimination with the wheat/rye sourdough, soaked flour method that I teach here.
Another quote from Mr.Nagel:
” Phytic acid not only grabs on to or chelates important minerals, but also inhibits enzymes that we need to digest our food, including pepsin, needed for the breakdown of proteins in the stomach and amylase, needed for the breakdown of starch into sugar. Trypsin, needed for protein digestion in the small intestine is also inhibited by phytates.” p.1
Does all this help you to understand the negative role of phytic acid in whole foods. We desperately need the whole seeds/grains/beans but we also desperately need to know how to cook ‘em!
I will be teaching much more about phytic acid in the coming months here on this site and you can access the complete article from Mr. Nagel by going here: http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/living-with-phytic-acid