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Self-portrait – Sebastian Domenico

(December 2012)  A must-read for those trying to improve their health is Westin A. Price Foundation’s treatise on phytic acid. I’ve read it before, but there’s so much info in it that one is bound to pick up something new with every read. The basic premise is that there are anti-nutrients in whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts that steal minerals from our diet, and inhibit enzyme activity in the gut. These supposedly healthy foods can work against us, if not prepared properly.

However, the answer is not to avoid whole grains, since white bread contains far less nutrients. It is also not smart to avoid beans, nuts and seeds, which are loaded with nutrients of all kinds – especially vegetarian protein, fiber and healthy fats – and are good low-carb alternatives. But these foods can rob minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc if eaten raw.

It’s all in the preparation. Phytate is a molecule that contains six phosphates, which steal minerals as they pass through the digestive tract. All these raw foods must at least be soaked overnight and rinsed well before eating, to remove roughly half of the anti-nutrients. Sprouting also reduces the anti-nutrient content, as does cooking. Fermenting food effectively eliminates all anti-nutrients. That’s why fermented soy (miso, tempeh, soy sauce, natto) is good for you, while regular soy (tofu, edamame, soy milk) is detrimental. Our ancestors went out of their way to prepare these foods, but we’ve lost the art in this fast-food culture.

Part of the problem is the influence of the raw food movement. Unfortunately, eating nuts and seeds in their raw state can be detrimental to health. On the other hand, soaking nuts and seeds negatively affects flavor, so it’s often necessary to roast them afterward to add back flavor. It’s not enough just to buy roasted seeds or nuts, because it’s the soaking and sprouting that removes most of the bad stuff. It’s worth it to read up on this controversy, and learn how to prepare these foods in advance.

An easier way to avoid some anti-nutrients is to consume minerals along with them. Taking a calcium/magnesium citrate capsule any time you eat brown rice, whole wheat bread, bran cereal, hummus, or raw nuts can saturate phytate with minerals to keep it from stealing others. Another nutrient to take when eating raw food is vitamin C, which can steal back the minerals and make them more available for absorption. These methods do not completely solve the problem, but they may have a significant impact. Another solution is to buy organic (composted) food. Nonorganic foods are grown with synthetic fertilizer containing excessive inorganic phosphate, which is converted to phytate (the storage form of phosphorus). GMO foods are also heavily sprayed with pesticides like RoundUp (Glyphosate), which also steals minerals from the body.

The best yardstick to assess the impact of these anti-nutrients is bone health. If you are dealing with dental problems, chances are it’s due to the whole grains, raw nuts, seeds and beans you eat. This is also true if you’re losing bone mineral density post-menopausally. The choices are clear: Either reduce the anti-nutrients that steal minerals, or add extra minerals and vitamin C to your diet, or both, if you want to preserve your bones and teeth.

We soak and sprout virtually all our beans, seeds, nuts and grains, and cook most of them. The cereals and breads we buy are sprouted as well. But, after reading about these anti-nutrients again, we will make an effort to cook or roast all our beans, nuts and seeds. I also want to explore the souring and fermenting process. Lately I’ve taken to adding a TBS of apple cider vinegar to the soak water, which helps the process. I may start adding a touch of yogurt as well to foster fermentation. Warmer temperatures, such as in the oven (turned off), also help promote these processes..

Unfortunately, this runs counter to everything we’ve been told about eating healthy. Eating bran is supposed to be good for us, but the science says otherwise. Eating raw is supposedly key to a healthy diet, but not for certain foods. Eating whole grain is better than eating white, processed junk, but it has its own set of drawbacks. The good news is, these problems can be corrected with a little bit of effort and advanced preparation. Learn to soak, sprout, ferment and cook these foods and they will serve you well.

http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/living-with-phytic-acid

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14 thoughts on “Fight the Phytate! Reducing Anti-nutrients in Food

  1. Thanks.We are trying to go Paleo and avoid most grains.We eat plenty of raw nuts and seeds. From here on they will be soaked and I will add organic ACV and yogurt. Priceless info. We are still trying to shake old habits and avoid most of the garbage that we’ve eaten for years. Mainly grains that I once thought were good for you. I found an organic farm where I get grassfed meat and free range poultry. I find that we eat way too much meat and poultry. I’m trying to change that. We take supplemental vitamins,minerals and fish oils. I am cofused as to what is to be our staples? How are we to get enough protein through fruits and veggies without having as much meat, poultry and legumes? I guess I need to incorporate more fish, eggs and whey protein? You mentioned Miso and Tempeh and not other soy forms like soy milk or tofu or edamame. I’m interested in knowing more.There is not enough info about these foods and I havent even had most of them. Where does Spirulina fit as a source of protein and are there other sources that I should incorporate? Most of us have been led to think that a balanced diet is a meat and potatoes diet with corn or legumes as a veggie. on the side. Now that this has been debunked,I am having trouble putting together a balanced meal? I also want to know about milk? We drink plenty of pasturized cows milk. Should we be drinking almond milk or some other milk if we can’t get safe, raw cows milk? These are just a few ideas from those of us that are working their way towards a healthier nutritional lifestyle. I enjoy your blog and I thank you for helping us to live healthier lives!

    • Sounds like you need to go to nutrition school! Rather than answer all your questions, let me refer you to Dr. Ron Rosedale and the Rosedale Diet plan for one of the best ways to put together healthy meals. Organic makes the most sense with animal food, which was roughly 20% of the paleo diet (equivalent to eating a moderate amount of meat every other day, 2 whole eggs twice a week, and a touch of milk here and there). Dairy is problematic, so we find alternatives like goat cheese, almond and coconut milk, whey protein, etc (I make a mixture of almond, coconut milk and whey, with sea salt and stevia or saccharin/Splenda. It tastes like a milk shake!). We stay away from the starches, and replace them with root veggies, greens, and sprouted beans. There’s no end to how you can substitute, once you begin to enjoy nature’s pallette, and learn to prepare the foods properly. Another expert to follow is Byron Richards online. Thanks for the reply, bro.

      • Everything you need to know about holistic health can be learned from Paul Chek, founder of the Chek Institute.

        Regarding macronutrient intake, up until 10,000 years ago human beings ate mostly herbivorous animals. If you lived near the equator your diet was 50/50 animals/plants, however the further away from the equator that you lived, the higher percentage of your diet came from animals, because plants can’t grow in certain climates, simply due to the ground freezing over. Any plant intake would have been seasonal and supplementary, with the primary source of nutrition organic(obviously back then there was nothing commercial) meat, fish, eggs etc.

  2. This is interesting, Phil. I remember those sprouted wheat scones we ate in Houston! Could you post script about the painting? Thanks!!

  3. The painting by my father is one of over 20 self-portraits he rendered in his lifetime. This is one of the weirder ones, but also up there with my favorites. He left us a thousand paintings, which he called his “curse” on us. Yet, it is equally a blessing.

  4. Hey Phil, as always great article. 🙂 I was wondering, do you think soaking helps purify the nuts/seeds/beans as well if they aren’t organic? I was talking with a friend about pesticides and how they can even be found in so-called “organic” foods. Yikes! I wonder if this soaking process would somehow help with that as well, or if pesticides would be totally enmeshed in the food.

    • Yes, soaking helps get rid of anti-nutrients whether the food is organic or not. However, if they’ve been cooked, blanched or processed in some way, they may be dead and will not sprout.
      As to your other question, some organic foods are cleaner than others. It’s good to buy local so you can observe the farming practices directly, and get to know your farmer. Soaking in water containing a little apple cider vinegar will also remove some of the pesticides, but most pesticides are oil-based and require some form of detergent to remove. There are veggie washes for such purposes. Still, I recommend organic foods for a variety of reasons, one being to avoid having to wash them with soap.

  5. Reblogged this on The Science of Nutrition and commented:

    I just learned that certain pesticides work by stealing minerals, but they can also hurt us for the same reason. These toxins have been linked to autism and bone loss. Now they have linked autism with osteoporosis, which makes complete sense. So, buy organic, and prepare your beans, seeds, nuts and grains in advance to reduce anti-nutrients.

  6. Sprouted organic tofu is good to eat since sprouting decreases phytic acid and it also increases phytase enzyme by 227% which breaks down phytic acid.

    Eden organic soy milk is also safe, the soy isn’t fermented or sprouted but they do add phytase enzyme to the milk making it far more digestible.

    Phytic acid content

    Whole raw soybeans, 3.5 oz: 1,000 -1,470 mg
    Edensoy Original, 8 oz: .288 mg
    Rye Bread, 1 slice: 235 mg
    Shredded Wheat, 1 oz: 415 mg

  7. Pingback: Making Almonds Healthy Again | The Science of Nutrition

  8. Fermenting is so amazing! It is unfortunate that fermented grain and bread has left our culture. I believe it would truly help with regard to gluten / grain intolerance and general IBS issues prevalent today.

    • We always sprout our grains (mostly spelt) before eating them, and we do a bunch of vegetable fermenting, but we need to get into fermenting the grains as well, as in sourdough. Thanks.

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