What are Phytates and Why or Why not you should avoid them?

May 13th, 2022

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What is Phytic Acid?

Phytic acid or phytate, also known as Vitamin B8 is an anti-nutrient that gets the name from it’s nutrient depleting properties. It binds to nutrients like Zinc, Calcium, Iron, Manganese, Chromium, Magnesium, Phosphorus and other minerals, inhibiting the absorption or making them unreactive. It is found in all seeds, nuts, grains, bran and some vegetables in varying amounts. 

Benefits of Phytic Acid

Contrary to its name, Phytates has numerous health benefits. Our gut flora actually has the capacity to break down Phytic acid with the enzyme ‘Phytase’ that it can produce. The more Phytic acid you add to your diet, the more your body adapts to producing this enzyme. Phytic acid can be used to our advantage when taken with certain combinations of foods. Vitamin C and Beta Carotene in vegetables increases the Iron absorption, which otherwise can be inhibited by phytates involved in your diet. 

An unexpectedly large number of people have too much iron in their body, which can lead to several conditions like cirrhosis (where the iron accumulates in the liver), low testosterone (when accumulated in pituitary and gonads), diabetes (in the pancreas) or dementia (in the brain). This can be fixed by simply adding Phytic acid to your diet.

Phytic acid has an excellent property to neutralise the effects of metals in your body. It is an incredible anti-cancer compound and one of the most potent antioxidants. Cancer causes destruction of the mitochondrial cell membrane, with the help of chelation of the hydroxyl free radicals with copper or iron. Phytic acid helps render these minerals (copper/iron) unreactive, inhibiting the process of cell destruction and oxidation.

Who should avoid Phytic Acid?

In few parts of the world where the staple food is grains like rice or wheat, mineral deficiency is commonly noticed in that population. Having Phytic acid included in those diets can result in major deficiencies of micronutrients that can lead to multitude of conditions like stunted growth, lack of focus/attention, skin conditions, only to name a few. 

Individuals with conditions like Anemia or low calcium levels are also advised to avoid excess of phytates in the diet.

Individuals that are vegan or vegetarian, that follow a plant based diet may be prone to mineral deficiencies.

Phytic acid is also involved in the inhibition of Amylase, Trypsin and Pepsin. These enzymes are involved in the digestion of carbohydrates (Amylase) and proteins (Trypsin and Pepsin) of the ingested food.

How to reduce the Phytic acid content of the foods?

There’s many ways to decrease the content of Phytic acid in a food substance. Below are few-

  • Soaking beans,nuts before consumption is the easiest way to minimize the phytates in them.
  • Heating the food by boiling or pressure cooking has also proven an effective way to neutralise the Phytic acid content.
  • Germinating seeds increases the activity of Phytase, thus helping in breakdown of Phytic acid.
  • Fermentation leads to the production of lactic acid, which increases the activity of phytase by lowering the pH.
  • Support your microbiome as the gut microbes have the ability to produce Phytase that digests the Phytic acid, preventing it from over-accumulation in the body. 

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