Have you heard of soaking or sprouting your nuts, seeds, grains and legumes?
This process helps improve digestibility of these foods, increases their nutrition and also helps reduce phytic acid. What’s pytic acid?
Phytic acid is naturally present in most nuts, seeds, grains and legumes. It is the plant's storage form of the mineral phosphorus and it is used as energy when the plant starts to grow. The highest levels of phytic acid are found in rice bran, wheat bran, wheat germ, almonds, and walnuts.
When you have an inflammatory condition – especially an autoimmune disease – phytic acid can be disruptive or irritating to your gut health. However, it also has some health benefits.
Here’s the scoop on this confusing compound.
Phytic acid and minerals
Pytic acid is sometimes referred to as an “anti-nutrient.” This is because it binds to the minerals iron, zinc, and calcium and prevents them from being fully absorbed when eaten. This is why phytic acid is known as a "mineral reducer."
Phytic acid's effects only apply to mineral-containing foods in the current meal. Once digested, there is no mineral reduction on any future meals and there is no impact to the minerals your body has already absorbed.
Phytic acid’s health benefits
Phytic acid isn’t all bad - it has some health benefits too.
It can act as an antioxidant. It can also help reduce your risk of kidney stones, heart disease, and even some cancers.
Because it loves minerals (which are metals), phytic acid in your gut can also bind to any heavy metals (the metals we don't want too much of) that may have hitched a ride with your food.
How to reduce phytic acid
For those in good health, phytic acid shouldn't be a huge concern. However, if your main foods at most meals are nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes, then you need to pay attention. This is of particular interest to vegetarians.
Many of these are nutritious foods and can promote good health. Legumes are high in fibre and can help promote weight loss. And nuts/seeds are a great energy source for those following a lower carbohydrate diet or wanting to increase their healthy fats. Grains contain soluble fibre and b-vitamins, along with some other minerals.
Unless you are trying to specifically reduce gut inflammation and following a specific protocol, you probably don't want to cut all of them completely out of your diet. You may simply want to reduce how much you consume and you potentially increase your overall mineral intake.
Soaking and sprouting is one way to do so.
When you soak nuts, seeds, legumes and grains, it puts them into a wet state. Being wet is a "sign" to leave a dormant (dry) state and start a new life. Enzymes activated during soaking and sprouting deactivate phytic acid so it can use its energy and stored minerals for the plant as it begins to grow.
Here is how you can do so at home.
Soaking: Place nuts, seeds, grains or legumes in a bowl, cover with water and leave overnight. Then drain the water and rinse before eating or preparing.
Sprouting: After soaking, draining, and rinsing, place damp nuts, seeds, grains or legumes into a container that's exposed to the air (like a mason jar with a mesh lid). Every 8 hours or so, re-rinse them and drain the water. Continue doing this for a few days until you see sprouts peeking out.
Phytic acid has a reputation as a mineral reducer. It's found in nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes. Yes, it most definitely prevents absorption of critical minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium, if they're in your gut at the same time. Phytic acid in food can become a health concern if you are deficient in these minerals, or if your diet is largely based on nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes.
But, if you eat a varied diet and are in good health, then phytic acid shouldn’t be as much of a concern. In fact, phytic acid does have some health benefits.
If you want to reduce the amount of phytic acid in your food, you can soak or sprout your nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes.
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