Do you soak or sprout your nuts, seeds, grains and legumes?
Is it to help improve their digestibility? To help increase their nutrition?
Perhaps, it’s to reduce phytic 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 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.
Phytic acid and minerals
In some popular diets, such as the Paleo Diet, phytic acid is referred to as an “anti-nutrient.”
That’s because phytic acid binds to the minerals iron, zinc, and calcium preventing them from being fully absorbed when eaten. If these minerals can’t be absorbed, your body won’t get their benefits-- this is why phytic acid is known as a "mineral reducer."
Fact: 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. This is helpful because these heavy metals then cannot be absorbed by the body.
How to reduce phytic acid
As you can see, phytic acid shouldn't be a huge concern, unless your main foods at most meals are nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes. Since these are nutritious foods, there’s no need you to cut them out completely from your diet.
Considering both the good and bad properties of phytic acid, you may still want to reduce how much you consume. Maybe you want to increase your mineral intake. If so, here are two popular methods to naturally reduce phytic acid:
- 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.
Why do soaking and sprouting help reduce phytic acid in certain foods? The moisture in these two methods signals the foods to leave their dormant (dry) state and start a new life. The enzymes activated during soaking and sprouting deactivate phytic acid to use its energy and stored minerals for the plant as it begins to grow.
Phytic acid has a bad rap 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, 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 it in your food, you can soak or sprout your nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes.
Recipe (soaked almonds): Almond Vanilla Latte Smoothie
¼ cup almonds, soaked overnight & rinsed
½ cup coconut milk
½ cup strong coffee, cold (or chai tea if you prefer)
½ banana, frozen
1 tsp vanilla extract
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend on high until almonds are smooth.
Add ice, if desired
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: By using soaked almonds, they tend to blend up smooth, rather than hard and crunchy dry almonds do.