Studies have shown that when we reduce phytic acid in food, we absorb more minerals from that food.
Legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds have phytic acid. The phytic acid level varies across these food groups and within the groups. Higher levels of phytic acid is negative from a mineral digestion point of view. Soybeans as a class are very high in phytic acid as are peanuts. The rest of the legumes, grains and nuts vary but all have phytic acid and should be prepared properly to give your body more cell-building minerals.
- 1. To remove or reduce phytic acid.
- 2. To remove or reduce tannins.
- 3. To neutralize the enzyme inhibitors.
- 4. To encourage the production of beneficial enzymes.
- 5. To increase the amounts of vitamins, especially B vitamins.
- 6. To break down gluten and make digestion easier.
- 7. To make the proteins more readily available for absorption.
- 8. To prevent mineral deficiencies and bone loss.
- 9. To help neutralize toxins in the colon and keep the colon clean.
- 10. To prevent many health diseases and conditions.
Soaking allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to break down and neutralize a large portion of phytic acid in grains. Soaking in warm water also neutralizes enzyme inhibitors, present in all seeds, and encourages the production of numerous beneficial enzymes. The action of these enzymes also increases the amount of many vitamins, especially B vitamins. During the process of soaking and fermenting, gluten and other difficult-to-digest proteins are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption.
Unfortunately the soak does not do the trick very well with oats. The problem with oatmeal is that it lacks sufficient quantities of phytase. Soaking it will make it cook faster and that is a great thing on a busy weekday morning, but the soaking does not help from a phytic acid perspective.
UNLESS you add a bit of fresh ground wheat, spelt, rye, or buckwheat to the oatmeal and then soaking it. The phytase in these other grains will work to reduce the phytic acid in the oats. Use about 10% of the complementary fresh ground grain to 90% oatmeal, though often add a heaping tablespoon to a cup or so of rolled oats. Soak the oatmeal in water above body temperature overnight in a warm spot. Use the same amount of water you usually cook it in and simply throw it all in the pan in the morning. I do not recommend using the yogurt or whey anymore, just stick with the complementary grain for more diligence.
So how does soaking and sprouting help? It just so happens that plants also contain an enzyme called phytase. Phytase will break down phytic acid if given the chance. Nature is awesome like that. Humans also produce phytase if we have healthy gut flora. Another huge benefit of drinking kombucha and water kefir. Unfortunately, if you aren’t eating a diet high in fermented foods or if you’ve ever taken antibiotics, your gut flora is likely out of whack, meaning the grains need help breaking down the phytic acid.
To activate the phytase, soaking, sprouting, or souring is required. Different plants contain different ratios of phytase to phytic acid. This means that some grains and beans are easier to digest than others. Roasting at low temperatures can also help break down phytic acid in some grains and nuts.
Wheat and rye contain very high levels of phytase so it is easy to get rid of the phytic acid with a simple soak. Other grains, including corn, millet, oats and brown rice have a low level of phytase and often retain phytic acid after a soak or sprout. It is important to keep this in mind when considering how much you consume on a daily basis.
In milligrams per 100 grams of dry weight
Brown rice 12509
Brazil nuts 1719
Cocoa powder 1684-1796
Oat flakes 1174
Almond 1138 – 1400
Peanut roasted 952
Peanut ungerminated 821
Peanut germinated 610
Hazel nuts 648 – 1000
Wild rice flour 634 – 752.5
Yam meal 637
Refried beans 622
Corn tortillas 448
Entire coconut meat 270
White flour 258
White flour tortillas 123
Polished rice 11.5 – 66
The real concern with nuts comes when they are consumed in large amounts such as almond flour as a replacement for grains in the GAPS diet. For example, an almond flour muffin contains almost seven hundred milligrams of phytic acid, so consumption should be limited to one per day. Eating peanut butter every day would also be problematic.