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Phytic acid is a natural component of cereal grains, nuts and legumes. It is essential in the process of plant growth, but for humans it is an anti-nutrient substance, as it inhibits the absorption of minerals from food into the bloodstream. Which products contain the most phytic acid and how to neutralize it?

Phytic acidis classified as anti-nutritional substances, i.e. substances found in food that limit or prevent the use of nutrients or have an adverse effect on the body. Anti-nutrients can be found naturally in food, or may enter food during growth or production. Phytic acid is found naturally primarily in cereal grains and legume seeds, where it performs specific functions.

Phytic acid - characteristic

The largest amounts of phytic acid are stored in the seed coat, not inside the grain, therefore the main source of this nutrient in the human diet are whole grains and wholemeal products. Phytic acid usually occurs in the form of phytates, i.e. the acid s alt with copper, zinc, magnesium, calcium, manganese, iron and cob alt. Phytic acid is essential for plant germination and growth. Plants break down phytates with the help of the phytase enzyme into phytic acid and free minerals. The organism of humans and most animals is unable to produce this enzyme, therefore micro- and macroelements combined with phytic acid are inaccessible to them for use in the process of digestion and absorption. Hence, phytic acid is considered an anti-nutritional substance.

Phytic acid - influence on the absorption of minerals

Phytic acid has a strong chelating effect, i.e. it has the ability to bind with minerals. The elements supplied with food combine with phytic acid in the lumen of the digestive tract and form insoluble complexes with it, so they cannot be absorbed into the bloodstream and used by the body's cells.

The degree of limiting the absorption of minerals depends on the amount of phytic acid in the products, and the process itself begins when a meal contains about 2 mg of acid.

One of the most difficult elements to obtain in the diet is iron, which is poorly absorbed from food. Taking iron with phytic acid in the amount of 5-10 mg in a meal reduces its absorption by up to half. It is worth noting that phytic acid binds not only minerals that are beneficial to he alth, but also heavy metals that enter the body through various routes and are toxic to it. Chelated by acid, they lose their unfavorable properties and are excreted.

Phytic acid content in various products

Sesame flour5.36
Brazil nuts1.72-6.34
Pinto beans2.38
Peanuts / peanuts0.95-1.76
Brown rice0.84-0.99
Wholemeal wheat flour0.43-1.05
White wheat flour0.25-1.37
Wheat sprouts0.08-1.14
White rice0.14-0.60
New potatoes0.18-0.34
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How to neutralize phytic acid in food?

  • Soaking- leaving the seeds of legumes or cereals in the water overnight removes up to 37% of phytic acid. The soaking water should be drained off and the product boiled in a fresh portion. Unfortunately, in this way we also deprive ourselves of some minerals.
  • Fermentation- the preparation of sourdough bread causes a greater breakdown of phytic acid than in the case of yeast bread. If you want to reduce the amount of phytic acid in your diet, choose sourdough bread, not yeast.
  • Adding Vitamin C-vitamin C neutralizes the effect of phytic acid. We can add it to a meal in the form of lemon juice or combine grain products with vegetables rich in ascorbic acid, such as paprika.
  • Enzymatic methods- to the more and more popular legume and cereal flours, the enzyme phytase can be added in the production process to break down phytic acid. The process can be used in the production of bread. Additionally, it improves the texture of the finished product.

Possible he alth benefits of consuming phytic acid

Research has been conducted on the effects of phytic acid on he alth for several decades. Conflicting results are obtained in many respects, so it is difficult to confirm with certainty positive or negative effects of this compound. It has been suggested that the discrepancies in the results may be, inter alia, as a result of the fact that some people have bacteria in their intestinal microflora that produce the enzyme phytase and break down phytates. Probably phytic acid shows the effect of:

  • anticancer- phytic acid is an antioxidant, it has the ability to neutralize free radicals, which include cause tumors. Consuming phytic acid reduces the risk of breast and prostate cancer as well as colon cancer. It can also alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy;
  • antiatherosclerotic- phytic acid prevents the formation of atherosclerotic plaque and hardening of the arteries;
  • anti-diabetic- phytic acid has a positive effect on the functioning of the pancreas and insulin secretion. It lowers the level of postprandial glycemia, thanks to which the feeling of fullness lasts longer.

Phytic acid supplied with the diet can both have a positive effect on he alth and be the cause of a mineral deficiency. Consumed in amounts of up to 400 mg per day, this compound does not usually cause deficiencies in the body. So if we eat according to the rules of the new food pyramid and our main food is vegetables, not cereals, we should not be afraid of phytic acid.

People suffering from osteoporosis or anemia should pay more attention to the content of this nutrient in food. People who consider grains and pods as a staple in their diet can remove certain amounts of acid in their foods through the use of appropriate cooking techniques.

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