Health Dangers of Phytic Acid

Health Dangers of Phytic Acid

Health Dangers of Phytic Acid

health dangers of phytic acidOne of the hidden “Health Dangers of a Plant-Based Diet” is an antinutrient called phytic acid. It is a thief. But the health dangers of phytic acid are often insidious. The theft happens, and we don’t even know it.

Yet phytic acid steals from us, only because we stole first.

Health Dangers of Phytic Acid – “Walnuts Phyte Back”

The biggest mistake we make is that we assume that a plant’s nutrition (especially in its seeds) is our nutrition. However, this nutrition is intended for a growing baby plant. When we try and steal this nutrition, it comes with consequences.

Phytic acid has the job to hold on to essential minerals that the baby plant needs to grow. But when we steal this nutrition for ourselves, the phytic acid binds to our minerals like phosphorus, iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium and prevents absorption.

So even though we think we are getting a certain amount of nutrition when we eat a walnut, phytic acid “phytes back.”

Animals like cows and sheep have bacteria in their guts that break down phytates. Their guts are designed for plant-based diets. Humans guts aren’t designed to handle phytic acid. It passes through our digestive tract, stealing minerals as it travels along all the way to the colon.

Health Dangers of Phytic Acid – The Biggest Mineral Deficiency in the World

Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world. Since iron plays a crucial role in carrying oxygen to cells, deficiencies are extremely problematic to human health. Plants have a form of iron called “non-heme iron.” And phytic acid interferes with its absorption.

Luckily, animal iron, called “heme iron” is immune from phytic acid’s theft.

Studies have shown the discrepancy in plant vs animal iron absorption by comparing vegetarians to meat eaters. Even though both groups eat similar amounts of iron, vegetarians have a higher incidence of iron deficiency.

For example, a study of 75 vegan women found that 40% of them were deficient in iron despite having above average the recommended daily allowance (RDA).

In nutrition, we often measure what goes in, but what really matters is what gets absorbed.

Health Dangers of Phytic Acid – Enzyme Inhibitor

Just because the labels says I’m eating adequate amounts of iron, calcium, zinc, and magnesium but if phytic acid is preventing their absorption, I may be deficient.

But it’s not just minerals that phytic acid steals. In addition. phytic acid can inhibit digestive enzymes like amylase, trypsin, and pepsin. This results in macronutrients not getting digested properly. This is a problem.

For example, grains like wheat are a “great” source of phytic acid.

To compound the problem, grains are inherently poor in nutrition (evidenced by the fact most have to be fortified with vitamins and minerals). Most also lack essential amino acids. So if phytic acid is further preventing the digestion of the proteins it makes a poor source of protein even worse.

Health Dangers of Phytic Acid – What To Do

The highest concentrations of phytic acid are in seeds. Which is one reason that simply not eating seed-based foods may be a good idea.

Some of the wort offenders are whole grains, nuts, and soybeans. Removing the bran rich layer of seeds can help reduce the phytic acid in grains like wheat and rice. But it is also concentrated in the cotyledon layer which is not easy to remove. This is why many beans like kidney beans and soybeans deliver a large punch of phytic acid.

Phytic acid is also in other parts of plants like roots, leaves, and fruits. So while not eating seeds is a great place to start, it doesn’t solve the whole problem.

To make matters worse, phytic acid is resistant to most cooking methods. But cooking and draining water can help a bit. Also soaking in an acid like lemon juice or vinegar can help reduce the phytic acid concentration.

But the best way to reduce phytic acid is fermentation. This works much for the same reason that cows can eat phytic acid without any issues – because both have microorganisms that can digest the phytic acid.

An interesting observation – animal-based foods don’t have phytic acid.

[NOTE: You can now access the complete “Health Dangers of a Plant-Based Diet” series here]:

10 Replies to “Health Dangers of Phytic Acid”

  1. Finally I think I have found the cause of my bloating and constipation thank you Dr Stock. My diet consist of lots of nuts spinach flax and chia seeds. I have also been having itchy skin and sores on top of head and my knees are so sore. My question is how do I detox from this ASAP?

    1. Yes phytic acid can be found in all plant seeds / grains including rice (though amounts can be highly variable).

  2. I read your article on phytic acid. Thanks for the nice insight. I like how you put that “we stole first”; made me think. Also, the activity of the seed (and nuts) to reproduce… very very interesting. I was eating a lot of seeds and having a massive amount of skin sores. I am now pretty sure it was coming from a low zinc intake from eating way too much phytic acid.

  3. How do I keep from loosing too much weight on this diet? I eat 2-3 pounds a day and am not hungry. This is day 23 of the challenge and I have gone from 120 to 114obs. and can not afford to lose more.

    1. Hi Elaine 23 days is still very early and most early weight loss is from water and reduction in inflammation.

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