I learned last year about phytic acid in grains and the damage it can do to health by blocking absorption of different vitamins and minerals. In virtually all the vegan reading I've done I've not heard this topic mentioned once. All I keep reading is that grains are good for you so pile them on! Phytic acid can be damaging to ones health and as we get older we need all the vitamins and minerals we can get.
My question is could Alicia, or a guest blogger, do some research on phytic acid in grains and the soaking method and then talk about it here on TKD or Alicia's blog? I think it would benefit TKD readers,and their health, greatly.
That's a great idea. I always soak my rice overnight. I even soak my quinoa for 2-4 hours, I find I digest it better. It would be great to have a blog about phytic acid, as I have read the same thing, but have found conflicting ideas about how long to soak certain grains - like buckwheat and oat groats, for example.
Oh, and soaking your grains for the breakdown of phytic acid, versus soaking them to sprout (not for growing sprouts, of course, but for soaking them to sprout which is supposed to make them easier to digest and more nutritious). Is there a difference in time, or do they sprout by soaking them long enough to break down phytic acid? And does the water have to be 'andiluted' or whatever the heck that I keep reading in order to truly break down the phytic acid? Thanks for bringing this up, greenseater.
My understanding is that phytic acid can inhibit the absorbtion of zinc and iron, and to a much smaller degree, calcium. However, it is also a potent antioxident and recent peer-reviewed oncology research shows that people who consume diets high in phytic acid have significantly lower incidents of several cancers, most noteably colon cancer. For this reason, it has begun to be marketed as a supplement.
The journal Toxicology also published a study supporting the neuroprotective characteristics of diets high in phytic acid in the prevention and treatment of Parkinson's disease.
Despite the fact that phytic acid seems to have both potentially positive and negative impacts on health depending on one's concerns, the popular media (as well as the pro-meat industry spokesgroup the Weston A. Price Foundation) has focused primarily on the fact that it can lower the absorbtion rates of several minerals, while ignoring its important anti-cancer and neuroprotective characteristics.
In areas where malnutrition is a concern due to famine, phytic acid may lower mineral absorbtion to an extent to be a concern for those at risk of starvation. in areas of affluence where one is more likely to suffer from cancer than face serious malnutrition, the antioxident properties of phytic acid may offset concerns about diminished nutrient absorbtion.
Thanks for your response, Beary. Do you know more about it? Like, does it supposedly inhibit absorbtion only if you eat foods with zinc and iron at the same time? And if you only soak it in water, as opposed to andiluted water, does that still leave some phytic acid?
Aside from phytic acid, though, I find I digest grains better if they have been soaked - any ideas about that?
Hazel, those are really good questions and while I've read a few studies on either side of the debate, I don't feel knowledgeable enough to know if one can mitigate the antinutrient component while maintaining the anti-cancer properties. It seems however, that this might be impossible as it is the fact that phytic acid binds to certain minerals (diminishing their ability to be absorbed as nutrients) which also deprives cancer cells of minerals they need to proliferate.
Nutritionists seem to perceive phytic acid as potentially harmful, while oncology researchers tend to view it as a beneficial phytochemical in cancer prevention. One article mentioned that those concerned about decreased nutrient absorption should simply make sure to eat adequate quantities of foods rich in zinc, iron, & calcium, while also continuing to eat diets rich in foods containing phytic acid like seeds, nuts, strawberries, etc.
I think that everyone has different health concerns and the jury still seems to be out on the phytic acid question, so until there is something more conclusive, I'm not rushing out to buy phytic acid supplements nor making any great strides to avoid it! But that's just me!
Thanks again. After things I have read, I would be very hesitant to actually take a phytic acid supplement, but I guess people try to make money from everything as soon as it appears to have some sort of benefit, before the results are in. It seems, from what I have learned, that there are many who believe a well-balanced whole-foods vegan diet can also help decrease your risk of cancer (though I personally believe that in some cases there are some contributing environmental factors that may be unavoidable no matter what you do). And I also limit my exposure to toxins through cleaning and beauty products, so I think I'm doing a lot on that front. It will be interesting to see if there comes to be more evidence to the phytic acid-cancer link.
I will continue to soak my grains, because I know it helps with my digestion of them, especially quinoa. I still think it would be a great blog for Alicia to do some research on, since there are conflicting views.
Dawn - I originally started soaking grains a long time ago because I had read in many places that it makes it more easily digestible, and so you get more nutrients from it. Then, I read about phytic acid, and it was just another reason to soak my grains. Supposedly actually sprouting them makes them even better for you, but the info I have found is conflicting about how long to soak certain grains - like brown rice - in order to sprout. You soak the whole grain and then rinse it and use clean water for cooking. There are things like recipes for soaked overnight oats, and some people do soak rolled oats, but I eat steel cut, so I've never soaked rolled.
Dolores - From what I have found, quinoa sprouts in 2-4 hours. I soaked it out of curiousity and found that I digest it sooo much better. I love quinoa, but I found that if I ate it too often, I would get bloated and uncomfortable - since soaking it, not anymore!