Foods High in Phytic Acid

Phytic acid is a substance found in many plant-based foods. It is also called inositol hexaphosphate and IP6. This acid is the primary way phosphorus is stored in many plants, including beans, seeds, and nuts.

When phytic acid is consumed, it binds to other minerals to create phytates. Because you don't have any enzymes that can break phytates down, their nutrients cannot be absorbed into your body.

Why You Should Avoid Phytic Acid

People sometimes refer to phytic acid as an anti-nutrient, because it blocks the absorption of certain minerals into the body. 

When you eat foods high in phytic acid, the molecules bind with certain minerals in your digestive tract, including: 

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Chromium
  • Manganese 

Once this occurs, your body no longer has access to these nutrients.

Generally, the more phytic acid you eat, the more minerals are blocked from your body.

However, recent studies have shown that phytic acid's anti-nutrient effect occurs only when large amounts of phytates are consumed within a diet that is already lacking nutrition. It also only affects the absorption of nutrients eaten at the same meal. 

Foods With Phytic Acid

The highest concentrations of phytic acid are found in raw and unprocessed plant-based foods. 

If your diet lacks nutrition or you have an iron or zinc deficiency, you should reduce the amount of phytic acid you consume. 

Here are four foods high in phytic acid:

1. Beans

Most beans and legumes contain a high amount of phytic acid. However, studies have shown that soaking beans before eating them significantly reduces their phytate levels.

2. Seeds

When a plant is ripening, phytate rapidly accumulates in its seeds. Phytic acid is found in sesame seeds, linseeds, and sunflower seeds.

3. Nuts

Nuts naturally contain a high amount of phytic acid. The process of "activating" nuts by soaking them in water and then dehydrating them at a low temperature breaks down some of the phytic acid. 

However, many people think this laborious process is not worth the end result, as it gets rid of only a small amount of phytates.

4. Grains

Grains contain phytic acid, but only if they haven't been processed. Whole grains also contain lectins and saponins, which are two more anti-nutrients. However, products made with processed grains contain fewer healthy nutrients.

Phytic Acid-Free Alternatives

Many processes help destroy phytates before you even eat them. This includes:

  • Sprouting
  • Cooking
  • Baking
  • Processing
  • Soaking
  • Fermenting
  • Yeast leavening

People who regularly consume high amounts of phytic acid — such as vegetarians and vegans — can benefit from eating mineral-absorbing enhancers like garlic and onions. These foods increase the absorption of minerals like iron and zinc

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 05, 2020

Sources

SOURCES: 

American Council on Science and Health: "Activated Almonds? You Must Be Nuts!"

Canadian Society of Intestinal Research: "Four Myths About Food and Nutrition."

Integrative Pain Science Institute: "Phytic Acid: Top Reasons to Avoid this Anti-Nutrient."

Journal of Food Science and Technology: "Reduction of phytic acid and enhancement of bioavailable micronutrients in food grains."

Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology (Tokyo): "Effect of soaking prior to cooking on the levels of phytate and tannin of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris, L.) and the protein value."

National Cancer Institute: "phytic acid."

NutritionFacts: "Phytates."

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Are anti-nutrients harmful?"

Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute: “Phosphorus.”

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