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