All About Phytic Acid
Have you ever heard about phytic acid? It is a natural substance present in plant seeds. This acid has come into the lime-light due to its effect on mineral absorption. This acid impairs the absorption of minerals such as calcium, iron and zinc. It is also considered to be a reason behind several mineral deficiencies. Phytic acid is often called as an anti-nutrient. But it has a lot of health benefits too. This post aims at unravelling everything about phytic acid. So, hang on!
Phytic acid is found in plant seeds. It serves as a storage form of phosphorous. All edible grains, seeds, nuts and legumes contain this acid in varying quantities. Small amounts of it are also found in roots and tubers.
Mineral absorption gets impaired by phytic acid
Phytic acid is known to reduce the absorption of minerals during the meal but it does not affect the mineral absorption of the meals eaten later. For instance, if you snack on nuts in between meals, it could reduce the amount of minerals absorbed from the nuts but not from the meal you will have after a few hours. Eating foods that contain large quantities of the acid can result in mineral deficiencies. If your diet is balanced, this is not a reason for concern but in India where we get our nutrients from grains and legumes this can lead to malnutrition.
Reducing phytic acid in foods
It is a bad idea to avoid all the foods that have phytic acid in them as many of them are healthy, tasty and nutritious. Also, grains and legumes are a staple in developing nations. People depend a lot on them. Luckily, there are many preparation methods that help in reducing the content of phytic acid in foods and they are as follows:
Soaking– Legumes and cereals are soaked overnight in water to reduce their content of phytic acid.
Sprouting– The phytic acid content of seeds, grains and legumes reduces when they are sprouted.
Fermentation– During fermentation, organic acids are formed that promote the breakdown of phytic acid.
So, the above mentioned methods can help reduce the content of phytic acid ti a great extent. Do you that soaking, sprouting and fermenting quinoa can reduce the content of phytic acid in it by 98%.
Health benefits of phytic acid
Is phytic acid a cause of concern?
While talking about modern diets, it is probably not a matter of concern for developed nations! However, people who are at a risk of mineral deficiency should avoid foods that contain high amounts of phytic acid. This one is essential for those who suffer from iron deficiency. Mineral deficiencies due phytic acid are not a matter of concern for meat-eaters.
Phytic acid can be a problem for those who have a diet that has high amounts of whole grains and legumes and is low in meat or animal derived foods. We Indians fall in this category. Also, vegetarians and vegans are at risk.
Foods with high amounts of phytic acid can increase the risk of mineral deficiency. So for that methods like soaking, sprouting and fermenting are adopted. Non-vegetarians need not worry about the effects of phytic acid. In certain cases the positive effects of acid outweigh any negative effects.
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