Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Anti-Nutrient: Devil or Misunderstood

Anti nutrients, particular phytic acid and phylates, are an interesting and controversial topic in nutrition today.   The reason they are called anti-nutrients is that these phylates bind to minerals, as well as proteins, carbs, and fats, making it harder for the body to absorb these nutrients.  For example, consuming 5-10mg Phytic acid (an amount which is easily consumed in two pieces of bread) can reduce iron absorption by 50%! 

However, on the other side of the coin, phytic acid may be beneficial to humans in these activities:
  • Cancer: phytic acid may aid in reducing tumor growth and enhancing Killer T Cells.  It has been impressive enough in studies that it may in fact be beneficial to humans as an anti-cancer treatment. 
  • Heart Disease: phytic acid may help with preventing the hardening of artiries and the formation of platelets.  
  • Kidney Stones: with some phytic acid being passed through the kidneys, it may in fact help with kidney help
  • Insulin Resistance: phytic acid plays a role in pancreatic function and insulin secretion.  This in turn may help support healthy insulin production and reduce glycemic response from meals.

So is phytic acid the devil it is sometimes made out to be?  Probably not as it is an unavoidable natural part of may legumes, cereals, and nuts  and click here for a full chart,which deliver many health benefits.  Furthermore, the negative impacts of phytic acid can be reduced from these foods by:

  • Soak, sprout, ferment, and cook plant foods.
  • Consume vitamin C-rich foods with meals that contain phytic acid or supplement with vitamin C
  • Use vinegar in salad dressings and cooking to enhance mineral absorption and offset phytic acid.
  • Supplement with phytase enzymes if necessary (in order to help digest phytic acid).
  • Eat mineral fortified foods if necessary.
  • Supplement minerals if there is still a shortfall in your diet.
As anything in life and especially in nutrition, moderation is key and having a well rounded diet is the best option of all. 

Credit: Precision Nutrition