Phytic Acid in Grains? No Problem!

Phytic Acid in Grains? No Problem!

One of the concerns we hear about eating grains and legumes from the low-carb, high-protein advocates is that grains/nuts/legumes contain a compound called "Inositol hexaphosphate (IP-6)" or better known as the anti-nutrient phytic acid or phytate. Unfortunately, this compound has received a lot of both unwarranted and unfavorable publicity.

Phytate is a naturally occurring compound found in all nuts, seeds, legumes and grains. This compound has been negatively labeled as a "mineral absorption inhibitor." This is why we hear that we should soak and sprout our legumes-grains-seeds before consuming them. This procedure eliminates some of the phytic acid which is believed to inhibit the absorption of minerals such as calcium.

Weston Price Foundation Recommendations

High-protein proponents such as the Weston Price Foundation have gone to elaborate lengths to vilify the consumption of foods containing phytic acid as seen here. The Weston Price Foundation (WAPF), a small but popular non-profit organization, (and active lobbying group) advocates eating a high-saturated fat diet consisting of glandular organ meats, oils, raw milk and butter, while limiting fruits and vegetables for children. They also recommend "regular ingestion of clay."

Its founders and board of directors, Sally Fallon and Mary Enig (authors of Nourishing Traditions) promote a "smorgasbord of woefully outdated and potentially dangerous advice." For example, they suggest, "If you cannot get your family to eat organ meats when served as such, there are plenty of ways to add them to their food without their knowledge... Poached brains can be chopped up and added to any ground meat dish, as can grated raw liver." They claim that our bodies suffer serious consequences, even mental retardation, from going into "mineral starvation mode" when including grains in our diets. Readers are cautioned and advised not to consume a diet high in grains, legumes, seeds and corn due to serious mineral deficiencies and other serious health complications. (Interestingly, according to the Weston Price Foundation, Sally Fallon has no formal nutritional background or degree, just a B.A. in English.)

Additionally, low-carb advocates such as Dr. Robert Atkins and former Weston Price Board of Directors member Stephen Byrnes, both experienced the consequences from following their own recommended diets. Stephen Byrnes, who enjoyed a diet including "butter, cream, eggs, meat, whole milk, dairy products and organ meats suffered a fatal stroke before he reached his 40th birthday." Simalarly, Dr. Robert Atkins had a medical history of being overweight and having a myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, and hypertension. For more information regarding the WAPF, click on the links provided at the bottom of this article.

What are the Health Benefits of Phytic Acid?

Dr. John McDougall addresses the concerns regarding phytic acid in his article "For the Love of Grains." 

"Grains are loaded with minerals; therefore, the more grains you eat the more minerals you consume. Phytic acid, also plentiful in grains, is considered an anti-nutrient because of its ability to bind with minerals, such as zinc and calcium, and prevent their absorption. Two often-cited examples of zinc deficiency are among people living in small communities in rural Iran and Australia (Aborigines). Multiple nutritional factors, not just phytic acid, were involved in both examples. Consumption of large amounts of unleavened bread seemed central to the development of zinc deficiency. Once the bread is leavened, then the activity of phytic acid is reduced, and zinc becomes readily available. Soaking, germination, boiling, cooking, and fermentation all inactivate phytic acid and free up minerals for absorption. In real-life situations, for otherwise healthy people, the consumption of grains in recommended amounts has had no adverse effect on mineral status. Phytic acid actually has many beneficial health effects—you won't want it out of your diet. It acts as a powerful antioxidant and has been shown to reduce blood sugar, insulin, cholesterol and triglycerides. Phytic acid is linked to a reduction in heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other chronic diseases in people."

Dr. Joel Fuhrman also agrees, stating:

"Although phytic acid content of foods can affect mineral absorption somewhat (less than 20 percent), phytic acid is not toxic and it actually has beneficial properties as a potent antioxidant. Phytic acid is a phytochemical with significant anti-cancer and other health benefits such as reducing inflammation, lowering blood sugar and insulin, and protection against diabetes, Parkinson's, and even reduces kidney stone formation. Its effects on lowering mineral absorption in those eating healthfully is minimal (because of bacteria in the gut break its mineral bonding). It does lower iron and zinc absorption in the diet, but the effect on other minerals is negligible. Trying to keep levels low is not necessary as the bacteria in the digestive tract (as long as not taking antibiotics) help humans metabolize the excess phytic acid, minimizing the negative. I do not feel soaking and fermenting foods is necessary to remove phytates." (Dr. Fuhrman's Member Center - Ask the Doctor Forum)

A quick search of the internet reveals many health benefits from consuming the "Inositol hexaphosphate (IP-6)" or phytates contained in legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains. For example, an article in PubMed reports, "Recently, (IP-6) has received much attention for its role in cancer prevention and control of experimental tumor growth, progression, and metastasis. In addition, IP(6) possesses other significant benefits for human health, such as the ability to enhance immune system, prevent pathological calcification and kidney stone formation, lower elevated serum cholesterol, and reduce pathological platelet activity."

As a matter of fact, the scientific evidence confirms that whole grain and bean consumption lowers both total mortality and cardiovascular mortality as seen here whereas a low-carbohydrate diet is associated with an increased risk of death as seen hereherehere, and here.

Furthermore, Dr. Michael Greger has published numerous articles/videos regarding phytic acid:

(1) New Mineral Absorption Enhancers Found - points out that the small percentage of minerals that are lost in our diets can easily be reversed just by eating "mineral absorption enhancers , such as garlic and onions" (which "influence the bioaccessibility of iron and zinc") or by eating another serving of whole plant foods.

(2) Phytates for the Prevention of Cancer - discusses how phytates offer cancer protection to those that consume plant-based diets.  

(3) Phytates for Rehabilitating Cancer Cells - describes how phytate "causes cancer cells to stop acting like cancer cells and go back to acting like normal cells."

(4) Phytates for the Treatment of Cancer - highlights a study conducted on women with breast cancer. "At the end of six months, the phytate group had a better quality of life, significantly more functionality, and fewer symptoms from the chemo, not getting the drop in immune cells and platelets one normally experiences."

(5) Phytates for the Prevention of Osteoporosis - reports how women who consume the most phytate containing foods such as grains, beans, and nuts have the highest bone density scores.

(6) How Beans Help our Bones - A study which examined the risk factors for osteoporosis concluded "Phytate consumption had a protective effect against osteoporosis, suggesting that low phytate consumption should be considered an osteoporosis risk factor." A follow-up study, "measuring phytate levels flowing through women's bodies and following bone mass over time, found the same thing: women with the highest phytate levels had the lowest levels of bone loss in the spine and hip. Those who ate the most phytates were also estimated to have a significantly lower risk of major fracture, and a lower risk of hip fracture specifically."

(7) Phytates in Beans: Anti-Nutrient or Anti-Cancer? - The potential side effects of phytates are: "Less heart disease, less diabetes, and fewer kidney stones."

(8) What are Phytates? And Could They Help Prevent Colon Cancer? - This study suggests that phytates in beans offers more protection against colon cancer than fiber because phytate inhibits a particularly dangerous type of free radical.

A paper in the International Journal of Food Science and Technology reports: "Given the numerous health benefits, phytates participation in important intracellular biochemical pathways, normal physiological presence in our cells, tissues, plasma, urine, etc., the levels of which fluctuate with intake, epidemiological correlates of phytate deficiency with disease and reversal of those conditions by adequate intake, and safety – all strongly suggest for phytates inclusion as an essential nutrient, perhaps a vitamin." The paper concludes that inclusion of phytates in our diet for prevention and therapy of various ailments, cancer in particular, is warranted.

Summary

Points to consider:

  • The benefits of consuming grains, legumes and nuts/seeds far outweigh the minimal loss of absorption of a few minerals.
  • The mineral content in a well-planned, whole food, nutrient-dense diet is so high that some binding of minerals is negligible.
  • Eating a diet with a wide variety of whole plant foods would supply adequate minerals even considering the slight decrease in minerals due to phytic acid.
  • Healthy intestinal bacteria (as well as cooking) helps break down some of the phytic acid.
  • The concerns regarding its anti-nutrient effects have been over exaggerated by those advocating a meat-centered diet.

Although phytic acid binds a small percentage of minerals in our diets, phytic acid is not something that we should be concerned about. Our leading plant-based health authorities all agree that we don't need to be concerned with becoming mineral deficient as the WAPF warns. "Although in the past concerns have been expressed regarding intake of foods high in phytates reducing the bioavailability of dietary minerals, recent studies demonstrate that this so-called 'anti-nutrient' can be manifested only when large quantities of phytates are consumed in combination with a nutrient poor diet."

For more information regarding the dangerous and misguided recommendations of WAPF, click on the links below:

(1) Deadly Dietary Myths

(2) Reflections On The Weston A. Price Foundation

(3) Fanciful Folklore Is No Match For Modern Science

(4) Low-Carb Diets Impair Blood Flow

(5) The Smoke and Mirrors Behind Wheat Belly and Grain Brain

(6) The Paleo Diet Is Uncivilized

(7) Early Man was not a Hunter-Gatherer

(8) Gladiators Were Vegan

(9) Dr. McDougall Says Humans are "Starchivores"

(10)  Low Carbohydrate Diets are Unhealthy and Dangerous

(11)  Primitive Nutrition 24: In Defense of Beans

(12) Primitive Nutrition 26: Weston Price

(13) Animal-Based Diets Promote Disease Pinterest Board

(14) Whole Grains Pinterest Board

(15) The Truth about the Weston Price Foundation

(16) Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death

Scroll Down Page to Leave Comments

Starch-Smart Helpful Sharing Community Small Banner

Organized Resources to Share
Share our favorite whole-food plant-based no-oil Resources with your friends and for real meaningful sharing Invite them to Join Our Community.

Preview the "Perfect Health Requires Perfect Circulation" Trailer

Blood Flow Boosts Vitality: Do factors that affect artery linings create or ease your aches and pains? Explore the link between impaired circulation and health challenges. How does blood flow relate to health troubles? Learn how Dr. Carney's science-based Starch-Smart® System can improve your circulation and overall health by nourishing endothelial cells at the start of your day.

Purchase as a Packaged DVD 

Rent or Purchase as Streaming Media

Rate this blog entry:
Whole Plant Food Diet Suppresses Cancer Cells
Animal-Based Diet Turns Our Blood Fatty

Related Posts

 

People in this conversation

Comments (21)

Rated 5 out of 5 based on 1 votes
  1. Paul Ireland

Thank you for the article! I agree phytic acid has been overly demonized.

Per your discussion about diets... We followed Fuhrman's diet recommendations for a couple of years. I was lactose intolerant and had ongoing stomach issues... and really bad gas!

Not only was the diet hard, but it did not seem to be effective. We had the Mandi score on our fridge and tried to maximize our nutritional intake, yet we didn't feel the greatest. Things like cuts wouldn't heal that fast. My wife said her hair was thinner and not as healthy. Our kids were too thin and just did not look as healthy as they should.

We discovered Nourishing Traditions and it was like a breath of fresh air. It took a few years to actually get into it and understand it.Now I'm cured of my lactose intolerance by drinking raw whey and can eat any dairy product without pain or gas! (Its SO wonderful!) We drink raw milk daily and feel great. Our skin, nails, and hair are strong and healthy and grow fast. Our meals are far tastier than when we were vegetarians! Our kids love drinking raw milk, getting lots of butter, eating soaked-grain pancakes, and eating fermented carrots - in addition to eating raw salads and raw...

Thank you for the article! I agree phytic acid has been overly demonized.

Per your discussion about diets... We followed Fuhrman's diet recommendations for a couple of years. I was lactose intolerant and had ongoing stomach issues... and really bad gas!

Not only was the diet hard, but it did not seem to be effective. We had the Mandi score on our fridge and tried to maximize our nutritional intake, yet we didn't feel the greatest. Things like cuts wouldn't heal that fast. My wife said her hair was thinner and not as healthy. Our kids were too thin and just did not look as healthy as they should.

We discovered Nourishing Traditions and it was like a breath of fresh air. It took a few years to actually get into it and understand it.Now I'm cured of my lactose intolerance by drinking raw whey and can eat any dairy product without pain or gas! (Its SO wonderful!) We drink raw milk daily and feel great. Our skin, nails, and hair are strong and healthy and grow fast. Our meals are far tastier than when we were vegetarians! Our kids love drinking raw milk, getting lots of butter, eating soaked-grain pancakes, and eating fermented carrots - in addition to eating raw salads and raw fruits.

I think your summaries here demonstrate a cursory understanding of Weston Price dietary recommendations that isn't necessarily accurate. Its not about low-carb, but rather eating fermented, soaked, or cooked carbs. Eating fermented vegetables has made a huge difference in my gut health! We continue to eat salads daily at lunch, but Nourishing Traditions introduced us bone broth and the art of making absolutely delicious and nutritious soups with lots of vegetables and meat.

We changed our diet before my wife's third pregnancy. It was the easiest birth and she looked fabulous immediately after. Her body healed incredibly fast and her postpartum bleeding stopped in a few days instead of several weeks - which we attribute to beef liver. It was noticeably better than the previous pregnancy and birth, which was on a vegetarian diet.

Both Fuhrman and Fallon agree on one thing: we should eat a high-nutrition diet. Neither are completely correct. I think its a pretty hard sell to say animal products don't provide high nutrition. Furhman has data, but it includes the typical american who is eating meat from nutrient-deprived, chemically-altered animals that are unhealthy themselves and of course are unhealthy to eat. I tend to find the WPF data more reliable, particularly the articles on their site which often give limits to what the research indicates. But all data shouldn't be taken at face value as there is often bias.

Read More
  Attachments
  Comment was last edited about 10 months ago by Sean Carney Sean Carney
  1. Sean Carney

Hello Paul,

I am sad to hear that your family has not enjoyed the health that you desire for them. I am also sad to hear what your current solution is. We might reply more on this later but for now I am going to just agree to disagree. :-) The advice you are giving is something we try to get people to run away from as fast as possible because we daily see, and have to work to reverse, the damage caused by indulgence in the animal products and the high fat plant based products like extracted oils.

  Attachments
  Comment was last edited about 2 years ago by Sean Carney Sean Carney
  1. Vikki

Wow. My and my husband's experience has been just the opposite. We are both the healthiest and feel the best we have felt in many years on a whole foods plant based diet. My husband's health turn-around was quick and dramatic, his doctors are in awe. Just the thought of drinking raw whey and eating liver makes me feel a bit sick. Bone broth? Seriously? I've read lots of studies, different doctor's thoughts, books, watched videos on both sides of the conversation. Nothing could deter me from the choice I've made based on the results I've experienced. I've been WFPB for 5 years now and at 63 years old the healthiest I have ever been.

  Attachments
 
  1. Deborah
  1. 5 / 5

I only wish I had known about a low-fat whole foods plant-based diet before my pregnancy. As it was, I was still eating animal products and I gained far too much weight. It resulted in a very difficult labour & complications that had enduring consequences. My recovery only began finally when I learned about & began eating a whole foods low-fat vegan diet.

  Attachments
 
  1. Sean Carney

Here is a very good article by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention about the danger of drinking Raw (Unpasteurized) Milk: http://www.cdc.gov/features/rawmilk/

  Attachments
 
  1. Tim
  1.   Blacksburg, VA, USA...
  2. 3 / 5

Definitely agree that the phytate issue is blown a bit out of proportion, but this article is written in such a mean-spirited, jabbing, kind of way toward WAPF. Personally, I have been drink raw milk for a couple of years now, taking fermented cod liver supplements, purchasing quality butter and animal products locally from farmers that I trust, making and eating lots of sourdough rye bread, fruits, and veggies (fermented and raw). My partner and I feel fantastic and love the delicious foods that we eat. Our stomachs are happy, and we are full of energy.

  Attachments
 
  1. Tim

If you drank raw milk that was coming from cows living in CAFOs, living in misery as all industrial-food animals are, then you probably would have to worry about contamination, disease, etc. and so the CDC is perfectly correct in putting the warning out there about that possibility. BUT, when you buy local raw milk from a farmer you know, the difference is night and day - and the same goes for the quality of animal products across the board. Buy locally, if you are lucky enough to have access to quality foods.

  Attachments
 
  1. Blake
  1. 2 / 5

Very narrow, biased perspective. Ignoring recommended vegetable intake by Weston price foundation as well as other facts about Robert Atkins. Further, skipping the fact the phytic acid also inhibits production of key enzymes needed for both protein and carbohydrate breakdown in stomach and small intestines. Lastly, grass fed liver has a better nutrient profile than any other food, including healthy vegetables.

  Attachments
 
  1. Sean Carney    Blake

Hello Blake,

We appreciate knowing that people are paying attention to what we are sharing here, even if we are completely in disagreement on most issues. Thank you very much for your reply!

As you can imagine we do not consider Weston Price Foundation to be a gold standard for truth by any stretch of the imagination. We also do not encourage anybody to follow advice from Robert Atkins. The point of this article was that people don't have to be worried about phytic acid from whole grains.

You can have all the better nutrient profile grass fed liver for yourself but we will continue to promote a diet of Vegetables, Legumes, Fruits, Grains, Nuts and Seeds prepared in a simple and healthful manner.

Thanks again,
Sean Carney

  Attachments
  Comment was last edited about 10 months ago by Sean Carney Sean Carney
  1. Snipes

You can't say "a low-carbohydrate diet increases the risk of death " if all the sources you list are correlational studies. It's just not good enough to make such a conclusion and it's unscientific. You can see in all the conclusions they say "is associated with" and not "causes: or "can lead to". What is the mechanism that causes it? An MD should know that correlation is not causation. Pretty informative article otherwise, but this part kind of discredits it for me.

  Attachments
 
  1. Linda Carney MD

Thank you Snipes, for calling this oversight to my attention. You are correct. I agree that correlation is not causation. I have amended the article to read "is associated with an increased risk of death". I appreciate the time you took to alert me.

  Attachments
 
  1. john
  1.   California, USA...
  2. 1 / 5

phytic acid is highly dangerous. it triggers an immune reaction that damaged my spinal cord and brain. the day i stopped consuming foods with high levels of this, is the day i started to recover.

if anyone is reading this page and has an auto-immune disease like ms, lupus etc...the pro-grain advice given will basically put you in a wheelchair.

  Attachments
  Comment was last edited about 10 months ago by Sean Carney Sean Carney
  1. Linda Carney MD    john

John,

Thank you for writing to me of your experience. I am sad that you suffered those ailments. Many people cannot tolerate nightshades; others cannot eat beans, for example, or mangoes. I concur with you that some people suffer food intolerance.

I am so proud of your courage and determination.
Keep up the wonderful work with your progress.

I am optimistic that step by step, those on a whole foods plant-based diet without meat, dairy, eggs, and oils will lower many risks and improve their health. My wishes are for you to continue to be of good cheer.

  Attachments
  Comment was last edited about 10 months ago by Sean Carney Sean Carney
  1. foolsfolly
  1. 0.5 / 5

Stephen Byrnes died of a rupture type stroke caused by AIDS. That type of stroke is common for people with that condition. The fact you decided not to divulge this info...well it deflates the whole article.

  Attachments
 
  1. Sean Carney    foolsfolly

Hello Foolsfolly,

We appreciate your comment and your bringing to the attention of our readers that Stephen Byrnes had AIDS and that he died from a rupture stroke which is common in AIDS patients.

We also would like to make people aware that rupture strokes are quite common among people that do not have AIDS as well. We do have an interesting and relevant article on our site about what causes the majority of heart attacks at the following url: http://www.drcarney.com/blog/entry/how-do-the-majority-of-heart-attacks-occur

Sean Carney

  Attachments
  Comment was last edited about 10 months ago by Sean Carney Sean Carney
  1. lucky
  1.   Japan...
  2. 2 / 5

Phytase is the worlds leading selling enzyme for animal feed. It removes phytic acid from grains etc. Animals have to be healthy or business loses money. There;s no profit in sick animals. People are the opposite. There is no profit in healthy people, but billions are made each year profiting from sick people. Why can't the worlds leading animal feed enzyme be found for sale for people. Could it be healthy people would lose billions of dollars for the medical industry. Could the Author answer this?

  Attachments
 
  1. Ella
  1. 4.5 / 5

Very good article, thank you! It's very hard to convince people that whole foods are the way to go despite the insane amount of disease caused by the western diet. There's big money in treating disease and that's part of the problem. Keep up the great work!

  Attachments
 
  1. Sean Carney    Ole

Thank you Ole for your comment,

There is a plenty of evidence about the harmful effects of the Atkin's diet. The evidence is overwhelming. So, while there is some controversy about the state of Dr. Atkin's health at his death, there is ample evidence to discourage the adoption of his diet. Unfortunately Dr. Atkin's widow did not allow an autopsy.

Here are some pages of interest about the Atkin's diet:

https://www.drcarney.com/blog/entry/are-you-dying-to-lose-weight

https://www.drcarney.com/blog/entry/low-carb-theory-regarding-meat-insulin-is-flawed

https://www.drcarney.com/blog/entry/low-carb-diets-impair-blood-flow

https://www.drcarney.com/blog/entry/high-protein-diets-promote-illness

http://www.atkinsexposed.org/

http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/05/19/low-carb-diets-and-coronary-blood-flow

  Attachments
  Comment was last edited about 1 year ago by Sean Carney Sean Carney
  1. Ole

On April 8, 2003, at age 72, Dr. Atkins slipped on the ice while walking to work, hitting his head and causing bleeding around his brain. He lost consciousness on the way to the hospital, where he spent two weeks in intensive care. His body deteriorated rapidly and he suffered massive organ failure.

During this time, his body apparently retained an enormous amount of fluid, and his weight at death was recorded at 258 pounds (again, records say that he was 195 on entering the hospital). His death certificate states that the cause of death was "blunt impact injury of head with epidural hematoma".

Following this, a Nebraska doctor (Richard Fleming) known to be anti-Atkins, and associated with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, requested Dr. Atkins' medical records, which should not have been released, but which mistakenly were sent. The Medical Examiner's report had a hand-written note that Atkins had a history of myocardial infarction (heart attack), congestive heart failure, and hypertension (written "h/o MI, CHF, HTN"). The above Committee made much of this and began the rumor that Atkins had "died of his own diet". The misconceptions remain to this day.

  Attachments
  Comment was last edited about 10 months ago by Sean Carney Sean Carney
  1. Kristin

Thank you so much for this article! Am I correct in assuming it is not necessary to sprout, soak etc grains, nuts and seeds?

  Attachments
 
  1. Sean Carney
  1. 5 / 5

Hello Kristin,

I guess the key word here is 'necessary' since many civilizations have thrived eating grains, nuts and seeds without sprouting them. We personally like soaking nuts and seeds and even grains. But, to say that it is necessary would be quite a stretch. And, especially in the case of grains sometimes there is no time to 'soak' them but we do try to rinse them good before cooking them as a general rule. :-)

Thanks for asking, Sean

  Attachments
 
There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location