What is phytic acid: Phytic (phytin) acid is actually an antioxidant found in grains, nuts, seeds and many plants. Phytin is an indigestible enzyme and is a form of phosphorous needed for plants, seeds, etc. to provide themselves with the necessary energy to establish seedling growth and perpetuate their life cycle when the proper conditions are met. Certain animals such as cattle,sheep, goats, deer, camels, and roughly 145 other mammals have the capacity to digest phytic acid because of their multi-chambered stomachs and the special enzymatic actions that come with these ruminant mammals. However, monogastric animals (us humans, dogs, pigs...) don't have the capacity to fully digest phytic acid.
In fact, phytic acid binds with certain vital minerals such as iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium which can lead to deficiencies in these nutrients for us humans. The purpose of soaking grains, nuts and seeds is to reduce the phytic acid and therefore improve nutrient absorption significantly.
Here is a diagram of a ruminant digestive system to give you an idea:
With the regurgitation of chewed food and the enzymatic action of a ruminant digestive track, certain animals do fine with eating grains high in phytic acid. Humans are not one of them, however.
One of the ways to lower phytic acid is to soak grains in either plain water, salt water or water with an acid base. Creating an acid base is as easy as adding buttermilk, yogurt or kefir to the water to help acidify the environment and to improve phytic acid breakdown. This may seem like creating so much more work in the kitchen. But really all is necessary is an extra few minutes and some advanced planning in order to significantly reduce phytic acid in foods before actually preparing them hours later.
Here is a chart that shows the reduction in phytic acid by soaking raw beans in water at a 140 degrees for eight to seventeen hours. Although it is cumbersome to maintain 140 degree water the best thing you can do is to change the water occasionally with hot tap water. By changing the water regularly, you help to reduce the possibility of fermentation and any bacterial buildup, so it's good to change the water in any event. Lastly, it is not recommended to soak beans in an acid base as it has been said that this creates a bad flavor for the beans.
For more reading online on how to soak beans feel free to check out this site:
For more directions on how to remove phytase from grains in general, read here:
By the way, I tried soaking almonds for the first time in salt water last night and did so for roughly seventeen hours. I changed the water four times. The almonds inflated a bit and after baking them at a low temperature to dry them out (you want to make sure you dry nuts and seeds so as not to promote mold and fungal growth), I have to say that they were totally different. The texture is lighter and easier to chew. They're not as hard and from my observation, it looks like a couple of them tried to sprout also.
So I thought I would share this for those of you that are on the fence about eating beans. Also, for those that eat Paleo diets, one of the things that Paleo enthusiasts warn against is the phytic acid content in foods. However, there is a bit of a contradiction since the Paleo diet advocates the liberal consumption of nuts and seeds (at least some of them do). Most nuts have a very high phytic acid content so it is pointless to eat liberal portions of almonds or other nuts when their phytic acid content is quite high. Luckily there is a method to lower it as I have outlined here.
Happy eating, bitchuuuuzzzzz!