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You Ask, I Answer: Soaking Grains & Phytate Levels

Posted Feb 23 2009 9:35pm
I just ran across a website that advocates soaking or sprouting whole grains prior to using them to neutralize the phytic acid and make the nutrients in the grain more bioavailable.

Since the person blogging about this stuff is NOT a doctor, scientist, or nutritionist of any kind, I wanted to get a second opinion on the value of the methods described/benefits obtained, etc.


The article quotes someone by the name of Sally Fallon, who writes:


"
Grains require careful preparation because they contain a number of antinutrients that can cause serious health problems. Phytic acid acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in improperly prepared whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss.

Other antinutrients in whole grains include enzyme inhibitors which can inhibit digestion and put stress on the pancreas; irritating tannins; complex sugars which the body cannot break down; and gluten and related hard-to-digest proteins which may cause allergies, digestive disorders and even mental illness.
"

Is this true or mumbo-jumbo?


-- Kristina Hartman

Concord, NC


It is true that soaking and sprouting grains greatly reduces their phytate content.

However, I don't see any reason to soak grains prior to eating them, and here is why.

Number 1: simply cooking grains reduces their phytate content to some degree.

Keep in mind, too, that when you are cooking whole grains (whether it's brown rice, whole wheat cous cous, or quinoa), they are already immersed in water.

Number 2: phytates cause mineral deficiencies only when the diet is largely made up of grains (as is the case in many third world nations.)

Eating whole grains as part of a diet that also includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans, meat/meat alternatives and dairy/daily alternatives is not a health concern.

Lastly, studies have shown that phytates offer some health benefits, including decreasing the risk of certain cancers (mainly colon, cervical, liver, and prostate) by slowing down and inhibiting maturation of cancer cells.

As for "complex sugars the body can not break down" and gluten causing mental illness, I have no clue how the author came to such conclusions.

Some people are allergic to gluten, but that does not make it a dangerous or unhealthy component in food for those who can eat it without experiencing symptoms.
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