Is Phytic Acid in oats bad for you?

What is Phytic Acid?

Phytic acid, often referred to as phytate when in its salt form, is a natural substance found in plant seeds. It's prevalent in grains, nuts, legumes, and seeds, including oats. This compound serves as the principal storage form of phosphorus in these plants.

How does it affect digestion?

While phytic acid is a vital part of a plant's growth and development process, it has attracted attention in the context of human nutrition for its role as an "anti-nutrient." The reason behind this label is its ability to bind minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium in the digestive tract, making them less available for absorption by the body. This can potentially lead to mineral deficiencies, particularly in diets heavily reliant on these foods and lacking in variety.

I have found over the years that this acid can cause people to experience gut pain, gas and a few symptoms similar to when you eat gluten. (I am one of these people) 

However, it's also important to recognize that phytic acid has health benefits. Research has suggested that it can act as an antioxidant, helping to reduce inflammation and lower the risk of chronic diseases. Additionally, it's been noted for its potential in reducing the risks of kidney stones and regulating blood sugar levels.

How can we mitigate the effects?

The effects of phytic acid can be mitigated through various food preparation techniques such as soaking, sprouting, and fermenting. These processes can significantly reduce the phytic acid content in oats and other grains, thereby improving the bioavailability of the minerals. For example, soaking oats overnight before cooking can help reduce their phytic acid content, making the nutrients more accessible for absorption. 

Recommended method: The main method we suggest is to soak the oats 12 hours or overnight in water. Using the same ratio of water to oats as you normally would to cook them. Soaking activates an enzyme in the oats called phytase that naturally breaks down phytic acid.

Oats can cause gas and bloating, especially if you have a low fibre diet.
To minimize side effects, start with a low dose and increase slowly to the desired amount. Even a teaspoon at a time. 
Heating foods can destroy small amounts of phytic acid but soaking is the more effective way. 

Once you have soaked your oats, you don't need to drain them, just prepare an overnight oats or cook as porridge and enjoy. 

In summary

While phytic acid in oats and other seeds can impact mineral absorption, its effects can be balanced through dietary diversity and food preparation techniques that reduce its presence, allowing you to enjoy the health benefits of oats while minimising potential drawbacks.

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