Have you ever heard of soaking or sprouting your nuts? How about soaking seeds, grains, and legumes? Do you know anyone who does that? Do you want to know what I do? (scroll down to the bottom for the answer!)
The reason some people take the time to soak and sprout certain foods is to reduce phytic acid in these foods, improve their digestibility and improve nutrient absorption.
Phytic acid is naturally present in most nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes. It is the plant’s storage form of the mineral phosphorus and is used as the plant’s energy when it starts to grow.
About Phytic Acid
Phytic acid binds to the minerals iron, zinc, and calcium preventing them from being fully absorbed. This is why it is known as a “mineral reducer” or “anti-nutrient.”
NOTE: Phytic acid’s effects only apply to mineral-containing foods in the current meal. Once digested, there is no mineral reduction on any future meals and there is no impact to the minerals your body has already absorbed.
Benefits of Phytic Acid
- It can act as an antioxidant.
- It can also help reduce your risk of kidney stones, heart disease, and even some cancers.
- It can bind to heavy metals in your gut that you may have ingested with your food and protect you from them.
Phytic Acid and Eating Style
On balance, phytic acid isn’t a huge concern, unless your main foods at most meals are nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes. (If you eat a vegan/vegetarian diet this may be a concern). Also, if your body is already deficient in these nutrients, then phytic acid may exacerbate your problem. Also, if you’re struggling to lose weight, mineral deficiencies may be one of the reasons.
Reducing Phytic Acid
If you want to reduce how much you consume, you have a few options.
- Soaking – Place nuts, seeds, grains or legumes in a bowl, cover with water and leave overnight. Then drain the water and rinse before drying, eating or preparing.
- Sprouting – After soaking, draining, and rinsing, place damp nuts, seeds, grains or legumes into a container that’s exposed to the air (like a mason jar with a mesh lid). Every 8 hours or so, re-rinse them and drain the water. Continue doing this for a few days until you see sprouts peeking out.
Why do soaking and sprouting help reduce phytic acid in certain foods? It is because being wet is a trigger to leave the dormant state and start to grow. Enzymes activated during soaking and sprouting deactivate phytic acid so the energy and stored minerals fare available for the plant to grow.
Phytic acid (found in nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes) prevents absorption of critical minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium if they’re in your gut at the same time. This can be a problem if you are deficient in these minerals, or if you eat a vegan or vegetarian diet. In this case, you can reduce levels by soaking or sprouting.
If you eat a varied diet, then the amount of phytic acid you’re consuming shouldn’t be a concern. And phytic acid does have some health benefits.
Do I soak my nuts? The answer is sometimes. I definitely do when I am cooking with them as they blend up easier and I’m in cooking-mode anyway. Here is a recipe that I make using soaked nuts.
For nuts that we are just going to snack on, I don’t bother. It’s too much effort, plus I eat a varied, paleo-type diet that is balanced and I don’t consume a lot of grains or legumes.
So, there you have it. Which camp are you in? Will you soak and sprout? Let me know in the comments below.