Phytic Acid in Grains and Oats

As a personal trainer with London clients asking me what they should and shouldn’t eat, I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve my own eating habits.

For breakfast, I often eat raw porridge oats with organic milk and an orange chopped in. However, if you eat your oats raw, you should be aware of their phytic acid content.

What is phytic acid? It’s a plant’s way of protecting its seeds from digestion by animals, so the seeds can be spread and germinated. It’s nature’s way of helping plant species replicate themselves. Gluten and lectins in grains play similar roles.

Phytic acid impedes digestion by binding with digestive enzymes. It also binds with essential minerals, primarily calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium, preventing their absorption. This is why developing countries whose staple diets are mainly cereal grains suffer high levels of rickets and osteoporosis.

The foods with the highest concentration of phytic acid are brazil nuts and cocoa powder, followed by almonds and oats.

Phytic acid is broken down and neutralized by cooking, but if you prefer your porridge oats raw, you can also neutralize phytic acid by soaking your oats overnight in water together with a teaspoon of lemon juice. Soak for a minimum of 8 hours, up to 24 hours, then rinse thoroughly using a fine sieve.

You can also break down the phytic acid in nuts by soaking them overnight, which also makes the goodness in nuts more easily absorbed by the body.

Dominic Londesborough is a personal trainer in London who also offers online nutrition coaching.