There has been common knowledge, especially, in the vegan community that soaking nuts and seeds revitalizes them, makes them more digestible. It comes from the fact, that all whole grains contain so-called “anti-nutrients” such as phytates, which can inhibit our absorption of minerals such as iron, calcium, copper, zinc, and magnesium. How much the phytate level goes down after soaking nuts and are phytates really bad for us? I will answer these questions in this article.
Does soaking nuts lower phytate concentrations?
Multiple modern studies (2017-2020), done on different nuts have shown that soaking resulted not only in no improvement in phytate: mineral molar ratios, but also lower mineral concentrations, especially for chopped nuts. Thus, current research does not support claims that ‘activating’ nuts result in greater nutrient bioavailability. Another study has also shown, that soaking nuts do not improve tolerance or acceptance in the GI tract as it is often claimed in the literature. Therefore, you do not have to soak nuts before eating them because it doesn’t reduce phytate levels and also reduces mineral levels, which we actually need for our body.
What are Phytates?
Phytates or Phytic acid is a natural substance found in plant seeds, nuts, whole grains, and legumes. It is the main storage form of phosphorus in the seeds. When seeds sprout, phytate is hydrolyzed by endogenous phytates and other phosphatases to release phosphate, inositol, and micronutrients to support the young plant.
Are Phytates bad or good for us?
Cons of Phytates
The general literature says, that phytic acid impairs the absorption of iron, zinc, and calcium and may promote mineral deficiencies, many sources also call them anti-nutrients due to these qualities. However, The studies done on phytates have used on average 4X higher phytate intake than humans consume. Some data in this study has also suggested that a high-phytate diet can be hydrolyzed and can release excess phosphates into the gut when the diet contains a low concentration of Calcium. . Studies on rats have shown, that a high-phytate and low Calcium diet can be a risk factor for nephrocalcinosis, renal inflammation, and fibrosis as well as renal phosphate wasting disorders and bone loss in rats.
Clinical trials with Phytates affecting Zinc absorption have shown that there was slightly less zinc absorbed, but still quite a lot. Another study has also shown that there was no significant effect on zinc absorption.
Studies on iron absorption have shown, however, that phytic acid does affect iron absorption by lowering it.
Pros of Phytates
Phytates also have health tremendous health benefits. Phytates are digestible. They prevent kidney stone formation, protect against diabetes mellitus, caries, atherosclerosis, and coronary heart disease. The main benefits of phytates are cancer prevention. Phytates fight against all cancer cells not touching the healthy cells and even are able to turn cancer cells back to normal! These findings apply to all kinds of cancers. Watch the detailed video here.
Therefore, we can conclude that phytates in a balanced plant-based diet are not a concern, rather a great healthy bonus and an effective anti-cancer agent.