Soak Your Beans and Don’t Flip About Phytic Acid
In my last post I gave a step by step on how to cook your own beans. Let’s talk about one of the key steps in cooking beans: soaking. Soaking the beans loosens the skin of the legumes and will decrease the overall cook time. The topic under current consideration has nothing to do with reducing cooking time and everything to do with science. A topic of hot debate from nutritionists to MD’s – do we need to be worried about phytic acid?
Lately I’ve seen an article or two on the dangers of phytic acid and a warning for those that dare to consume beans. To dispel yet another nutritional myth on the internet I want to set a couple things straight about phytic acid.
Why the Fuss?
The presence of phytic acid is how plant tissues store phosphorus. If you look at my drawing you can see all the little arms stretching out of the phytic acid molecule. These little “arms” bind to zinc, magnesium, calcium, and other minerals. When this molecule attaches to these minerals it doesn’t allow our bodies to properly absorb them during the digestive process. Phytic acid also inhibits enzymes such as pepsin and amylase which are important for breaking down starch to sugar. If you remember from the carbohydrate post – glucose is our brain’s primary source of fuel.
What Should You Do?
It sounds like a pesky little molecule. However, it’s not something we should be readily concerned about. A problem occurs when phytic acid is consumed in large amounts in combination with a diet lacking in nutrients. If you are eating a varied plant based diet with lots of leafy greens and whole foods I wouldn’t freak out about this little guy. Don’t stop eating nuts and beans just because this molecule is present. Phytic acid is in almost all plant foods in trace amounts. Soaking beans for 24 hours can reduce the amount of phytic acid by up to 50 percent. Since they are concentrated in nuts and beans it’s just another friendly reminder to soak and sprout. But guys, don’t fret over this one. Eat your beans!
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