Why No Grains & Legumes (and Nuts?): Phytic Acid

In my recent post, “Why No Grains and Legumes? Part 1: Lectins“, I gave you one good reason to stop your greedy little hands from dipping into the proverbial cookie jar: lectins.  Those sticky little proteins that help cause leaky gut, and therefore an immune response to foods, are one of the main culprits driving the Paleo movement.  There’s more to the story, though, and today we’re going to cover phytic acid, which is also found in grains and legumes.

What’s phytic acid?
Phytic acid, also called phytate in its salt form, is another anti-nutrient.  Phytic acid is the main phosphorus store of many plants, as well as an energy store, and it’s a source of cations and myoinositol (a cell wall precursor).  Unfortunately, phytates aren’t digestible by non-ruminants (read: non-cud-chewers) because we lack the enzyme phytase to break them down.

The Big Deal
Phytates actually bind to the magnesium, calcium, zinc and iron in your intestines and take them OUT of our bodies.  We do not want that to happen.  Cordain and others believe that this alone is greatly contributing to the worldwide epidemic of iron-deficiency anemia.  It could be part of the reason many people are deficient in magnesium as well, which can contribute to everything from muscle cramping to PMS.  And zinc?  Well, it’s just SUPER important to our immune systems and for our reproductive abilities, so we wouldn’t want to lose any of that.  And the fact that phytates are chelating calcium out of our bodies means that we have less access to that bone-building and nerve-transmitting mineral we’re all so fond of.

It’s not just grains and legumes, though.

So, grains and legumes, here’s yet another check mark on the list of reasons to not eat you. But here’s the kicker: many nuts and seeds have MORE phytates in them than grains and legumes. Here are two lists showing phytate content in foods – one for grains & legumes and one for nuts & seeds. For instance, Durum wheat contains an average of 720 mg of phytic acid per 100 gm, while almonds (all of you eating almond butter as you read this, close your eyes now) contain a whopping 1,280 mg per 100 gm. What??!! That’s what I said. In all of my reading, I’ve always understood that soybeans (1,433 mg) have the highest phytic acid content, but black walnuts (1,977 mg) and cashews (1,866 mg) are higher. Soooo, now what?

Basically what we have here is some evidence that nuts and seeds are as bad or worse than grains in terms of lectins and phytates. Not exactly what I set out to accomplish, but good information, nonetheless.

The good news is that you can sprout, ferment and soak the phytates out of just about anything.  Here’s a post on soaking nuts properly.  I suggest we all do this to our nuts and seeds.  The practices of soaking, sprouting and fermenting have been all but laid to rest in the modern world, and it’s a shame.

Even 100 years ago, people were sprouting, fermenting and soaking the foods they knew would give them a stomach ache if they didn’t.  Anyone out there get cramps from eating nuts? Phytic acid is one of the reasons for that.  I don’t know why we stopped processing our foods properly – it’s all part of the fast food revolution I suppose.

The bad news is that I don’t think the Paleo world has sufficiently discussed this in books, blogs and podcasts.  Everyone’s touting nuts and seeds as totally Paleo foods, but I think the anti-nutrients they contain deserve more attention than they’re getting.  Don’t worry – I’ll be doing another post on this soon.

Are there anti-nutrients in grains and legumes that AREN’T also in nuts?
Yes.  Saponins are in even sprouted legumes and grains.  And nuts and seeds don’t contain gluten.  Those are a couple of the other anti-nutrients I’ll cover in coming posts.

For now, though, you need some justification for continuing to eat those spoonfuls of nut butter, right?

Why should we eat them?
I think the reason we should keep (soaked) nuts and seeds in our diets is that they’re a convenient, calorie and nutrient rich snack food that we can soak most of the anti-nutrients out of.

We have to remember that nuts and seeds grow in hulls and husks – not jars and bins – and they’re difficult to get to.  Ancient hunter gatherer people weren’t sitting around eating tablespoons of Justin’s almond butter all day because it wasn’t energy efficient (or often even possible) to gather that many almonds.  And seeds?  Have you ever seen a flax seed?  It would take you days to find enough of those things to make it worth your effort, and even then…  So go easy on your phytate intake, just like you would have been forced to if you were a hunter gatherer.

My conclusion to this tortuous (and maybe torturous) post is that 1. phytates are one more reason we should not be consuming grains and legumes.  However, 2. they’re also a good reason to look at our unsoaked nut and seed consumption.

Eat those nuts and seeds in moderation unless you’re in dire need of extra calories.  And if that’s the case, make sure you soak them.  There’s no reason to eat a whole lot of them every day, besides the fact that they’re really yummy…

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99 Comments

  1. I have just started the paleo diet. I need receips. Help!

    • Check out our recipes page here, and if you need help beyond that, sign up for Paleo Plan – we give you a meal plan and grocery list every week. Good luck!

      Neely Quinn
      Nutrition Therapist
      Paleo Plan

  2. How can a Paleo way of eating be altered for performance athletes?

    • Neely

      That is a short question with a very long answer. If you want more information, get Cordain’s book, “The Paleo Diet for Athletes: The Ancient Nutritional Formula for Peak Athletic Performance“, which goes into how to eat Paleo when you’re, in particular, an endurance athlete. In general, though, you just want to eat more starchy veggies like sweet potatoes and squash, along with more fruits. The point is to get more carbohydrates than you’d normally get on the Paleo diet. It depends what kind of athlete you are, though, and how many calories you’re burning. Whatever you’re doing, you need to make sure you’re getting enough calories in your diet to facilitate your activities (go to http://www.fitday.com or http://www.myfitnesspal.com for help with that), unless you’re trying to lose weight. Email me at info@paleoplan.com for more info if you want help.

      Neely

  3. Marlena Alva

    this post “Here’s a post on soaking nuts properly” is saying that nuts have smaller amount of phytic acid & base their soaking on the enzymes inhibitors. is that correct? that nuts have smaller amounts or did you just pick the lowest example from grains (durum)?

    • Hi Marlena,

      All nuts (and seeds and grains) have different phytic acid contents. Some are higher than grains and some are lower.

  4. Matt Joseph

    Hi, I’m 42 and am new to Paleo. I have probably consumed a fair amount of grains and legumes in my life so far. So if by eating these things, I have damaged my gut in any way, do you know if it is reversible by removing them from my diet?

    • Hi Matt – It’s often reversible, but it depends on how much damage has been done and to what extent your immune system is involved. If you have an autoimmune disorder like celiac, for instance, that’s probably never going to go away.

  5. Christine Bryant

    According to Loren Cordain’s book the Paleo Diet – nuts are good to eat. So why the turn around. Is Mr. Cordain saying nuts are bad now?

  6. Kasey Sikora

    I’m a primarily paleo eater and support the general recommendations, but in the defense of other foods, may I just point out that “The practices of soaking, sprouting and fermenting have been all but laid to rest in the modern world, and it’s a shame” is a pretty big exaggeration. I’m largely thinking of soyfoods here- soy has issues, certainly, but what do most peoples who eat great quantities of soy do? Ferment it and make tofu products. Similarly many corn products are nixtamalized to reduce issues. All I’m saying is that we’ve found ways around a lot of food problems, just as you’re recommending processing nuts and seeds to make them as healthy as possible. I love paleo but I don’t think it means non-paleo foods are evil and I love the ingenious ways people have figured out to survive on suboptimal foods the world over. Go humans!

  7. Tenuod

    There are more health benefits involved in eating legumes, such as being antioxidants and being high in protein, iron and fiber. If you cook legumes right, you don’t need to worry about toxins.

  8. Deborah

    Well, I’ve spent the last week reading up on phytic acid and sprouting and soaking and related topics, and I must say it all seems like a vast overreaction. Is everyone suffering from malnutrition? …in the U.S.? …from phytates?

    It reminds me of egg white omelets. Got that one wrong, didn’t we?

    • Deborah – I don’t think it’s a life or death kind of malnutrition that’s happening, but many people are iron deficient, even if it’s just slightly, and many people are zinc, magnesium, and calcium deficient as well. I don’t think it would hurt to stop eating things that take those minerals out of your body unabsorbed and I don’t doubt that those deficiencies have to do with eating those things in the first place. But I didn’t say the “everyone is suffering from malnutrition”. Just some people.

  9. So are nut milks , such as almond and hazelnut off the OK to eat list? commercially made?

    Please explain.

  10. Anonymous

    Also, are we saying no almond flour either?

    Thanks

    • Anonymous (Tricia) – I don’t believe I said in the article that nuts were not allowed. I’m just questioning the need to eat them quite as much as some people do, and in their raw form at that. I’d say the same about almond flour as I do about nuts in general – eat them in moderation and if you have gut inflammation or other issues, take nuts out of your diet to see if it helps.

  11. Hi!
    I have recently been researching and coming across all sorts of things like this and I now realize I have been committing one dietary felony after another. I now can’t believe I have consumed two or three cups of beans a day for two or three weeks at a time. This also may explain why I had a vitiman D deficiency…… anyhoo, I do wonder, after all that soaking, do the nutrients really remain intact? I always hear that we should soak our beans, but cook them in the water we soaked them in. Or the act of soaking flour, the same goes there. I would think we would want to discard the soaking water. I take flax seeds daily,( I grind enough for a few days at a time) should I soak those as well, and what would be a good way to get them dehydrated after soaking? Thanks!

  12. I forgot to add this!
    Is the phytic acid stored IN the nut, seed, bean, legume in the flesh or in the skin, or husk?
    If it is in the husk,Then could we assume that one could forgo the soaking and just get the husk off ? I have so many questions! This all started whith my quest to inprove my oral health!

  13. I was diagnosed with Colon Cancer is this diet ok for me?

    • Hi Sue – First off, I’m sorry to hear that. I hope you have a good prognosis. As for whether this diet is good for you, yes. It’s going to be way better for you than a Standard American Diet is, but you’ll want to see a nutritionist or someone who’s familiar with the Paleo diet to see if you need to watch out for anything in particular. For instance, have you had any surgeries done – any removal of parts of your colon? Then special modifications may need to be made. It really just depends.

  14. If the “Paleo people” really think asians are going to stop eating rice, then they are certifiably insane. Everyones body is different and everyone has different ancestors (ie: indians, brazilians, chinese etc). Brazilian ancestors ate cashews often, and chinese ancestors ate tons of rice. How do you explain to an asian that they should not eat what their ancestors ate? It seems like this diet is not made for anyone but european people, or it has nothing to do with ancestors or paleo alltogether.
    Why not just eat a wide variety of all quality natural foods in moderation? and if something doesnt agree with you (allergy or digestive Dx) than simply omit that from your diet. Im guessing that this proposed diet makes too much sense and wouldn’t sell many books… Over-eating any food is not healthy, not just nuts and legumes.

    • tim – Good question. It’s not any more outlandish of “Paleo people” to suggest that Europeans not eat their precious bread, which they’ve also been eating for thousands of years. We’re talking about our ancestors from LONG ago, before bread, rice, and other grains were eating so copiously. And please don’t insult me and many other passionate “Paleo people” by saying that we just write this stuff to make money.

  15. Mike Burton

    I had a friend ask me if legumes picked before they were allowed to harden on the plant were indeed still harmful to us? This was a good question that I did not have an answer for.

    • Mike Burton – Young, green legumes like snap peas, green beans, and snow peas are lower in the antinutrients we’re trying to stay away from in the old, hard legumes like pinto beans, lentils, etc. So yes, if that’s what your friend was asking about then tell him/her that those green legumes are perfectly fine to eat.

  16. Neely, I am glad to see this post continuing for as long as it has. It means people are interested in their health and are being pro-active. Thank you for such an excellent explanation. There are many good points here but one thing to consider is quantity. While nuts do in fact contain many phytates, they still do not possess many of the other detrimental effects that grain has on our bodies for example the glycemic smack that wheat does. The point I am trying to get to though is quantity. Between the oatmeal or toast, waffles, pancakes etc. with breakfast, sandwich for lunch, pasta for dinner – the American diet is inundated with phytates couples with the other negative impact from grain – we just don’t eat that many nuts!

  17. I have just begun a paleo eating plan. I like to have a ‘protein shake’ in the morning and after a workout. I have been using a commercial ‘pea protein powder’ as whey and rice protein powders give me that bloated feeling. It seems that all of these things are not great for a paleo diet. Can you please offer some advice? Thanks!

    • Lisa – I’m not a huge fan of protein shakes, but if you absolutely need to have it (if you don’t have time to pre-cook some meat and have it on hand as snacks or eat some beef jerky or other foods) then look for a high quality egg white protein or a high quality grass-fed whey protein if you can tolerate dairy.

  18. Hi,
    I’m really new to this and would like to know if there are specifics I should adhere to or modify for weight loss. Thanks!!

  19. Dietetics Student

    Your theory of cutting out grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds to prevent magnesium deficiency is based on poor logic. Whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds are some of the best sources of magnesium. If you’re not eating these foods, then there is no need to worry about phytates binding to magnesium since you’re not getting enough magnesium from your diet anyways. Also, a high protein intake promoted by the paleo diet will promote loss of magnesium through excretion in stool. It’s sad to see the promotion of disordered eating habits, especially through fad diets.

    • Hi Dietetics Student – First of all, most people DO eat nuts and seeds on this diet. The point I was making was that it’d be best to soak them to get rid of some of the phytic acid, and that people should at least be aware of what they’re eating. Second of all, not that a high protein diet would necessarily do what you proclaim, but Paleo isn’t necessarily high protein. Up until recently, I was eating about 30% carbs and 20% protein in my own very Paleo diet and consuming at least 10 servings of veggies and fruits a day, which is better than almost any person on a diet as laid out by your organization. Do you think that what you’re learning in nutrition school is actually making people healthier? Do you think it has made people healthier over the last 50 years?? “It’s sad to see the promotion of disordered eating habits, especially through” government sanctioned organizations.

  20. Dietetics Student

    First of all, I don’t go to ” nutrition school”; I attend a University. And for your last statement, yes; I do believe that nutrition and dietetics has improved the health of those who can benefit from it. Dietitians who practice medical nutrition therapy (not self-proclaimed “nutrition therapists”) are doing anazing things in a field of science that is relitively young. Here’s what you stated as the conclusion to this post: ” phytates are one more reason we should not be consuming grains and legumes”. On a final note; where do you think all this research and information you cite comes from? The same “government sanctioned organizations” that you belittle.

    It’s good to hear that you consume adequate fruits and vegetables; a lot of people who promote paleo seem to think of it as a new, trendy version of a no carb diet. You say you were consuming 30% carbs and 20% protein; So your diet was 50% fat? That’s 15% over the highest end of the recommendation, you should consider working on that.

    Would you like me to post a link to the academic and peer reviewed literature that states that high protein diets limit magnesium absorption?

    P.S. have you ever heard if the term orthorexic? Look it up.

    • Dietetics Student – Yes, I know what orthorexic means. Have you ever heard of people having food sensitivities and needing to stay away from certain foods so they can live a normal life?

      I also am well aware of where RDs go to school. I was accepted to–and then opted out of going to–Colorado State University to get my masters and become an RD because I disagreed, even then, with the things I knew I’d learn. My title is not self proclaimed, as you say. I went to a state accredited school in Colorado for over 3 years (after I earned a double major bachelors degree at a university) where I learned about many more aspects of nutrition and health than I ever would have at CSU, and I received a certificate. I help people change their lives using the information I learned there every day, so please don’t belittle it.

      I think this debate would be like me, as a democrat, talking with my highly conservative aunt about Barack Obama, which never leads to anything but high blood pressure and a bad taste in both of our mouths. You and I will disagree on most things, that is for sure, so I won’t go any further with this discussion. It’s pointless. I respect that you have your own opinions, and I’ll keep having mine.

  21. DJane Riley

    Good site with useful information to ponder! I’m gathering information on what lectins are, where they are found, and autoimmune consequences. Thanks for sharing.

  22. The extreme weakness in the Paleo plan is the recommendation to eat red meat even though there are in excess of 12 well conducted medical studies showing a definite link between red meat consumption and cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and a shortened lifespan by eight to twelve years. Additionally, an examination of the anatomic and physiological features of humans confirm that humans are plant eaters and were never designed to consume animal flesh.
    We could also look to the animals as they have not been brainwashed. Plant eating animals have the longest lifespan by far.

  23. Hi! Thanks for all the good info on this page. I can recall last year when I bought a fancy jar of organic almond butter and was buckled over in pain and nauseated from eating a small spoonful. I stayed away after that! I noticed on this list you don’t talk about pistachios? I love them…are they OK to eat and should I soak and dehydrate?

    • erica – Yep, everyone is affected differently. That goes for pistacchios, too. Of course soaking is best, so try that out and see how they affect you. They’re technically Paleo.

  24. Hi Neely,
    I’m just started paleo last month but have been doing a lot of reading and research since before then….I understand the whole lectin/phytate argument against certain foods (incl. legumes and nuts), but one thing I still can’t reconcile regarding nuts is when it is claimed that they likely weren’t worth the time for our ancestors to collect and consume. That’s exactly where the “gatherer” part of hunter-gatherer comes from…you find food that doesn’t kill you or make you (apparently) ill, collect it, and eat it. I’m sure this was someone’s job 100,000 years ago…the nut guy/gal.
    thoughts?
    thanks,
    J

    • Neely Quinn

      john c – Yes, since I wrote this I’ve seen documentaries and read more about the usage of nuts in hunter gatherers’ diets, and sometimes it’s way more than I would have thought. I still, however, can’t imagine that people would go around and collect little tiny seeds from, say, flax flowers or cotton, for instance. They’re just so small :) But the other thing I learned was that when hunter gatherer tribes (at least, the ones I saw) would eat nuts, they’d go through a long and involved process of making them edible, instead of just eating them raw. And thinking that “raw” was best.

  25. Does anybody know if coffee beans (and therefore coffee drinks) contain this annoying phytic acid?

  26. I have been off legumes for about two and a half years. I do eat a mix of raw nuts. You speak of soaking them before ingesting them. How long do you soak nuts, almonds, brazil nuts, hazel nuts , cashews and others? I take magnesium and slippery elm capsules to relieve constipation. I have reflux disease. Will the Paleo diet work work for me?

  27. The ‘grains & legumes’ hypertext just loops back to original page; that would be a great chart to see.

  28. Bradley W

    Wow! Such awesome information, insight, and even arguments in this forum. Hi Neely – love the posts! I’m Bradley, just moved to CO from WI in hopes to attend CSU for my Master’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences. I’m a health freak, raw foodist, and semi-paleo dieter so any advice you have for CSU would be great!

    As for soaking/sprouting nuts, we all know now that this process releases most of the enzyme-inhibitors that enter the gut in the form of phytic acid and lectins. Soaking nuts/seeds (EXCEPT FOR MACADAMIA NUTS & BRAZIL NUTS – basically unsoakable nuts!) will get rid of MOST of the phytic acid, esp if you soak them in alkaline water aided by freshly-squeezed lemon, lime, apple cider vinegar, or even Celtic Sea/Himalayan Salt.

    While this soaking process may leave a little residual phytic acid in the nut/seed itself, that’s not entirely a bad thing because phytic acid is also an anti-oxidant that in small amounts carries harmful metallic toxins out of your body.

    There’s a family-owned company from Madison, WI I want everyone to check out because they are the one company that makes paleo-friendly, sprouted, raw, organic food called “Food Your Body Likes”. They have four flavors and each highlights a low-glycemic, sprouted superfood that surely will satisfy you in a healthy way – check them out! Here is the website:

    http://www.foodyourbodylikes.com/

    On their facebook page, & this answers your question Stan, they have a nut-seed soaking chart, how long you’re supposed to soak each nut/seed to release the phytic acid and lectin compounds, as well as the nuts/seeds to avoid soaking.

    Thanks everyone for supporting a healthy, paleo lifestyle! Cheers!

    Bradley

  29. Im confused as to why it’s ok to soak nuts and seeds (which are higher in phytates), and consume them, but it’s not ok to soak legumes for consumption? Either way you’re soaking them to rid them of their “anti-nutrients,” so why are legumes the bad guy?

    • Neely Quinn

      Angela – You know, I wonder that myself sometimes and have given this more and more thought since writing this post a while back. I don’t eat nuts and seeds, whether they’re soaked/sprouted or not because they give me intestinal issues and joint pain. I think that a lot of people have problems with them and they don’t even know it, and I wish people would eat less of them instead of making them a main staple of their Paleo diet. As far as beans go, I think a lot of people have the same issues with them as they might with lots of nuts and seeds. Also, they’re way higher in carbs than nuts and seeds, and that’s not something a lot (not all) of people on Paleo need in their diet. I ate beans the other day in a chili my aunt made, and they were delicious, but I certainly don’t eat them regularly. If you want to have beans, by all means, eat beans, but be sure you note how they make you feel, and be cautious of the amount of carbs in them if you’re not an active person who’s not trying to lose weight.

  30. I’ve also heard that animal protein is very acidic, causing our bones to release alkaline minerals such as calcium to compensate. Can you help me feel better about eating more meat, when it is so acidic?

    • Neely Quinn

      Melissa – It’s all about balance, so grains, dairy, and meat are all acid forming in your body. Most fruits and vegetables, plus some nuts, are alkaline forming in your body. You can see that if you’re eating mostly grains, dairy and meat, as most Westerners do, you’re getting mostly acid forming foods. But if you’re eating a ton of vegetables, fruits, and some nuts along with your meat (and no dairy), you’re golden.

  31. Hi I have been eating raw (unsoaked) red split pea lentils for about 6weeks now, can you tell me the harmfully effects this will have on my body? I have been told I have a chest infection and i am on antibiotics…will I be ok?

    • Neely Quinn

      Sharon – I think I told you about the harmful effects in the article… I don’t know if you’ll be ok. You’ve been eating raw lentils? Like not cooked at all?

  32. I’m still not sure about this diet ,is there a fruit and veg Paleo diet ?

  33. This is a nice and informative article. However, some facts are missing in this fad diet. A 2011 ranking by U.S. News & World Report, involving a panel of 22 experts, ranked the Paleo diet lowest of the 20 diets evaluated based on factors including health, weight-loss and ease of following.[28] These results were repeated in the 2012 survey, in which the diet tied with the Dukan diet for the lowest ranking out of 25 diets.

    CT scans of mummies dating back up to 5,000 years and across four populations (ancient Egyptian, ancient Peruvian, Ancestral Puebloan and Unangan) encompassing agrarian, forager-farmer and hunter-gatherer lifestyles, shows clear and similar indication of atherosclerosis across all three lifestyle types and all four populations, rising in each case with age, suggesting that atherosclerosis is likely an inherent disorder of human aging.

    • Neely Quinn

      Hi Wayne – Yeah, we all know about that ridiculous article, and those “experts” have actually gotten us as a country to where we are now – fat and diabetic. Here’s an article to explain why their assessment of the diet was all wrong: http://robbwolf.com/2011/06/09/us-news-best-diets/

  34. Herman Rutner

    As a lifelong professional chemist and rational nutritionist by avocation I believe the lectin and phytate phobias are just that. Humans have vegetarian guts like our distant cousins, apes, elephants and especially horses with massive 2000 lb bodies, all thriving on phytate and fiber rich foods without depending on the wisdom of nutritionists who have frequently been proven wrong in their diet guideliines, e.g the folly of iron fortification of baby formulas ( now wisely abandoned) despite the fact that mother Nature ordained iron free mother’s milk during weaning. And look at the proverbial mighty Scots, all raised on oat diets like horses.True, phytates are strong chelating agents of essential macro minerals like iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium and numerous trace metals, all needed for optimal health. But among the billions of gut microorganism there are apparently many phytase secretors that liberate the metals needed for their own propagation with plenty to spare for absorption into the host blood stream. And if still unconvinced, eat your phytate rich meals during breakfast and lunch along with a multivitamin, then several hours later take a multi mineral as part of protein or fat rich meal. And lectins in legumes, unlike phytates, are heat labile and destroyed during heating. Hence eating raw legumes or veggies in salads is risky aside from possible pathogens pespecially when using natural fertilizers. Using germicidal vinegar for presoaking and in the salad itself is good practice to aid digestion, especially in folk who are foolishly taking PPI acid reducers for imaginary “acid reflux”, actually due to bubbling from fermentation of stomach contents due to decreased acid secretion commonly occurring in the elderly.

  35. it is so easy to soak almonds for 12+ hrs, pour off the water and squeeze each almond between your thumb and index finger. depending on how fresh the almonds are they should slip off easily (older nuts are more difficult to remove the skin). about 30 nuts average an ounce. the skin contains all the phytates, enzyme inhibitors, tannins, etc. yogis in india have done this for thousands of years, it is so much more digestible and healthy to consume.

  36. TK Ghos

    So i’m researching phylate degradation in fertilizer when i stumbled in your article. While your chemistry is correct, phylate chelate metal ions out of your bloodstream, the rest of your article is completely bogus. You eat such a variety of food that the amount of ions your a chelating is insignificant compared to the amount of ions you ingest. Eat as many nuts and grains as you want, it won’t make you anemic. The only creatures that are concerned by phylate are cattle and poulty because their only diet is grains and seeds so they do not have many ions to spare. Also your digestive system has the enzyme phytase to break it down. It’s dumb authors like you who have no scientific background or knowledge that feed misinformation to the public

    • Neely Quinn

      TK Ghos – Do you mean phytates? Or Phthalates or phylates? I don’t understand… And please never post a comment here again. I don’t like your tone or your insults. Not necessary or productive at all.

  37. TK Ghos #2

    Although TK Ghos’s tone may be insulting the rest of his comment is productive and correct. I have some advice to add. The time you are spending trying to figure out how to adhere to this silly diet, which you will only follow for four weeks anyway, spend it walking instead.

  38. Phytase activity in the human and rat small intestine.
    By T H Iqbal, K O Lewis, and B T Cooper
    Gut. 1994 September; 35(9): 1233–1236.

    Abstract

    Phytate is the major storage form of phosphorus in seeds and so is a common dietary constituent. Excessive ingestion of undegraded phytates can cause mineral deficiencies in humans. In addition, phytic acid is antineoplastic in animal models of both colon and breast carcinoma. There have been no previous studies quantifying phytase activity in the human small intestine although it is present in animals. Small intestinal phytase and alkaline phosphatase activity and distribution was measured in vitro in mucosal homogenates from two human small intestinal specimens obtained from transplant donors. Rat intestine was also studied for comparison. Phytase activity was found in human small intestine at low values (30 times less than that in rat tissue and 1000-fold lower than alkaline phosphatase in the same tissue). The activity was greatest in the duodenum and lowest in the ileum. In conclusion, the normal human small intestine has very limited ability to digest undegraded phytates. Although this may have adverse nutritional consequences with respect to metabolic cation imbalances, the presence of undigested phytate in the colon may protect against the development of colonic carcinoma.

  39. Fermentation can completely destroy both lectins and phytic acid. However, the process is dependent on ALL of the following factors: time, temperature, pH, and activeness of the probiotic ‘starter’ culture. Be aware that enzymes also have a range of activity, which is dependent on both temperature and pH, and those conditions for phytase may not coicide with the ideal fermentation conditions for destroying lectins. Also be aware that lectins are able to bind with some types of enzymes, forming conjugates that disable enzyme action. However, AFAIK (and somebody please correct me if I’m wrong) grain/seed/nut lectins do not bind with the enzyme phytase.

    Whereas tofu and soy milk are relatively unhealthy for anyone to consume, fermented soy-based foods such as miso and natto are generally healthful for most people. Some of the benefits of fermented foods
    http://www.slideshare.net/khehkesha/fermented-food

    One way that grains, seeds, and nuts might be able to be incorporated into a paleo diet is to first either purchase them in the ground form or grind them yourself via an electric burr type coffee grinder. Then ferment the grounds/flour for at least 8 hours via addition of enough real-kefir to create a viscosity no heavier than thick porridge. If you’re super-sensitive to either lectins and/or phytic acid / phyates, then you must (yourself) experimentally determine the optimum fermentation conditions.

    I’m not sensitive to either phytate/phytic acid or lectins, yet for several years I fermented my own ground flax seed porridge, which I consumed for breakfast 3 days per week. I just wanted to maximize the mineral bioavailability of whole flax seeds, while improving the efficacy of its lignans (not to be confused with lignins).

    Caution: Do not include any spice that contains the phytochemical coumarin* to any fermented porridge until it is ready to be consumed, because its fermentation product is toxic.

    In the past I maintained my own real-kefir starter culture and freely distributed samples of it to other health conscious consumers. By law, real-kefir may not be commercially sold in the USA, because its probiotic organisms are uncontrolled, and some individuals are generally sensitive to them and/or their biochemical products.

    No “kefir” sold in American supermarkets can be propagated indefinitely, and its activity is doubtful for use as an efficient starter culture for fermenting ground grains/seeds/nuts. For that you need real-kefir.

    A database of sources for real-kefir may be found here.
    http://www.torontoadvisors.com/suppliers

    * Coumarin is found in both real cinnamon (AKA Celylon cinnamon) and cassia (AKA Saigon “cinnamon”).

  40. Hi, I’m just wondering where vegetarians stand on this topic? As a vegetarian, I consume many nuts, seeds & legumes on a daily basis. I am not malnutritioned according to my blood results. I am curious to know if I soak my oaks (like the Bircher muesli way) and my legumes, will this work? I feel like what this article is saying, is that vegans and vegetarians are pretty much screwed because they consumes so many foods containing this acid.. I have read however, that vegans & vegetarians have a lower risk of diebetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer among many other health issues? How would this be the case if we most probably have a higher risk of malnutrition due to the high amounts of legumes, seeds and nuts we eat? Also, what’s the point of worrying about a natural acid in our foods, when we eat plants doused in pesticides, fungicides and toxic fertilizers. As for meat eaters, remember “you are what you eat, eats”. So if you eat 20% meat protein eat day, unless its organic, you are consuming whatever that animal has been fed, including the antibiotics. I find all of this more concerning than what natural acids are in whole foods. I say, eat organic, mostly plants, and I agree with soaking & fermenting as much as you can, and everything in moderation. If you are vegetarian, you really don’t have much left to eat if you can’t eat wholesome nutrientrich legumes, nuts and seeds. Even when we were hunter/gathers we wouldn’t eat meat everyday. It’s good to know about what this article is discussing and we can take parts of it, but I truly believe that we MUST see the big picture. Removing legumes, seeds and nuts from you diet is not a good idea if you are vegan or vegetarian. If anyone can argue this or tell me I’m wrong, please do so! I love learning more from others :-)

  41. Will store-bought roasted nuts have phytic acid? I would imagine the the roasting process denature’s the phyates?

    • Neely Quinn

      quan – The roasting process does denature them a bit, but usually they’re roasted in really high omega 6 “vegetable” oils, or worse, hydrogenated oils. So just watch out what oils are in the ingredients. It may not be worth it. You can always soak and sprout your own nuts to make them much more digestible.

  42. Phytates (and phytic acid) are an anti-oxidant. They are also anti-inflammatory. In laboratory research, phytates have helped normalize cell growth and stopped the proliferation of cancer cells. They also may help prevent cardiovascular disease and lower a food’s glycemic load.Those are all GOOD things in your diet.

    The presence of phytates in foods really is GOOD. Some individuals seem to worry about, and go through measures, such as activating, to remove it.

    If you eat a balanced diet, you are consuming more minerals than might be affected by phytates.

    If you eat a lot of wheat bran, you might want to be concerned, as it is very high in phytates. Third world countries that consume mostly grains (and not a balanced diet) are where you see the impact of phytates.

    Cooking (heat) also breaks down phytic acid.
    (http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400758/Are-Phytates-Bad-or-Good.html)

    The real questions become: Are you eating a balanced diet? Do you take the supplements your body needs for optimal health? If you believe you are eating in a balanced way, yet still have health issues, your body is telling you it is not getting what it needs. Your body requires 90 essential nutrients every day. The lack of ONE nutrient can leave you susceptible 10 diseases or more.

    We can chat if you want.

  43. Margaret

    Sadly, we have very little knowledge of how traditional societies prepared and cooked their food. We have been more interested in destroying their way of life than learning from them and preserving the knowledge they had built up over thousands of years. They were more scientific in their approach to gaining knowledge than the best scientists today. They made phenomenal observations about the effect of food on the human body, they just didn’t record it. But they did put their knowledge into practice and it appears that all grains were soaked, sprouted and/or fermented. All bread was made from a sourdough culture. Asians soaked and sprouted their rice before cooking and eating it. In our haste to make everything ‘fast’ we have lost our way. Apricot kernels are eaten by the Hunzas apparently but did they soak them first? Any idea?

  44. Thank you for this excellent article. Now I know why grains and legumes are included in the list of food items that needs to be avoided when on a paleo diet. You explained it well and at least now I am fully aware that these foods will do more harm than good in my body.

  45. Steve Nice

    Instead of worrying about the minerals lost to Phytates, I simply take a mineral supplement, Active Liquid Minerals and eat what I like. And Lectins, I take prebiotics, including polydextrose to combat the lectins in the grains I consume (I don’t eat wheat to avoid Wheat Germ Agglutinin-very bad, very bad) and galactooligosaccharides to combat lectins in other foods such as peanuts, plus other synbiotics such as fructooligosaccharides to combat lectins and maintain my gut health. I am healthy.

  46. Lisa Miller

    I’m a little confused at why your concern for “grains” is the anti-nutrient Phytic acid just as with nuts. Yet, you inform people to alleviate that undesirable quality with soaking and sprouting nuts,but not grains. Our ancestors, soaked and sprouted grains as well. That being the case, please tell me why soaked and sprouted grains are not acceptable on this way of eating if it is truly authentic to historical eating of our ancestors,because it is well documented that grains and grain products were definitely a staple in their diets. I’m on board with the Paleo plan and even the temporary elimination of grains to lose weight. I would just like to hear the response to why soaked and/or sprouted nuts are acceptable, but not grains.

    • Neely Quinn

      Lisa Miller – That’s a great question. Mostly because the grains people are all used to eating are glutenous ones, and soaking and sprouting those grains isn’t going to get rid of the gluten. In my opinion, just to be clear, I think that a lot of people have issues with nuts and seeds, even if they are soaked or sprouted, so I’m not a huge fan of them. They’re the first thing to go with my clients who are having problems with even their paleo diet. If you’re interested in information on a diet that includes properly processed grains and legumes, definitely check out the Weston A Price Foundation and there’s a wealth of info over there, but over here I don’t deal with grains at all because I’ve seen that so many people have issues with them (whether they’re gluten free or not).

  47. Where the hell will I get my fat and calories from then?

    • Neely Quinn

      Jast – Other foods that have fat and calories in them.

  48. I’m confused as to why its Ok to soak nuts and seeds to remove phytates and eat them, but NOT ok to soak legumes to remove the phytates so we can eat them also. Is there something else about legumes that i am missing here? thank you.

  49. Hi,

    After being told I have ridiculously low iron levels I have set about to find out a. why my levels have dropped so much and b. how to get better and stay well.

    I have been off gluten for almost 3 months and have known this is an issue for me for quite some time but my bloated and sore belly is still hanging about.
    We recently spent time in Nepal trekking and picked up a parasite, the doctors say we are clear but I feel this could have something to do with my issues. I also suffered from a nasty skin infection on my face which is finally beginning to heal now but I would still love some suggestions.

    Reading about the nuts and grains has me wondering, should I put cutting out my beloved lentils too?
    I am not a big meat eater but need to get as much iron as I can in to my system- basically I NEED to get better.
    Any hints, tips and ideas you have would be very appreciated.
    I have just signed up for Paleo plan but am wondering, is their an option to opt out of things such as pork?

    Thanks in advance,
    Cass Hebbard

    • Neely Quinn

      Cass – Yes, do Paleo pretty strictly for a while to help your gut heal. In the meantime get a really strong probiotic from a healthfood store or a nutritionist or naturopath in your area. You want 100 billion organisms per pill and take one a day. Start adding raw (unpasteurized) fermented foods to your diet, too, like sauerkraut and coconut kefir (also found in health food stores). You probably killed off all of your good bacteria when you got sick, and then even more when you were killing the parasite with whatever your doc gave you. This will hopefully help. If not, go see a naturopath and see what’s really going on. Good luck!

  50. Hi, I am wondering how long do we have to soak the bean? Thank you.

  51. Ever wonder what the research says about phytates?
    Have a look: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/phytates-for-the-prevention-of-osteoporosis/

  52. james mckoy

    Avoiding un-soaked nuts, seeds, grains and legumes because of their phytate content is simply not scientifically sound. This is still “fringe” nutrition. The protein and nutrient value of grains and legumes, cooked correctly and in moderation far exceed any issues likely to be caused by phytates. I am all for eating fresh, whole foods and eliminating processed grains. But I see no science whatsoever behind the so called Paleo diet. Firstly its a catch all term as there was no definitive diet during the Paleolithic period. It varied region to region, valley to valley. They were hunter gatherers and would eat what was seasonally available. No doubt meat would have been prized due to its high calorie value. But like their ancestors to follow, they would not have prized the lean meat but more the organs,offal and fat. Hardly Paleo by todays crossfit definition eh? As for the current Paleo craze”s insistence that a Paleo period diet did not include grains it is pure rubbish. They have found ground grains between the teeth of fossilised man from the period. For the science of what Paleo man actually did eat check out the 20 minute TEDx Talk, The Paleo Myth to see what an actual expert in the field has to say about todays use of the term Paleo diet. Its a Fad IMHO

    • Neely Quinn

      james mckoy – Why is it that you’ve decided to bombard my blog with nasty comments? What do you hate so much about a diet that is helping people feel better?

  53. Hi Neely,

    I am looking into the “Paleo” lifestyle, and am a little confused. I understand it as a diet choice for losing carb content quickly in a diet to reduce complex and simple sugars, however I do not understand the idea that grains and legumes are considered completely bad.

    For me, the notion that “wheat” is bad is understandable given some of the recent science, and that most american wheat is bastard wheat, and not natural (hence Europeans do not want our wheat). However, I have always understood that beans and rice (whole wild rice mostly) were good sources of healty dietary fiber and proteins as well as great sources of some fabulous nutrients. I also have been told that they have been consumed for thousands of years.

    For me, my dietary search is about natural and healthful. There are so many “fads” out here that it is almost ridiculous to even consider any of it as being reliable individually, but taken in a peripheral approach, there is a lot of wisdom.

    I am saddened that you take some comments so seriously as to “counter-attack” the persons writing in your comments sections. Sure, there are those that will disagree with you, but often they are providing other sources of information that may be contrary to yours. You should feel compelled to hold your own argument with their comments, however taking a stance that includes asking them to stop commenting seems silly and counterproductive in this day and age where we are all seeking a “truth” about our health in one form or another. Taking the stance that you take is akin to giving the finger to all other dietary Methodists. I am happy that you believe in the paleo diet, but the human culture has seen not less than hundreds of so called dietary guides that have missed the mark on completeness of information and understanding. I do appreciate the information that you have to share and find much of it interesting enough to consider for continuing research. I still though have some difficulty with the idea that all grains and legumes are bad things. It does not seem sensible to me. We often forget that the market as we know it is a new thing. There was no manner at all in the paleo world to walk to the grocer and pick up some fresh bison and boar, and pick through the fresh produce of the day. I am certain that life in that age was 90% spent on survival, and 10% on Survival.

    An example. We went on a 9 day hiking trip in Yosemite. I started the trip in at 218 pounds. We ate mostly legumes and grains,with alternate sources of proteins, some meats and clarified butter, nut butters and other sources of protiens fiber and carbs. After nine days, I felt that I was much stronger, healthier, and lost 12 pounds eating larger meals than normal. That alone taught me that exercise for survival makes up what we seem to have lost in our “easy access” society. What I think that you have overlooked in your quest to become “paleo” is that you are not out seeking sources of food and hide and wood to burn most of your waking hours, so that you can continue to do so again tomorrow. You are sitting at a computer, driving to the grocer to pick up your grass fed beef and such, and perhaps maybe taking time to lift a few wieghts and or walk here and there. It does not in the slightest, compare to a paleolithic period person in their environment and their routines for survival. They had no access to fresh broccoli most likely, or avocados or apples or well, just about anything you eat today. They did not have trade routes like we have, nor did they hae shipping capabilities or refrigeration and storage like we have. They had little ability to find food beyond what was locally available and probably considered “traditional” to their region and ancestors. They had no dietitians either. I think we forget all this when we label diets. If you want to be paleo, then wear a skin, hunt your food and gather what you can find in the local hills, make a fire from scratch in your yard and cook what you were able to find. I guarantee you will lose many pounds in a weak.

    For those of us that are trying to make sense of what is good for human consumption, we are looking at many ideas, and trying to take the fiction out, and the arguments away, from great and responsible nutrition. This is so difficult since there are many opinions that seem to contradict. I for one am confused beyond believe, gratitude to Google for that, since there is no Oracle of Moderation in the search for truth. We all have to find and search for what works for our bodies. I am on a quest to find and consume natural foods really. I am seeking natures bounty in quantities that make sense. I do believe now more than ever that we simply over-consume in our society, simple as that. We over eat fast foods and fads. We have ease of access as a problem to our dietary problems. We have simply forgotten what our ancestors had to do to get all that nutrition that we can get in a five minute walk.

    Misinformation will sell many things. Ignorance too for that matter. We all should spend a few moments planning a hunt and gather activity, walk to our hunting grounds and truly attempt to catch dinner, or gather it somewhere, eat it and feed it to our kids, to get any sense of why we have problems in our convenience culture.

  54. Diana Seaward

    “a) Regarding animal/plant protein: please see the discussion between the china study author, Colin Campbell, and Dr. Cordain. “—When I clicked that link, I got “results not found” ,message—–any suggestions? I would love to read that discussion

    I tried to post this on the page with that link but it wouldnt let me post without a URL

  55. There is a proper “traditional” way to prepare grains and legumes that allows you to properly digest them. Unfortunately in the fast pace society that we live in, most individuals have eliminated this process all together. The soaking of the grains, nuts, etc would have solved the problem for all those now suffering from leaky gut. It’s just something we don’t practice anymore. I think the Paleo diet is great, but misses out that maybe our hunter/gatherer ancestors did eat grains, only they soaked them first to mimic their germination to make their digestion easy and healthful.

    Above info from http://wholelifestylenutrition.com/articles/is-soaking-grains-and-legumes-necessary-and-how-to-properly-soak-and-prepare-them/

    AND

    http://www.yogitrition.com/why-you-need-to-soak-your-grains-beans-nuts-and-seeds/

  56. Thank you for the wonderful information. Question– Is almond milk also high in these anit-nutirents?

    I am also wondering if you could include soaking nuts in your meal plan instructions. It could be something that is done during Sunday prep. How effective is soaking at getting rid of the anti-nutrients? Also, given your stance and knowledge on nuts, should they (as well as their products like almond milk) play a less prominent role in the meal plans that you provide? Or is it the case that their benefit outweigh their risk? Is there a particular reason why you use almond milk for your recipes instead of coconut milk? I plan on substituting them, but if there is a reason why Almond milk is better, then I want to know.

    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!

  57. Anonymous

    Phytates also are present in fruits and vegetables. Why aren’t those sources of phytates a concern?

  58. I had 30 grams of almond butter on my oatmeal yesterday. Big mistake. I ended up nauseous the entire day and the next. Couldn’t eat or drink anything. Almond butter, still a processed food.

  59. They now also lower the risk of cancer… ;-)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKvT8kcbSYg

  60. If you want real information on pytates: http://youtu.be/OKvT8kcbSYg

    Phytates are valuable, but the natural hormones found in animal products aren’t. Why not talk about that instead?

  61. actalis

    Interesting research: Phytates for the treatment of cancer

    http://nutritionfacts.org/video/phytates-for-the-treatment-of-cancer/

  62. Why are you allowed to use almond flour then? It’s essentially the same thing as almond butter, but more processed to strip the almonds of fat.

    • Mindy – As I said, nuts are not something I eat because they cause inflammation in me. I’ve seen the same in many others, so as I mentioned in the article, I think it’s an iffy thing. But to each her own – if you tolerate nuts, go ahead and eat them.

  63. Hi,
    Thank you for your article regarding lectins and phytates. Incredible information and very helpful indeed.
    It makes perfect sense as to why the blood type diet foods that say i should eat actually make me very sick. I am blood O+ and am a very strict vegetarian – no meat except sardines and mackerel, no eggs, no grains, no refined carbs only kumera (sweet potato as carbs) and Quinoa seed as alternative to grains. The only dairy i have is raw goat milk and raw goat yoghurt.
    The thing is I started drinking homemade almond milk filtered water and almonds but it makes me feel sick why??? is it the excessive high amounts of phytates in almonds (did you quote?) because I have the Lupus gene and am wondering if this is the cause of me feeling sick with almond milk???
    My other question is pumpkin seed butter makes me sick so I dont eat it now but used to spoon it out of jar as a substitute for zinc as im very low on zinc. but now concerned cause i cant eat the seeds now.
    So what is left I cant eat seeds and nuts but do eat avocados and macadamia nuts these im ok with never get sick with them but very addictive dont know why???
    Is Hemp Seed milk safe to make from organic hemp seeds at home. is hemp high in lectins and phytates??
    Thank you for your help
    Eve:-)

  64. Traditionally in India almonds are soaked overnight in water . Eating without soaking is supposed to be bad for body . Always had a 3-4 almonds soaked in water since my childhood . This is ancient knowledge so must have some truth to it .

    Why It Is Better To Soak Almonds In Water Before Consuming?

    Dry almonds contain an enzyme inhibitor in the skin which is basically meant to protect the seed till it gets moisture for germination. Once the almonds are soaked in water this enzyme inhibitor is released.
    Eating pre soaked almonds makes them easier to digest and also makes more nutrients available for digestion. In fact, most nuts and seeds are easier to digest and have better nutrient availability when soaked overnight before consumption.
    Soaking also makes for easier chewing by children or the aged who have difficulty chewing hard foods.
    A word about sprouting almonds would not be out of context here.
    Almonds can be sprouted to make them more healthier for the body. Apart from making it easier to digest, it increases the nutrient density and most importantly, is the only way to release the enzyme lipase which aids in digestion of fats.

  65. Sharon Devi

    Hi Neely. I’m desperate to find an answer to my little 5 year old boy’s stomach cramps problems. I hope you read this and reply, please…

    You mentioned that you don’t eat nuts because they cause inflammation. I know everybody is different. But, could you please elaborate on the symptoms of your inflamation?

    It is heart-breaking to see my little 4 year old in pain. I’ve taken him to the doctor but they don’t know what is wrong with him, they are guessing it could be stomach acid or reflux. He has had stomach pain for 3 days now, wakes up every 1-2 hours with pain. The pain is on the upper part of his stomach, just above the naval.
    I’m trying to think what is causing it. Initially I thought it to be tummy bug, but the doctor doesn’t think so. As he has no fever, or diarrhea or vomitting or nausea. We were told to just buy anti-acid pills. He even thinks that my son is making this whole thing up for attention! I am so mad at the doctor, why would a little boy wake up in the middle of the night in pain and making it up? Crying of pain through out the day. It’s not made up.

    The only thing I could think of is probably the high amount of nut butter that he has been consuming for the last month. He’s been asking for nut butter sandwhiches for school everyday. The nut-butter and the bread are all store-bought. I’m just stumbling upon phytic-acid and realise that these might have caused his stomach aches (unsoaked nut-butter + unsoaked grains in the bread) + consuming this everyday as a meal (lunch) everyday. Do you think this is possible?

    I know you’re not a medical doctor, but, I just wanted to find out how you would describe your inflammation when you eat nuts…. If anyone else reading this has something to add, please do. Because the doctors can’t help me, so here I am in search for answers. Many many thanks in advance…

    • Hi Sharon Devi – When I eat nuts I get stabbing pains in my belly – all over – especially when I’m going to the bathroom. I also get joint pain. It’s every time I eat them, so I know it’s the nuts. However, a lot of people get terrible stomach pains from grains, so it could be the bread he’s eating too. Or it could be neither and something totally different. I’d remove both, since this is sort of an emergency situation, and see how he does. Good luck!

  66. Margaret

    Stay off nuts, only use sour dough bread and get a book called ‘Cure Tooth Decay’ by Ramiel Nagel (buy it on the internet). He has some great food suggestions that fit the Paleo idea. It’s a book about how to remineralise your body, deal with phytates and what to avoid. Does he drink milk? That can be another problem with all the processing that goes on there.

  67. Golda Rankin

    Eating beans raw contain a toxin but, when cooked correctly (never slow cook beans in a crock pot unless they have been boiled first) it is deactivated. Beans are usually dried and require several hours of cooking before they are soft enough to eat. PHA in beans is deactivated and reduced to safe levels by as little as ten minutes of boiling. For the safest results in cooking dried kidney beans, they should first be soaked for several hours, the soaking water discarded, then brought to the boil in fresh water and cooked for at least ten minutes.

    From. Beans! Beans! The Poisonous Fruit! By Lois Tilton (LTilton) April 22, 2009
    Read more

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