What is phytic acid and its threat to raw vegans


On this blog I mentioned phytic acid more than once already. What is phytic acid and why raw vegans should be cautious around it – a topic of today’s talking.




What is it?


What is phytic acid and its threat to raw vegansPhytic acid is found in all seed foods. By seed foods, I mean foods that are eaten in a form of a seed – grains, nuts, seeds and beans. Some tubers have it but in smaller quantities. A few vegetables and fruits have it as well. That’s how plant embryos (aka seeds) store phosphorous which they later need for germination. Phytic acid is quite a large molecule. Its 2-dimensional structure, that is, if you draw it on a piece of paper, like the one on the left, reminds a snowflake. However, its real structure, that is, a 3-dimensional structure, say, if you build the molecule from plastic atoms, is a bit messier than a snowflake. No matter what structure you look at, you can see that there are six identical parts to it that are sticking out. These “arms”, known as phospates, are the guys that create trouble. When you eat foods with phytic acid, in your digestive tract, the “arms” bind to certain minerals. Examples are iron and calcium. Once the minerals are attached to phytic acid, you can say goodbuy, now they are lost forever. None of them would cross the wall of your small intestine, enter blood and consequently your cells. In other words, minerals are not absorbed* or assimilated**. As phytic acid+mineral complexes, called phytates, they stay in your small intestine and are destined to be eliminated like all waste. That’s one bad side of phytic acid.

Like it is not enough, there is another bad side to phytic acid. Consider the following: phosporous is the second most abundant mineral in your body and is vital for strong bones and teeth. In plants, the majority of phosphorous is locked within phytic acid structure. To liberate phosphorous, phytase, a digestive enzyme, needs to break the phytic acid molecule. We, humans, creatures with one stomach, don’t have phytase in sufficient enough quantities. Cows do, but that doesn’t help.

Because it blocks the absorption of minerals and humans can’t cleave phosphorus from its structure phytic acid is called an antinutrient.




Threat to raw vegans


Now, answer the question. Where do raw vegans get the bulk of their calories? The answer is not too far – grains, nuts and seeds! A trap! A serious matter and silly to ignore. If you do not properly prepare seeds foods, with time your cells may experience a lack of phosphorous, iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, copper and manganese. Among several other problems, this may result in brittle bones and teeth that are highly vulnerable to cavity-causing bacteria. If you are vegan, you are playing a risky game. No kidding. Okay, maybe a little bit less than risky. What happened to me? My teeth, genetically strong and almost resistant to decay, started to have cavities twice as often after a year on this diet. That includes cavities along the gumline which I never had before. I admit, over 50% of my calories were coming from inadequately prepared grains.

Phytic acid is probably the weakest spot of the raw vegan diet – you fuel up on what seems like the best foods but your teeth don’t care. They even joke at you and become worse. What you can do is, first, don’t eat seed foods every day. When you do eat them, do something to reduce phytic acid. Depending on the type of seeds, soaking them in acidic water, fermenting or sprouting would reduce phytic acid to some degree. How? By activating the naturally present within plants enzyme phytase which I mentioned earlier. You can also load up on Vitamin C-rich foods, as Vitamin C lowers the mineral-binding effects of phytic acid.

Call it a chameleon, but phytic is not all awful and black. Because it doesn’t make distinction between good and not-so-good stuff in your gut, it also attaches to harmful compounds. For example, heavy metals.

You see, if you don’t want this compound to become your enemy, you absolutely need to know how to approach foods with phytic acid and how to mitigate its danger. That will be the focus of the coming writings. There is much more to it, this is just an intro!






*absorption – movement of nutrients from digestive tract into blood
**assimilation – movement of nutrients from blood into cells


Main references:

Vikas Kumar, Amit K. Sinha, Harinder P.S. Makkara, Klaus Becker. 2010. Dietary roles of phytate and phytase in human nutrition: A review. Food chemistry, 20(4):945–959
Ramiel Nagel. Cure Tooth Decay. 2011 (e-book)
https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/16219874#section=Related-Compounds-with-Annotation (image)
http://photos.gograph.com/thumbs/CSP/CSP392/k20925954.jpg (image)


  1. I’ve been a vegan for a long time. In the 1990s I was a member of SFLive, a raw/live food club in the San Francisco Bay area. My teeth were compromised as a child, but many of the members of our group suffered dental problems.

    At the time no one could figure it out and many people denied it was happening. Reading your article about phytic acid and raw vegans put the pieces of the puzzle together for me.

    When I was living the live food lifestyle I felt amazing, but sometimes I could not tolerate noise or chaos. What do you think was happening?

    • Thanks Gary for sharing a bit of your past.

      I feel the same way. I get very tired of being around noisy places or people, moreover, talking for more than half an hour drains a lot of my energy. Overall, it wasn’t like that before I became a raw vegan. I think you gain something that makes you close to nature and spiritual peace, and everything that is overly unnatural and aggressive requires a lot of energy to mitigate and thus you feel exhausted after a party or being in a mall, for example.

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