Phytic Acid Content in Nuts July 16 2014

We had a question from a customer about the risk of phytic acid hurting nutrient absorption and what kind of risk there is. The answer (as is to most things): everything in moderation. An ounce or two of nuts daily, between meals won't cause rickets in people with healthy diets.

Here's a list of the top foods in terms of phytic acid content (by 100g dry weight, nuts in bold):

  1. Brazil nuts    1719

  2. Cocoa powder    1684-1796

  3. Oat flakes    1174

  4. Almond    1138 – 1400

  5. Walnut    982

  6. Peanut roasted    952

  7. Brown rice    840-990

  8. Peanut ungerminated    821

  9. Lentils    779

  10. Peanut germinated    610

  11. Hazelnuts    648 – 1000

  12. Wild rice flour    634 – 752.5

  13. Yam meal    637

  14. Refried beans    622

  15. Corn tortillas    448

  16. Coconut    357

  17. Corn    367

  18. Entire coconut meat    270

  19. White flour    258

  20. White flour tortillas    123

So yes, nuts generally have high phytic acid content. But what's important to remember is that you're not consuming as many nuts as you would say, oat flakes or brown rice. While you may eat a handful of nuts a day, other foods are eaten by the plate and multiple times a day.

Just how big of a risk is it? Studies have shown that cultures where grains like brown rice and legumes like lentils and refried beans are staples of the diet do have lower absorption rates of minerals like zinc, iron, magnesium, calcium, chromium and manganese.

The risk is a little higher if you go for a "paleo" style diet comprised more of naturally grown foods like nuts and legumes, but people following these diets are generally more health-conscious overall and more likely to eat more nutrient-dense food. And that's the key. Simply replacing the nutrients lost through binding to phytic acid with a diet filled with solid, healthy food is a simple and elegant solution that will let you enjoy nuts as part of a regular diet.

Nutrient timing can play a factor here too, since phytic acid needs to physically be in contact with the minerals to bind them. Simply separating the time you eat nuts (snacking between meals) from the actual meals can help.

You can reduce the amount of phytic acid in the nuts by either soaking, sprouting or fermenting them. While not always an option (or palatable), it's definitely a possibility for things like almonds which are more flavourful and easier to eat when soaked for 8 hours.

It's Not All Bad

Phytic acid does have it's upsides in moderation: 

So - enjoy your nuts! As long as you're eating in moderation (1-2 ounces for nuts), focus on eating healthier foods and exercising properly instead of sweating the small stuff.

Special thanks to this article from MarksDailyApple.com and this one from chriskresser.com for covering the topic so in-depth!