The Health Benefits of Phytic Acid

Phytic acid is a natural antioxidant that is mainly found in grains, nuts, and seeds. Foods high in phytic acid include cereals, legumes, and certain vegetables.

Phytic acid is considered an antinutrient because it impairs mineral absorption. More recently, studies have shown health benefits, as well, such as prevention and treatment of some conditions, including cancer.

People who have existing mineral deficiency should be mindful of the amount of phytic acid-containing foods they eat, and may want to consult with a dietitian or physician. 

Also Known As

Phytic acid is also known as:

  • IP6
  • Phytate 
  • Inositol hexaphosphate
Phytic acid molecule

Bacsica / iStock / Getty Images

Health Benefits 

Phytic acid is an antioxidant. Antioxidants help to remove free radicals from cells in the body. These are the highly reactive byproducts of cellular metabolism. Left unchecked, free radicals can contribute to the development of certain diseases and cancer.

Foods containing phytic acid are nutrient-dense, overall. For most people, these foods are important to include in a healthy and well-balanced diet.

Cancer

Studies have shown phytic acid may protect against certain cancers. Phytic acid may be particularly protective against colon cancer by suppressing oxidant damage to intestinal cells.

Oseoporosis

Studies have shown that phytate consumption appears to have a protective effect against osteoporosis. Studying postmenopausal women, those with lower amounts of urinary phytate (indicating less in the diet) were at higher risk of bone loss and hip fracture than women with higher urinary phytate (indicating more in the diet).

Another study found the differences were more marked when comparing women who had greater risk factors for osteoporosis. For these people, a diet higher in phytate may be even more important to help reduce their risks of bone loss and fracture.

Possible Side Effects 

Phytic acid is known as an anti-nutrient because it blocks the absorption of certain minerals, such as iron, zinc, calcium, and manganese. Some things can reduce the likelihood that phytic acid will cause mineral deficiency:

  • Soaking, sprouting, and cooking foods 
  • Eating a balanced diet

The mineral-blocking aspect of phytic acid occurs during a single meal and does not happen cumulatively over the course of a day. That means that phytic acid-containing foods may impact the absorption of minerals eaten in the same meal, but will not continue to impact minerals in subsequent snacks and meals throughout the day.

People who have an existing mineral deficiency should pay attention to how much phytic acid they consume. If you have a mineral deficiency, you may benefit from the support of a dietitian or a physician to suggest the proper foods, when to eat them, and whether supplementation with minerals is recommended.

Dosage and Preparation 

Phytic acid is not typically taken in supplement form. Instead, your source for phytic acid is in the food you eat and the food choices you make.

There is not a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for phytic acid. A typical Western diet is relatively low in phytate with 250-800 milligrams (mg) of phytate. Vegetarians may have a higher intake of phytate. 

People in developing countries, whose diets consist of primarily cereals and legumes may have as high as 2,000 mg of phytate in their diet.

What to Look For 

Phytic acid is naturally found in the following foods:

  • Grains: Such as whole wheat, oats, and rice
  • Legumes: Such as black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, soy beans, peanuts, and lentils
  • Nuts and seeds: Such as walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, and sesame seeds
  • Tubers: Such as potatoes, turnips, beets, and carrots

Cooking, soaking, and fermenting can reduce the amount of phytic acid in foods. Eating a well-balanced diet helps to ensure that you are not ingesting too much phytic acid.

A Word From Verywell

Phytic acid is known as an anti-nutrient because of the way it blocks the absorption of certain minerals. Because phytic acid is found in so many foods and because those foods are generally healthy and nutritious, it is not recommended to eliminate foods that contain phytic acid.

As an antioxidant, phytic acid has some health benefits. Eating a well-balanced diet can both bring you the benefits of phytic acid and reduce the likelihood that you will consume too much and become mineral deficient. If you have an existing mineral deficiency, talk to your doctor or dietitian.

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Article Sources
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