While the whole truth is probably not yet known (recall Proverbs 25:2), phytates are not all bad. Research shows that they may be involved in curbing free radicals in the body that contribute to heart disease and cancers, as well as preventing excessive mineral build up in the body, especially of iron, which also contributes to free radical formation (but hardly iron that is an integral part of a real whole food). It is thought that it may be the phytates in the bran layers of whole grains, in legumes and in nuts and seeds that are providing these protections. Thus the inclusion of these foods in the diet against a diet that relies primarily on white flour products and on a high proportion of fiberless meats and dairy products becomes a further plus. The value of phytates, on the other hand, does not warrant ignoring the value of the two-stage process. First of all, neutralizing phytic acid to release nutrients bound up in the form of phytates is not 100% accomplished except under ideal conditions of temperature and pH. Attempting to control these conditions, at least in home cooking and baking, is not a worthwhile endeavor beyond inclusion of an acid medium and room temperature1 for a suggested range of time, or the practice of making sourdough or sprouted breads. Second, taking a realistic view of our habits is useful. Home baking not withstanding, commercial whole grain products not processed to break down phytates will find their way to our tables (as whole grain pastas, commercially purchased breads, e.g.). In any case, since many people lack essential minerals and have difficulty with the digestion of gluten in grains, the two-stage process plays a valuable role in cooking and baking with whole grains.
Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CNN, author of The Whole Soy Story, points to the Hebrews as an example of consuming both leavened and unleavened bread. The former, which was produced through the fermentation
process from wild yeasts was practiced most of the time. The latter, unleavened bread, was part of the the Hebrew preparation for Passover in early spring, "a natural time for fasting, a practice that encourages detoxification." Daniel suggests that these yearly short periods "might have been a very effective way to rid the body of any heavy metals through the action of phytic acid." On the other hand, Daniel reminds us that "Decades of research on the phytates of real foods have shown that phytates are antinutrients--more likely to
contribute to disease than prevent it."3
To conclude, I suggest that occasional consumption of whole grains and whole grain products that are not processed by one of the three two-stage methods (soaking, fermenting, sprouting) is not likely detrimental to health4 and may contribute a plus, while those that are properly processed as the main dietary choice will be greatly beneficial to health.
1 The temperature of liquid in a recipe also assists the process.
2 The Whole Soy Story, by Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CNN, Chapter 17, "Phytates ties that bind," pp. 221, 224, quotes by permission.
See also, "Against the Grain-The Case for Rejecting or Respecting the Staff of Life" by Katherine Czapp, Wise Traditions, Summer 2006: http://www.westonaprice.org/moderndiseases/glutenintolerance .
3 However, to many gluten-sensitive and grain-allergic persons, the two-stage process may be beneficial on a basically consistent basis.
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