How do phytates impact calcium absorption?

Recently, in one of my nutritional science courses, we touched on the subject of antinutrients. An antinutrient is a natural or synthetic compound that interferes with the absorption of a nutrient. One example of an anti-nutrient is phytic acid (or phytate), and it is found in some healthy foods like nuts, grains, and seeds.

What exactly does phytic acid do? It has a very high affinity for binding minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc. When phytic acid binds these minerals, it makes them unavailable for absorption. This means that your calcium intake can be lower than expected if you consume notable amounts of food containing phytates.

Nuts, grains, and seeds are still very healthy if consumed in moderate proportions. However, something that may be of concern especially to vegetarians and vegans is the phytate content in soy products. Soy actually has the highest phytate content, and there are many people who eat a significant amount of soy in the form of soy milk or soy protein. This means that soy milk and tofu made with calcium sulfate are sources of calcium, but also sources of the anti-nutrient that reduces calcium absorption.

One way help offset the effects of phytates is through probacteria lactobacilli. Probacteria lactobacilli has been shown to reduce the negative impact of phytates by breaking the bond between the phytic acid and the mineral, thus allowing the mineral to be absorbed.

What can you do?

1. Be aware of your soy and overall phytate intake and limit if possible.
2. Eat yogurt with probacteria lactobacilli or consider a probiotic supplement!

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