phytic acid in hemp seeds


Edible products made from hemp seeds

”The old saying of Hippocrates: Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food is especially true for hemp oil.”

Matjaž Kološa
Nutrition consultant, educator, IC Pyramid Maribor and Matjaž’s cookery s.p.

The supply of hemp seeds and edible products made from them have only appeared in the last twenty years, so the use of hemp in the kitchens at home or in diverse public establishments and restaurants has mostly not yet found its rightful place.

Certainly, the price of hemp seeds is not a negligible contributing factor.

In Slovenia, the first hemp seed product was hemp seed oil, which can be prepared using larger or smaller oil presses.

Hemp oil is slightly nutty in flavor, has a typical hemp aroma, and has a golden green color due to chlorophyll and carotenoids. The high content of naturally occurring antioxidant vitamin E offers protection against oxidation of present unsaturated fatty acids.

The old saying of Hippocrates: Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food is especially true for hemp oil. The oil contains all the essential fatty acids – especially omega-3 (ALA) and even gamma linolenic (GLA) – which are strongly lacking in modern diet. These fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects and thus counteract many of the inflammatory processes that occur in the body as a result of lifestyle. The chronic occurrence of inflammatory processes, also stimulated by foods containing omega-6 fatty acids, can lead or strongly contribute to many of the known civilizational diseases, such as arthritis, parodontosis, chronic bowel inflammation, arteriosclerosis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and more.

Essential, especially omega-3 fatty acids, due to their chemical properties, are highly unstable, reactive and can be broken down quickly by oxidative degradation and the resulting rancid products are damaging to the body. Therefore, such oils (including linseed, walnut, camelina) are to be filled into smaller dark bottles, after opening, refrigerated and consumed in a short time. They are by no means to be used for heat treatment of dishes, as they produce trans fatty acids at high temperatures. So we use them for salads, cold dishes, and maybe just as an addition to foods just before serving them.

After pressing of the oil, the remaining degreased unhulled seeds are called hemp seed cake and many oil producers make hemp flour from it. The hemp seed cakes are ground and then sieved to remove coarse husks. Hemp flour contains all the hemp proteins and can be used as a supplement to conventional flours in the preparation of various bakery or confectionery products and as a protein supplement for the preparation of beverages, shakes and similar products for athletes.

Unhulled seeds are not commonly used in foods because of the hard shells and the many anti-nutrients they contain (phytic and oxalic acid, tannins, trypsin inhibitors, cyanogenic glycosides, saponins, etc.). Anti-nutrients have a negative effect on the metabolism of certain nutrients, but fortunately also have some healing effects. One of the most well-known anti-nutrients is phytic acid and its salts – phytates that bind minerals to compounds that our body cannot absorb. Anti-nutrients can be more or less effectively removed by soaking seeds, heat treatment and, of course, hulling.

Hulled hemp seeds, which are slightly nutty in taste and are suitable for adding to many dishes, are most suitable for food. They are a real nutritional bomb, containing as much as 48% high-quality fat, most of which are polyunsaturated fatty acids, 25% proteins, 8% carbohydrates – only 2% sugars – and 7% fiber. From the minerals there is plenty of magnesium, zinc, iron and potassium, while the abundant vitamins are B-complex and vitamin E.

Hemp seeds are considered to be a very non-allergenic food and in addition to high-quality fats, they are famous for their high-quality and easily digestible proteins that contain essential amino acids for humans. Thus, hemp seeds are an ideal source of protein, especially for athletes, pregnant women, children and basically everyone.

We do not need to be a master chef’s to use hemp seeds and oil in our kitchen, the basic rule is: less is more. To make it even more simple, use hemp seed oil or hemp seeds on already prepared dishes before serving. The hemp seeds can be used for example as a substitute for parmesan for sprinkling on dishes. Thermal treatment of hulled seeds is not necessary, in fact we lose a lot. By heat we destroy the nutritional value of the seeds, and because of the mild taste of the seeds, we gain practically nothing.

Hemp seeds can also be used to make a hemp drink-a milk substitute with no heat, as well as cheese substitutes by curdling.

I.CANNA.BLOG Edible products made from hemp seeds ”The old saying of Hippocrates: Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food is especially true for hemp oil.” Matjaž Kološa

Is phytate blocking your iron absorption?

Adding more grains, beans, nuts, and seeds to one’s diet is shown to benefit health, but a few culinary tricks can unlock their potential and prevent phytate from blocking essential micronutrients.

For the past decade, I have followed a strictly plant-based diet which means my nutrients come solely from fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds. All these foods are part of a healthy dietary pattern, according to the key recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. What many people may not know, however, is that plants contain a substance called phytate, which can block the absorption of some micronutrients. Because of this, phytate is often called an anti-nutrient, but that shouldn’t stop you from eating nutritious powerhouses like beans and whole grains. There is much more to these foods than just phytate, and a few simple kitchen tricks can unlock their full potential.

Phytate is predominately found in plant kernels such as whole grains, legumes (beans and peas), nuts, and seeds. 1 These are parts of the plant that we eat, but their main purpose is to create new plants. Phytate is a strong chelator, which means it holds on tightly to micronutrients within the kernel. In other words, phytate is like a storage closet for phosphorus and other minerals that are essential for healthy plant growth. 2 During germination, seed enzymes break up the phytate to release the minerals bound to it. Many of these plant kernels are rich sources of calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, but unfortunately, humans and other animals can’t break up phytate to access these minerals.

Photo by: Kelly Cara

When we consume phytate-rich plant foods, the chelating function of phytate prevents us from absorbing or accessing vital micronutrients within the plant kernels. It also binds up certain minerals from other foods we consume (like calcium- and iron-rich leafy greens). This is especially problematic in parts of the world where people consume diets heavy in phytate-rich staples like wheat, rice, and maize. It is also a problem for people who adhere to strictly plant-based diets. 3,4 In both populations, anemia caused by lack of iron is a serious health concern, so reducing or removing phytate from foods could help alleviate this problem.

Ironically, the anti-nutrient mechanism of phytate also makes it a potent antioxidant – reigning in volatile substances like iron that can cause oxidative damage to cells. 3 Research has suggested this antioxidant effect may help prevent diseases like Parkinson’s, which is associated with excess iron accumulation in the brain. Phytate has also been linked to possible protective effects against diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cirrhosis, arthritis, cancer, and osteoporosis. 3,5,6,7

This presents a real dilemma: to improve our health, we are encouraged to eat micronutrient-rich plant foods, but the phytate in some of those foods may prevent us from accessing the micronutrients we need for improved and sustained health. If phytate is such a problem, how have people managed to survive on plant-heavy diets for so long? The answer lies in how we prepare foods. Despite our busy schedules, time may be the key ingredient to unlock the power of plant nutrition.

Practices like soaking, sprouting, and fermenting have been used for centuries to make grains and other kernels more palatable and easier to digest. These methods have all proven to reduce phytate content by initiating the germination phase of seed development. 8 To some, these techniques may seem foreign or complex, but they need not be. Rehydrating dry beans or grains by soaking them overnight in water before cooking is a common culinary practice that decreases cooking time. Another common practice is soaking nuts or seeds in water for a few hours to soften before blending them into plant-based “milks,” sauces, or dressings. Soaking nuts and seeds to reduce phytate is especially important when making sauces or dressings for iron- and magnesium-rich foods like kale, collards, spinach, or broccoli.

Photo by: Kelly Cara

Sprouting goes one step further by allowing the soaked and drained kernels to germinate or grow small “tails” or sprouts. Sprouts can be grown in a simple mason jar with wire or mesh over the opening to allow for airflow, or they can be grown in sprouting trays specifically designed for growing sprouts. Leaving smaller seeds, like sesames, out on a damp paper towel can be enough to do the trick. Depending on the size and density of the grain, legume, nut, or seed you are using, sprouts can begin to show in just a few hours.

Fermented foods require more time and a bit more expertise, but luckily, a wide variety of fermented foods are available in most grocery stores. Products like kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, or pickled vegetables can be found in the refrigerated section, but even common items like sourdough breads, some vinegars, and yogurts made with live cultures are fermented. These days, several stores also dedicate entire sections to “raw and living” foods which can include items like sprouted nuts or seeds, sprouted grain breads, and soaked then dehydrated nut- or seed-based snack bars.

Photo by: Kelly Cara

We can gain a ton of essential micronutrients, fiber, and flavor by adding more plants to our diets. The most nutrients tend to come from richly colored plants such as dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and Brussels sprouts), starchy tubers and root vegetables (like sweet potatoes, beets, and carrots), and a whole variety of squash and fruits. Keep in mind that phytate-rich foods like whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds need a little culinary help to maximize their nutrition potential. Take the time to soak or sprout these kernels at room temperature before cooking, or reach for the whole grain sourdough bread the next time you’re at the store. If you like to experiment in the kitchen, pick up a yogurt-starter kit or a book on fermenting foods, and try some new recipes. Phytate doesn’t have to be a barrier to better health. You may just have to learn how to work around it to ensure the plants you consume are giving you their best.


  1. Schlemmer U, Frolich W, Prieto RM, Grases F. Phytate in foods and significance for humans: Food sources, intake, processing, bioavailability, protective role and analysis. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2009;53(Suppl 2):S330-S375.
  2. Urbano G, Lopez-Jurado M, Aranda P, Vidal-Valverde C, Tenorio E, Porres J. The role of phytic acid in legumes: antinutrient or beneficial function? J Physiol Biochem. 2000;56(3):283-294.
  3. Bohn L, Meyer AS, Rasmussen SK. Phytate: impact on environment and human nutrition. A challenge for molecular breeding. J Zhejiang Univ Sci B. 2008;9(3):165-91.
  4. Konietzny U, Greiner R. Phytic acid: Nutritional impact. In Caballero B, Trugo L, Finglas P, Eds. Encyclopedia of Food Science and Nutrition. London, UK:Elsevier; 2003:4555-4563.
  5. Xu Q, Kanthasamy AG, Reddy MB. Neuroprotective effect of the natural iron chelator, phytic acid in a cell culture model of Parkinson’s disease. Toxicology. 2008;245(1-2):101-108.
  6. Greger M. Phytates for the prevention of osteoporosis. Published December 6, 2013(16). Accessed September 28, 2018.
  7. López-González AA, Grases F, Monroy N, Marí B, Vicente-Herrero MT, Tur F, Perelló J. Protective effect of myo-inositol hexaphosphate (phytate) on bone mass loss in postmenopausal women. Eur J Nutr. 2013;52(2):717-726.
  8. Masud T, Mahmood T, Latif A, Sammi S, Hameed T. Influence of processing and cooking methodologies for reduction of phytic acid content in wheat (Triticum aestivum) varieties. J Food Process Preserv. 2007;31(5):583–594.

Kelly Cara is a first-year graduate student in the Friedman School Nutrition Data Science program. Her research is focused on health outcomes related to various levels of food processing found in specific dietary patterns. She comes to Tufts after working for eight years in the field of experimental psychology and higher education research and four years in the culinary field as a health supportive chef and instructor.

Adding more grains, beans, nuts, and seeds to one’s diet is shown to benefit health, but a few culinary tricks can unlock their potential and prevent phytate from blocking essential micronutrients. For the past decade, I have followed a strictly plant-based diet which means my nutrients come solely from fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and…