Phytic Acid

When you eat foods high in phytic acid, the molecules bind with certain minerals in your digestive tract, including: 

Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, Chromium, Manganese 

Once this occurs, your body no longer has access to these nutrients. Generally, the more phytic acid you eat, the more minerals are blocked from your body.

The highest concentrations of phytic acid are found in raw and unprocessed plant-based foods.  

Beans. Most beans and legumes contain a high amount of phytic acid. However, studies have shown that soaking beans before eating them significantly reduces their phytate levels.

Seeds. When a plant is ripening, phytate rapidly accumulates in its seeds. Phytic acid is found in sesame seeds, linseeds, and sunflower seeds.

Nuts. Nuts naturally contain a high amount of phytic acid. The process of “activating” nuts by soaking them in water and then dehydrating them at a low temperature breaks down some of the phytic acid. 

Grains. Grains contain phytic acid, but only if they haven’t been processed. Whole grains also contain lectins and saponins, which are two more anti-nutrients. However, products made with processed grains contain fewer healthy nutrients.

Zinc and anti-nutrients

There are substances in foods that inhibit the absorption of some minerals – including zinc – and affect their bioavailability. Bioavailability refers to the amount of a nutrient that is absorbed and goes on to have an effect in the body. These substances that negatively affect absorption of nutrients are known as antinutrients – constituents of food that reduce the nutritional value of other nutrients even though they themselves provide nutritional benefits.


The most notable antinutrient that interferes with the bioavailability of minerals is phytic acid. Phytic acid, also known as inositol hexakisphosphate, is a naturally occurring storage form of phosphorus in plant seeds and the bound form is known as phytate. Oats and flaxseed – two of Huel Powder v3.0’s main ingredients – are both rich in phytic acid. Milling grains and removing the bran decreases the amount of phytic acid in a food[2] and both the oats and flaxseed in Huel Products are finely milled which significantly lowers the phytic acid content of Huel Products.


Phytic acid may be an antinutrient, but it’s also a strong antioxidant with health benefits. It has been shown to be anticarcinogenic and can also bind heavy metals (e.g. cadmium, lead) and helps prevent their accumulation in the body.


The extent as to how much phytic acid reduces the bioavailability of zinc varies and other constituents in food affect the rate. Vegans are at risk of not absorbing enough zinc due to the high amounts of phytic acid in a vegan diet, so it’s suggested that their requirements for zinc are 50% higher than those of meat-eaters. Read more in our article Phytonutrients in Huel.


The effect of phytic acid on zinc, whilst significant, is notably less than its effect on iron, and zinc is also not as affected by other antinutrients as other minerals. For instance, calcium can affect the bioavailability of iron but has been shown to have little effect on zinc status in humans.


A European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Panel looked at the effect of phytic acid on zinc status[11]. They looked at different levels of phytic acid intake and looked at ranges of zinc requirements from 300mg to 1,200mg of phytic acid per day. They concluded that the Population Reference Intake (PRI) for adult men should be 9.4mg to 16.3mg of zinc per day and for women 7.4mg to 12.7mg per day proportional to the phytic acid intake.


Nutrition absorption

Digestion and nutrition absoprtion

The journey of getting back on track is a long one. And it never really ends as nothing ever stays the same, and we as humans are always changing and need to be constantly adapting to be our best. And we need to realise that through every decade of our life our body has different needs.

From a nutritional stand-point we need to ensure that we always get the nutrients we need from our diet.  As we age we slowly lose the ability to absorb nutrients as we produce less digestive enzymes and have lower stomach acidity. What does not help either is that most of the staple foods in modern life have the so called anti-nutrients, which are compounds which act as nutrient abosption inhibitors. 

Let’s dig deeper and first understand how nutrients are absorbed by our digestive track.

The Digestive system

Food moves through your GI tract by a process called peristalsis. The large, hollow organs of your GI tract contain a layer of muscle that enables their walls to move. The movement pushes food and liquid through your GI tract and mixes the contents within each organ. The muscle behind the food contracts and squeezes the food forward, while the muscle in front of the food relaxes to allow the food to move.


Mouth. Food starts to move through your GI tract when you eat. When you swallow, your tongue pushes the food into your throat. A small flap of tissue, called the epiglottis, folds over your windpipe to prevent choking and the food passes into your esophagus.

Esophagus. Once you begin swallowing, the process becomes automatic. Your brain signals the muscles of the esophagus and peristalsis begins.

Lower esophageal sphincter. When food reaches the end of your esophagus, a ringlike muscle—called the lower esophageal sphincter —relaxes and lets food pass into your stomach. This sphincter usually stays closed to keep what’s in your stomach from flowing back into your esophagus.

Stomach. After food enters your stomach, the stomach muscles mix the food and liquid with digestive juices. The stomach slowly empties its contents, called chyme, into your small intestine.

Small intestine. The muscles of the small intestine mix food with digestive juices from the pancreas, liver, and intestine, and push the mixture forward for further digestion. The walls of the small intestine absorb water and the digested nutrients into your bloodstream. As peristalsis continues, the waste products of the digestive process move into the large intestine.

Large intestine. Waste products from the digestive process include undigested parts of food, fluid, and older cells from the lining of your GI tract. The large intestine absorbs water and changes the waste from liquid into stool. Peristalsis helps move the stool into your rectum.

Rectum. The lower end of your large intestine, the rectum, stores stool until it pushes stool out of your anus during a bowel movement

Pancreas. Your pancreas makes a digestive juice that has enzymes that break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. The pancreas delivers the digestive juice to the small intestine through small tubes called ducts.

Liver. Your liver makes a digestive juice called bile that helps digest fats and some vitamins. Bile ducts carry bile from your liver to your gallbladder for storage, or to the small intestine for use.

Gallbladder. Your gallbladder stores bile between meals. When you eat, your gallbladder squeezes bile through the bile ducts into your small intestine.

Hormones. Cells lining your stomach and small intestine make and release hormones that control how your digestive system works. These hormones tell your body when to make digestive juices and send signals to your brain that you are hungry or full. Your pancreas also makes hormones that are important to digestion.

Nerves. You have nerves that connect your central nervous system—your brain and spinal cord—to your digestive system and control some digestive functions. For example, when you see or smell food, your brain sends a signal that causes your salivary glands to “make your mouth water” to prepare you to eat. You also have an enteric nervous system (ENS)—nerves within the walls of your GI tract. When food stretches the walls of your GI tract, the nerves of your ENS release many different substances that speed up or delay the movement of food and the production of digestive juices. The nerves send signals to control the actions of your gut muscles to contract and relax to push food through your intestines.

Nutrient absorption

The workings of the small intestine can be complex. But its role can be simply summed up in two words: nutrient absorption.

That’s because your small intestine is in charge of pulling glucose, amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals out of food to be used by the cells. This is accomplished by tiny projections called villi. The microscopic, brush-like lining of the small intestine acts like a comb that grabs important nutrients out of the digested food that leaves your stomach.

Villi are great at absorbing nutrients because they increase the surface area of the inside of small intestine. With hundreds of thousands of villi lining your gut, that’s a lot of surface area for nutrient absorption.  Each villus (a single protrusion of the villi) is composed of a meshwork of capillaries and lymphatic vessels (called lacteals) underneath an ultra-thin layer of tissue. This special structure makes it possible to pull macro- and micronutrients out of your meals and send them to the bloodstream.  Water is also essential to this process. The small intestine uses a chemical process called diffusion to extract nutrients. Diffusion moves water and water-soluble compounds across barriers, like the villi in the small intestine. These compounds include:

Glucose (simple sugars), Amino acids (parts of proteins), Water-soluble vitamins (B vitamins and vitamin C), Minerals

Once these nutrients are diffused into the villi, it’s a straight shot to the bloodstream. That’s where these nutrients can work in cells to make proteins and create energy. 

Fats and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) require a few extra steps to enter the bloodstream. First, bile acids from the liver mix with fats in the small intestine. This breaks the fats down into their component fatty acids. Then, the fatty acids and other fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed by the villi into lacteals. These lymphatic vessels transport the fat-soluble compounds to the liver. That’s where they are stored and released in the body as needed. And there’s a lot of use for fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins. Cells use the fatty acids to build cell membranes. And vitamins A, D, E, and K are useful in the body to support the health of your eyes, brain, heart, and bones.

Anti-nutrients and nutrient inhibitors

The term “anti-nutrients” suggests what they are. Whereas nutrients are substances that nourish plants and animals to grow and live, anti-nutrients earn their title because they can block the absorption of nutrients. Anti-nutrients are naturally found in animals and many plant-based foods. In plants, they are compounds designed to protect from bacterial infections and being eaten by insects. People who are at high risk for diseases related to mineral deficiencies, such as osteoporosis with calcium deficiency or anemia with iron deficiency, may wish to monitor their food choices for anti-nutrient content.

Protease inhibitors are substances that inhibit the actions of trypsin, pepsin and other proteases in the gut, preventing the digestion and subsequent absorption of protein. For example, Bowman–Birk trypsin inhibitor is found in soybeans.

Lipase inhibitors interfere with enzymes, such as human pancreatic lipase, that catalyze the hydrolysis of some lipids, including fats. For example, the anti-obesity drug orlistat causes a percentage of fat to pass through the digestive tract undigested.[7]

Amylase inhibitors in beans, which prevent the action of enzymes that break the glycosidic bonds of starches and other complex carbohydrates, preventing the release of simple sugars and absorption by the body.

There are several compounds in the foods we eat classified as anti-nutrients. Examples include:

Glucosinolates in cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage)—can prevent the absorption of iodine, which may then interfere with thyroid function and cause goiter. Those already with an iodine deficiency or a condition called hypothyroidism are most susceptible. Although widely recognized for their putative health benefits, also interfere with the uptake of iodine and flavonoids, and chelate metals (e.g., iron and zinc) thus reducing their absorption.

Lectins in legumes (beans, peanuts, soybeans), whole grains—can interfere with the absorption of calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc. 

Trypsin Some proteins can also be antinutrients, such as the trypsin inhibitors. These enzyme inhibitors interfere with digestion.

Avidin is an antinutrient found in active form in raw egg whites. It binds very tightly to biotin (vitamin B7) and can cause deficiency of B7 (in extreme cases).

Oxalates in green leafy vegetables, tea (particularly in rhubarb, tea, spinach, parsley and purslane). Oxalates bind to calcium and prevent its absorption in the human body.

Phytates (phytic acid) can be found in whole grains, seeds, legumes, some nuts. It has a strong binding affinity to minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc. This results in precipitation, making the minerals unavailable for absorption in the intestines. Phytic acids are common in the hulls of nuts, seeds and grains and of great importance in agriculture animal nutrition due to the mineral chelation and bound phosphates released into the environment. Without the need to use milling to reduce phytate (including nutrient), the amount of phytic acid is commonly reduced in animal feeds by adding histidine acid phosphate type of phytases to them.

Saponins in legumes, whole grains—can interfere with normal nutrient absorption.

Flavonoids are a widespread form of antinutrients (in, tea, coffe, legums)  which are a group of polyphenolic compounds that include tannins. These compounds chelate (bind) metals such as iron and zinc and reduce the absorption of these nutrients, but they also inhibit digestive enzymes and may also precipitate proteins.


  • It is not known how much nutrient loss occurs in our diets because of anti-nutrients, and the effects vary among individuals based on their metabolism and how the food is cooked and prepared. Many anti-nutrients like phytates, lectins, and glucosinolates can be removed or deactivated by soaking, sprouting, or boiling the food before eating.
  • Studies on vegetarians who eat diets high in plant foods containing anti-nutrients do not generally show deficiencies in iron and zinc, so the body may be adapting to the presence of anti-nutrients by increasing the absorption of these minerals in the gut.
  • Anti-nutrients may also exert health benefits. Phytates, for example, have been found to lower cholesterol, slow digestion, and prevent sharp rises in blood sugar. Many anti-nutrients have antioxidant and anticancer actions, so avoiding them entirely is not recommended.
  • Excessive intake of dietary fiber can reduce the transit time through the intestines to such a degree that other nutrients cannot be absorbed. However, this effect is often not seen in practice and reduction of absorbed minerals can be attributed mainly to the phytic acids in fibrous food.

Some strategies

  1. Keep a journal of how you feel. If you are sensitive to some of the anti-nutrients you will probably experience some unconfort like bloating or gas.
  2. Avoid eating nuts with meals.
  3. Always soak/boil/ferment veggies and nuts.
  4. Cook one-pot meals where you add veggies and cook them for while.
  5. If you choose to have legumes have them as a meal alone. Anti-nutrients affect the absorption of nutrients eaten at the same meal. Therefore to lower this risk, it is recommended to avoid eating large quantities of foods containing anti-nutrients at one meal. A strategy could be to alter the timing of eating foods with anti-nutrients. Another example is to drink tea between meals instead of with a meal to reduce the chances of iron being poorly absorbed, or taking a calcium supplement a few hours after eating a high-fiber wheat bran cereal that contains phytates.
  6. By concurrently eating mineral absorption enhancers, such as garlic and onions, one can get the best of both worlds by improving the bioavailability of iron and zinc in plant foods.

Further reading

Your Guide to How Nutrients are Absorbed by the Body






Folate the one that binds it all


Folate is the key that unlocks your energy in so many areas. Folate is also known as B9 and is one of those vitamins that our body can’t produce so we need to take it from the food.

 Folate is essential for metabolic pathways involving cell growth, replication, survival of cells in culture. Folic acid is crucial for proper brain functioning and plays an important role in mental and emotional health. It helps in the production of DNA and RNA, the body’s genetic material.

Folate also supports a system known as methylation which does many things such as

  • Reduce allergies 
  • Makes your mind more flexible
  • Helps in making creatine, which in turn helps with depression, digestion,eyesight and skin
  • Clears homocysteine
  • Boosts the levels of choline
  • Helps with histamine metabolism
  • Folate also prevents anemia, which keeps us feeling energized

How much do we need?

The official RDA however is 400mg and we can only store a very limited amount in the liver (around 20-70mg)

How to get the folate you need

Folate is abundant in the three “L”

  • Liver
  • Legumes
  • Leafy greens

 You can also find it in sunflower seeds, seafood and eggs. In specific at the top of the list is

  • Liver but you should only eat it once or twice in a week
  • 2 servings of Leaks, spinash, brocolli
  • 2 servings of Chickpeas

Folate vs. Folic Acid

Folic acid (folate) is the vitamin found naturally in food while folic acid is the synthetic molecule created in the laboratory for the first time in 1943. Folic acid is not naturally present in food but is found in supplements. nutrition and fortified foods.

The natural vitamin is not exactly the same as the synthetic one. Folic acid, when exposed to air and heat, becomes unstable and breaks down, thus becoming useless to the body. But a small amount of the natural vitamin is converted by oxidation (a natural process) to folic acid which is a much more stable form and lasts a long time.

Human cells can not use folic acid per se but convert it (mainly in the liver) into natural forms of the vitamin. This is why folic acid, although not found in foods, is called a vitamin. But as a person gets older, the conversion of folic acid to folic acid in the body becomes more difficult.

Some researchers fear that the presence of folic acid instead of the natural form of the vitamin at abnormal levels in the body may be detrimental to health and suggest taking the vitamin only in a natural way, ie from foods and not from fortified foods or supplements.

  • Folate is stable-ish during cooking but you will need to eat more when cooking. Vegetables should be fresh!
  • Folate is lost during rinsing of veggies. It’s the cut surfaces that lose folate, so always rinse before you cut not after.
  • Pastured raised chicken eggs have many times more folate.
  • Note that usually flour is enriched with folate, so if you are in the process of reducing wheat you need to be aware of not becoming deficient.
  • Avoid Folic Acid
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking

Key Takeaways

  • Folate is essential for the proper expression of your DNA, energy production and many other processes
  • Get 100% of your folate for natural sources as the body can’t store much of it and supplementation is not effective.

Further reading

Fasting and the brain (BDNF)

Fasting, brain health and BDNF

Good brain health is a state in which every individual can realize their own abilities and optimize their cognitive, emotional, psychological and behavioural functioning to cope with life situations. Numerous interconnected social and biological determinants (incl. genetics) play a role in brain development and brain health from pre-conception through the end of life. These determinants influence the way our brains develop, adapt and respond to stress and adversity, giving way to strategies for both promotion and prevention across the life course.

Brain health conditions emerge throughout the life course and are characterized by disruptions in normal brain growth and/or brain functioning. They may manifest as neurodevelopmental and neurological conditions. 

This is where neuroplasticity comes into play.

At its simplest, neuroplasticity refers to the capacity that neural systems have to develop and adapt. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to be meaningfully, biologically changed by experience. The brain is made up of a dynamic network of around 86 billion neurons (!), making it the most complex machine in the universe, and its capacity to learn and adapt is both ordinary to us and taken for granted. Neuroplasticity includes our capacity to learn and remember what we need and use, as well as our capacity to forget what we don’t. Learning and adaptation occur at conscious and non-conscious levels.

Keeping our brain active, having interests and continiously learning is key for a long healthy life.


Is there something that we can do about keep proper brain health and avoid all the dangerous accosiated deceases that come with brain dysfunction?

Our brain’s favourite protein

A protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) could be the answer to keeping us  mentally switched on for life. BDNF helps produce new brain cells and strengthen existing ones. It has many more effects that are still being researched, such as helping with depression, boosts weight loss, and protects against neurodegenerative diseases.As we get older, the levels of BDNF naturally start to fall but there are some ways to produce more BDNF and keep our brain resilient and priming it to grow stronger.Think of brain-derived neurotrophic factor as fertilizer for your brain. You have billions of neurons (aka brain cells), and BDNF keeps them flourishing and strong. When you release BDNF, it flips the switch on a series of genes that grow brand-new brain cells and pathways. BDNF also strengthens the neurons you already have. Along with keeping you mentally alert and improving memory, high BDNF carries loads of other benefits, too.

The best way for trigger BDNF is fasting.

As you know already intermittent fasting is when you eat all your daily calories during a set period of time. 

  • In one study, mice with Huntington’s disease — a neurodegenerative disorder — who were put on an intermittent fasting diet showed a slower progression of the disease than mice fed a normal diet. The fasting mice had higher levels of BDNF, suggesting that intermittent fasting can boost production of this protein, and therefore protect against brain atrophy.
  • In another study it was shown that doing a 48-hours fasting increased BDNF up-to 400%

BDNF research is gaining a lot of interest in the health and longevity space, and you can already be gain a lot of the benefits already with a daily intermittent fasting protocol. Other ways of increasing BDNF include

  • Nootropics
  • Exercise
  • Sleep
  • Exposure to sun

Further Reading

mTor and balancing anabolism

Balancing Anabolism and mTor

Fasting is great tool for many different reasons such as weight loss, improving insulin resistance, increasing growth hormone, congitive clarity, and much more. However, the most potent benefit is probably balancing between Anabolism and Catabolism.

Anabolism and Catabolism

  • Catabolism is the state triggered during periods of no available energy such as fasting. During these periods the body takes the opportunity of doing some cleaning-up. During this time the body detoxifies by recycling old/dead protein into smaller particles for re-use for energy through the electron-transport-chain (ECT) cycle. The trigger to getting in a catabolic state is low insulin and low protein synthesis and signs of autophagy will begin to show.  On the other hand being too catabolic means degrading faster than you can repair and you wil deteriorate or end-up seriously malnutritioned. This is why it is important to be in ketosis and be fat adapted to be able to use your body’s fat as fuel.
  • Anabolism is the state when the body is growing due to available energy. During the anabolic period the body takes the available nutrient to create, grow and repair. The signals for growth are hormones such as insulin or kinases like mTOR. Being too anabolic is not the best thing. It speeds up your biological clock , causing oxidative stress, making your organs work more and harder. Excess food intake, excess calories, and excess growth are all related and linked to a reduced lifespan.
  • Both are essential for health and longevity, you want to have enough muscle to support health and vitality, but you don’t want to have too much energy

Both anabolism and catabolism are essential for health and longevity and when balancing them you reach the state of energy homeostasis.


Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin or Mammalian Target of Rapamycin mTOR is a protein kinase fuel sensor that monitors the energy stats of your cells.  mTOR is involved with anabolic pathways such as insulin, insulin-like growth factors (IGF-1 and IGF-2), and is sensitive to amino acids, dietary nutrients (carbohydrates and protein), energy status (ATP) and physiological cues (exercise). The precise regulation is different in every tissue. 

mTOR also comes in two forms, mTORC1 (complex 1) responsible for metabolic regulations such as protein synthesis and maintaining energy status, and mTORC2 responsible for cell growth and differentiation. 

mTOR was discovered in 1975  and after several studies it was discovered that mTOR functions like an on and off switch for cellular growth. Simply put, if mTOR detects energy in the body it’s going to upregulate processes related to growth and ATP production. 

mTOR regulation is mostly mediated through AMP-activated kinase (AMPK). which monitors the energy status of the cells and their available energy (ATP). A reduction in energy activates AMPK which promotes catabolic pathways for maintaining energy homeostasis[xxii]. AMPK inhibits muscle growth by suppressing mTOR.

mTOR has got a bad rep since overexpression of mTOR or its dysfunction is often related to various cancers and genetic disorders. Suppressing mTOR with diet or certain supplements like Metformin and Rapamycin are common ways of treating cancer and tumor growth. It is true though, that inhibiting mTOR also promotes autophagy. High mTOR activity may promote tumor growth because of stopping autophagy from removing cancerous cells.  

Because of its potent anabolic growth effects, mTOR signaling during early life is very beneficial and necessary for proper development. However, it may not be ideal as you become older.

Is this all concerns warranted? Based on the above it makes sense that some claim that over-eating protein leads to over-stimulation of mTOR and is the fundamental cause of many health problems. One of mTOR’s roles is nutrient sensing, meaning it senses the macronutrients that you eat and there are different stimulations in different tissues. Some tissues are more sensitive to amino acids while others are more sensitive to carbs and insulin. Skeletal muscle is very sensitive to leucine and resistance exercise, while the liver is more sensitive to insulin and total calories. mTOR stimulation is not an inherently “bad” pathway, it is necessary for growth and maintaining healthy cells. Over-stimulation is when one runs into problems. 

  • Obesity and over-nutrition aka excess calories induce a chronic hyper-activation of mTOR activity in multiple tissues. 
  • Protein is not the only simulator of mTOR. Remember, carbohydrates provide 50% to 60% of calories while protein only provides 15% to 20%.

We know that pulse stimulation of mTOR in skeletal muscle at meals or after exercise is most effective for stimulation of muscle protein synthesis, while chronic stimulation by insulin or IGF-1 will cause tissue growth in the liver or cancer cells. Consuming lots of small meals and grazing on carbohydrates is the worse case option for mTOR. Research also shows that mTORC2 which is most sensitive to insulin and IGF-1 plays a major role in cancer development while it is not important in skeletal muscle. 

Key Takeaways

  • Balance between anabolism and catabolism, by practising intermittent fasting on a daily basis.
  • mTOR plays a critical role into all anabolic processes and overexpression of mTOR is an issue and linked to many health issues.
  • Reduce your eating window, snacking, excess carbs, and insulin for your health and longevity.

Further reading

  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22125056/
  • https://www.nature.com/articles/nrm3025