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Phytate - the energy-rich defence in cereal grain

To germinate, a grain of grain needs more than just good moist soil. Protection against predators must be available and an energy supplier that provides strength until the seedling protrudes from the ground and is capable of photosynthesis.

Phytate (myo-inosit hexaphosphate) is the substance in the outer shell of the grain that can do both. It supplies energy to the grain by splitting off the attached high-energy phosphate molecules. It binds several nutrients in the intestine, such as iron, zinc, calcium or magnesium, which are then excreted undigested. So grain food can lead to a mineral deficiency.

With wholemeal bread, processing determines whether the phytate content can have a negative effect on the nutrient supply. The enzyme that breaks down the phytate, phytase, is present in the grain itself. Moist heat and increasing acidification of the bread dough activate the enzyme so that it breaks over 90 percent of the phytate down in a sourdough after nine hours. In unleavened breads there is almost no phytate degradation.

Artificial acid, a mixture of acids, mineral salts and enzymes, provides a lot of acid to speed up dough ripeness. We can then bake the bread after just three to four hours - with the disadvantage that they have broken not even half of the phytate down by then.

Practical information in brief
The list of ingredients on packaged bread provides indirect information: acidulant or citric acid show sped up dough flow.
Yeast dough takes time: Take half as much yeast and let it go twice as long as stated in the usual recipes.
If you have wholemeal bread in your stomach, better to reach for soured mixed rye bread.

Author: Brigitte Neumann

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