Food & Diseases,  GAPS Diet & Nutrition

Grains and Iron

Do you know why most (all?) cereals are "iron fortified"? It is because of the phytic acid that occurs naturally in the grain. 

Humans (and cows, for that matter) do not have the enzyme phytase to break down phytic acid. (Hint, hint: we weren’t meant to eat grains, at least in the way that they’re "served" to us in the form of breakfast cereal, packaged sandwich bread, chips, granola bars, instant oatmeal and Eggo Waffles).

Since phytic acid isn’t something that is bio-available to our bodies, it passes through us. But that’s not all it does. Phytic acid is a natural binder to minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc. The main mineral I want to focus on today is iron. So what happens when you eat grains? Phytic acid binds to your important minerals, removes them from your body, and then your iron levels (and other levels) are depleted.

The only way around this is to soak your grains in an acid medium (like whey) overnight. This only *decreases* the amount of phytic acid, it does not remove it completely. For some people, this may be fine. For others (like me), I’m not sure if it is enough. For my body, I have to *avoid grains completely* in order to stay healthy.

Even as a kid, when I had mac ‘n cheese for lunch, I was extremely weak by the afternoon. I never understood why. I thought maybe my body just needed some meat with the mac ‘n cheese. The problem was the mac ‘n cheese itself though. The wheat pasta (or even rice pasta, when I we ate gluten free) was depleting my mineral stores. I was anemic as a kid (and again later as an adult). A lot of people would say that’s a sign of Celiac Disease (and that’s what I wondered as an adult, thinking back on my anemia and my weakness from so early in life). Now I say, anemia is a sign of a *grain intolerance.* (Which will not be solved by eating "gluten free" and will not show up on a Celiac test…which is an unreliable test anyways).

The backwards thing about this is that they’re fortifying cereals with fake iron to supplement what they KNOW will be depleted in our bodies simply by consuming the cereals. If we didn’t eat the cereal, our body wouldn’t have depleted iron, and we wouldn’t need *FAKE* iron (which may or may not be bio-available anyways). The solution? Don’t eat the cereal. It’s not food. It steals from our body and it doesn’t nourish us.

Eating "fortified" foods that have unnatural "vitamins" added to them is just one way to make ourselves suseptable to all kinds of adverse health effects (that will come out in the news later–and the FDA will decide to ban such-and-such, and the public will be angry that it was ever allowed to be in food). Don’t expect the FDA, the USDA or any other government agency to teach you what true nutrition is. Eat real food, and you’ll never have these problems. Don’t eat cereal, packaged breads, chips, granola bars, instant oatmeal, frozen waffles, etc. For your health, avoid these things. The phytic acid and iron depletion is just one piece of it all.

I think it’s sad that many people care about their cars more than their own bodies. They wouldn’t "feed" cheap gas to their car because of the damage it will do to the vehicle. But every day, they feed themselves cheap "fuel" in the forms of the above-mentioned foods (and many others), and then they’re surprised when they are faced with their body breaking down.


I’d love to write about this more, because there is much on this topic:

How this effects your monthly cycle. Ladies, want more cramps? Eat grains…

Why do we feed iron fortified grains (like rice cereal) to our babies as "first foods"??

How grain-fed cattle have too much nitrogen in their manure & the effects of the excess nitrogen on our farms……

Next time! 🙂


  • Kirbi


    It seems every email I get with one of your posts has me so interested and enlightened! I love your blog and thanks for the information! We are grain free here! 🙂


  • Allison

    Hi Brenda,
    Very nice post that narrows in on phytic acid as the main problem in grains. I’ve been on the full GAPS diet for 5 months now and it has eliminated PMS (I didn’t even think that could be eliminated!), sinus allergies, candida overgrowth, and I’m HOPING also my anemia. I plan to go to the doctor to get a blood test after a year on the diet and see if my iron levels have risen.


  • Belinda

    I follow a paleo diet most of the time, but the last few weeks have fallen off the wagon a bit due to travel, being busy etc – whatever crap excuses, I have eaten more grains this month than I have in a year or two. Anyway, I have had weird pre-period cramps for a week, and finally they came today, really painfully. So it’s timely that I read your article and put 2 and 2 together! I was already back on the straight and narrow, but I am doubly motivated now. Thanks!

  • Celeste

    I have been trying the GAPS diet for about 6 weeks now and hope to see some improvement. Do you believe the Bible? Though I am doing the diet because of lots of health stuff that no one can figure out, I still think that having grains and bread were the way God meant for us to eat. So often he provides for his people with bread and grain. Check out Psalm 104–bread for the heart! I am holding on to that one for sometime after my body heals from all the junk I had my first 30 years. Is there a healing time when you can go back to grain?

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