The Bioavailability Battle: How Soaking and Sprouting Unlocks the Nutrients That Your Body Needs
Do you know what anti-nutrients are and how they impact your body's nutrition? Learn about the different types of anti-nutrients, how they lower bioavailability, and how traditional food preparation methods can help maximize nutrient content. Unlock the power of these foods and transform them into true medicine for your body!
anti-nutrients, nutrition, bioavailability, food preparation, digestion, minerals, polyphenols, tannins, oxalic acid, lectins, fractional absorption,
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The Bioavailability Battle: How Soaking and Sprouting Unlocks the Nutrients That Your Body Needs


By Mary Sheila Gonnella NC, BCHN

Woman holding a tray of green sprouts

Oxalate Reflections

A new book came out about oxalates recently. It’s gotten a lot of attention, and that also means I got a lot of emails and social messages asking my opinion on oxalates. And because some of the emails were from clients who were afraid to continue eating greens and sweet potatoes, I told them, don’t change a thing, yes, let me read the book and get back to them.

And alas, this is just my opinion, somewhat educated, but still, here it goes for what it’s worth.

Before I get into oxalates, I want to share a few past experiences that clued me into these sharp little acids found in plant foods.

In college, I went on a camping trip where we learned about animal tracking, building fire, and building shelters.

On the way there, we stopped by a market, and among other things I bought a bunch of swiss chard. They were large, older leaves, and while sitting in the passenger’s seat of the car, I broke off a piece of chard and ate it. I felt a sharpness in my throat immediately, and had a slight sore throat, a scratch, and was doing a lot more throat clearing for the next few hours. I felt like I had cut the inside of my throat.

Of course, I didn’t know what caused this, but I never ate raw chard again, and kind of steered clear of it for a bit.

Fast forward years later when I went through a 2 year nutrition program at Bauman College Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts, and started my nutrition practice Occidental Nutrition. The first few clients I had were women who were having vulvar pain and felt better on a low oxalate diet. I learned a lot working with those women, and learned a lot about oxalates, which foods were high and which were low.

However, around that time of my learning, my husband was on a spinach kick. Nearly daily, he was bringing home a beautiful bag of young spinach, and would saute it up or use it for a salad. And it was literally everyday.

We were getting ready to go on vacation, and he was having a lot of knee pain, not a good combo when you’re about to head off on vacation. He’s a cyclist, and that’s what he was planning on doing during the trip, so that was going to cramp his style.

Since the daily spinach intake was new and somewhat excessive, I recommended that he take a break from the spinach, since that seemed like the only new thing he was doing. Within a few days of stopping the spinach, his knee felt better. He was relieved and ever since then, he limits his spinach intake and keeps it in moderation.

Fast forward to another moment in time, when I started studying Ayurveda. Learning that those dryer higher oxalate greens are best left alone from dryer vata people, which includes me.

Then the whole green smoothie plane took flight and is still flying high. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not all bad, but when they become a daily event, the oxalates can build up, creating a problem. Even a doctor friend of mine got on the green smoothie train and ended up with kidney stones.

Okay, so what are oxalates?

How can they harm us?

Can we live in balance with them?

Can we still eat greens?


Continue reading for the full breakdown of the four anti-nutrients like Oxalates and how they affect your body’s nutrient absorption.  Or click below to get immediate access to a FREE video series that will teach you the science behind unlocking the nutrients in your food by soaking and sprouting, how to do it, AND two recipes that you’re sure to love.

Take me to the free video course


What are Anti-Nutrients?

Oxalates are among a list of acids we call “anti-nutrients.” Anti-nutrients are acids and proteins found in plant foods that bind to minerals in your body, making them less bioavailable. This means that your body may not be able to absorb all of the essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients needed for good health – that can lead to digestive issues, compromised immune systems, or even kidney stones. The four major anti-nutrient groups include Polyphenols/Tannins, Oxalic Acid (Oxalate), Lectins, and Phytic Acid (Phytate). Let’s take a look at each one more closely.



Polyphenols, including tannins, inhibit the digestibility of protein, minerals, and starch. They bind and disable digestive enzymes in the GI tract – making it difficult for our bodies to absorb vital nutrients. Sprouting a food for 48 hours can significantly reduce its phenol content. (See my free video series on the science behind soaking & sprouting, how to do it, and two recipes to get you started!) Interestingly enough, chocolate and coffee, both of which are high in polyphenols, are also fermented – allowing for increased absorption by the gut microbiome.


Oxalic Acid (Oxalate):

Oxalates are found in things like green leafy vegetables, tea, beans, nuts, and beets. They have the unique ability to form strong bonds with minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Unfortunately, when this happens, it renders these minerals insoluble – meaning they cannot be absorbed into the bones. This is especially important for women, as high amounts of calcium oxalates can lead to vulvar pain and other issues.



Lectins are proteins that have been combined with sugars – making them “sticky” in nature. Lectin is found in legumes (beans, peanuts, soybeans), and whole grains. If the gut lining is compromised, lectins have the potential to stick to the wall and provoke an immune response. As a result, those with autoimmune conditions often do better by eliminating grains, beans, nuts, and seeds from their diet for a period of time – as part of the popular Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) diet. Soaking and sprouting these foods can minimize lectins when reintroducing them into the diet.


Phytic Acid (Phytate):

Phytate is the salt of phytic acid, which is a storage form of phosphorus found in grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. It’s an important part of a plant’s basic self-defense mechanism located in its outer layer or germ – and it binds to zinc, iron, and calcium in the GI tract, making them inaccessible for absorption.


Can We Measure Bioavailability?

Fractional absorption is a measure of how bioavailable a nutrient is in the food we eat. Not all nutrients are equal when it comes to their ability to be absorbed by our bodies, and the health of our gut plays a big role in how well we absorb these nutrients. Fortunately, food is our best medicine!  And understanding anti-nutrients can help us unlock their potential to nourish us.


How To Combat Anti-Nutrients

Properly preparing your food is vital to ensuring these anti-nutrients don’t block the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs. Soaking and sprouting enhances the bioavailability of minerals by reducing levels of anti-nutrients. The amount of change depends on a few factors – including the length of time we soak and sprout – but basic methods can reduce anti-nutrient levels by 50%. So the more we can do to increase bioavailability by incorporating traditional methods of food preparation from our ancestors, the less reactive our food will be to our bodies.


Learn how to properly prepare nuts, seeds, grains, & beans to unlock their vital nutrients, enhance their bioavailability, and improve your health in my free video series on Soaking and Sprouting. Sign up now to get started! 


Click here to get the FREE video course


To your vital life,

Mary Sheila Gonnella NC, BCHN

Founder, Occidental Nutrition

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