In recent years, you may have heard claims about remineralizing your teeth. You may have even read that it is possible to heal your own cavities just by changing your diet. This whole theory revolves around phytic acid, a compound found in many foods.
Should you avoid phytic acid-rich foods like grains, nuts, and seeds? Does phytic acid demineralize your teeth, and lead to cavities?
The answer is no, and no. But, it’s also more complicated than that. Let’s break down the facts.
What is Phytic Acid?
Phytic acid is a naturally occurring compound that is unique to plant seeds. Phytic acid, or phytate, serves a purpose – it stores phosphorus for the seed. When the seed is planted, phytic acid begins to degrade in the soil, and the phosphorus is released, nourishing the young plant. That means you will find it in:
• Legumes, including beans, soybeans, peas and lentils.
High phytic acid foods include almonds, beans, rice bran, and walnuts. What’s the problem with phytic acid? It has been shown to bind with, and therefore prevent the absorption of specific nutrients, such as,
• Vitamin B3 (niacin)
This property only applies as you are eating the phytic acid-rich food. In other words, if you eat a salad with nuts and seeds in it, the phytic acid in those foods will impair the absorption of iron, zinc, and calcium from the other components of the salad and the rest of your meal. However, if you don’t eat any phytic acid-rich foods at your next meal, the effect does not carry over.
Because it prevents the absorption of some key nutrients,, phytic acid is often called an anti-nutrient. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Phytic acid has many other beneficial properties for human health. It’s an antioxidant, and some studies show it may protect you against kidney stones, and perhaps even some types of cancers.
Back to that Theory…
The theory that you can remineralize teeth and reverse at least small cavities goes back to before the birth of modern dentistry. There was little understanding of how teeth are formed and develop. One of the popular theories of the 1920s and 1930s was that cavities were caused by mineral deficiencies.
• According to this theory, grains were at fault, since they prevented the absorption of certain nutrients, notably minerals, into the body.
• By cutting grains, nuts, and beans from your diet, you would be effectively adding to your intake of essential minerals such as calcium.
Remember – at this point in history, there was no fluoride or other effective treatment for cavities, which were rampant in both children and adults. Tooth decay and loss was the norm. That theory has been largely disproved.
It’s not mineral deficiencies that cause cavities. That part of the theory was abandoned in the early part of the 20th century. However, your teeth and bones do require calcium and other substances to remineralize, or absorb minerals to build back up. This is an ongoing process, and it means you can remineralize your teeth everyday by eating a mineral and nutrient-rich diet.
What should you do?
Should you be worried at all about demineralization due to phytic acid? Probably not, if you are a meat eater. If you follow a vegan diet, and eat phytic acid-rich foods at virtually every meal, over time, you may have to worry about mineral deficiencies.
• First, don’t stop eating grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes, because they are otherwise healthy and nutritious foods.
• If you snack on nuts and seeds between meals, they won’t affect absorption of minerals from your main meals.
• You can reduce the phytic acid content of beans and legumes by soaking them in water overnight.
• Sprouted or germinated grains and seeds have reduced phytate content.
• Fermentation also acts to break down phytic acid. In this context, that means sourdough.
In the end, a balanced diet is the best way to give your body all the nutrients it needs for optimal health.
If you are looking for advice on diet and dental health, or any aspect of dental health or dental hygiene, your dentist is the right person to ask. You’ll find the answer at Dr. Robert Axelrad’s Dental Office in Brampton, ON.
If you’re looking for a well-regarded and highly skilled dentist in the Brampton area, make an appointment with Dr. Robert Axelrad by calling (905)-791-3867. Visit our website to learn more about our dental services.