Are nuts driving your tooth decay?

Phytic acid and tooth decay

Nuts, tofu, brown rice and oats are just some of the ‘health’ foods that can cause tooth decay or gum disease. Cereals, legumes, nuts and seeds all contain phytic acid which is implicated in both toothaches and gum recession.

People who are genetically or otherwise vulnerable to dental caries and gingivitis should avoid or only consume limited amounts of these foods with careful preparation and accompanied by other nutrients that will aid digestion.

What’s wrong with grains, beans, nuts and seeds?

Human bodies are not designed to digest grains, beans, nuts and seeds raw. These kinds of food contain plant toxins (e.g. tannins and saponins)  and anti-nutrients including phytic acid. Phytic acid contains enzyme inhibitors which limit our ability to digest food, particularly breaking down proteins and turning starch into sugar in our stomachs.

Phytic acid contains the mineral phosphorus in a form that we cannot digest (phytate). Phosphorus is a crucial mineral for tooth remineralisation and gum health. However, phytic acid is not just holding back on the phosphorus we need. The phytic acid molecule also binds with other minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc and makes them unavailable.  All these minerals are essential for teeth and gum health.

When we consume phytic acid it blocks our uptake of these vital minerals from the rest of our diet causing tooth decay and gum disease. Even just a little phytic acid in your diet can actually cause your body to lose calcium and not absorb phosphorus. Without phytic acid ‘we will absorb approximately 20 percent more zinc and 60 percent magnesium from our food’ (Nagel).

Minimise the effects of phytic acid on tooth decay


If you are suffering from active tooth decay, cavities or gum disease then it’s generally advisable to avoid eating phytic acid foods as much as possible until you have at least stabilised your dental health.

Sometimes just removing most phytic acid foods from your diet can reduce the pain of a nagging toothache within days.

In particular avoid tofu and soy milk, raw nuts, nut butters, nut milks and nut flours, whole grain cereals, muesli, granola, snack bars and baking, rice cakes and rice milk.

If you are not in a dental emergency, or unable to get protein except from legumes and nuts, then there are a number of ways to minimise the potential harm of phytic acid in the diet.

Eat with vitamins A, C and D

Eating with whole foods with vitamin C, Activator X and fat-soluble vitamins A and D  has been show to reduce the severity of phytic acid’s impact.  Vitamin C can be had from fresh vegetables and fruits and raw milk. Fat soluble vitamins A and D and Activator X are most concentrated in cod liver oil, liver, grass fed butter and raw dairy.  (See my earlier blog post for more information about liver and fat soluble vitamins). Fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut can also help the gut to digest phytic-foods more efficiently.

Remove the bran

Phytic acid concentrates in the bran- along with many of the nutrients in grains such as wheat and rice. Removing the bran, to make brown rice into white rice for example, removes most of the phytic acid, but also most of the other minerals. However those other minerals are not available for us to digest because of the presence of the phytic acid.  It is possible to process whole grains to neutralise the phytic acid so that the nutrients in the bran are available.

Soak, sprout, sour

Soaking, sprouting, souring, and then cooking  will reduce the phytic acid in most grains, nuts, beans and seeds. However, because there are such different levels of phytic acid in different types they require a variety of methods, all are time consuming and some are very complex.

Stone ground, sifted wheat or rye flour made into slow fermented sourdough bread is low in phytic acid.

To remove most of the phytic acid from brown rice soak for 24 hours at room temperature, drain and reserve 10% of the liquid for next time. Cooking rice after this first soaking will reduce the phytic acid by about 50%. Next time, add the reserved liquid to the soaking water and soak 24 hours before cooking. By the 4th cycle of soaking/reserving liquid the phytic acid in cooked rice will be reduced by about 96%.

To remove most of the phytic acid form oats sprout oats for five days at 52 degrees F and then soak for 17 hours at 120 degrees F.

To remove most of the phytic acid from quinoa soak for 12-14 hours, germinate for 30 hours, lacto-ferment for 16-18 hours, and then finally cook at 212 degrees F for 25 minutes.

Not exactly fast food! (link)

No simple solution

Levels of phytic acid not only vary greatly between different types of food, but also can be influenced by the growing conditions, harvesting methods, how long it has been stored and how it is processed.

Organic food may be lower in phytic acid than food grown with high-phosphate fertilizers- another vote in favor of eating organic! .

If you want to learn more about how to process phytic acid foods to minimise their teeth and gum harming effects I recommend Cure Tooth Decay and Cure Gum Disease Naturally, both by Ramiel Nagel, and Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

NB I have partnered with my favorite bookstore, Book Depository, so if you choose to purchase through one of the links here, I may receive a small commission. Win win!

Raw milk alternatives

Raw milk and Vitamin K2 This article offers some effective raw milk alternatives for integrating the essential teeth healing nutrient Vitamin K2 into your diet. It doesn't take very long when looking into nutritional teeth healing advice before you find out that raw...

Cure Tooth Decay with Cloud Bread

How does Cloud Bread cure tooth decay? (Scroll down for the recipe) Cloud Bread is a godsend for people seeking to find out how to avoid phytic acid in their diet.  In Cure Tooth Decay, the foundational book about nutrition and teeth health, Ramiel Nagel recommends...

Gentle toothbrushing for healthier gums

Healthier gums need gentle brushing In this video I demonstrate how to brush your teeth correctly so that you can clean the enamel thoroughly, without hurting your gums in the process. Incorrect toothbrushing technique can contribute to receding gums, bleeding gums...

My 5 Best Websites for Natural Oral Health

As soon as you start searching for information about oral health on the internet you can quickly become overwhelmed by thousands of choices, most of them fronting small dental practices or large toothpaste manufacturers. Almost all offer the same tired mainstream...

A simple guide to online coaching

Any timezone, any place A consultation with the Holistic Tooth Fairy is nothing like going to the dentist! It's easy, empowering and even fun! All my consultations are done in online video calls which means that you can work with me no matter what country or what time...
Root Canal Decision Checklist FREE Download

Root Canal Decisions Checklist

10 questions to ask before getting, or removing, a root canal, so you can make an informed decision


Just one more step to download the Checklist! Click the confirmation email in your inbox.