Thursday, June 29, 2017

Whole grains, phytic acid, and cavities

Ever since our oldest, Solomon, was born and then started eating solids about 15 years ago, I have been on a quest to learn about natural health and about how to feed our family the healthiest way possible.

I say 'quest' because sifting through all the information, much of it contradictory, is nothing short of a search for the Holy Grail.

Thankfully, with the Bible as our guide, many healthy eating fads can be dismissed out-of-hand, such as (but not limited to):

- being a vegetarian, vegan, or fruitarian
- vilifying butter, salt, natural sweeteners, and/or dairy products,
- eating only 'raw
- eating low-carb ('paleo' or Atkins)


I am not saying it is sinful to eat in any of the aforementioned ways. In fact, some medical conditions could be bettered by temporarily switching to a radically different and restricted way of eating. For instance, an obese person would do well to cut back on their fat and dairy consumption for a season for the benefit of losing weight. Cancer cells and gall/kidney stones can be reduced or sometimes even eliminated through a radical juice fast that is all raw and vegetarian.

However, this blog post deals with everyday eating for healthy people, not temporary restrictive diets that address an acute illness.

So let's talk about a sustainable, long-term diet that the average person living today can follow and be healthy, because let's face it - nobody wants you to come to the family holiday gathering and bring your special 'kale and kelp brownies sweetened with nothing but love'.

One of the big things that has been pushed for the last 30 years or so is whole grains and the critical part they supposedly play in a healthy, balanced diet. We're talking whole wheat bread products as opposed to 'white', rolled or steel-cut oats vs. quick, brown rice vs. white, etc.

In America, well over 90% of all bread products are made from wheat. When I say 'wheat', I mean the grain called wheat. Some people refer to all whole wheat products as 'wheat', and to all bread products made from all-purpose white flour as 'white' - as in, "Do you want that on wheat bread or white?' Since both whole wheat flour as well as all-purpose flour are made from wheat, saying 'wheat vs. white' is a confusing and silly distinction.

The difference between the two is that whole wheat flour is made from the entire wheat kernel and contains the hull and endosperm, whereas white flour has been stripped of anything but the starchy part of the wheat kernel.

The health benefits to using the whole kernel are:

1. added fiber: Whole wheat retains all the fiber that is found in the hull. Fiber is important to help buffer the impact of carbohydrates on blood sugar, keeps us fuller longer, and helps keep us regular and in good gut health because this roughage both retains water, as well as 'scrubs' the GI tract from the inside.

2. vitamins and minerals: Whole wheat contains 23 vitamins and minerals that are no longer present when only the white starchy part is made into all-purpose flour. This is why all purpose flour is often 'enriched' with various B vitamins.

However, one fact that is virtually never mentioned is that whole wheat and in fact all whole grains (like oats, barley, rye, rice, etc.) also contain high levels of phytic acid.

These are listed in alphabetical order, not by greatest to least amount. Notice how high the % amounts of phytic acid are for the bran (whole grain) parts of wheat and rice, staples in most American diets.

Phytic acid, while naturally occurring, is an anti-nutrient, which means it robs our bodies of nutrients. It has rather devastating effects on bone health. In order for our bodies to rid themselves of phytic acid, it must bind to other minerals, most notably calcium and magnesium. Often, for lack of these nutrients in our diet, our bodies will draw these minerals from our teeth and bones.

This is very similar to the way phosphoric acid in sodas leech minerals from our bones and cause osteoporosis, a well-accepted and long-known fact. Phytic acid basically does the same.

There are ways to drastically reduce the amount of phytic acid in grains, nuts, and legumes. They are what I call the '3 S's':

- soaking
- sprouting
- souring

In this blog post, I am predominantly talking about whole grains, because they contain far higher levels of phytic acid than legumes and nuts. I do soak legumes overnight before cooking or use canned (which are soaked), and we don't eat a lot of nuts, so those are non-issues for us. The human body is designed to withstand a certain amount of junk coming in. Problems arise when junk is coming in faster than the 'funnel' of the human body can handle. 

The cooking methods of centuries past reflect the need for these traditional practices. Grains were often soaked repeatedly and for extended periods of time, not just in plain water but whey or vinegar (both of which are fermented as thus also address the 'souring' aspect). After the grains were soaked, dried, and made into flour, they were leavened by being made into sourdough, as modern leavening agents like quick yeast and baking powder had not been invented yet, which likewise breaks down phytic acid.

In spite of all these efforts, all throughout history, cultures who depended heavily on grains for nutrition have had poor bone health, whereas cultures that lived predominantly on meats and fats (like the Inuit and Mongolians) had excellent teeth and bones.

Before cutting out whole grains, I was not just making everything from whole wheat, I was even grinding my own wheat fresh right before baking. Grinding wheat fresh maintains all its nutrients, many of which lose their potency after being milled. I am guessing that the phytic acid in freshly milled flour is likewise more potent than that in 'stale' flour.  On the other hand, I had switched to using all sourdough leavened products for years. While this was great for gut health, it did not stop the cavities. It seems souring alone was not enough to break down the harmful levels of phytic acid. 

Desperate times call for desperate measures. If I lived in a time and day when the availability of foods is severely limited, fresh produce was hard to come by due to climate, and all that was consistently available for me to feed my family on is grain, then yes, I would need to learn to process it in a way that I could access those vitamins and minerals they contain while eliminating their anti-nutrients.

But - I live in 21st century America. I have easy and affordable access year-round to a wide range of foods from around the world with all their vitamins, minerals, and fiber through the abundance of produce and other nutrient-dense foods at my fingertips.

So while I theoretically could keep my own pasture-fed cow, whom I milk bright and early every day and then make cheese so I can have whey to soak my homegrown ancient grains in, which I then also sprout in my clean spring-water and then dry in the sun, before hand-milling them on a low-impact, low-heat grain mill, turning them into loaves of bread with my wild-fermented sourdough starter, all so I can tap into the aforementioned benefits of whole grains...

... I cold also just use plain all-purpose flour, and rest assured that I am getting those same nutrients from the rest of my diet.

More importantly yet, I will NOT be dealing with the incessant cavities that come from eating whole grains with their phytic acid. There is a good book on tooth decay (here) that suggests cutting out grains to get around the phytic acid. That is one possibility. Personally, I don't want to go the rest of my life without eating pizza, croissants, pies, and all the other wonderful bread products we get from grains. Their grain-free alternatives are never as good.

The other possibility, the one I have chosen for the last couple of years, is to only use grain products that have been stripped of all but their white starchy part: all-purpose flour, white rice, quick oats, etc. Obviously, these should not be consumed in such copious amounts that they lead to obesity, type II diabetes, or replace other nutrient-dense foods in the diet.

I made this switch right around the same time as I stopped using all modern wheat and have instead gone to using only einkorn, an ancient form of wheat that is genetically very different from post-1800's wheat).

I have noticed several very exciting changes since cutting out whole grains. The one I want to focus on today is cavities. Or rather, NO MORE CAVITIES!

All kids went to the dentist in March for checkups and cleanings. For years, we had been taking them every six months. For years, in spite of diligent home care (flossing, brushing twice daily), daily fermented cod liver oil and a whole-foods-based multivitamin, little to no candy and very limited sugar consumption, homemade bone broths, daily raw dairy with its bone-building butterfat, and a near-100% organic diet, all kids would have new cavities at every checkup. It was expensive and frustrating, most of all because I knew there must be some underlying cause.

The dentist we first used was good, but she was an hour's drive away. Her hygienist also kept telling me the cavities were a result of not giving the kids fluoride, which I found annoying. As our family grew, the drive out there not just for checkups but the inevitable fillings got to be too much.

I then switched to a 'naturopathic' dentist that was closer. Our dental insurance did not cover her, so the cost was exorbitant. She did not push fluoride, but pushed xylitol instead, which destroys the GI tract instead of teeth. She also did absolutely shoddy work. Many of the fillings she did fell out. They were warrantied for two years, but it's a bit much to ask kids to get fillings redone because her work was so poor.

After seeing her for a couple of years, I stopped going there, intending to find a new dentist. Six months turned into a year, I got busy, and next thing I knew almost three years had passed since some of the kids had been seen last. The dentist who did the kids' tongue tie revisions did such an outstanding job that I switched their dental care to her, too.

The outcome: in spite of zero checkups and cleanings for about 3 years, in spite of the kids having more sugar than ever before because the big kids buy their own candy and sodas now, and in spite of them being much more hit and miss with taking their vitamins and fish oil, there were ZERO new cavities in any of the eight oldest kids. For the three oldest, who had all their fillings in their baby teeth which they have since lost, this meant zero remaining fillings in their mouths. Same for the two youngest boys, who never developed any cavities in their baby teeth. The three middle girls have only old cavities and fillings, which will eventually fall out when they lose their baby teeth. Compare this with 2-3 new cavities each every six months before this, both with the conventional as well as the naturopathic dentist.

When I myself went to a new dentist in April, I likewise had ZERO new cavities, and only two old ones that I had been keeping an eye on. I typically get 2-4 new cavities with every pregnancy just from all the throwing up alone. Between my morning sickness having been much better the last two pregnancies, plus the lack of whole grains for the last two years, I believe this had made all the difference. I do not anticipate new cavities in the future.

I am convinced beyond any shadow of a doubt that this is due to cutting out whole grains and their anti-nutrients. THAT is the only thing that has changed in the kids' diet. I explained my theory to the dentist and she thought it was very likely that I was right. I don't know how much of a part using einkorn vs. wheat plays - I think the effect of that is mostly just gut health because the gluten in einkorn does not damage the gut like modern wheat does.

I realize this is not party line. I believe just as the low-fat fad has proven destructive to health, we were likewise sold a bill of goods in whole grains. For what it's worth, I am sharing my anecdotal experience here for others who are left scratching their heads at why their otherwise perfectly healthy child(ren) are having cavities in spite of perfect diet and home care.

As a side note, the kids have suffered zero ill health effects from eating these 'simple' white grains. Isaac and Becca no longer have seasonal asthma since cutting out wheat, none of them have gotten 'fat', their behavior has not gone haywire from white flour converting into sugar too quickly, etc. And let's face it - white flour products just taste so much better! I continue to make many leavened products like waffles, pizza, and bread with sourdough starter. You can see my video for our 'daily bread' here

I have one other huge benefit that has come from cutting out whole grains that I will share in an upcoming blog post. How's that for a cliff hanger? ;)


  1. You are KILLING me with the cliff hanger.

  2. nooooł, not the cliffhanger! :O

  3. Wow! So are you saying you stopped eating whole wheat flour and only eat white flour? I was a little confused reading the post, especially in the middle. Thank you for sharing this!


  4. Would eating any brand of white bread be as effective as Einkorn flour?

    1. Since the concern is about the phytic acid which is contained in the bran, by removing the bran, you are removing phytic acid nearly entirely.
      Einkorn versus wheat is sort a seperate issue. I think Mrs. Anderson finds the gluten found in wheat is more irritating to the body and digestive tract than gluten in einkorn.
      The reason einkorn may be preferable for some to wheat is due to the fact that einkorn has been largely isolated from selective breeding, which is believed to be the reason that the gluten in wheat, which has been selectively bred over hundreds of years, is more irritating to the gut.

  5. You know that leaving your dear devoted readers with a dramatic "to be continued..." ending is a horrible, horrible thing to do, RIGHT???? :)

    This is fascinating material! I have heard such controversy over grains these past few years - grains, v. Paleo, whole v. refined, plain v. sprouted/soured, etc. It's so interesting, and confusing! But what you wrote here totally makes sense, and you have the evidence to prove it. Amazing stuff!

    A question regarding oats: You listed quick oats as a refined grain, but I had always thought that quick oats was the same material as regular oats, just chopped up more finely?? As this describes:

    Do you have thoughts on that?

    Also, I would love to ask what you use for pasta, now that wheat and whole grains are out?

    Additionally, if you're going to write more about einkorn, I'd love to hear if it is possible to use it in regular recipes - i.e. for cookies or quickbreads, or in a roux. Can you substitute 1:1? And do you convert all of your recipes into sourdough of some sort? In short, I'd love to hear more about how you use einkorn in your family's food.

    You are absolutely right in describing extreme diets as unhealthy in the longterm, although some of them are useful for healing in the short term. This is the conclusion that I have drawn myself.

    So interesting! Thanks for sharing!!

  6. Nooooooo! Whyyyyyyy!!! You come back right now young lady and finish your story!
    God bless you and your beautiful family. 😊

  7. Do you have any advice for receding gums? Pregnancy related?

  8. Very informative! There were parts I laughed out loud too! Thanks for the post, Zsuzsanna.

  9. Thanks for the post. What's your thought on commercial sprouted products like "One Degree Sprouted Spelt"?


  10. Ahhh! Cliff hanger!!!! Can't wait.....

  11. Thanks so much! Our family has switched to einkorn wheat after reading Wheat Belly and seeing your video about einkorn bread. However, we continue to mill the berries. My baby has eczema and cutting gluten out of my diet has helped him. I have been considering soaking my wheat berries but do not relish the thought of adding another food prep step! :) In the video, I was surprised and curious when you mentioned that whole grain einkorn can cause cavities. Thanks for explaining this. Looking forward to your cliffhanger!
    Also, I second that question from B.O. about receding gums and pregnancy. I deal with that too. Dental visits can be very frustrating!

  12. I believe the rate of cavities had more to do with your dentist change than anything. A dentist told my mom I had 6 cavities when I was young. We got the first 2 filled and then went 2 years without insurance. The next check up showed 1 small cavity. The dentist said firmly that there was no way that my "4 cavities" healed themselves. The dentist was scamming insurance and drilling holes in perfectly good teeth.

    1. Yes,you are so right! Years back, I went to this dentist that had a state of the art office...Really fancy waiting room, all the bells and whistles. He told me I had 11 cavities!!!! I left there thinking he was a crazy lunatic along with the papers he gave me to apply for the financing of all this work that "needed" to be done... HA! I too did not go back to a dentist for almost four years. When I did finally make it back to a different dentist it turns out I had one cavity. Eleven cavities, the nerve of that guy!

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  14. Thank you a bunch for all the information!

    Do you think sprouted grain Einkorn flour would still cause the cavities? It does sound like a bit of a lengthy process, but since the vast majority of it is waiting rather than active work, it might be not bad if you make a TON of it at a time to store and use slowly. The instructions in the link below make it look not that bad.

    I guess what I don't understand is that since we're using the Bible as our guide, and Jesus calls himself the bread of life, how does vilifying whole wheat make any more sense than - vilifying butter, salt, natural sweeteners, and/or dairy products? Wouldn't properly preparing whole wheat Einkorn flour be sufficient if people in Bible times really didn't have a way of removing that part of the wheat?

    "In spite of all these efforts, all throughout history, cultures who depended heavily on grains for nutrition have had poor bone health, whereas cultures that lived predominantly on meats and fats (like the Inuit and Mongolians) had excellent teeth and bones."

    Maybe all throughout history, cultures who depended heavily on grains for nutrition have had a significant portion of the population that was skipping a step for convenience? Or maybe they were missing something else (like sufficient calcium) that caused the problem rather than the grains?

    This isn't meant as a criticism of you btw, I admire you greatly as a role model and am learning a lot from you. I just don't see how that part makes sense.

    P.S. Congrats on your next little one! Hearing about your pregnancy really made me smile. :)

    1. I think what Mrs. Anderson is saying is that by removing the bran and using white flour, phytates or phytic acid is greatly eliminated, and that is what is protecting her family's dental health. It's a known fact that phytates are largely stored in the bran. It's also a known fact that an immense amount of soaking, sprouting and souring these grains at specific temperatures often only reduces the total amount of phytic acid.
      It's a super interesting point given all the demonizing of white flour over the last 20-plus years.
      As an added point, Mrs. Anderson explained that she uses organic einkorn flour, as the wheat species, even when organic, contains a form of gluten that tends to have a more irritating effect on the gut, whereas the gluten in einkorn is more tolerable, likely due to its preservation from selective breeding.
      The concern with consuming non-enriched white flour becomes the dramatic decrease in the vitamin and mineral profile, as well as fiber, and the body's quick absorption of it as a sugar. When consumed, accompanied by healthy fats and nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables and meats, one may wonder if those concerns are mitigated.
      But, since Jesus is the final authority, as Christians, we must remember:
      "Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
      Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
      Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?"
      ~ Matthew 6:25-26, KJV

  15. Glad to hear you are still pregnant! ...
    Regarding the grain thing, I've been doing my own research, and I have concluded that the Bible is the final authority on this and all matters. It's particularly evident in situations where there is so much controversy in the science and health world on this one.
    I believe there is a verse in proverbs which commands us to eat until satisfied and be not filled. Jesus says not to worry about what you will eat because he feeds the birds of the sky. There's another verse in the bible which commands us to eat food convenient for us.
    But the other aspect to this is that God said what He made was good. So, all organic food mentioned in the Bible should be fine, ie, olive oil, butter, juice, wheat, corn, barley, millet, figs, milk, cheese, etc.
    Certain people have auto-immune disorders that I believe, in many cases, can be traced to sin problems of gluttony, vanity, worry and others. Examples are hypothyroidism and PCOS. In the case of auto-immune disorders or other health ailments, I agree that it would be beneficial to follow a regimen involving eliminating certain foods, specifically sugars and grains, for a season of healing, and within God's laws of how we should eat.
    To sum it up, I believe if we put God first, eat food convenient for us in amount to be satisfied and not be filled, and don't worry about food, and if we also eat foods which God made (not chemical-laden, GMO, or psuedo-foods), healthy Christians can avoid a weight problem and the often accompanying auto-immune disorders and health ailments.

    1. My hypothyroidism is probably genetic.

  16. Thank you. I have been wanting on this one! I've been using einkorn for a while now. We like it.

  17. Good informative post. I would like to point out that sometimes a way of eating is necessary because of physical reasons. You listed low carb as a "fad" kind of thing, but in reality it is very important for some people to eat that way. If someone has insulin resistance they have a pancreas that is producing too much insulin, so whenever they eat carbs they get a spike in their insulin level. Insulin is a fat storing hormone. The person with this problem will tend to slowly gain weight in spite of any good diet that they are on. In addition, they will not be able to lose weight. The only solution is to keep the insulin from spiking. Since carbs essentially turn into sugar once ingested (and that causes the insulin to spike), then there is the need to eat low carb. In addition, whatever carbs they do eat should come from nonstarchy vegetables. Corn, peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans - all out. Just sharing this information because I was that person and this way of life is the only thing that has helped. This does not apply to people with a normal metabolism, however "moderation in all things" does apply.

  18. Thank you Mrs Anderson for sharing this, i used to think this was a myth pushed by the paleo community, no wonder my teeth looks some transparent with some brown dots and it even looks like some lost size! I had chaged my diet for about 1 year and a half, of eating everyday in my morning oats, and legumes every 3 to 4 days thinking it was very healthy. My body is rejecting oats now and i feel disgusted eating them, i used to love them,it may be telling me something. And i don't think its coincidence, i looked on a photo of 1 year and half before and my teeth were white, full and looking healthy, even though i had a poor diet but i wansn't eating whole grains or legumes regularly.

  19. Mrs. Anderson please read this post, Ramiel Nagel author of Cure Tooth Decay died few months ago and it's probably because of fermented cod liver oil, which might very likely be rancid and toxic.

  20. Thank you for a great thought out article :)

    Cure Tooth Decay is an Awesome book.

    When I read this article I didn't get that she was saying to switch to eating only white flour. Since she also brought up how the starch can cause other problems with high blood sugar. Along with the synthetic vitamins and iron metallic filings used to enrich the flour. But that she switched to Einkorn wheat which is the only wheat that has not been hybridized or genetically modified by man.

    She also recommended the Jovial brand Einkorn All purpose Flour. I contacted Jovial that makes the Einkorn all-purpose flour in the image above about how they process it. Not only is it unbleached and unbromated. But all they do is grind the whole wheat berries, and then sift out the bran and endosperm, that's it. So its actually better than than commercial white flour which is highly processed. They also let the land rest each year in Tuscany Italy. As well as rotate the harvest to let the land heal like God advised to replenish its nutrients and minerals.

    The following YouTube video shows the difference in how much Gluten is in modern wheat comapred to Einkorn wheat.

    You will see how much Gluten is left over in the regular wheat dough versus the Einkorn wheat dough after the starch is removed. The Einkorn wheat has virtually no gluten left in the strainer whereas the modern wheat which has a fist full of gluten. And that is what we have to digest with meodern wheat, seeing is believing. I switched to this same Einkorn flour to make my own bread and sourdough starter. I feel you wont know how much modern wheat is destroying your body, until you eliminate it form your diet, and then after a month introduce it back in. You will be surprised how all the digestive, sinus infections, and muscle aches come back with full force.

    Modern wheat is made to make a profit. Man thinks he is smarter then God and changes the wheat through hybridization and GMO processes to yield more crops. They make a wheat protein our body doesn't recognize and can't digest fully. I can have Einkorn wheat which is real untouched wheat, and I feel normal after I eat it like God intended. Plus the nutritional profile of Einkorn Wheat is much higher than man made modern wheat.

    Great article :)


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