How to Protect Teeth Through Nutrition
Let’s go on a trip! Dr. Weston Price was a well-known and respected dentist in Ohio in the 1930s. He became concerned about the increasing amount of tooth decay, abscesses and crowded and crooked teeth he was seeing in his patients.
He was particularly concerned about children. He had heard of native societies in other parts of the world with strong, healthy teeth, and he wanted to see for himself what they were doing to avoid dental problems.
Teeth Around the World
He and his wife began traveling the world, studying traditional people and their diets. Over ten years’ time, he visited isolated Swiss villages, Gaelic communities in the Outer Hebrides, indigenous peoples of North and South America, Melanesian and Polynesian South Sea islanders including New Zealand Maori, African tribes, and Australian Aborigines.
Although the diets were all different from culture to culture, everywhere Dr. Price visited he found beautiful, straight teeth, little tooth decay, good bone structure and resistance to disease among the people who only ate their traditional diet.
His timing was perfect. There were still societies that were untouched by modern food, but not for long. In some communities, he found members of the same family eating in very different ways. In one family, the older brother ate the traditional diet of the area, and the younger brother had adopted a modern diet.
This allowed him to see the true effect of diet. The two brothers had the same genetic makeup and yet had different dental problems.
The value of the traditional diet
He found that people who started turning back on their traditional diets did not have the same healthy teeth as those who had stayed true to how they had been eating for centuries.
When they added processed and refined foods such as white flour, white rice, jam, canned foods, condensed milk, and sugar, they started having tooth decay and crooked teeth and started suffering from degenerative modern diseases these communities had never seen before.2
His work is indisputable due to one key piece of evidence–he had a camera. He took rolls and rolls of pictures, documenting his findings in vivid detail. What did he find? What did these people eat that was so key to their health?
More nutrients = healthy teeth
Dr. Price found that the diets of these traditional people were very nutrient-dense. They contained vastly more vitamins and minerals than the American diet of his day,3 and that Standard American Diet has been in steep decline since the 1930s.
The difference would be even more pronounced today. Traditional diets provided at least FOUR times the water-soluble vitamins, calcium, and other minerals, and at least TEN times the fat-soluble vitamins than people were getting in America at the time. Although different societies were eating different foods (some were eating whale blubber and others butter from grass-fed cows), the constituents of those foods were the same.4
Is this the missing piece? I think it’s one of them. Remember the concept of the water-resistant umbrella?
Dr. Price figured out how to have strong, decay-resistant teeth and how to protect those healthy teeth and what he found surprised even himself. He conclusively showed that a major contributor to tooth decay and chronic disease in modern civilization is a lack of nutrients in our modern diet. Today’s scientists have validated what Dr. Price’s findings…
What are those nutrients that are essential to healthy teeth? – Fat-soluble vitamins A, D3, E, and K2.
Fat-soluble vitamins help absorb essential minerals
Without getting too technical, not all the vitamins and minerals you eat are able to get into the places they are needed. Imagine a key in a lock…
Unless you have the right key, you’re not going to get through that door, no matter how much you need to get through! Fat-soluble vitamins are the right keys. They make it possible for your body to absorb minerals and use protein.5,6,7
As a biologic dentist, I am able to provide dental care for a lot of the alternative health care providers in my area. One nationally known speaker
that promotes nutrition visited me to have her teeth cleaned. It had been many years since she had seen a dentist, and after the cleaning, my hygienist told me, “you really need to do an exam.” I visited with my friend and patient for a few minutes and then started to examine her teeth. I was shocked. She had numerous dental issues, not the least of those being 10 cavities. I showed her what I was seeing, and we were both stumped. What had happened??
I mentioned that she needed more minerals in her body to replace those lost from her teeth. She exclaimed, “I eat tons of minerals!” I know her personally, and she does eat tons
of minerals. They had not been able to get into her teeth.
Because her raw vegan diet had left her deficient in fat-soluble vitamins. She had been eating minerals, but they were leaving her system without being absorbed.
How to protect teeth, what are these master key vitamins, and where do you get them? I don’t like taking a hand full of pills in the morning, and my body doesn’t like it either. I’d much rather get the nutrients I need from the food I eat, so I will share food sources.
However, in today’s commercial farming and factory processed meat world, it is increasingly difficult to get the vitamins and minerals you need from these foods, so I will give supplement recommendations as well.
Fat-Soluble Vitamin Roles and Sources
Vitamin A: Plays many roles
• It helps the eyes adjust to light changes.
• Important in bone growth and tooth development.
• Aids in reproduction, cell division and gene expression.
• Works to regulate the immune system.
• Keeps the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, throat, and lungs moist.
• The important antioxidant that may play a role in the prevention of certain cancers.
Food Sources for Vitamin A
- The form that is easiest for your body to use is from animal foods—butter, milk, egg yolks, goat cheese, fish and liver. Two particularly rich sources are fermented cod liver oil and butter. You can use an Extra Virgin source of cod liver oil or a fermented version, but make sure your sources are clean and the oils are handled properly.8
- Some plants contain the antioxidant beta-carotene, which the body can convert to vitamin A. It is a little more difficult for the body to make this conversion, but it is a great plant source of the vitamin.
- Beta-carotene comes from orange or dark green fruits and vegetables. Examples are carrots, pumpkin, winter squash, dark green leafy vegetables, and apricots.
Vitamin D3: Helps the body use calcium and phosphorous.
- Increases the amount of calcium absorbed from the small intestine, helping to form and maintain bones and teeth. This also prevents tooth decay.
- Plays a role in immunity and controlling cell growth.
- Children especially need adequate amounts of vitamin D to develop strong bones and healthy teeth.
Food Sources for Vitamin D3
- The primary source of Vitamin D is the sun. You need to spend time in the sun, without sunscreen on, in order to have the effect needed to create Vitamin D in the body. The best times are between 11 am–2 pm for Vitamin D formation.
- Vitamin D is also found in oily fish (e.g., herring, salmon, and sardines) as well as in cod liver oil, butter, eggs, and liver.
Vitamin E: Benefits the body by acting as an antioxidant
- Protects vitamins A and C, red blood cells, and essential fatty acids from being destroyed.
- Fights damage by free radicals that are created through chemical processes in our bodies. They neutralize these harmful substances.10
- Eating an antioxidant-rich diet full of fruits and vegetables, lowers the risk for heart disease, cancer, and several other diseases.
Food Sources for Vitamin E
- About 60 percent of vitamin E in the diet comes from vegetable and nut oil (olive oil, almond oil). Watch out for oils high in Omega 6 Fatty Acids like Soybean, Canola, Corn, Cottonseed, Sunflower, Peanut, and Sesame Oil.11
- Fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts (almonds and hazelnuts), seeds (sunflower) and fortified cereals.
Vitamin K2 : Enables cells to use Calcium
- Works synergistically with Vitamin D3 to uptake calcium into cells12
- Essential to remineralize tooth decay.|
- Particularly important in times of hormonal change such as puberty and pregnancy.
Food Sources for Vitamin K2
- Raw dairy products have the highest concentrations of this vitamin. Butter oil, raw butter or ghee (clarified butter–you can make it or purchase it), and raw cream.
- Fish, Eggs
Patients that have heard about my approach to dental care often come to me for a second opinion. A common situation I’m asked to give an opinion on is the heart broken teenager that has just been told they have many cavities. These are the kids that have had good teeth, a few small cavities, but nothing significant.
At their latest dental visit they are given the jaw-dropping news that their dental story has changed, and they now have 10, 15, even 20 cavities.
The parents are even more stunned, and their pocket books are feeling the pain as well. They come for a second opinion, and more often than not I confirm the findings. They usually do have that many cavities. The guilt-trip starts….
Aren’t you brushing your teeth??
Are you drinking soda all day?
What is going on?
…Sometimes these are the reasons for the cavities, but often, nothing has changed in their diet or tooth cleaning. So why the cavities?
It’s all about the nutrients! When a teenager is growing, there is a high demand for minerals that build bones. If they are not getting enough out of their diet or supplementation to supply that demand, the body will find them where it can. One of those supply houses of minerals is the teeth.
The body needs the minerals, the body takes minerals from the teeth leaving them weak and susceptible to tooth decay. Simple, sad story that is played out every day in dental offices around the country. The biggest problem is that most patients AND dentists don’t know the source of that tooth decay, so the story continues.
Research is Valid for today
There is one fundamental difference between Dr. Price’s research and dental research conducted today. Dr. Price did not set out to prove anything; he was looking for answers and didn’t have any preconceived notions about what the answers might be.
He had no agendas, no corporate backers, no theory he could manipulate the data to prove. He was unbiased. For me that gives complete validity to his research. I can’t deny his findings.
His Book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration1 is nearly three inches thick!
In addition, he published extensive research to support his findings in the book, including a two-volume work titled “Dental Infections Oral & Systemic” and “Dental Infections & the Degenerative Diseases.”
While most traditional dentists have never heard of Dr. Price, he started the holistic dentistry movement, and a small but growing number of dentists are adopting his research and developing new and more natural ways to treat teeth.
How to Eat to Build Decay-Resistant Teeth
Dr. Price found that the groups of people most resistant to tooth decay ate from the following food groups 2-3 times a day:1
- Dairy products from grass-fed animals
- Organs from fish and shellfish
- Organs of land animals
Think back to your diet over the last week…
Have you had some fish and fish heads lately? How about liver?
I’m guessing your diet, along with 80% of the rest of us, might be deficient in fat soluble vitamins and tooth building minerals.
I’m going to get on a small soap box for a moment. I love Dr. Price’s research, and value what he learned. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to apply his recommendations directly to what we should eat today. Why?
The food these indigenous populations were eating, and the food available to us today from conventional food stores, is not the same food.
When was the last time you had butter made from fresh cream, from cows fed spring-green grass at the edge of a glacier? Was the beef you had for dinner from a grass-fed happy cow that lived in a beautiful meadow with other happy cows? This is a problem, but we can do something about it.
Food that Really Feeds a Body
When I’m not at the dental office, you can often find me with my finger- nails filled with dirt, flannel shirt and garden clogs on. I love to garden and work in the soil. And when I say soil, I mean soil. I add compost to my garden every fall, and all winter long the wonderful world of soil building microbes goes to town. By the time spring rolls around, that soil is full of nutrients, just waiting to fill my produce with good-for-me things.
Contrast that with modern day commercial farming. The soil is sterilized to avoid weeds and pests, killing all beneficial microbes in the process.
Because those microbes aren’t around to build the soil and feed the plants, the plants are fertilized with synthetic fertilizers to help them grow.13 Think of the difference between a healthy athlete and one pumped up on steroids. The synthetic fertilizers don’t add nutrients to the plants, they just make them grow bigger.
I also raise chickens and goats on my family mini-farm. Why in the world do I do that? Because when we eat the eggs and milk from those animals, we are eating what they eat. My animals happily munch on organic kale and collard greens, leftover lettuce, cucumbers and squash.
We even supplement with sprouted barley in the winter when fresh greens are scarce. We joke that our animals eat better than a lot of people!
Now I’m a realist and I know the large majority of people are not going to raise their own animals and most don’t have access to fresh home grown organic produce. If you belong to that large majority, what do you do?
This is one of my passions! You can find food that is full of nutrients, but you have to work a little harder to find it.
Where to Get Nutritious Food
One of my favorite sources of healthy, home grown food is online classi- fieds. Yes, I’m talking about Craigslist! You can often find local farmers that are selling their produce and animal products for much less than you will find from retailers.
Times to look for these products are when they are in season. During bumper crop years, home growers are often willing to give away the produce if you provide the labor to harvest it.
What if you are nowhere near a farm? The Environmental Working Group publishes and updates a list every year called The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen.
This list identifies the foods most and least likely to be contaminated with pesticides. Look at the Quick Start Guide to Dental
Health at the back of the book for the online sources each year. Use this as your buying guide.
It may not be worth the extra dollars or effort to purchase organically grown varieties of the foods on the Clean Fifteen list. Go ahead and buy those at your regular grocery store.
But please, go out of your way to find cleaner sources for everything on the Dirty Dozen list.
When I saw strawberries topping the “dirty” list year after year, I vowed never to eat a non-organically grown strawberries again. That sounds snobbish, but I don’t want to eat pesticides, and those strawberries will be very inferior nutritionally. I would rather eat a food that fills me with nutrients, than some- thing that fills me with chemicals.
The Dairy and Bone Problem
There are two concerns with mass produced dairy products available today.
The first concern is pasteurization. Milk is full of tooth-building calcium, but we need the enzyme phosphatase to absorb that calcium. When milk is pasteurized, it is heated to 165 degrees or more. This heating destroys phosphatase, along with important parts of other vitamins like Vit C and beneficial probiotics.
Without the phosphatase, all of that wonderful calcium remains unavailable to you. This leads to deposits of inorganic calcium in places we don’t want it, like tartar on your teeth, plaque in your arteries and stones in your organs (gall bladder and kidney are two common areas). You’re drinking the calcium, but it can’t get into your teeth and bones.14
The second problem with conventional dairy products has to do with the quality of the milk. Most milk, even organic milk is from cows that are not raised naturally.
Cows naturally eat grass, but in nearly every dairy in the country, the cows are fed grains and other inexpensive food that are not part of a cow’s natural diet.15
The result is milk that is too sweet and lacking in nutrients. For example, Vitamin K2 is essential for tooth and bone health, but is only found in dairy products if the cow has been eating grass, not grain.
Unless specifically labeled, you can assume that store-bought milk is from grain fed cows.
What to do about it
If grass-fed dairy is such a valuable source of fat-soluble vitamins and other minerals, how can we find it? Due to laws that are meant to protect us, unpasteurized raw milk can be difficult to find. There is a website called www.realmilk.com that can help you locate raw milk in your area. You may also find information at www.westonprice.org/chapters.16
My mom loves to tell a story about trying to feed me when I was a baby. If you’ve ever fed a baby, you’ve probably tried the split-spoon method at least once. You put something delicious on the front of the spoon, and something not so appetizing on the back, like applesauce and peas. You hope the babies’ love for applesauce will distract them from noticing they ate a little peas too!
My mom had to employ the trick in a little different way for me. She would put a green bean on the front of the spoon, and ice cream on the back.
This is backwards from most babies, and I’m afraid I’ve been a little backwards about food my entire life. I didn’t like ice cream, but I loved beans!
Dairy products have never been my friend. I’ve always felt lousy after eating them. So, for me, even raw milk isn’t a great solution.
If you look at research, you’ll see that a lot of us do suffer from an intolerance to the sugar in dairy called lactose. We produce too little lactase, the enzyme necessary to break lactose down.17
I know there are many of you who would prefer not to include dairy in your diet for this reason, or other, so how do we get the nutrients dairy products provide?
Fermented foods and their benefits
I have discovered fermented dairy products, which have changed my life and my health. These fermented foods have been staples of diets for centuries, as it was the only way to preserve dairy products in the days before refrigeration. Their popularity had decreased when new forms of food preservation were discovered.
However, new research is showing there are health benefits with these foods that can’t be derived from any modern day food processing means.
I love fermented foods and have frequent Kombucha, Kefir, Raw Yogurt, Fermented Vegetables and Natural Yeast Breads in my home. Full of beneficial microbes, these foods not only taste great, but also help heal and protect your body. Here are some of the benefits:
- Easier to maintain a healthy weight 18
- Reduced heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and overall illness 19-22
- Improved sugar handling and reduced sore muscles 23
- Anti-diabetic and Anti-obesity 13
- Helps with immune disease like IBS and Arthritis 25
- Improve mood and brain activity 26-28
The fermentation process predigests the proteins in the food, such as lactose and gluten, helping make them easier to digest. It also fills the foods with beneficial bacteria that aid in overall digestion.
This is why I can eat my homemade yogurt, kefir and cheeses. I now start my morning with a raw milk yogurt smoothie. My teeth are less sensitive, stronger, and healthier than ever!
In summary, even though dairy is high in calcium, in it’s non-fermented and pasteurized form, it isn’t used well by the human body.
Fermentation will transform this damaging food to something very beneficial, and raw sources will provide calcium that is usable.
If you don’t have either of these forms available to you, I believe you should leave dairy products out of your diet.
How much calcium do we really need?
Adults need 11/2 grams per day of calcium. Some great sources are seafoods like salmon, clams and shrimp, broccoli, cauliflower, beet greens, nuts and olives. Green food sources are kale, bok choy and cabbage.29
I’m not talking a few vegetables here. You need seven cups of kale to get that much calcium in one day. I hope you love kale! Greens are also the most bioavailable source of calcium.
One more caution–oxalates! All of the dark leafy greens have a high oxalic acid content. This acid binds to calcium and creates oxalate crystals.30 This also makes the calcium unavailable to you.
In order to inactivate the oxalic acid, you need to lightly steam the greens before eating them. Or you can add a calcium tablet to the cooking liquid. It will bind with the oxalic acid so the calcium in the food is available for you.
A woman was referred to me by her naturopath because she had a toothache. When she opened her mouth for an exam, I could immediately see why the tooth hurt. It had a porcelain crown on it, and was the only tooth hitting when she chewed. All of her other teeth were literally dissolving away in her mouth! I couldn’t figure out why. She was healthy, athletic, had a great diet and took good quality supplements. I was stumped until I had her tell me her typical diet in detail.
She started off the day with a smoothie with greens in it. Lunch was a big salad, then dinner was veggies with a huge helping of greens. She was taking the advice she had been given to eat more greens, but she had taken it to the extreme. None of these greens were cooked, so they were full of oxalates. She was unwittingly depriving her body of calcium, and her body was taking the calcium it needed to survive from her teeth.
She had to have all of her back teeth rebuilt to the height of that one porcelain crown. It was a sad result of health recommendations taken to the extreme. Now she cooks her greens at night and eats a variety of healthy foods for the other meals. Her overall and bone health has also improved.
Bone broth is a hot topic these days, and it makes me smile!
Although it’s touted as a “new” health food, cooks have been making bone broth over fires for centuries. Bone broth is simply water infused with nutri- ents pulled from slow cooking marrow containing bones. Or in simpler terms, it’s made by boiling bones in water for a long time.
It has proven to be good at clearing congestion and as an anti-inflammatory food.31
I often cook a whole free-range chicken in my crockpot. We use the meat for 2-3 meals in the week, and the bones for broth.
Fall-off-the-bone Crockpot Chicken (makes 3 meals!!)
4 t salt
2 t paprika
1/4 t cayenne pepper 1 t onion powder
1 t thyme
1 t pepper
1/2 t garlic powder
1 large free range organic roasting chicken, thawed
1. Combine spices in a small bowl.
2. Remove any giblets or neck from the chicken (look on the inside and take out anything that looks like it doesn’t belong!)
3. Rub spice mixture all over the outside of the chicken (I put it on a plate to do this, and dump the spices that fell onto the plate on top when it’s in the crock)
4. Put chicken into the crock pot and cook on low for 7-8 hours. No liquid is needed—it will make its own juices.
My broth technique is so simple. After removing the meat to use for meals, place everything but the meat back into a crock pot and cover with water a couple of inches over the bones. Cook on low for 15-20 hours.
Strain the broth through a colander and discard the bones.
A friend visited me one time when I had some bones cooking in the crock pot. She said my house smelled so good and wanted to know what I was cooking. I told her I was making broth from bones and she exclaimed, “You are such a pioneer!” It’s not hard, it’s simply forgotten knowledge. Make broth, feed your body!
I don’t just drink this broth–I might have a hard time doing that. I use it in soups during the week. Some of our favorites: miso soup, egg drop soup, chicken noodle soup, homemade ramen soup. Your family will love the tasty broth and their bodies will love all the nutrients.
While Westin Price didn’t have an alternative to making Bone Broth, you do. There are powdered and pill forms of bone broth that you can purchase and add to your diet every day. There really isn’t a good excuse anymore to miss out on this source of valuable vitamins!
Butter and cod liver oil heals cavities
I needed an additional source of these vitamins, so I started taking Green Pastures Fermented Cod Liver Oil. I told my team members about it, and they asked me if I was making it myself! I asked them where in the world they thought I would find enough cod to use their livers and extract the oil, then ferment it. I make a lot of things myself, but this isn’t one of them!
A good source: www.codliveroilshop.com
1/2- 1 1/2 t per day for adults or in capsule form
Commercial butter that has been pasteurized also contains Vitamin K if it is from grass-fed cows. The store brand I recommend is KerryGold, which can be found at most grocery stores. When I told my family that we were going to start eating more butter, they cheered, “you finally found a health food we love!!”
I have yet to find someone that doesn’t like adding more butter to their diet, but people often wonder how and where to add it. Use it as an added fat at the end of making a dish. Everything tastes amazing with a dollop
of butter on it. Every morning we make a Bulletproof Chocolate Drink with butter in it. My husband and I do a version of Intermittent Fasting and this is our morning drink.
Good For Your Body Chocolate Drink
3 scoops of ground cocoa beans (the brand we use is Crio Bru) Put into a French Press Coffee Press and cover with boiling water.
Let sit for 10 minutes, then press the beans to the bottom and pour the liquid out the top.
Put into a blender with 6 T butter
3 T MCT oil 2 t vanilla
1 t Truvia sweetener (optional–only my daughter likes this in her drink)
Blend until mixed and drink hot. Makes 3 servings.
The Sugar Dilemma
One key to Dr. Price’s research was his use of photographs. He has photo after photo showing the devastating effects of sugar in the diet. But he found it was not always for the reason you think.
Remember the “bacteria eats sugar = acid” discussion earlier? It’s true that this can lead to cavities, however sugar causes more havoc than just tooth decay.
When we eat sugar, it causes our blood sugar to fluctuate. More sugar in equals more sugar our body must deal with. Did you know that these fluctuating sugar levels affect your bones and teeth? The countries that have the highest sugar consumption rates also have the highest rates of osteopo- rosis!32
When you eat more sugar than your body is able to handle all at once, your blood sugars increase. These sugars aren’t completely oxidized when they aren’t used, and it leads to your body becoming more acidic.
When you become acidic, your body automatically reacts by pulling calcium from your bones and teeth to buffer your acidic blood.
The longer your blood sugar is out of balance, the more prone you are to get cavities. White sugar causes the blood sugar to be out of balance for up to five hours, fruit for 4-5 hours and honey for three hours.1 Bottom line is that eating sugar CAN lead to cavities because of what it does to the BODY and the TEETH.33
One thing I am known for is being a realist. If I tell you never to eat sugar, in any form, you are probably going to give up. What good does that do?
Instead I’m going to give you some guidelines and alternatives so you can have your cake (at least a little) and eat it too!
- Take lengthy breaks between eating sweets. If you can give your body time to balance your blood sugar, you can mitigate the effects of the sugar on your teeth. This also gives time for the saliva in your mouth to balance the pH and remineralize areas that have been demineralized. The worst thing you can do is eat small amounts of sugar all day long. I know it feels right to sip one can of soda or nurse one bag of candy all day, but DON’T do it if you want to be healthy!
- Fruit is best with fats (raw cheese, almond butter). The fat fills you up and helps you eat fewer sweets.34
- There are “natural” sugars that you should use in place of white sugar. All of them have pros and cons, but here is a short description of why you should use each:
1 . Honey
- You can use a smaller amount of honey without sacrificing sweetness.
- It contains traces of vitamins and minerals.
- Raw honey may help alleviate your allergies.
2 . Pure Maple Syrup
- Contains antioxidants
- Supplies some vitamins and minerals
- Is anti-inflammatory
- Affects the blood sugar less than white sugar
3. Coconut Sugar
- Contains Inulin for gut health – used as a prebiotic to feed good gut bacteria
- Contains vitamins and minerals
- Contains phytonutrients which help reduce blood sugar, inflammation and cholesterol
4. Stevia- make sure you use green leaf stevia or stevia extracts
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves cholesterol
- Lowers blood sugar
What about Grains and Legumes?
Giving up “carbs,” including grains and legumes, is very popular right now. “Keto” and “Paleo” diets are everywhere. What is all this about, and what does it have to do with your teeth?
Because I am a gardener, I am grateful that seeds have a coating on the outside that prevents them from sprouting. I can take a grain of wheat, plant it in the ground, water it, and it will grow.
The water washes away the sprouting-inhibitor (called phytic acid) and allows the seed to germinate. The plant then uses the nutrients stored inside that seed to grow and to feed you.
Before it’s washed away, this phytic acid holds tightly to the phosphorus in grain, making it unavailable for the seed and the human body to use. It also has “arms” that reach out to bind with calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. As long as the phytic acid is still coating the grain, the nutrients in the grain are not available for you.
Phosphorus and calcium are the two minerals most essential to tooth remineralization. Dr. Price found that in societies that removed or inacti- vated this phytic acid before consuming the grain, grains were very nour- ishing for teeth. On the other hand, if they were not handled correctly, the grains were destructive to the teeth.
Why is it so important to remove/reduce phytic acid (phytates)?
Phytic acid not only grabs on to, or chelates, important minerals, it also inhibits enzymes that we need to digest our food. These include pepsin needed for the breakdown of proteins in the stomach, amylase needed for the breakdown of starch into sugar, and trypsin needed for protein digestion in the small intestine.35
The presence of phytic acid in so many of the foods we are told are “healthy” for us–seeds, nuts and whole grains – makes it crucial that we know how to prepare these foods. The phytic acid needs to be neutralized as much as possible, and these foods should be eaten in a complete diet that helps to counteract the effects of phytic acid.
The ultimate irony is that white rice and white bread are low-phytate foods because their bran and germ have been removed. Yes, they also have very few vitamins and minerals, but the low phytates make them less destructive than their whole grain counterparts that haven’t been treated properly.
This may explain why someone whose family eats white flour or white rice food products may seem to be relatively healthy and immune to tooth cavities while those eating whole wheat bread and brown rice could suffer from cavities, bone loss and other health problems. This isn’t a “fad.” Handling grains, nuts and seeds properly is essential to health.
Consumption of high levels of phytic acid leads to:
- mineral deficiencies, leading to poor bone health and tooth decay
- blocked absorption of zinc, iron, phosphorus and magnesium
- leaching of calcium from the body
- lowered metabolism
Make the nutrients in grains available for your body
People living in traditional cultures throughout the world had lives filled with time-consuming daily activities. Yet they soaked, fermented, and ground their grains before using them. They often removed the hull of the grain before use as well. Why did they take? Because they knew it was the only way to get all the nutrients out of the grain. 36,37
Aren’t we more advanced than these societies? Don’t we have science and research on our side? Unfortunately, in today’s “ready-made” world, nearly all grains and legumes aren’t handled in these traditional ways. Our world demands fast, and these traditional methods are not fast.
Grains and legumes can be very hard to absorb and digest, especially modern-day grains. While agricultural societies have been living for thousands of years on grains, the grains we use have been hybridized and changed in the last 50+ years, and our handling of them has been significantly altered.
The amount of phytate in grains, nuts, legumes and seeds varies greatly based on growing conditions, harvesting techniques, processing methods and even the age of the food being tested.
Phytic acid will be much higher in foods grown using modern high-phosphate fertilizers than those grown in natural compost.38
Remember the oat bran fad of the 1980s? Eating bran, or high fiber foods containing different types of bran will lead directly to bone loss and digestive problems due to the high phytic acid content. We have forgotten how to make these foods are good for our bodies.
This change in the way grains and legumes are grown and handled before eating has led, in part, to the exponential rise in gluten intolerance and other digestive problems that run rampant today, like leaky gut.
What are these traditional ways of handling grains and legumes?
Phytase to the Rescue! Phytase is a natural enzyme present in varying amounts inside of grains, seeds and nuts. When this enzyme is activated, it works to break down phytic acid, and helps to release the nutrients that are so crucial for healthy teeth. It also makes the grain, nut or seed more digestible.
Unfortunately, cooking is not enough to adequately release phytase and reduce phytic acid. You must pre-treat the grains, seeds and nuts in one of two ways: 39-47
- Soaking grains/flour in an acid medium at a warm temperature–helps to reduce, or even eliminate phytic acid.48
- Souring—think sourdough bread with natural yeast. This is the preferred method for reducing phytic acid in breads and bread-products.
In general, the best means of significantly reducing phytic acid in grains and legumes is a combination of acidic soaking for a long time, followed by cooking.
One important thing to note is that not all grains contain enough phytase to eliminate the phytic acid, even when they are soaked. Oats and corn are two of these. So when soaking, if you add a small amount of a high phytase flour (rye, wheat, spelt and kamut) to the soaking water for corn and oats, it will help reduce the high phytase in these two grains
Bottom line…If you want to eat grains and/or legumes, you must soak or ferment them before eating!
How to Soak
On any given night, you may find random bowls and measuring cups littering my counter top. These hold grains, nuts, seeds and legumes that are soaking before I use them for meals later in the week. Soaking isn’t hard, in fact, it’s really easy.
The hard part is that you have to plan ahead, which is difficult in today’s fast paced world. This is not “fast food”, but it’s good for your body food, so I believe it’s worth it.
Here is what you need to soak grains, seeds, nuts, flour & legumes:
- Filtered water ~ warm water is necessary to properly break down phytic acid and other minerals.
- Some kind of acid – yogurt*, buttermilk*, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, whey, milk kefir* and coconut kefir. *If using dairy it needs to be cultured.
- Baking soda for legumes
Soaking Grains, Nuts and Seeds 50
Put grain into a glass bowl and cover completely with filtered water. For every 1 cup of liquid you will need 1 tbsp of acid. (Most grains: soak for 12-24 hours. Buckwheat, brown rice and millet: soak for 7 hours).
- Cover bowl
- Rinse in a colander after soaking.
- Use in the recipe (may take less time to cook after they are soaked)
You can grind these grains wet in a Food Processor
Michelle’s Living Granola
4 c almonds 1 t salt
1 c pecan pieces ½ c hemp seeds
1 c walnuts ½ c flax seeds
1 c pumpkin seeds 2 c oats
1 c sunflower seeds ½ c shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 c raisins 1 c raisins
2 T vanilla extract 1 c craisins or apricots
1 t cinnamon
- Place nuts and seeds in a large bowl, cover with water and soak for 12 hours.
- Place raisins in a small bowl with 1-2 C water to cover and soak 12 hours.
- Place raisins, along with their soaking water in food processor and puree until smooth
- Drain and rinse nuts and seeds and discard soaking water.
- Add to raisin puree in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped (may have to do this in two batches – if so use half the raisin puree in each batch)
- Add vanilla, cinnamon, salt, hemp seed, flaxseed and oats and pulse until mixed.
- Mix both batches together and spread onto Teflex sheets in dehydrator sheets or onto baking sheets for the oven.
- Dehydrate for 12-24 hours until dry all the way through. If using the oven, leave on the “warm” setting or turn oven on as low as it will go and cook until dry, 8-12 hours.
- Place in large bowl and add coconut, raisins and craisins. Mix and break granola pieces up to desired size.
- Store granola in the refrigerator.
If soaking flour, you start making the recipe the night before, adding the flour and the water, oil and sweetener. Mix in a glass bowl and cover overnight.
Add the other ingredients in the morning and continue making the recipe (eggs, milk, etc). Remember this includes nut flours, like almond flour, that are high in phytic acid as well.
Overnight Sourdough Pancake recipe
- 1 c sourdough starter
- 1 c water
- 2 ½ c
- (whole wheat or white)
- 1 T sugar or honey
- T olive oil
- ½ t salt
- 1 t baking soda
In a large glass bowl or measuring cup, mix the sourdough starter, water, flour and sweeteners. Cover and leave overnight. In the morning, add the egg, olive oil and salt. Stir until mixed. If it is very thick add 1-2 T water to thin.
Mix the baking soda in 1 T water and add to the pancake mix.
Will bubble up.
Cook the pancakes on a hot griddle. Makes about 16 pancakes.
- For kidney shaped beans, add enough water to cover the beans and a pinch of baking soda. Cover and allow to sit in a warm kitchen for 2-24 Hours, changing the water and baking soda once or twice.
- For non kidney shaped beans such as northern beans or black beans, place beans into pot and add enough “hot to the touch” water to cover the beans. For every one cup of beans you can add 1 tbsp of acid like vinegar or lemon juice, however it does slightly change the flavor and texture of cooked bean. Soak for 12-24 hours and change the soaking water at least once.
- After soaking is done, rinse the beans, replace the water and cook for 4-8 hours on low heat or for 6-8 hour on high in the crockpot until beans are tender.
All-Day Crockpot Black Beans
Place 2 cups of beans in a crockpot and cover with water. Add 2 T apple cider vinegar. Soak overnight or 12-24 hours. Change water and vinegar at least once if soaking longer than overnight. Rinse the beans in clean water, then cover again with water, adding enough to have one inch of water above the level of the beans.
Optional: Add 1 t epazote (a spice found in Hispanic markets) or 1 piece kombu seaweed (found dried in Asian markets) for flavor and to help decrease gas after eating.
Cook in your crockpot on high for 6-7 hours. Add water if needed during cooking time if the beans absorb all of the water. When soft, mash them as much as desired in the crock pot and add salt to taste.
Use partially milled white rice or brown rice that has been soaked overnight and up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse the rice, then cook as normal.
All societies that use rice as a staple food eat white rice. It’s more work to create white rice, so why do they go to the effort? Because they learned through centuries that their bodies felt better if they removed the hull before eating the rice. The phytic acid and other plant lectins (inflamma- tory proteins the plant uses for defense) are in the hull of the rice.
On the other hand, there are more nutrients available in brown rice. To get the best of both worlds, presoak the brown rice for digestibility and increased nutrition.
Simple Soaked Brown Rice
1 cup of organic brown rice
1T raw apple cider vinegar or lemon juice 2 cup warm filtered water
1/8 t salt
Add ingredients to a glass bowl and thoroughly combine. Cover the bowl and leave overnight in warm area in kitchen. Drain over a fine strainer and rinse well.
Put drained rice in a pan and add 13/4 cup of water or bone broth. Bring to a boil then cover and reduce heat until it is gently simmering. Cook 25-40 minutes until rice has absorbed the liquid and reached the consistency you desire.
There are two big problems with corn today. These problems impact us because corn is often used as a filler in processed foods. First, there is very little corn that is not GMO today. GMO stands for “Genetically Modified Organisms”. This corn is modified to grow faster, to be resistant to weeds and insects, to have more efficient processing, but not to be healthier for us. Second, very often corn is not treated correctly, which can lead to malnutrition and a disease called pellagra.
Maize, or corn, has been a staple food in Central America for thousands of years, with indigenous people soaking the dried corn kernels in alkaline lye or quicklime before cooking. This is called “nixtamalization,” and
it increases the bioavailability of bound niacin (Vitamin B3) in the corn by converting it into a water-soluble free compound, allowing it to be absorbed by the gut.
Because of this traditional preparation method, the native people of the Americas did not suffer from nutritional disease like pellagra. These diseases came later when traditional food handling methods were discarded.
The Corn Tragedy
Maize or corn was unknown to the European settlers when they arrived in the Americas, but they saw it as a lifeline. It was low in cost and it provided high yields. The indigenous people showed the settlers how to prepare the corn before turning it into a dough by first soaking it in lime water (North American Indians used wood ash water), then rinse the corn before grinding it into corn mash.
This process came to be known as Nixtamalization. However, for the Europeans, the process was time consuming, and it seemed unnecessary.
What good did it do? They thought it was probably just another superstition of these uncivilized people. What happened next is an untold tragedy in history. Corn became a staple in the diet for many people in parts of Europe, Africa, India, and China, but without nixtamalization. The result was thousands of people dying from a disease called pellagra, caused by a chronic lack of niacin (Vitamin B3) in the diet.
Here in the Americas the tragedy continued when these traditional practices were not handed down. In the Southern states, in the economic downturn following the American Civil War, the diet for poor people consisted almost entirely of corn-based products such as cornbread and grits.
The devastation occurred on a grand scale; across the United States from 1906 to 1940 approximately 3 million cases and 100,000 deaths were attributed To pellagra.
Not until 1938 was the link between niacin deficiency and pellagra widely understood. But long before that time, the link between a staple diet of corn and pellagra had been noticed. It was believed that eating corn somehow caused the disease, possibly through insects, or a toxin, or a
disease which lived on the corn. But the true culprit was a diet in which corn was the exclusive grain, and not treated properly before consuming.
How to Make Lime Water 58
Pickling Lime or Cal Mexicana (calcium hydroxide) (Can be found in the canning section of a store, in a Hispanic Market, or online.)
Place about a 1/2 cup of the pickling lime into a 1 quart Mason jar. Fill the jar with water, screw on the lid and shake. Let the jar stand on the counter for a few hours until the lime settles, leaving you with a mildly cloudy liquid.
Use the cloudy liquid at the top as your lime water. Save the rest for use later – it does not go bad when stored at room temperature.
2 cups dried organic, non-GMO corn (Great River Organic Milling)
1 T pickling lime
8 cups water
Rinse the corn, then add to a non-reactive pan (stainless steel or ceramic). Cover with the water and add the lime. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for 6-16 hours or overnight.
After the soaking, rinse in water with a strainer and rub the kernels between your fingers to remove some of the skins (don’t have to remove them all).
Place rinsed corn into a food processor. Add half of the corn, with ½ t salt and ¼ C water and grind until a smooth dough forms. Repeat with the other half of the corn. Can add a small amount of masa harina if it’s too wet. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Form into balls and flatten with a tortilla press. Cook in a hot pan or griddle.
If using cornmeal
If soaking cornmeal, use 1 cup of the lime water for every 2 cups of cornmeal. Allow the mixture to stand at room temperature for 12 hours, then proceed as needed for your desired recipe.
Oats are the exception to the soaking rule. In Dr. Weston Price’s research, he found that the societies that consumed a lot of oats had a significant increase in tooth decay. This didn’t make sense to me, so I continued researching until I found out why.
Oats contain a large amount of hard-to-digest phytates and other anti-nutrients. And I also learned that oats are so low in phytase, the
enzyme that helps to break down phytates, that soaking them as described above is not enough to break down naturally occurring antinutrients. But there is a trick that can make them safe to use.
1 cup oat groats or flakes
Warm filtered water to cover the oats 1 T apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
1 T spelt or wheat flour, rye flour or rolled rye flakes -or- ground buckwheat groats for a gluten-free version
Soak for a full 24 hours, drain and rinse in a fine mesh strainer and cook as usual.
What if You Are Eating Correctly and Still Not Getting the Nutrients You Need?
Let’s go back to the story at the beginning of this chapter about the nutrition and health author with multiple cavities. I have patients that come every day with similar stories. They are doing most of the things in this chapter right.
They are handling their food properly, they are getting the food from good sources, they are avoiding sugar and other processed foods, yet they still have cavities and other dental issues. This is when we start looking at digestive function and the way the gut is working.
If the stomach and digestive functions are not working properly, you can eat the most wonderful food in the world and it won’t do you as much good as it should.
Often the problem is lack of stomach acid and it’s because we are all living in a stressful world. When you are experiencing stress, including mental stress, physical stress from dental, food, and medical issues or environmental stress like wifi and cell frequencies around us, your body doesn’t create enough stomach acid to digest food.
This stomach acid called hydrochloric acid, is essential for three things.
- Proper digestion of proteins
- Proper digestion of minerals
- Protection from harmful microbes.
I find that many people are deficient in this essential stomach acid, which can lead to many problems other than heartburn.
Low stomach acid, called hypochlorhydria, can cause gas, bloating, diarrhea, malabsorption of nutrients, iron-deficiency anemia, dry and thin skin and hair, acne, dysbiosis (improper balance of gut bacteria), allergies, chronic fatigue, a weakened immune system and can aggravate arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.
How do you know if this is your problem? Here is an easy health test you can do at home to confirm or rule this out.
Baking soda test to determine stomach acid level
Carry out the following steps to determine your stomach’s acidity.
- Perform this test first thing in the morning on an empty stomach (before eating or drinking).
- Dissolve ¼ teaspoon of baking soda into an 8 oz. glass of cold water.
- Drink the solution and start timing.
- Record the time until you first burp up gas.
- Perform this test for four consecutive days (or longer) at the same time each day to give a better estimation of your stomach’s acidity.
Interpreting your results:
- 2 minutes: indicates normal acidity
- 2-3 minutes: indicates low-normal acidity
- 3 minutes: possible hypochlorhydria
If you find that your stomach acid levels are low, you need to work with a holistic health practitioner to do two things.
- You need to supplement with HCL acid to digest now. Can add digestive enzymes and probiotics to help.
- You need to determine the cause of the low acid and build it up with things like iodine, zinc and B vitamins.