While oatmeal is generally considered a healthy meal, it can indeed have negative effects on your teeth. The phytic acid present in oats can prevent your body from absorbing certain nutrients and minerals which can, in turn, cause tooth decay.
The phytic acid in oats prevents your body from absorbing essential minerals such as calcium and vitamin D, leaving your teeth vulnerable to cavities and tooth decay. You can limit the amount of phytic acid present by soaking, sprouting, or fermenting grains before you consume them.
Despite its potentially harmful effects, phytic acid also has some benefits, such as helping the body fight heart disease and removing heavy metal toxicity. So cutting it out of your diet entirely isn’t a good idea. Read on for the full story and tips on how to consume just the right amount of phytic acid.
What Are Oats Made Of?
While oatmeal is widely considered a healthy way to start your day, you might be surprised to learn how damaging oats can be for the enamel of your teeth.
Mostly, oats are grains that are extracted from Avena sativa, which is the cereal plant. Once these oats are harvested, they are processed for various uses, including food. Food oats are usually milled, steamed, heated, and, finally, cooled. This process brings out the flavor.
Oats are then rolled, or they can be cut or grounded to make flakes or oatmeal.
While all that may sound fine, almost all of the grains, seeds, and nuts found in oatmeal products are high in phytic acid, which has been shown to be harmful to the enamel of your tooth. It can also reduce your body’s absorption of the vitamins and minerals present in the oats.
Although phytic acid has its own health benefits, the concerns regarding oral health must also be taken into account.
What Is Phytic Acid?
Phytic acid, also known as inositol hexaphosphate, is a substance used by several grains and seeds to help store phosphorus in their cells. When phytic acid is consumed, it binds to other minerals and creates phytate.
In essence, phytate diminishes the body’s ability to absorb some minerals, which is an important part of the problem.
Furthermore, phytic acid can also have a strong effect on your oral health and teeth, since your teeth rely on calcium, phosphorus, copper, and vitamin D to stay healthy and to repair themselves. A lack of these minerals, brought on by phytic acid, can cause teeth to weaken over time.
A lack of the necessary minerals can also prevent your teeth from healing properly after cavities.
How Oats Affect Your Teeth
As we mentioned, most oats contain phytic acid, which can cause tooth decay and prevent your body from absorbing certain minerals.
The most common nutrients and minerals that phytic acid prevents your body from absorbing include:
- Vitamin B3 (also known as niacin)
Although your body needs phytate, the minerals you miss out on absorbing are still essential. Along with that, your body’s ability to digest proteins, fats, and starches is also restrained. That’s because of the enzymes that are blocked by phytic acid. These enzymes include:
- Pepsin (used to break down protein)
- Amylases (helps convert starch into sugar, for digestion)
- Trypsin (helps to digest protein)
Reviewing the minerals that phytic acid prevents your body from absorbing can help explain why phytic acid may lead to dental problems. Your teeth are dependent on a lot of the minerals listed above, especially:
- Vitamin D
In order for your teeth to stay healthy, and to repair themselves from any cavities or other damages, they need these minerals. A lack of these minerals will not only lead to weaker teeth overall but also weaken the alveolar bones, which help hold teeth in place.
Furthermore, a deficit of these minerals, especially vitamin D and calcium, can prevent your teeth from demineralizing. This means that your teeth are unable to absorb minerals and build up after demineralization.
Since phytic acid starves the body of some of the most vital minerals, it can prevent the teeth from healing from cavities. Along with that, it also makes teeth more vulnerable to new cavities, enamel deterioration, and overall tooth decay.
With all that said, phytic acid does indeed have some beneficial qualities to it. These include inhibiting cancer cells, reducing the symptoms of diabetes, improving cardiovascular disease, and fighting heavy metal toxicity in your body.
Other Sources of Phytic Acid
There are numerous sources of phytic acid in different sorts of foods. Here is a list of some food types that contain phytic acid:
- Wild Rice
- Kidney Beans
- Pinto Beans
- Navy Beans
- Broad Beans
- Cow Peas
- Black-eyed Peas
- Cashew Nuts
- Brazil Nuts
- Macadamia Nuts
- Pine Nuts
- Sesame Seed
- Sunflower Meal
Can I Reduce the Amount of Phytic Acid in My Food?
Judging by the list above, you can see that many of the foods that contain phytic acid are also high in other nutritional values, and cutting them out of your diet would not be a smart move. In fact, your body needs phytic acid on its own as well.
Fortunately, you can reduce the amount of phytic acid found in most foods. Here are some of the ways you can reduce the amount of phytic acid present:
- Soak the grains overnight:
The germination process kicks off as soon as you soak grains. This means they start to release the naturally occurring phytase and break down the bonds between phytic acid and other minerals.
- Sprout the grains:
Soaking the gains for long enough will initiate the sprouting phase. While this process can take a few days, it certainly helps to reduce the phytate content.
You can also find already sprouted oats, like One Degree Sprouted Oats (on Amazon).
Fermentation of flour and some other grain products can help to separate the phytate compounds.
You can look for cultured or fermentation grains next time you’re at the supermarket.