Doctor's Note

This video is the first in a three-part video series describing how phytates may play a role in both cancer prevention and treatment. Stay tuned for Phytates for Rehabilitating Cancer Cells and Phytates for the Treatment of Cancer.

I previously touched on the surprising new science about phytates in my video Phytates for the Prevention of Osteoporosis.

More on colon cancer in Stool Size Matters.

Here are a few of my latest videos on the latest wonders of the musical fruit:

What about that music, though? See my blog Beans and Gas: Clearing the air.

What about soybeans and cancer? See Breast Cancer Survival and Soy and BRCA Breast Cancer Genes and Soy.

Other ways to mediate the effects of meat intake can be found in my video Reducing Cancer Risk in Meateaters.

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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  • MickT

    good video – a more in depth explanation on how phytic acid works would have been great. Is it because the phytic acid chelates the iron molecules and prevents the damage that way?

    It would be nice to see one of your graphs on food rankings by phytic acid content.

    As it chelates minerals would there be an argument to eat foods such as beans away from the most nutritional meal of the day, or that we should eat even more nutrient dense foods to offset the lost absorption due to the increased phytic acid? In particular, phytic acid chelates calcium and this may cause concern for people with osteoporosis. Thank Dr. Greger, keep up the good work.

    • You’d think! But did you see my last phytate video?

      Phytates for the Prevention of Osteoporosis

      Thanks for your comment!

    • Kartoffelmao

      Calcium is not the most important mineral for bone health. Even junk food addicts rarely have calcium deficiency. The highest dairy/ calcium ingesting populations are the ones with the poorest bone health.

  • DGH

    That’s what I aim to do – at least 3 servings of beans per day, eaten with all 3 main meals. I’ve been doing it largely for the protein, but beans are also a particularly rich source of other important micronutrients. Where the Atkins and LCHF guys hit us hard is in “plant toxins” – e.g. phytates – but this video really questions that belief. Still, I won’t eat anything in excess, as I learned my lesson with broccoli the hard way (cooked is ok, too much raw is bad for marginal thyroids). A healthy balance of a variety of plant-based food groups, with no overwhelming emphasis on one particular type of food, provides a well-balanced diet and some protection against overconsuming substances in excess. As they say often in molecular toxicology and pharmacology, “it’s the dose that makes the poison”. At low-moderate doses, something in a food can be quite healthy, even beneficial, but at very high doses we either plateau our efficacy or start to get into troublesome toxicity. I’ve seen this phenomenon in the literature for years with synthetic micronutrients given in excess, and there is no reason to believe it doesn’t also apply to plants consumed in excess.

  • Ruby

    Dr G can I make a request? Do a vid and/or find studies on the benefits of fermented foods?? I have just started fermenting purple cabbage and usinging it with every meal. It’d be awesome to know what to expect in the long run from doing this. (I know about the purple pigment bennies). I also make pickles. Also a vid on stomach acid and digestion and the need for it, cuz I wonder that a lot of folks have compromised digestion which may be a bump in the road when animal eaters want to make the change to a plant based diet. I know one who started losing her hair after a week without meat, so she RAN back to it and was told butter is good for her. . . In other words, we lost one. I’d love to help meat eaters transition seemlessly, and fearlessly to plant foods. I’m sure you would too. I think these subjects would be a good place to get help. . . . Oh one more, a vid on medium chane fatty acids. . like coconut? Any bennies/need at all statistically, for say enzyme production of any kind at all? Thanks! You’re the greatest.

  • Ruby

    Yes for my neurological isuses which are often correlated with too much iron, I’d love more info if any is available. All I can find on the web is nay saying. Oh another infamous one I think has a bad rap is oxylates. Any further info on that would be REALLY awesome, cuz i don’t buy that either, especially since they are in those dark leafies we need so much, and green juicing is my bag, so I KNOW oxylates are not bad and suspect, like phytates, are GOOD for a body. You’re the man sir, so I’m asking. Thanks for all every single day sir. Much respect and admiration. Toodles!

    • Arjan den Hollander.

      You should blend your veggies not juice m.
      Blending retains all the fibers.

      I eat/drink 3-4 1 liter green blended shakes a day with some soy protein powder 30gr. I cram a liter cilinder full of kale, red cabbage , carrots etc together with zante currants other dried fruits for sweetness. Pumpkin or sunflower seeds for oils/protein and just blend it smooth. Adding a bit of flax can make a more homogenous texture, nice and good stuff too.

      Once you are accustomed to getting loads of fibers in your diet you can eat again after 2-3 hours blending up more vegetable goodness and can load up another 400 grams to your daily total.

      Can’t see a reason in the world how juicing should be the better way to go.

      • Ruby

        WOW!!! That’s quite a smoothy!! Lol! Wellsir, you do do a bit of predigesting in the blending so. . . . but I agree wholly that as we go, and heal, a nice blend of all you put in your smoothy sounds like it’d be eassily digested, including even oils. Bravo!! can’t disagree in the least. . . . except sir, in taste, for myself anywho. I like my greens with fatty nuts and lemon and salt, and my red cabbage fermeted and dolloped onto my beans and salads. Currents and other dreid fruits for nightime nibbling, and pumpkin seeds and other nuts (always in shell) for mid day snacks as well as on salads and the like. I pass on flax. . . can’t really get a bead on that seed. Never liked it. But I get plenty omegas from my nuts and from a lb of chlorella monthly. . . . And I agree about eating every few hours and feeling great in the belly about it, with nutrition packed foofd as we’ve agreed on, like food soul mates. Lol. ;)). . . My only small hurdle is I feel so good I want to go back for more earlies thatI should, a bit too ofetn, but I’ve got a rein on it. . . ;) Thanks for the hello Arjan!

        • Arjan den Hollander.

          That fermenting you do is that to get vitamin K2? Is it the same fungus as natto?

          I usually safe my savoury nuts for nibling time too :) LOL

          • Ruby

            I do the ferments to help with digestion and and ahppy for al the rest I get from the cabbage, from the prple and such. I don’t care for the lentils either but. . . you know, kidney beans are like some kind of miracle. don’t care much for the pinto or black kind though they are all 3 kidney type aids according to TCM. Your issues sound like your water sytem needs a deep deep healing, and as fr my own body this has been my own focus, so I’ll shsare what I’ve learned on this and what helps me. Green juicing and green foods ad nausium, and no grains, lots of good fats (LOTS), and kidney beans to build and also to infuze the ewntire body with cleansing blood, so issues/blood/fear/memories etc are not hidden and stored. The greens pull the blood through. the kidney beans seem to infuze the kidney which cleans it all with superpowers. I have awoke from sleep feeling like I worked out at the gym. Seriously. And I’ve had a similar history of strength and then sickness and weakness, and would also like to be back on my game”. Al the foods you mention seem like nitrogen and thus activity/go foods. In order to do the relaesing that would be required to heal from PTSD (and it’s mental/physical mirrors) we’d need to infuze the body with the capacity to ebb, breath out, and let go. I found magnesium was the lynchpin for my process. ^ weeks on green juice alone made me clench down until I heard about magnesium and stated nightly baths, and taking internally as well. the nit was “katy-bar-the-door” and the let down was UNBELIEVABLE. I spent 3 months weating nightly like through several shirts a sweater and a hoodie. My baths produced a yellow, oily film, my stools were unendingly productive, despite little fodder (just psyllium for bulking). My room smelled of death from my breath in the monrning. The after 3 months I felt like a new person. Tired and wiped out, but fresh, like the day after a lng sickness you know you’re on the mend. It took aother couple years to figure the right diet. Grains were my burden, and other high glycemic starches. beans have been a godsend, and the kidney one has beeen, as I said, like some super power in my body. I’m still not sure of the affects in the long run as it’s just been over a winter eating them. Sure seems to be doing so me very deep nurishing beyond anything I’ve felt before them, so I’m sharing that experience, in case it may be of use to you. Love to hear back and update if it is. Cheers and best of luck!

  • Matt K

    What about phytic acid and oral health? Is it really the cause of tooth decay?

  • bruxe

    My Online Dictionary says:
    > Moreover, phytic acid chelatesand thus makes
    > unabsorbable certain important minor minerals such
    > as zinc and iron, and to a lesser extent, also macro
    > minerals such as calcium and magnesium; phytin
    > refers specifically to the calcium or magnesium
    > salt form of phytic acid.

    So, if you eat a lot of “phytates” have problems with
    zinc, iron, calcium and magnesium?

    I have just watched Gary Taubes video about carbohydrates
    and how he says that it is carbs that promote fat. How does
    this square with this other stuff that talks about vegetarianism
    and not eating meat. What is the story on carbs from a
    phytate point of view?

  • martha

    It’s worth noting how your discussion on lead in triphala and amla relates to this topic. Apparently, the problem is worse than you indicated. Organic India has been forced to put stickers on their products in California warning consumers of possible lead toxicity. I hope the phytic acid in my diet has given me some protection me from the lead I ingested from Organic India products over the last 3 years. Does phytic acid help move lead out of the body?

  • Esther Salomon

    I am lost. Does this mean that I no longer have to soak my beans..? Moré over……that i should not?

    • Thea

      Esther: Phytate issue completely aside: If you soak your beans, they cook faster and (I understand) are less likely to give someone gas.

      My *guess* is that most people soak their beans. And thus my guess is those studies showing so many benefits to people who eat beans are based on people who eat soaked beans. And thus, my guess is that it certainly doesn’t hurt to soak beans if that is what you want to do.

      Just something to think about.

      • Esther Salomon

        Mater of fact, I started soaking very recentlly….because of ALL the controversy…….and gas is never an issue if added sugar is not present. So…is it o k not soaking?

        • Thea

          Esther: I never thought that soaking was required for health reasons, just that it was helpful for the reasons I state above.

          I’m not an expert in these areas, so I can’t say an opinion with any authority. I personally do not see how soaking would be necessary from a health stand point. But maybe I am missing something…

          • Sprouting amplifies nutritional value of legumes such as beans. Soaking still provides benefit of decreasing phytic acid and thus increasing bioavailability of certain nutrients in seeds. Whilst phytic acid is beneficial for health, if one is already soaking or sprouting their beans, there’s no reason to stop; it just means we shouldn’t be scared of phytic acid.

            You don’t have to soak beans, but it’ll still be something I do (I actually sprout all my beans before cooking) for the increased benefits and easier digestion.

          • Thea

            Robert: Thanks for adding to the discussion. I find it very interesting what people do to prepare their food.

            FYI: Dr. Greger covers the nutritional benefit of sprouting at a couple places on this site. I just make the distinction between sprouting and soaking.

            Thanks again for weighing in.

          • Sprouting and soaking are indeed different, but soaking is the initiation of sprouting.

            “On 6 hours soaking, the percent loss ranged from 4 to 5 in peas. With an increase in the period of soaking, i.e. 6 12 and 12-18 hours, further reduction in phytate content of peas was noticed. With longer the periods of soaking, greater the losses in phytate content occurred.”

            “No doubt cooking of unsoaked pea seeds lowered the phytic acid content but the loss appeared to be less than in peas cooked after soaking.”

            Also, pressure cooking appears to reduce phytic acid even further: “Pressure cooking of soaked as well as soaked-dehulled seeds caused a greater loss in phytic acid content than that of unsoaked field and vegetable pea seeds.”

            “In conclusion, germination (48 hours) is the best method followed by

            pressure cooking and ordinary cooking of soaked-dehulled seeds, dehulling and soaking for lowering the levels of phytic acid and polyphenols in field and vegetable peas. These are the simple and inexpensive processing methods which can be followed to increase the nutritive value of legumes.”

            So, if you wanted to retain as much phytic acid as possible, cooking legumes without soaking appears to be the best method. Though my favourite method of cooking beans still remains sprouting and then cooking in a pressure cooker; any left over liquid I then turn into a sauce. (It does however require pre-planning.)


  • ShaneJax

    Hello, saw this study purporting that
    vegetarians have worse health outcomes in several areas. Is this simply because they didn’t differentiate between a relatively healthy person adopting a vegetarian diet vs someone who goes vegetarian because of a chronic disease? Would like someone with a bit more medical/health knowledge than me to give it a look see.

    • masobel

      One of the limitations of this study is that due to the relatively low number of vegans, they lumped together those following a vegan diet with vegetarians that also consumed milk, eggs and fish. The authors also report that they did not collect much information of the totality of the diets. Often times, vegetarians (especially in the US) consume a large quantity of processed foods that are high in vegetable oils. This can create a rather significant imbalance in the Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio. There are several videos on this site detailing the potential health issues associated with dairy, egg and fish consumption. Since Dr. G recommends a whole foods plant based diet, this study doesn’t really offer much to refute his recommendations.

      Another interesting limitation is that this was a cross sectional study. This is a very useful type of epidemiological study, but it typically is not used to identify direct causal relationships.

      I hope this was helpful.


      • ShaneJax

        So not only did they have vegetarians that consumed lots of animal products but also they didn’t differentiate between vegetarian diet eating people that started after a chronic disease was diagnosed and people who started healthy on a vegetarian diet. Would seem to call in to question some/all of their conclusions rather heavily. Thanks for the comment.

  • Tim C

    Doctor Greger: How about the Argentinian Diet; they must be in really bad shape?

  • martha

    I have read that traditional cultures always soak grains and legumes before cooking and thereby eliminate the phytic acid. This which would include traditional cultures in many parts of Africa. So there are a lot of assumptions in Dr. Greger’s thesis.

    However, I rarely have time to soak beans and grains. Now instead of getting down on myself for not getting rid of the phytic acid, I’m relieved. I will now eat unsoaked beans and pray that phytic acid will rid my body of heavy metals like lead.

    Esther—I guess it’s your call. You could get tested to find out if you excess iron and then decide what’s best.

  • HemoDynamic, M.D.

    Great Video. But I couldn’t watch it. That’s because I was totally engrossed in the subtitles. ;-) I like the new addition but I found it difficult to watch. I found myself fighting with my focus for the subtitles over the video. I didn’t realize that I have tunnel vision for subtitles.

  • fineartmarcella

    How were the beans in the study prepared? Did they just grind them up and measure the phytates or did they cook the beans and for how long? This variable is not always considered or reported in these studies, but could mean a big difference. I prefer raw sprouted for the raw fiber, active probiotics, and intact phytonutrients, why do we consider heat when we look at changing molecular structures under a microscope, but ignore it’s affect when we talk about applying heat to food?

    • Many raw beans, even if sprouted, are poisonous until cooked. Lentils and peas however, in general, are safe to consume raw.

      And several studies were cited in this video, not just one.

      • fineartmarcella

        Poison? What is the name of this poison that outlives sprouting Robert? I am living well and I do not cook sprouted beans, and there is no one I know personally who does even non-raw fooders. Can you identify the ‘poison’?

        • Phytohaemagglutinin:

          I know from experience, as I once ate a meal of raw sprouted pinto beans, then shortly after experienced one of the worst sicknesses I’ve ever endured.

          Which beans do you eat raw?

          • rachel

            Hi, even ann wigmore stated raw beans have a toxin in them and she suggested lightly steaming them or cooking them. I do have sprouted raw lentils sometimes and they seem different than raw beans. I am not surprised you got sick…..namaste’, rachel

          • fineartmarcella

            Personally, white beans, black beans, mung bean, soy bean, lentils, chickpea, seeds of most all kinds…

          • Mung beans are legumes, not true beans, and hence are safe to eat raw. Lentils and chickpeas obviously are not beans, and also are safe to eat raw. The other beans mentioned however are toxic unless cooked, and so caution should be taken.

        • rachel

          hi, even ann wigmore suggested cooking or lightly steaming sprouted beans. she noted they do contain an unhealthy toxin. I am a longtime vegan/vegetarian and ate raw for many years. I think wigmores advice is sensible…..rachel

          • fineartmarcella

            Under ‘100% Raw Living diet’ Ann Wigmore’s chart included sprouted beans, legumes, peas, lentils…under 80% raw she lists steaming or cooking tempeh, beans and other items.
            Actually, raw sprouted chickpeas, mung bean, and soy are tasty and quite popular

  • MarthaLA

    Robert Roose, when I click on the url you supplied, I get “The requested page does not exist.” I did a search from that error page for the publication numer “7971780” and get the abstract page I tried getting to the full article, but it is apparently not open access.

    • Just remove the trailing “)” from the URL, and it works. It’s a comment formatting error. Unfortunately the study isn’t open access.

  • Many dry bean preparations call for beans to be soaked and then rinsed to remove or “neutralize” upwards of 90% of the phytic acid content. Considering how beneficial phytates have been shown to be, I want to avoid dumping them with the bath water. Would you recommend cooking in the soaking water, or are there other reasons to toss it? What about pressure cooking? Does that affect nutrient content and bioavailability?