Doctor's Note

I talked about the role of fiber versus phytate in colon cancer in my video Phytates for the Prevention of Cancer, the first in this 3-part video series. See also my last video Phytates for Rehabilitating Cancer Cells.

I covered the potential bone protecting properties of phytates in my video Phytates for the Prevention of Osteoporosis.

More on preventing tumor invasion and metastasis in:

Other foods that can help stop the progression of precancerous lesions (like the adenomatous polyps) are profiled in Strawberries versus Esophageal Cancer and Black Raspberries versus Oral Cancer.

There’s a substance in mushrooms that’s also another “essential” nutrient candidate. See Ergothioneine: A New Vitamin?

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  • Dave

    I’m glad this clears things up about “anti-nutrients”…

    The paleo broscience community has their sheeple convinced that grains & beans are EVIL because phytates will block ALL nutrient absorption, when that’s clearly not the case.

    What they fail to say is that people who eat a balanced diet that’s high in nutrients actually benefit from phytates in their diets.

    But they won’t tell you that, because you can get all your nutritional needs from their paleo primal super duper shakes that auto-ships to your home for only $100 a month.

    What a world.

    • Paleo’s encourage nuts and seed consumption. Don’t they contain phytates, as well?

      • b00mer

        From what I can gather, paleo can be pretty much whatever a person wants it to be, aside from eschewing beans and grains, which seems to be pretty constant across the board. Some eat dairy, some don’t. Some eat tubers, some don’t. Some eat nuts and/or seeds, some don’t.

        What I find kind of hilarious are the “paleo” recipes like breads or pies made out of coconut oil or grassfed butter, coconut flour, almond flour, etc. Just enormously concentrated and entirely “unnatural” foods, but hey if it doesn’t have grains or beans in it, it must be healthy right?

        • Annoyed by Paleofraud

          They evidently make it up as they go along

      • Annoyed by Paleofraud

        Some paleos like the Jaminet Perfect Health Diet assert all seeds are trying to kill us, so they also discourage those. And the presence of the allegedly antinutrient phytate is one of the reasons given.

        • b00mer

          “all seeds are trying to kill us” gave me an amusing little image in my mind :D

        • hawgdawger

          Annoyed, are you kidding? Come on. We have a natural and God given ability to think for ourselves. You can’t lay the onus of maintaining our personal health onto others.
          Take some additional time, do some research to test the truth and veracity of your informational resources by conducting your own comparative analysis. In so doing, you may just find that this particular site is among the most reliable you’ll ever find.
          Doc Greger isn’t responsible for your health anymore than a polar ice cap is. You should, however, come to the truthful resolve that the good doc’s site is objective and quite informative. But, then, before you noticed that you’d have to notice that he leaves the final analysis to those who are taking the time to visit his site. Ugh.

      • b00mer

        Okay, I’ve looked into this a bit and here’s what I’ve learned (via “Mark’s Daily Apple”):

        Nuts and seeds contain phytate, which is bad, and grains contain phytate, which is bad, but according to MDA, it would be easier to overeat phytate in the form of grains than it would be to overeat it from nuts and seeds. Thus, nuts/seeds = okay; grains = evil.

        He gives the example of a certain amount of phytate being found in 362 Cal of brown rice, while the same amount would require the consumption of 575 Cal of almonds. His claim is that you could eat all that brown rice and still easily go back for seconds, while it would be much harder to eat 570 Cal of almonds.

        My opinion: are you kidding me?!? How many people eat almost two cups of rice with their meal and go back for seconds?

        575 Cal of almonds would be about 80 almonds, or 3.5 one-ounce servings. Personally I could very easily see someone eating a few servings of nuts as opposed to only one. Many people consider eating only one serving of nuts to be a supreme exercise in self control.

        So it’s not the most sound logic. He explicitly advocates that it’s fine to consume a small handful of nuts (about 2 oz according to him) per day, which equates to 362 Cal, yet for some reason it’s absolutely forbidden to consume the phytic acid equivalent of 228 Cal of brown rice, which would be a generous, slightly greater than one cup serving. Gee, unsound logic from a paleo guru, what will we hear next. ;)

        Another, absolutely hilariously entertaining find in my paleo sleuthing, is that many paleos, get this, drumroll please…..

        take IP6 supplements! Seriously people, you can’t make this stuff up! :D For some reason it’s magically better because you can take it on an empty stomach, so it can enter the bloodstream, and bind up minerals (apparently the intentional chelation of iron in the paleo world is a real concern), whereas if you take it with food, it’ll bind up the minerals in the food, and for some completely unsubstantiated and baseless reason, this is much worse.

        • Thea

          b00mer: Such a fun read! I love how you put it all into perspective. Really nice.


    • Arjan den Hollander.

      Broscience, LOL. +1 for making me smile!

    • Toxins

      Antinutrients are for the most part inactive with cooking. Not a study exists showing harmed health from bean consumption.

  • jacque

    I’ve seen IP-6 sold in health food stores. Is there any benefit it taking that, particularly for people who avoid eating beans?

    • b00mer

      Hi jacque, it does look like there are in vivo studies to support IP6 as a chemotherapeutive agent (I did just a very quick search), though there is definitely a precedent to postulate that getting a particular nutrient from the whole food source is often preferable.

      However, you say you don’t eat beans. Does that include all legumes, like lentils or peas? If you don’t eat those either, you could still obtain phytate from whole grains or nuts/seeds if you consume those. I personally wouldn’t worry about supplementing if you consume an otherwise varied and balanced whole foods plant based diet.

    • Arjan den Hollander.

      Try seeds & nuts.

      Soy protein isolate seems to go well with sunflower seeds.
      Throw together with some veggies and blend. Good stuff!
      Maybe that sits better than beans in general.

      • Toxins

        Be weary of soy protein isolates, I don’t have the study on hand but soy protein isolates increase IGF-1 production twice as much as dairy.

        • Arjan den Hollander.

          I like being a big boy Toxins.

          • Toxins

            Eating whole plant foods as you suggest is definitely the route to go to build muscle and strength. The issue with IGF-1, in case you are not aware, is that it is a strong promoter of cancer growth.

          • Arjan den Hollander.

            I’ll roll the dice on that one. As for now I keep suffering from stress and anxiety senstivities even though I’m on the mend.

            At 17 after passing 110 kg some kind of alpha male hormone state came over me and my friend.

            That state is extremely calming to the mind. It makes you utterly fearless. That is what I need for a while after 5 years of terror. It will hand me the tools to start EMDR and other therapies.

            Calmness vs stress and andrenergic reactions with its vasoconstriction is very bad for cancer too. I am in the process of trading one for the other I’m aware. But general health is spectacularly different. For now I’m better off.

            Might cancer be diagnosed or therapie done I’ll dose less. Reaching 100 kg I’ll go from 120 gr to 80 see what happens then to 40 gr I guess just for the reason you mentioned.

          • If soy is your preferred protein for a larger physique, why not go with tofu and tempeh, traditional sources?

          • Arjan den Hollander.

            I put myself on a 50 gr a day natto regime for now after finding out its bloodvessel clearing capabillities.

            The loss of sensation in extremities was a dead giveaway of plaque buildup during the first 10 days after stopping smoking.

            Goal number 1 by miles for the first year of food intervention is blood vessel support.

            Although I’m feeling better than I have in years (after 3 months with vegan days) its only an effect of less inflammation and better endothelial function. The disease is still there, and needs to be treated for another 8 months at the very least. (5 days vegan a week @1 kg+ of veggies + 50gr natto daily + daily exercise) I do not feel sick physically but I know I actually am, and very much so.

            As it is I cannot afford to get a food sensitivity towards soy, otherwise the natto is off the table.
            And I actually really like the earthy taste it add to my smoothies :) So whole soy bean intake I intend to keep limited.

            Maybe try lentils again in a month or so see if the reaction is milder, they are a great tasting bean.

          • Ben

            I’m guessing because those traditional sources do not raise IGF-1 as effectively as Isolate.

          • Veganrunner

            Arjan you are a big guy! How tall are you? 6’5″?

        • Jeri DeMoss

          Also be weary of GMO found in most soy products

  • mgibson

    Are beans in the category of foods we can make “unlimited” use of? Or is there a concern about possibly getting too much protein?

    Thank you so much.

    • Arjan den Hollander.

      Your intestines can have a rough time with beans. Try upping dose slowly. You can get very ill if you take more than you can handle.
      When you start getting loads gas and such, lower intake a bit or prepare to get uncomfortable.

      • Toxins

        Antinutrients, such as lectins are inactive when cooked. Beans are one of the healthiest foods you can eat, no need to limit your amount.

        • Arjan den Hollander.

          Great for you if you are not sensitive to them.
          I personally am. And not all is destroyed, all the time.

          I remember a greger vid where it was claimed to be responsible for 10% of all food poisonings.

          Seems clear to me beans need monitoring. And certainly not something to be advised can be consumed without limits to a novice bean eater.

          • mgibson

            I also have allergies and food intolerances, and know that sometimes foods that are good for most people are not good for me. Tomatoes, for example; good for most, but they are not good for me. I need to check any food for how my body responds to it. I think the most I can do on a site like this is understand the general advantages and disadvantages of particular foods, and then see if the good foods agree with my body.

        • mgibson

          Thank you for your perspectives on eating legumes. Am even cooking a batch of lentils right now.

      • Slow increase is prudent advice for many. However…

        It’s not the lectins (paleo/broscience) that cause distress. It’s the lack of gut bacteria from a lifetime of not eating legumes which causes gaseous distress from a sudden large increase in bean consumption.

        Slow and steady wins the race.

    • Toxins

      Beans, although high in protein, are also very high in complex carbohydrates. I consider them part veggie, part “grain”. Eat in plenty, as no studies indicate elevated IGF-1 from bean consumption.

  • Zaz Zaz

    Does this mean that spouted beans have less healthful effects rather than more?

    • This question seems to be popping up a lot lately; it would be good to get Dr Greger’s input.

      Many people seem to have this belief that soaking or sprouting eliminates all phytates. It doesn’t, it simply reduces so-called anti-nutrients. Sprouting has the additional benefit of amplifying antioxidant properties. Seeing as you will still be consuming some amounts of phytates from cooked sprouted beans, I’d assume that there are still great benefits from sprouting – you’ll be getting benefits from sprouting as well as benefits from phytates. Additionally, on a whole foods plant based diet, phytates are abundant from a variety of food sources; likely a tablespoon of flax seeds or a Brazil nut will give sufficient amounts of phytates for a healthy body, not to mention the phytates present in grains. If you want to maximize phytates, then you’ll want to avoid soaking or sprouting, though I don’t think abstaining from sprouting is justified if one is already in the habit to do so. No recommendations have yet been established as to how much phytic acid one should consume in their diet.

  • guest

    I wonder if those women in the trial ever got any better with their cancer on the IP6 supplement? And whether or not it actually helped with the cancer, I wonder why the researchers didn’t just use natural sources of the compound?

  • VeganAlmostKilledMe

    Dr. Gerger, A general question regarding turning Vegan:
    I am a naturally skinny 55yrs old guy at 5’7″ 120lbs and generally healthy.
    After a month of being strictly vegan, my Ketones level shot up to 2 (from the normal below-0) and I lost 2lbs of my weight, as well as felt weak physically.
    Turns out that in spite of loading up on mountains of Vegan foods, pasta, breads, nuts, I was getting only 1200 calories per day and my body started digesting its own tissues to compensate.
    To save my ‘life’ – I immediately switched back to eating ‘everything’, meat, dairy, eggs, poultry, and within 3 days my Ketone levels normalized. My weight was back to normal (120) within 10 days and I felt stronger.
    Although I now eat much more in veggies and fruit, I am weary about going all vegan again unless I know it’s safe for me.
    What will I need to include in my vegan diet to make sure I don’t starve my body? (i.e. get the calories I need)

    • David

      Dr. Greger,

      Will you comment in a future blog about the recent paper that reports that saturated fat doesn’t contribute to cardiovascular disease? I understand that saturated fat from animals comes along with carnitine which we know is damaging to the vascular system. My second question is that I avoid coconut because of the saturated fat. If I can live with the calories that come along with the saturated fats is there still a reason to avoid coconut in light of this report from Harvard?


      • Frankfurman Jutter

        PlantPositive produced a brief response to those recent articles:

        David Katz also produced a response ( I’m wary of citing him since he has been caught performing studies/research to fit a preconceived conclusion. See 15:17 of the video I link after his article) :

        • JacquieRN

          First thing I noticed in the abstract:

          “Limitation: Potential biases from preferential
          publication and selective reporting.”

          March 24 2014: “Scientists Fix Errors in Controversial Paper About Saturated Fats”

          Willett says correcting the paper isn’t enough. “It is good that they fixed it for the record, but it has caused massive confusion and the public hasn’t heard about the correction.” The paper should be withdrawn, he argues.”

          “It’s dangerous.”

          Also: Dr. McDougall response:

          • Dominic

            The study published in The Annals of Internal Medicine entitled: Association of Dietary, Circulating and Supplement Fatty Acids With Coronary Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta Analysis’ suggests that the type and quantity of dietary fat may not be important factors in coronary artery disease (CAD) risk. The mainstream media jumped on this study because, as Dr. John McDougall often says, “People love to hear good news about their bad habits”.

            This study once again demonstrates the folly of taking a reductionist approach to nutrition research. As T. Colin Campbell writes:

            “Reductionism by definition seeks to eliminate all “confounding” factors: any variables that might influence the outcome in addition to the main substance under investigation. But because nutrition is a wholistic phenomenon, it simply doesn’t make any sense to study it as if it were a single variable. Studying nutrition as if it were a single-function pill disregards its complex interactions.”

            Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health states:

            “The single macronutrient approach is outdated; I think future dietary guidelines will put more and more emphasis on real food rather than giving an absolute upper limit or cutoff point for certain macronutrients.”

            The reductionist mindset of many nutritional scientists has caused the decades-long confused haze that afflicts people who seek to discover the healthiest human diet. Continued focus on single nutrients and single outcomes will result in current and future generations to continue to wallow in the nutrition research mire.

            We must start treating nutrition as a wholistic phenomenon. and stop trying to tease out one contribution from a diet and ignore the rest. As Dr. Campbell says:

            “Of course body fat, dietary fat, education level, depression, socioeconomic standing, and so many more characteristics are interrelated and interactive with one another and with our bodies’ systems. While statistical adjustments can pretend to wrap up reality into neat little packages, they don’t explain the underlying reality at all. “

            The Cambridge University meta analysis looked at studies that compared bad diets with bad diets and attempted to tease out the contribution of specific components from the bad diets. It’s a pretty safe bet that folks who ate fewer animal foods (less saturated fat) probably ate more processed junk and vegetable oils. It’s no wonder that researchers didn’t find a significant difference between saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.

            We need to emphasize studies that compare diets and assess multiple health outcomes. There is no shortage of these studies.

            Dr. Campbell’s work in China compared plant based diets with very plant based diets in people who were eating WHOLE and minimally processed plant foods. He found as animal food intake increased, so did the prevalence of many chronic diseases, including heart disease.

            Research led by Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. and The Nathan Pritikin Research Foundation show that their diets protect against and REVERSE CAD, and other chronic diseases!

            Their research confirms wholistic research that points to whole food plant based (WFPB) diets as disease preventing and health promoting. Wholistic research includes:

            Ecological studies – survey and compare populations as they already exist, and see what they eat and how healthy they are

            Biomimickry – look at our nearest animal relatives—gorillas and chimps—and see what they eat

            Evolutionary Biology – examine our physiology and determine what our bodies have evolved to ingest and process

            Reductionist scientists completely disregard wholistic evidence that can teach people the ideal human diet. The truth is available for all to see. All you have to do is open your eyes and activate your mind.

            I’ll finish with Dr. Campbell’s eloquent statement:

            “You can’t study wholistic phenomena solely through reductionist modes of inquiry without sacrificing reality, and truth, in the process”.

        • Arjan den Hollander.

          I would like to see research about the capacity of the body to expell fatty wastes through higher fiber intake. Which must help in preventing reuptake.

    • JacquieRN

      Hi there. I am wondering if you might want to look at vegan athlete eating plan/pattern. They are thriving and must eat a higher amount of daily calories. I don’t think loading up on pasta bread and nuts is best solution.

      For one consider: Brendan Brazier ( He has really well done site/program free – you can tailor to your needs/goals , has a section for athletes too:

    • Arjan den Hollander.

      Vitamin B12
      Vitamin K2
      Fatty acids (flax,hemp,chia)
      Creatine (I take 3gr on non meat days)

      Might have been points where you are missing the boat.

      But I had exactly the same issues a total failure to thrive while dropping meat 100% for 2,5 weeks. I started feeling weaker and weaker, even though I was actually watching all but the K2 at that time.

      For now I’m sticking with 2 meat days out of 7 which for me seems to work. If I find new possible missing links I’ll give it another try.

    • Toxins

      Complex, whole starches are key. This includes brown rice, beans, potatoes, etc. I typically consume around 2300+ calories depending on my physical activity level and I do this through complex carbohydrate based meals.

  • Wonderful! So glad I like my beans.

    • Arjan den Hollander.

      Phew your kid holding the cat looks gravely ill, is she all right?
      Is she allowed to go to the hospital?

  • Stephanie Stuart

    I wrote an article about this a while back. Not all Paleo blogs doom beans for phytates. In fact, I happen to agree to some benefits of phytates. If you like beans and they don’t bother your gut, then that’s great.

  • billm

    Great Stuff! Wondering… Seems scientists at the University of Exeter in England have published a study that suggests smelling farts could actually prevent cancer, among and other diseases. Turns out, the hydrogen sulfide gases created in the gut while breaking down food, in small doses, preserve the mitochondria in cells and thus, prevent disease. They are even working on a compound (AP39) that could deliver small doses of the gas. That all said, I wonder if the phytate mystery for colon cancer might be related to this mitochondria effect also?

    So, it seems, beans, beans “effect” are not just good for your heart! ;)

    Thanks Dr for this wonderful site and resource.


  • Rob English

    Bottom line: Soak almonds or not?

  • tom

    if i eat beans daily is that too much protein

    • DanielFaster

      Toxins answered that below, no studies show adverse effects from lots of beans, eat up!

  • Wilma Laura Wiggins

    Isn’t a bean actually a seed? You plant a raw bean and it grows into a plant, right? Same with a nut. So it seems it is just healthy and easier to say, eat seeds. BTW, the same could be said for grains, couldn’t it?

  • vanrein

    I would like to suggest a topic that appears to be more important than the careless skimming-over as currently done on NF:

    I seem to be hitting a ceiling in tolerable phytic acid (from whole wheat products, beans, cocoa, soy, oats, …), and NF does nothing to help me understand that… yet :)

    • Thea

      vanrein: Can you explain what you mean by “ceiling in tolerable phytic acid”? How do you know it is causing you any trouble?

      What I’m trying to get at is: From what I can tell, NF says that phytic acid is likely good for us. So, why do you link a health problem to phytic acid? What is the health problem that you link to your intake of beans and soy, etc? One last question: Are you eating whole, intact versions fo those foods? In other words, are you eating traditional soy products like say tempeh or vegan hot dogs with isolated soy protein?

      I ask these questions because the answers will hopefully get you better answers in return.

      • vanrein

        I’ve actively experimented with it for a week now; phytic acid is a very powerful off-switch for my energy, mood and well-being. Dropping it to low levels (no nuts, coffee, soy and only soaked beans) returns it in a day or so.

        Phytic acid (or Phytates) is the most obvious common factor in *all* foods I didn’t take well on in general. This is why I have started to believe that NF is too one-sided; there appears to be a maximum in how much we can take.

        My body can even tell the difference between quality of canned bean brands, and the phytate story explains why — less soaking for cheap beans, more soaking for the organic / expensive ones. NF only says “canned is as good as fresh” but does not mention the lack of control or labelling w.r.t. soaking practices — because it overlooks phytates as a potential problem. Or perhaps other anti-nutrients that come in unsprouted / unsoaked nuts and seeds.

        I’ve seen many warnings that phytates / phytic acid may be a concern when people take on a vegetarian diet and that makes sense to me, especially for vegans — who are less likely to maintain the lactobacilli who support phytic acid breakdown, since they need to compete on vegetables instead of thriving pretty much on their own on lactose. More in general, a less acidic gut means that any phytase produced by us is less active. (This is what I’ve learnt from soaking / fermenting stories to rid us of phytates before consumption.)

        In short, the one-sided advertisement “the more cocoa you eat the healthier you get” and similar statements are dangerous. Seeing Dr. Gregor skim over phytates with “some people believe that phytates are bad” is another one-sided approach that I think is beneath the quality level of the rest of this site. Hence my suggestion to take a more serious look than simple reductionism on a sole food ingredient.

        • Thea

          vanrein: Thank you for the clarification of your point/where you are coming from. Here’s some feedback/response: I totally believe you when you say that eating peanuts, coffee and canned beans affects your mood. But as you say, it is a complex issue. a) I don’t think we know that it is the phytic acid in those foods which are the problem for you and b) Even if we could know for sure that the phytic acid in the foods were a problem for you, the evidence (as presented by Dr. Greger) suggests that it is not a problem for the population in general.
          Dr. Greger is always educating us about the science as it applies to the general population, but that does not necessarily mean that it applies to any individual. Peanuts are very healthy for most people. But if you have a peanut allergy… Or in your case, if you are sensitive to peanuts in some way, then those peanuts may not be good for you.
          You wrote: “Hence my suggestion to take a more serious look than simple reductionism on a sole food ingredient.” I could be missing something, but it seems to me that that is what you are doing–ie, blaming some food sensitivities on a single nutrient in foods. Dr. Greger cites a range of studies. At least some of them look at overall diets/whole foods and then see how much phytic acid is in the diet. (ex from the transcript: “They found no significant associations between polyp formation and overall change in fruit and vegetable consumption; however, those with the greatest increase in bean intake only had about a third of the odds of advanced polyps popping up.”) So, when people eat whole foods like beans which happen to have a lot of phytic acid, the people seem to have positive outcomes. That’s not a reductionist approach.
          I appreciate that you are trying to find the best diet for yourself. It could be that phytates do not work well for you. I hope you find a balance that does work well for you. I also appreciate that you are getting into some of the biological mechanisms involved, and I did not address those points. Perhaps others will be able to jump in and take the conversation where you would like it to go.
          Good luck.

  • David Hochstettler

    so, I am a vegan in my 6th year should I be pre-soaking/fermenting my grains for 24 hours before cooking to reduce phytic acid and increase nutrient absorption? ie.
    thank you.
    ps I eat 5 servings of oatmeal and 200g of wheat berries, brown rice and barley most days