Oxalates seem to be the latest buzzword in the nutrition arena. People are curious about this common compound because although it is found in many plant-based foods we consider to be healthy, it may cause trouble for some people. Why? Let’s take a deep dive into oxalates to know if you should avoid them or if the hype about the possible dangers associated with them is overblown.
Oxalates (oxalic acid) are a
naturally occurring compound found in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and
Foods that are high in oxalates
include spinach, beets, kale, cocoa powder, sweet potatoes, rhubarb, berries,
and turnip greens.
Many oxalate-rich foods are full of
health-promoting phytonutrients including antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and
minerals, so can certainly be used as part of a plant-based diet with great
benefit for many of us.
After eating foods containing oxalates, the compound binds to
calcium in the gastrointestinal tract and typically leaves the body in the
urine or stool. In some people, however, the calcium oxalates can collect in
the kidneys and create kidney stones. There are many types of kidney stones,
but calcium oxalate accounts for about 80% of them.
Consuming too many oxalates may contribute to this health problem,
however, it’s important to understand that oxalates aren’t the only healthy
substance that can turn harmful. In fact, most good-for-you compounds can have
negative effects under certain conditions—even water!
There are a few very simple ways to reduce your risk of
overconsumption. The best approach is to include a wide variety of whole foods in
your diet and rotate them often to avoid overconsuming any one element that at
some point may go from healthy to harmful. In general, rotating foods more
regularly, rather than eating the same foods every day, is the best and safest
action for health and vitality.
Cooking plant-based foods is another way to significantly reduce
the oxalic acid load. Another method is to eat foods high in oxalates in combination with calcium. Fortunately, there is a
significant amount of calcium in many oxalate-rich foods, such as spinach,
mustard greens, collard greens, and beet greens.
It is generally accepted that there is no need to completely avoid
oxalates, however, some individuals with
kidney problems or gut dysbiosis may benefit from eating them less often and being
more conscious of making sure to cook them.
Here are several tips to keep in mind if a low-oxalate diet is
recommended due to kidney stones.
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