Whenever I meet someone and the subject of health comes up, things inevitably swing over to oxalates. Mostly because I am surprised that people don’t know about them. I decided I’d break down the info here and talk a little about this topic.
I learned so much and wanted to pass the info along to others as well as provide some recipes so I created the above book which will be out this fall. It features super easy recipes for all levels of cooking and very simple ingredients that you can find anywhere.
But let’s talk about oxalates!
What are oxalates?
Oxalates are compounds/organic acids in many vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, and are known as an “anti-nutrient.” The reason for them is to give protection to plants from insects and animals.
To help ensure that seeds needed for the propagation of plants aren’t digested by hungry people and animals. When birds or bears feast on blueberries, the seeds are still viable, even after being pooped back out!
“Oxalates can bind to minerals to form compounds, including calcium oxalate and iron oxalate. This mostly occurs in the colon, but can also take place in the kidneys and other parts of the urinary tract.” source
Since oxalates are toxins, they are poison to some people.
Should people eat foods that contain oxalates?
Most people eat foods with various amounts of oxalates and are fine. Their gut bacteria breaks down the oxalates and everything is flushed from the body.
Other people especially those with a leaky gut, don’t break the oxalates down and they experience kidney stones and other reactions.
Where are oxalates found?
They are found in many nutritious foods that were surprising to me. You will find high oxalates in spinach, rhubarb, chocolate, peanuts, and peanut butter, almonds and almond butter, beets, sweet potatoes, figs, raspberries, soy including soy flour, tofu, lentils, legumes.
If you are eating a vegetarian diet and consume tofu and almond flour-based foods, you may want to pay attention to how you are feeling.
What happens when you have too much oxalates in your body?
When there are high levels of oxalates in the body, calcium oxalates can turn into sharp little crystals and can form kidney stones.
Those who have a history of kidney stones are usually told to consume a low oxalate diet. Oxalate crystals can lodge in joints and tissues and cause inflammation too.
According to researcher Susan Owens, M.A., Director of the Autism Oxalate Project, a problem occurs when excess oxalate is absorbed through the gut due to intestinal permeability, poor fat digestion, inflammation, or prolonged diarrhea or constipation. Overuse of antibiotics may also pose a problem since this can reduce or eliminate the oxalate-degrading bacteria in the intestines. In her overview of the scientific research, Owens says there may be a link between excess oxalate in the body and the following conditions:
- Thyroid disease
- Calcium-oxalate Kidney Stones
- Cystic Fibrosis
and more conditions are aggravated by the consumption of oxalates such as painful bladder disease, known as Interstitial Cystitis as well as Fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel disease, and other autoimmune disorders.
Because oxalates are somewhat unknown and are in healthy foods, I wonder how many people are living with inflammation, pain, and discomfort and a simple diet switch would help?
Dr. Jockers has a great article about oxalates here.
How do I watch my oxalates? What can I eat?
There are numerous lists and articles about oxalates that detail the food’s highest and lowest in oxalates. Most proteins and dairy are low in oxalates, there are lots of fruits and vegetables that are low or no oxalates.
My favorite low oxalate foods are eggs, cheese, granny smith apples, roasted red peppers, romaine lettuce, cucumbers, cabbage, chicken and grass-fed beef, sprouted pumpkin seeds, zucchini, mango, watermelon, cauliflower.
The only time my low oxalate diet really affects me is when I go out to eat.
I completely avoid nut flours like almond flour, which I totally overdid when I was first diagnosed with gluten intolerance.
Almonds were my go-to snack and I loved almond butter and baked constantly with almond flour.
Only once in a while do I have chocolate which is another high oxalate food.