Sometimes not all foods are right for everyone – we're all individuals, so it makes sense – foods with high oxalates fall into this category.
With all the advice to increase our consumption of fruits and vegetables and whole foods, sometimes not all foods are right for everyone – we're all individuals, so it makes sense – foods with high oxalates fall into this category.
Oxalates are a naturally-occurring substance found in plants, animals, and in humans (our cells actually convert substances to oxalates), for some, eating large amounts of foods rich in oxalates can be problematic. Why do plants contain oxalates? Oxalates help protect plants from bugs. Essentially pests don’t like oxalates, so they stay away; oxalates are the plants natural protection.
When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and further exacerbate health problems; individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating foods high in oxalates, and should speak with thier doctors regarding any dietary changes.
Oxalates are thought to interfere with iron absorption, although studies have produced mixed results. For example, in the case of spinach, more recent studies suggest that absorption of non-heme iron (plant iron) is not significantly impacted by the oxalates contained in spinach. On the other hand, studies have shown, that oxalates may interfere with absorption of calcium; more reason to focus on a more varied and balanced diet!
What foods contain oxalates?
The leaves of a plant almost always contain higher oxalate levels than the stems, roots, and stalks. Spinach, Swiss chard, beet greens, collard greens, okra, parsley, leeks, rhubarb, and quinoa are among some of the most oxalate-dense foods. Berries contain oxalates as well as almonds, cashews, and peanuts. Soybeans are another source as is wheat bran and germ. Chocolate and black tea also contain notable oxalates.
Cooking has a relatively small impact on the oxalate content of foods. If cooked in water, some of the oxalates will be found in the water, so it may be beneficial for some to toss the water.
Love leafy greens but want to cut back on oxalates?
Choose arugula and watercress which are exceptionally nutritious, belong to the cruciferous veggie family (like cabbage, broccoli, kale, collard greens), and are low in oxalates. If you do not have the health issues mentioned above, choosing from a variety of vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds is a great way to not only avoid eating too many oxalate rich foods, but gives you a chance to constantly try new things and obtain the most nutrition from your diet as possible. Including probiotic rich foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, cottage cheese may also help the body deal with passing oxalates.