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"Superfoods" - Are these healthy or not?


Spinach & Beet leaves

There’s a bunch of celebrated superfoods that may actually not be so good for you - or at least not eaten all together and on the same day…


Are you suffering from digestive issues, joint pain and inflammation in general, gallstones and kidney stones?


Then this article is for you! Read on to learn more about how to make shifts in your household and mitigate the impact of these superfoods that are all high in this anti-nutrient - oxalates!


I’m talking about:

  • Spinach

  • Swiss chard & kale

  • Almonds and almond products

  • Soy

  • Beets & beet greens

  • Potatoes & sweet potatoes

  • Chocolate

  • Buckwheat

  • Most seeds (except flax, pumpkin & sunflower)


There’s many different anti-nutrients in plant foods: phytic acid, lectins, saponins and tannins. They can be found in all grains and legumes but also tea and wine and are there to protect the plant or grain from being eaten by birds or other animals. 

Then, as I explained in my previous article, there’s foods that are high in histamine which can become a problem for people with low histamine clearance or when they have other ongoing immune issues that are constantly triggering the release of histamine in the body.

And lastly, there’s salicylic acid that we can find in many summer fruit like berries and tomatoes but also vegetables. Go back to my previous article on salicylates here


But here I explicitly wanted to talk about oxalates….


Now, what exactly are oxalates, you might ask?

Well, they're natural compounds found in many plant-based foods, often praised for their antioxidant properties and potential health benefits. Plants have the same need to regulate their calcium levels than us humans: kind of like we store calcium in our bones, they store it mostly as calcium oxalate. In general, plants that have higher oxalate levels have much lower calcium bioavailability meaning that we humans cannot absorb that calcium. Spinach is a great example of that.


They also occur in the human body. Our body’s capability to create oxalates depends on our genetics and nutritional deficiencies. Deficiencies in vitamin B1 and B6 can increase oxalate production. So it is very important to reduce the risk of deficiencies in these vitamins. 


Oxalates can form crystals that lead to a condition known as oxalate "poisoning" or oxalate toxicity. These tiny crystals can accumulate in various parts of the body, particularly the kidneys, urinary tract, and even joints. The result? A host of unpleasant symptoms that can range from mild discomfort to severe pain.


Symptoms of Oxalate "Poisoning":

  • Kidney Stones: Perhaps the most infamous consequence of oxalate overload is the formation of kidney stones. These painful mineral deposits can develop when oxalate binds with calcium in the kidneys, creating stones that obstruct the urinary tract. The same can happen to your gallbladder too. 

  • Gastrointestinal Distress: High oxalate intake has been associated with digestive issues such as abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea. 

  • Joint Pain: Oxalate crystals can also deposit in joints, triggering inflammation and discomfort. Those suffering from conditions like arthritis may find their symptoms exacerbated by oxalate-rich foods.



Is there anything you can do to reduce the amount of oxalates in these foods?

While avoiding oxalate-rich foods entirely may seem like a daunting task, there are steps you can take to mitigate the risks:

  • Stay Hydrated: Adequate hydration is crucial for preventing kidney stone formation. Drinking plenty of water can help dilute oxalates in the urine, reducing the likelihood of crystal formation.

  • Pair with Calcium: Consuming high-oxalate foods alongside calcium-rich sources can help mitigate the risk of kidney stone formation. Calcium binds with oxalate in the digestive tract, preventing its absorption into the bloodstream.

  • Magnesium Citrate Potassium-magnesium citrate effectively prevents recurrent calcium oxalate stones, and this treatment given for up to 3 years reduces risk of recurrence by 85%. (Source)

  • Increase Biotin to mitigate effects of oxalate “dumping”

  • Cooking and Soaking: Certain cooking methods, such as boiling or steaming, can help reduce oxalate levels in foods like spinach and kale. Soaking nuts and seeds before consumption can also decrease their oxalate content. (Source)

  • Moderation is Key: While it may be tempting to indulge in your favorite oxalate-rich foods, moderation is key to avoiding potential health risks. Balancing your diet with a variety of nutrient-dense foods can help minimize the impact of oxalates.

  • Decrease Slowly: When removing high oxalate foods, pay attention to decreasing your oxalate intake gradually. Removing all high-oxalate foods and lowering your intake too quickly can lead to increased symptoms, because oxalates are exiting your body too quickly.

  • Healthy Fat Digestion: If we have a compromised fat digestion, the excess undigested fat floating around in our gut can bind to calcium, which makes the calcium unavailable for oxalate binding, causing free oxalate to absorb into the body.

  • Healthy Microbiome & Gut lining: A healthy gut will not absorb many oxalates, but if your gut is leaky (meaning that our gut lining is compromised and will let through small food particles and proteins), they are absorbed and will end up in our blood, urine, and tissues. We actually have a specific bacterium in our gut (oxalobacter formigenes) that helps decompose the oxalates in the foods we consume, but also the more known lactobacillus is an oxalate-degrading bacterium. 


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