Today more than ever, everyone seems to be focused on which diet is best for you. Is it plant-based, paleo or keto? What’s interesting is that the main stream consensus seems to be set on plant-foods being absolutely essential and good for you. On the other side of the spectrum is a majority consensus that your level of meat, cholesterol and saturated fat consumption are the absolute factors that determine whether or not you basically die!
What you won’t hear about is the actual effects that consuming plants have on your body, and that specific plant-foods consume regularly are actually harming you. Say it ain’t so!? Just think for a minute…did the creator of the universe actually put plants on this earth merely to be eaten by humans and other animals? Are plants just these organism that have absolutely zero defense mechanisms? The answer is NO, they do have defense mechanism that can kill YOU! Now, we are all well aware of things like poison Ivy and poisonous berries. Even the traditional Jamaican breakfast made with a fruit named ackee, can make you really sick if eaten before it’s ready.
Plants absolutely have defense mechanisms built into there structure, designed to keep predators (like humans) from eating them. One of these possible defense mechanism are called oxalates.
What are Oxalates?
This compound first starts out as oxalic acid, which comes from plant-foods that we eat. Our bodies also make it based a few contigencies (i.e. levels of B6 in your body, levels of vitamin C). When consumed, it binds with minerals and becomes Oxalates. It crystalizes and forms salts; sodium oxalate, potassium oxalate, magnesium oxalate, calcium oxalate. Most kidney stones contain formations of calcium oxalate.
What Foods Are Highest In Oxalates?
- Swiss Chard
- Potatoes (Regular & Sweet Potato)
- Black Pepper
- Nuts & Seeds
For a full list of foods with levels ranging from low/medium/high/very high, check out this link – downloadable Excel sheet from Harvard University published in 2007.
How Are Oxalates Harming You?
As mentioned earlier, kidney stones are one of the notable concerns surrounding oxalates. But, this only scratches the surface and research is continuously being done to fully understand the negative affects. Oxalates are known as mineral thieves, because they bind or lock up minerals as they move through your body. High Oxalate foods prevent mineral absorption
For example, spinach is high in calcium and oxalates, so when we eat it our bodies do not absorb a majority of the calcium (1). When high oxalate foods are consume with high fiber foods, the absorption of key mineral are also very limited.
Mineral deficiencies causes bones loss, reproductive issues, and even heart problems (2).
According to health educator and nutrition researcher Sally K. Norton, MPH consuming foods high in oxalate can trigger inflammation. Inflammation in the body is responsible for a whole host of issues including:
- Nerve cell damage, pain, and functional problems associated with the brain and nerves
- Dysfunction of cells, organs and glands
- Cell communication problems (autoimmunity, hormonal issues, neurological issues).
- Joint pain & aches
What Can You Do About It?
For anyone concerned with the affects of oxalate rich foods, below are strategies that can help limit your exposure and the toxicity of certain foods:
- Limit oxalate to 50 mg per day: Choose a variety of nutrient-dense animal and plant sources that are low in oxalates (see list here).
- Boil high-oxalate vegetables: Boiling vegetables can reduce their oxalate content from 30% to almost 90%, depending on the vegetable (17). After you boil, be sure to throw out the water immediately.
- Drink plenty of water: Aim for a minimum of 2 liters daily. If you have kidney stones, drink enough to produce at least 2.5 liters of urine a day (6).
- Get enough calcium: Calcium binds to oxalate in the gut and reduces the amount your body absorbs, so try to get about 800–1,200 mg per day (1, 16).
There is still a lot of research that is being done on the affects of oxalates on human health. The professionals that are leading the charge are within the functional medicine field, which isn’t as mainstream as conventional practices. This concept challenges popular beliefs and goes against the norm. But, I’m here to offer both sides or multiple sides when it comes to nutrition, so that you the reader can make educated decisions about your health. I AM NOT against plant-foods, and I actually feel great and enjoy eating a big fat salad everyday! But, it’s important that I bring you information that you otherwise wouldn’t hear about.
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