I used to love spinach and many other similar veggies until I had to learn the hard way of what eating high oxalate foods really means.
Oxalates are naturally occurring tiny molecules that are really toxic and they form crystals which are the number one cause of most kidney stones.
Plants make and use oxalic acid (oxalates) in different ways.
- Oxalic acid is formed as part of photosynthesis to bind to minerals which plants require (such as calcium).
- Oxalic acide is also used as a defence mechanism against predators like animals, insects, and fungi. Animals that eat too much of it die unpleasantly unless they have well-developed oxalic acid detoxifying systems.
Humans produce 10-30mg per day but don’t really need it. However we can invest through certain compounds such a spinach several hundreds of miolligrams .
You could even ingest a thousands of milligrams of oxalates from a green smoothie!
Symptoms of a high oxalate diet
Symptoms can vary as oxalate crystals can be deposited into almost any part of the body. Joint, tissues, cells !
The most common condition associated to oxalates is kidney stones, but the symptoms can vary a lot. Here are only some
- Oxalate poisoning can happen when your chronic (daily) consumption of oxalates is so high that your body fails to clear it. The body has no way to disarm oxalate and must excrete it. When cells are required to handle oxalate they are moving it or “managing” it, not metabolizing it.
- Muscle pain. When oxalates bind to calcium in your blood, tiny, sharp oxalic acid crystals form and can be deposited anywhere in the body and cause muscle pain or weakness.
- Joint problems like gout, arthritis-like joint pains, stiffness, soreness, swelling. Oxalates’ ability to accumulate in joint spaces, to harm connective tissues, and to trigger inflammation has implications for joint tissues.
- Mineral deficiencies. Oxalates bind with minerals and not only with calcium. They can cause deficiency in iron, zinc, copper although the exact impact is not researced in depth at the time of writing. Oxalate may also bind with toxic metals such as lead, mercury, aluminum, or cadmium
I always liked beet roots and similar greens. And I always though I could have endless amounts of them. And they were keto friendly.
However recently I did manage to have much more than my body could handle. I probably had a bowl of wild greens (xorta) most days in a week for a few weeks in a row. I was actually collecting them from my back garden!
But I then had symptoms which at the time I could just simply not understand.
I had frequent urination which I could not control, and also started having pain on my kidneys. I decided to check it further and it turned out that one of my kidneys was inflammated. At that point I started suspecting oxalates, and completely stopped all oxalates.
The next few weeks confirmed that this was indeed an oxalate issue and more specifically oxalate dumping. You see, once you stop eating oxalate foods your body will slowly start excreeting what has been stored in your joints or other places. And my body was trying to get rid of oxalates in any way it could find.
I had some some very interesting symptoms.
- Pain in some old injuries (without being injured)
- Twittering of the eyes
- Tireness and lack of energy
This lasted for some weeks with some on and off periods until all was back to normal which another round of tests confirmed.
I still enjoy my green oxalates(!) once in a while but I am extra careful not to go over-board.
There is a big list of foods with oxalates so it is important to know how to prepare and eat those foods if you still want to be able to keep them in your diet.
Dosage is important
Keep the amount oxalates per day to maxiumi 100mg. Avoid having big amounts of high oxalate foods in one meal.
Boiling / Steaming
Boiling reduces soluble oxalate content, however the losses of insoluble oxalate during cooking varies greatly.
When calcium is taken with foods high in oxalic acid, the oxalic acid actually precipitates in the gut and drastically reduces the levels of oxalate absorbed by the body. If you allow free oxalic acid into your body without minerals at the exact same time, it will absorb into your body, then it can form crystals in your muscle tissue and/or kidneys.
Use with Citric Acid
Always add lemon juice and/or apple cider vineger.
- Oxalates are toxic and there is no good test to test your levels
- Limit the oxalate foods, and when you do have them prepare them properly.