- Oxalates form in many healthy, naturally-occurring plants.
- However, people are susceptible to oxalate-related health issues.
- Here are a few key reasons to monitor your oxalate consumption.
A naturally occurring compound produced by humans called oxalates – or oxalic acid – are waste products produced by the body’s metabolism and eventually excreted through the urine. They take their final form when they bind with nutrients like calcium. While oxalates are found in the body’s natural chemistry, they are far more prevalent in plant species. In plants, oxalic acid manifests as a result of metabolism as well, but takes a crystalized salt form as opposed to a liquid.
In small amounts, oxalates can exist in the body with no cause for concern. However, they are linked to several worrisome health issues and should be monitored carefully. Below, we explain why you should care about the concentration of oxalates in your body and explain some techniques to help you balance your intake.
1. Oxalates are considered antinutrients
Technically, oxalates are antinutrients, which means they can reduce the body’s ability to properly and fully absorb essential nutrients. Plant-based foods are where oxalates are found for human consumption, and are rarely found in animal byproducts or other foods. While oxalates often will not cause any harm, there is ample reason to be mindful when consuming foods that contain them.
Because oxalates work against nutrients, monitoring your intake is important, especially during times of malnutrition or neglect. Assess diets heavy in spinach, legumes and grains with a doctor before pursuing them to see if you might be at risk for health issues.
2. Oxalates can cause kidney stones
Even though plant-based diets are considered optimal and known to reduce risk of disease, certain genetic traits may make you susceptible to antinutrient overwhelm. Calcium binds oxalate in the intestines, which is vital to kidney balance and excretion. According to a study on oxalate effects published by the National Library of Medicine (National Center for Biotechnology Information), “While oxalic acid is a normal end product of mammalian metabolism, the consumption of additional oxalic acid may cause stone formation in the urinary tract when the acid is excreted in the urine.”
High fat diets are cause for concern because one of the big causes of kidney issues stems from fat not being absorbed correctly. When the body doesn’t know what to do with extra fat, it often binds to calcium. Without necessary calcium, the oxalates are left behind to wreak havoc on your internal system. This is where it is absorbed by the kidneys, and forms stones.
What foods are high in oxalates?
If you are experiencing health issues related to oxalate consumption – namely, if you have experienced kidney pain or are at risk of stones – it is best to avoid some staple foods. Beans, berries, dark green vegetables (spinach, kale, etc.), sweet potatoes, and soy might be cause for concern.
Indulgences like beer, coffee, chocolate, soda, and tea are also highly aggravating to the system, and are not suggested when experiencing pain.
While most diets contain about 200-300mg of oxalates per day, someone suffering from kidney issues will want to consider limiting their intake to 100mg or less every 24 hours.
How can I create and maintain oxalate balance?
To help offset an overabundance of oxalates in your system, be sure to get the recommended intake of daily calcium as prescribed by Mayo Clinic standards or your primary physician.
When consuming natural food products high in oxalate content, consider soaking and cooking them. This reduces the oxalate concentration and can often enhance flavor profiles and health benefits of your produce.