What Is a Low-Oxalate Diet?

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  • What Is Oxalate?

    What Is Oxalate?

    Oxalate is a naturally occurring molecule found in abundance in plants and humans. It’s not a required nutrient for people, and too much can lead to kidney stones.

    In plants, oxalate helps to get rid of extra calcium by binding with the oxalate. That is why so many high-oxalate foods are from plants. In humans, it may work as a “prebiotic,” feeding the good bacteria in the gut.

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  • How Does the Body Process It?

    How Does the Body Process It?

    When we eat foods with oxalate, it travels through the digestive tract and passes out in the stool or urine. As it passes through the intestines, oxalate can bind with calcium and be excreted in the stool. However, when too much oxalate continues through to the kidneys, this can lead to kidney stones.

    Calcium oxalate kidney stones are the most common type of kidney stone in the United States. The higher the levels of oxalate, the greater risk there is of developing these kinds of kidney stones.

  • What Is a Low-Oxalate Diet?

    What Is a Low-Oxalate Diet?

    For people who have had or are at high risk for kidney stones, it may be helpful to lower the amount of oxalate that you eat to help reduce this risk.

    However, new research indicates that boosting your intake of calcium-rich foods when you eat foods that are high in oxalate may be a better approach than simply eliminating oxalate from the diet. As they digest, oxalate and calcium are more likely to bind together before they get to the kidneys, making it less likely that kidney stones will form.

  • What Causes Oxalate Buildup?

    What Causes Oxalate Buildup?

    Foods that are high in vitamin C can increase the body’s oxalate levels. Vitamin C converts to oxalate, and levels over 1,000 milligrams (mg) per day have been shown to increase oxalate levels.

    Taking antibiotics, or having a history of digestive disease, can also increase the body’s oxalate levels. The good bacteria in the gut help get rid of oxalate, and when the levels of these bacteria are low, higher amounts of oxalate can be absorbed in the body.

  • What Can Reduce Oxalate?

    What Can Reduce Oxalate?

    Drinking enough fluid each day can help to clear kidney stones or even keep them from forming. Spreading liquids throughout the day, and choosing water over other drinks when possible, is ideal.

    Calcium is also helpful. Getting too little calcium can increase the amount of oxalate that gets to the kidneys, which will then increase the risk of kidney stones.

    Lowering your salt intake can also lower your risk of kidney stones, since high-salt diets tend to cause more calcium to be lost in the urine. The more calcium and oxalate in the kidneys, the greater the risk of kidney stones.

  • How Is It Measured?

    How Is It Measured?

    Lists that provide the oxalate content in foods can be confusing. The oxalate levels in foods can vary depending on when they are harvested and where they are grown. 

    Also, there may be differences in how they were tested. This can lead to different oxalate amounts reported for the same food. Generally, you will find oxalate in foods of plant origin.

  • High-Oxalate Foods

    High-Oxalate Foods

    Foods that are highest in oxalate include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains.  High-oxalate fruits include berries, kiwis, figs, and purple grapes. Vegetables that contain high levels of oxalate include rhubarb, okra, leeks, spinach, beets, and Swiss chard. 

    To reduce how much oxalate you get, avoid almonds, cashews, and peanuts, as well as any soy products. Grains such as Bran Flakes, Fiber One, wheat germ, and quinoa are also higher oxalate foods. Finally, cocoa, chocolate, and tea have higher amounts of oxalate.

  • High-Calcium Foods

    High-Calcium Foods

    Increasing your calcium intake when eating foods with oxalate can help lower oxalate levels in the urine. Choose high-calcium dairy foods such as milk, yogurt, and cheeses.  Vegetables can also provide a good amount of calcium. Choose broccoli, watercress, kale, or okra to increase your calcium levels. 

    Legumes such as kidney beans, chickpeas, baked beans, and walnuts have a fair amount of calcium. Sardine, whitebait, and salmon round out the list.

  • How to Avoid Kidney Stones

    How to Avoid Kidney Stones

    To lower your risk of kidney stones, add a high-calcium food to a meal that contains a food that has higher levels of oxalate. 

    For example, if you add wheat germ to your oatmeal, be sure to add some milk as well. If you are cooking spinach, don’t feel to guilty about combining it with pizza or lasagna. If you have a craving for a berry smoothie, add some regular or Greek yogurt to help provide balance.

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