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  • George Elder

Can you eat too much Spinach?

It is possible that you are eating some toxic food but think that it is healthy?  Do you eat plants that insects avoid?  Maybe they know something?


You might love spinach, rhubarb, silver beet (Swiss chard), chives, parsley, soy beans, sweet potatoes, miso soup or almonds, but it is possible that by eating lots of these every day, you are loading up your body with oxalates.  Particularly if eating them raw, in salads or smoothies.  What are oxalates?


Oxalates are tiny needle shaped crystals and for some people, the impact on their body is highly inflammatory.  Most people can handle some level of oxalates, as the kidneys can filter them, from their blood, however if the level is continuously high, then sickness could be the result. The crystal accumulation can cause generalized problems, such as poor concentration, joint stiffness, swelling, muscle pain, tendonitis, hiccups, belching, restless legs, poor sleep, kidney problems, and other inflammatory conditions.  A serious outcome of high oxalates can be kidney stones (calcium oxalate).


Experts assume humans can handle about 120 mg of oxalate per day, but just 1/2 cup of steamed white-stalked silver beet has about 500 mg of oxalate and 1/2 cup of steamed red silverbeet has over 900 mg of oxalate, while steamed spinach has about 700 mg per 1/2 cup. That is a lot of oxalate, but the actual levels will vary by season, soil conditions, variety and time of harvest.     Spinach is a very high oxalate food with tested levels of up to 1145 mg per 100 grams of raw wet weight.  Keep in mind that this could be just one of many sources of oxalates in your meal.


For Vegans eating lots of soy and green vegetables particularly salads or spinach smoothies and for Low Carbohydrate dieters substituting almond flour for wheat flour, this is something to be aware of.


Excess vitamin C supplementation or a lack of vitamin B6 can increase oxalates.  Oxalates remove iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc from your blood, depriving you of these essential minerals.


In the ocean, mercury accumulates in the big fish as they eat the small fish with the result that the big fish can become toxic and we are advised not to eat them.  Oxalates can accumulate in your body over time in exactly the same way.  As you eat oxalates they can build up in various places in your body and cause localized problems as a result.  If you previously ate a high oxalate diet for a number of years such as might be the case if you are vegan or a heavy consumer of spinach smoothies, then it will take some years for the level of stored oxalates to reduce.  I understand that the recovery can last more than 10 years.


When your body recognizes that dietary oxalates are significantly reduced and that it may be a good time to begin dumping stored oxalates to reduce the toxic load, an unexpected problem can arise.  The process of dumping oxalate involves extracting it from storage and putting it back into the blood for disposal by the kidneys.  Unfortunately this new high non-dietary oxalate level in the blood can be very toxic and cause problems for the liver, heart and lungs as it is disposed of.  Minimising this toxic load may require you to very slowly reduce oxalates rather than making a sudden diet change.


Sally K. Norton ( https://sallyknorton.com/) is an expert on oxalates and plans to release her book “Toxic Superfoods” on 27 December 2022.   Pre-ordering this might be the best resource you can access for more information relating to oxalate poisoning.


How can you minimize this problem right now?  You can eat low or zero oxalate foods, you can balance higher oxalate foods with low or zero oxalate foods in a meal, or you can choose to eat calcium rich foods with the oxalates.  The oxalates bind with the calcium in these foods which can then transport them out of the body.  Examples of calcium rich foods include salmon, sardines, bone broth, and shellfish.  Boiling can reduce the oxalate level by 16% to 66% depending on the food.  The oxalate is discarded in the cooking water.


Low oxalate foods include meat, fish, dairy, eggs, avocado, peas, cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, and cabbage.


Many people are not impacted by oxalates and their kidneys safely flush them out in urine.  Keeping this toxin under control is about knowing where it comes from and ensuring that the variety in your diet is sufficient to ensure you are not driving up oxalate levels. For more information find my book at bit.ly/3KJwedY or my blog at “www.takebackyrhealth.com


Seek professional medical advice before making dietary changes, particularly if you have underlying health problems.  Doctors do not routinely check for this problem.





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