What about OXALATES in spinach?

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl: Some people think you should lightly cook your spinach and other greens before eating them. Is it safe to eat them raw?

Answer: This is an excerpt from Ch. 1 of my e-book, 12 Steps to Whole Foods.   It is both safe and good to eat spinach raw, which I have done every day for 15 years. Cooking, by any method, kills 100% of the greens’ enzymes.

A popular and growing theory and opinion among those interested in nutrition is that greens (especially spinach) are high in oxalates and should be avoided because oxalates cause kidney stones or gallbladder problems, since oxalates may interfere with absorption of calcium from the body.   Another popular opinion is that cooking spinach renders the oxalates harmless.

In fact, a review of the peer-reviewed research reveals that the ability of oxalates to lower calcium absorption is small and does not outweigh the ability of those foods to contribute significant calcium to the diet, since spinach is rich in calcium.   A few rare health conditions require oxalate restriction: absorptive hypercalciuria type II, enteric hyperoxaluria, and primary hyperoxaluria.  These are not the more common condition wherein kidney stones are formed.   The research is not clear that restricting foods such as spinach helps prevent stones in those who have previously had them. Many researchers believe that dietary restriction cannot reduce risk of stone formation.   In fact, some foods that were assumed to increase stone formation because of oxalate content (like black tea) have appeared in more recent research to have a preventative effect.

Further, cooking has a small impact (about 10 percent) on the oxalate content of foods, with no statistically significant lowering of oxalates following blanching or boiling of greens.   It appears that the nutritional advantages of eating raw greens continue to far outweigh any benefit of cooking them.

Two other classes of nutritional compounds, purines and goitrogens, are found in some leafy greens such as spinach.   Eating “excessive” amounts of spinach or cruciferous vegetables (broccoli and cauliflower, for instance) containing these compounds can be a problem for people who suffer with gout, kidney stones, or low thyroid hormone production.   These chemical compounds are also found in peanuts, strawberries, soy products, and other foods as well.   Lightly steaming these foods may help, as well.   However, the literature seems to support that a few weekly servings of these foods is a good idea for almost everyone.

Need motivation to eat less meat and more plants? . . . part 3 of 12

More today on whether dairy products contribute to health:

 

Calcium absorption rates according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition:

                      Brussels sprouts                       64%

                      Mustard greens                       58%

                      Broccoli                                           53%

                      Turnip greens                         52%

                      Kale                                                     50%

                      Cow’s milk                                 32%

 

Suzanne Havala is a fellow of the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and says this:

“Milk is species specific.   Each species’ milk is tailor-made for its own kind.   So how on Earth did people start drinking milk from cows?   Even adult cows don’t drink cow’s milk.   And if we drink cow’s milk, why stop there?   Why not drink dog’s milk?   Or bear’s milk?”

 

Neal Barnard, M.D., is president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.   He said this:   “The dairy industry continues to whitewash the dangers of cow’s milk.   The ubiquitous ‘milk mustache’ campaign makes misleading claims about milk preventing osteoporosis, lowering blood pressure, and enhancing sports performance.   Recent studies, including the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, have show that milk offers no protection against broken bones.   And, unlike prescription drug ads, the mustache ads don’t reveal the many unwanted side-effects of milk, among them increased risk of prostate and ovarian cancer, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.”

 

Tell me: Is the “Got Milk?” ad campaign seeming stupider and more dishonest to you, every time you see a new paid celebrity with a milk mustache on the side of a bus? Eat less dairy and get your calcium from plant foods instead!

Parenting Skills for Young Children

My next week of blogging will be about one of my favorite topics, possibly the #1 question I am asked—and the one I care about most.   How do I get my kids to eat right?   That is, parenting skills for young children when it comes to food and nutrition.   These blogs are derived from the introduction of my program 12 Steps to Whole Foods.

Taking on the 12 steps in the program is a worthy goal for anyone, and you can make these changes whether or not you have children, and whether or not they live at home.   But one of my greatest passions in life is to help parents understand the importance of excellent nutrition early in life and implement strategies to achieve it.   So if you have children at home (or are close to people who do), this is for you.

I have found dieticians to be largely useless and sometimes harmful in the way they teach mothers about nutrition.   (I’m sure truth-seeking dieticians do exist, however.)   Keep in mind that these are the folks designing the menus in school and hospital lunchrooms.   (Enough said?)   It’s not their fault: they are taught curricula heavily influenced and even written by the wealthiest industries in America: the dairy and meat conglomerates.

My experience is that dieticians feel their main job is to push milk and dairy products, because they have been taught that these products create strong bones and teeth.   I spoke with a dietician recently who had never heard of the ingredients in my Appendix A (whole-food sweeteners and other nutrition products you can find in health food stores).   She taught in a class I attended that getting your child to drink “flavored” milk is a great idea. By that she means hormone- and antibiotic-contaminated milk with pink chemical dye and plenty of sugar added.   Dieticians also believe that to get protein, you need to eat plenty of animal flesh.

I have looked elsewhere for my own nutrition education and strongly recommend you do the same, to increase your nutrition-related parenting skills for young children.   I don’t advocate for vegetarianism, but rather for increasing whole plant foods in the diet.   But the most bioavailable sources of calcium for humans are not found in the milk of other animals.   And protein is manufactured and utilized by the human body very well when the range of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) in whole plant foods are supplied as fuel.   We need look no further than our vegetarian cousins, the primates, for evidence of this.

 [more tomorrow]

Throw Away Your Television

With more than one-third of America’s children overweight, we have TV to thank (more importantly, our choice to indulge in it).   Throw away your television (or at least leave it mostly off) for two reasons.

One, kids are burning fewer calories because they aren’t exercising while they watch hours of TV.   Most parents remember childhood being about riding bikes and playing sports.   Today’s kids spend an average of four hours a day watching TV or videos, almost 2 hours listening to music, and at least an hour on the computer.   Although some of that time overlaps (kids doing two things at once), none of them involve stretching either the muscles or the brain.

Two, while they’re watching all that TV, they’re being bombarded with their favorite characters such as SpongeBob and Shrek selling burgers and fries, Skittles, and Pop Tarts.   Kids aged 2 to 7 see 12 food ads a day–that’s 4,400 per year, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study.

It’s not that hard to get kids off soda.   And it’s not that hard to control their TV watching, either.   Parents can and should set limits–it’s not exclusively the schools’ job.   We have to compensate for funding cuts that mean that gym classes are becoming the exception rather than the rule.   When they get home from school, they should be moving their bodies, doing something they like so they learn that being fit is fun, not a chore.

A contributing factor to kids’s bones bowing and breaking at skyrocketing rates is that fewer than one-quarter of them are getting enough calcium–and what they do get is robbed by the massive amount of phosphorus in soft drinks.   But also, you need Vitamin D to absorb calcium and harden bones.   And kids certainly aren’t outside getting Vitamin D from the sun.   They’re inside on the computer, playing video games, and watching TV.

Finally, setting an example is critical.   Obesity expert Dr. Bob Whitaker at Temple University says, “‘Do as I say, not as I do’ didn’t work with smoking and it won’t work with exercise and eating either.   If you want your children to be healthy and fit, you must live the lifestyle, too.”   We might start with this simple step: throw away your television, or at least turn it off a lot more.