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And the Oxalate Controversy Rages On …

Robyn Openshaw - Jun 06, 2012 - This Post May Contain Affiliate Links

We got lots of interesting email in response to my rebuttal to the wildly exaggerated and completely undocumented article posted by one “Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist” that tells people not to drink green smoothies and says they can “devastate” your health.

Heidi, a “low oxalate” blogger / site owner wrote a response. I like to look at all viewpoints and appreciate that she listed lower-oxalate greens for those who wish to concern themselves with this issue. She has eliminated some health problems by carefully reducing oxalates for 20 years. Those include turnip and mustard greens, dino kale, curly kale, romaine, cabbage, and collards.

Hopefully Heidi has been creative to keep lots of greens and raw roods in her diet while controlling for oxalates. If not, we eliminate one compound causing a problem and dozens of other compounds desperately needed and hard to find in other sources.

I disagree with Heidi that it’s a good idea to boil greens, as has been passed around the internet as a solution to the “problem.” George Mateljan surveys the literature well and concludes that this does not significantly reduce oxalates. And of course we know boiling destroys most of the food’s other best properties—enzymes, vitamins, and minerals.

I do not disagree that there are a few people who are not metabolizing greens well, and I absolutely agree that improving gut health is key to reversing many conditions. Greens have many critical properties that other foods do not, and these nutritional benefits are desperately needed by virtually everyone. So I’m very reticent to embrace the idea that we eliminate an entire class of foods—or we nuke them to death—because a few people have degenerative gut issues wherein an “anti-nutrient” becomes indigestible and even harmful.

As counterpoint, if you have become alarmed, you owe it to yourself and your health to read another viewpoint. Author Victoria Boutenko, my friend and companion in green crime, has written this extremely detailed, source-rich article on all the research that oxalates are FRIEND RATHER THAN FOE. I covered the more neutral ground of referencing the macro study that concluded the evidence does not support oxalates being harmful, nor does it support that cooking greens neutralizes that compound.

We had a few comments on facebook or on the blog that someone who drinks green smoothies got kidney stones. I know people who eat some whole foods and got cancer, too. It’s a major logical fallacy to leap to the conclusion that because you eat one healthy thing, that healthy thing is causing a disease. Even if you started green smoothies two weeks before you get a kidney stone, that doesn’t mean anything. Kidney stones take a long time to build up before they release and begin to cause pain—and possibly damage. Although I cannot rule out that a nutritious food played a role in oxalates binding to calcium, I think far more likely culprits for the vast majority are long-term indulgence in soda, salty foods, and animal proteins—and low water consumption. Please read George Mateljan’s meticulous reviews of oxalate research and conclusions, and/or Victoria Boutenko’s report below.

Before you change your diet to eliminate or massively reduce the highest micronutrient foods on the planet from your diet, the foods that are the crux of the primate diet worldwide (we share more than 98% of their DNA), you ought to read this documentation suggesting that greens may actually prevent kidney stones. We already know they prevent many, many other modern health risks.

Read Victoria’s report HERE.

Posted in: Green Smoothies, Whole Food

11 thoughts on “And the Oxalate Controversy Rages On …”

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  1. LBee says:

    The oxalate issue is a genuine one for some of us. If you can tolerate them, great! I applaud bloggers who bring solutions to problems that those of us who can’t tolerate them face. As another commenter said, mammals can’t tolerate them either. I don’t nuke the crap out of my food either. In fact I don’t use a microwave all. I for one have a chronic condition that required me to leave the oxalates alone for the most part. Really didn’t like how you came off in this post, I usually don’t comment but felt the need to do so. We’re all in this life together. What works for one may not for another. Delete it if you like do others don’t see the comment. I said my 2 cents. Have a great evening. 🙂

  2. Tsianina says:

    Totally agree with you, people are worrying way too much. They just need to eat a whole foods plant based diet (hopefully vegan but veganisms more than a diet) rich in all these foods they’re fearing. I know so many whole foods/raw vegans and they never have problems with kidney stones, but those I know who have, all ate a typical SAD diet very low in foods containing these acids. I’ve been vegan and WFPB for years–my diet is EXTREMELY rich in these greens, raw nuts/seeds, beans, etc. and I’ve never been healthier and haven’t gotten sick since, not even a headache. I have good calcium levels and even had an old cavity heal itself as shown in dental x-rays. It’s crazy to me that in a world where the leading cause for our biggest killers (not to mention premature aging!) is undoubtedly linked to the consumption of animal products and a diet low in plants, people are worrying about the healthiest (literally life-saving) foods on the planet, it’s insane and very convenient hype to the animal agriculture industry. I also wonder how many people who claim to be low in a mineral are actually having themselves tested and not just going by what the supplement industry is putting out there. Either way, the best sources of any mineral, is plant foods.

  3. Tsianina says:

    Lol, it’s funny how so many posters under this article claim to have kidney stone issues with green smoothies, yet go to or even join a raw food vegan group on social media, and you hear nothing but good things (coinciding with the actual science). It’s all too typical for the animal agriculture industry to try to get people to avoid eating a plant based diet through any means necessary. I’d say a website titled “greensmoothiegirl” would definitely draw in a lot of the propaganda spreaders. This might sound “conspiracy theory” to some, but sadly that’s the way things work when there are billions of dollars to lose.

    1. Howard L. Silverman, PhD, DC-retired says:

      You make a very good point, and you may be right. But before assuming the worst, could it also be possible that these people are getting an overdose of calcium that ends up as kidney stones, because of excess calcium supplementation. They may not realize that greens can supply an abundance of calcium in a form that is easily incorporated into the body. Supplementation is not always what it’s cracked up to be. Ingesting sufficient greens is expected to provide all the calcium that a person needs. Too much protein in the diet can also result in calcium being pulled out of the bones to control the acidity associated with deaminating ingested protein in excess of what the body actually needs. If a person is either not a vegetarian or is a new vegetarian, he or she may not realize that vegetables can provide more than enough protein to meet our dietary needs. By the way. I’m not a vegetarian, but I only require either an egg, or less than an ounce of organic meat to be ingested several times a week to prevent another onset iron deficiency anemia.

  4. Suzy Freeman says:

    I owned a natural food store during my twenties and have faithfully juiced for over twenty years, heavy on the greens and fresh wheatgrass with nothing but positive results. This past summer I was eating particularly large quantities of curly kale, parsley, spinach, chard, red beets, carrots, blueberries, sprouted almonds and sprouted walnuts along with my juicing routine. I perfected my carob powder/ dried fig /ghee fudge recipe and was enjoying several pieces per week. By August I developed excruciating pain in my kidneys, fibromyalgia type symptoms in my muscles, sharp pain in joints, had to wear sunglasses in the house because my eyes became so sensitive to light, was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and was basically bed-ridden and confused. From bed, with one eye open, I was able to do online research from my phone to discover I had seemingly developed oxalate toxicity. All the foods in my diet had one thing in common: they were extremely oxalate rich. Like, off the charts. I took the Organic Acids Test which confirmed a very high amount of oxalates in my urine. I just wanted to share that I firmly believe a healthy, vibrant person who overdoses on oxalate rich food (and is dairy-free like I was) could potentially shift the chemistry of their body to becoming permanently oxalate sensitive and even develop an autoimmune disease in the process. The crystals that get into the bloodstream have to deposit somewhere and they often pick an organ- my thyroid is where mine accumulated. I had some carrots and raspberries this week and am back in bed with all the yucky symptoms. Back to the low ox diet for me. My message: moderation, dear ones. Instead of the 20 ounce green juice twice a day, maybe 12 ounces once a day. More isn’t necessarily better and less might just mean you can enjoy all your favorite foods for life! Learn from me!

    1. Lulu says:

      Where you eating all the oxalate greens and vegetables mostly raw or cooked? Thanks for sharing your story by the way and I’m glad you realized what was going on with your body!!

      1. Suzy Freeman says:

        Thanks for asking! I was eating large quantities of both raw and cooked. The cooking process doesn’t break down oxalates, I have since learned. They are persistent, hard crystals.

        1. Howard L. Silverman, PhD, DC-retired says:

          I’m familiar with the need of some people to have very low oxalate diets or suffer severe pain. However, if people are on diets that have lots of greens, and if they then cut out grains, they may inadvertently run into a selenium deficiency which will then interfere with thyroid function. Selenium deficiencies also have a profound effect on immune function. I’m wondering if this could be a piece of your puzzle. Could your oxalate susceptibility be triggered or exacerbated by a dietary triggered selenium deficiency? What do you think? To guarantee sufficient selenium, I try to eat one Brazil nut a day, a couple of white mushrooms a day, and one slice of organic spelt bread or an ounce of pasta made from one of the ancient forms of wheat. (Note, too many Brazil nuts can provide toxic levels of selenium, but one or two small Brazil nuts appear to be quite safe, unless a person is taking high levels of selenium supplements.) Would I be correct to assume that you eat a vegan diet?

    2. Dolors says:

      Hi Suzy – I have developed nearly identical symptoms for the past 6 months. I kept saying why do I feel like I am poisoning myself, after my (seemingly super healthy) vegan wholefood meals (extreme joint and muscle pain, brain fog, confusion to the point of slurring my words, extreme exhaustion and fatigue…). I have been researching non-stop (mostly from my bed as you have!). Yesterday it was my breakthrough. Yes, it all started as soon as I increased my greens, started juicing, etc. I have been on cbd oil to keep me half-functioning… For a while I removed curly kale, spring greens and spinach for a while without ever making the connection to oxalates (I thought I had developed some intolerance). Well, this past week I have added spinach to my daily smoothies thinking I would be fine. How wrong I was… Almost bedridden again and severely underweight in just a few days. Same happened with raspberries, increase in orange intake… and other seemingly ok foods.

      Now that I know the real culprit I want to take action! I am desperate to put on weight, gain my energy and health back, gain my clarity (brain fog is so scary!)… I’d like to find a vegan diet low in oxalates which contains all the nutrients. Would love to keep in contact with you – perhaps we can chat on Facebook or via e-mail?

      Warmest regards,


  5. Suzanne Guimond says:

    for those of you with chronic disease, oxalates may play a very detrimental role, read this;

  6. Ms taloo says:

    Without any doubt, greens (and high oxalate foods) give me kidney stones. When I drink green smoothies I am in agony. When I stop drinking green smoothies, I am fine. If I start drinking the Green smoothies, i am in agony again. When I stopped again, the pain stopped. I also have to be very careful of dark chocolate and particularly, almonds. It also gives me irritated skin. It’s not a myth. And I know of other people who have the same issues. It probably doesn’t happen for everyone. It’s worse if you eat too much meat (better if you have a little). It’s worse combined with dairy (probably because the oxalates combine with calcium to make the kidney stones). It seems to happen more for people on low carb diets.

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