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Foods that are high in oxalates (oxalic acid) can cause problems for SOME people.

About the Chemical

Our bodies will make a certain amount of oxalic acid in normal day to day life! You could never eat a scrap of oxalate or oxalic acid – and normal metabolic processes in the body will create oxalates.

The problem gets back to that moderation thing. An excessive intake of oxalate may potentially increase the risk of kidney stones for people prone to the condition. This is because oxalates bind to calcium as they leave the body, and thus they can increase the risk of kidney stones in some people.

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Oxalic acid is a simple chemical molecule. Image courtesy wikimedia.

Oxalate Buildup

Other issues can contribute to oxalate buildup in the body. For example, your intestines break down many oxalates. But when you take antibiotics, they can lessen the “good bacteria” in your gut that help do this. The bacteria Oxalobacter formigenes rely on oxalates as a source of energy, which helps lessen oxalate buildup. Some people have more of this bacteria than others. Antibiotics can be especially hard in this type of bacteria, leading to quick oxalate buildup. It is not one of the bacteria commonly found in most probiotic suppliments.

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People who have had gastric bypass surgery or surgeries that affect how the digestive system works may also have high oxalate levels in their urine. If you have digestive dysfunction or take antibiotics, you may want to eat a low-oxalate diet.

It’s Everywhere

Oxalate (oxalic acid) is a compound found in a wide range of plant foods, and our own bodies will make it. Oxalates are often called an “anti-nutrient.” But oxalate is only problematic for some individuals, it is usually not a concern for most healthy people, and the idea that everyone needs to avoid oxalate is a common nutrition myth.

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Hard to Get the Numbers

How much oxalic acid is in our food? Plants are little chemical factories – but even if they come from the same genus and species, they were all created with different blueprints (genes). Thus it is extremely difficult to find the accurate oxalate content of foods.

After combing some old journals in our collection, we turned to the interweb and have combined data sets to create this list.
The data for this list comes from the following:
Harvard School of Public Health,
articles published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry,
a hand out from a class I took on the Tohono O’odham reservation in 1982,
and a 1935 USDA booklet called “Food Safety.”

High Oxalate Foods List

almonds
avocados
barrel cactus fruit – not the seeds inside the fruit
beet greens
beets
buckwheat
cactus fruit
carrots
cashew (pecans and walnuts appear to be low in oxalates)
chard
chocolate
cholla buds
dates
dragonfruit
fava beans
figs
grapefruit
kidney beans
kiwi
legumes – all beans
millet
miso
oca
okra
olives
oranges
oxalis
parsnip
pasta
peanut butter
pineapple
pinto beans
plums
potatoes
prickly pear fruit
raspberries
refried beans
rhubarb, including wild rhubarb, a close cousin
rice – white, brown, short, whole, parboiled
rice beverages
rutabaga
sesame seeds and sesame oil
soy products, including tofu and miso
spinach
star fruit
tahini
tangerine
tea – green and pekoe
tofu
tomatoes, even green tomatoes
wheat, including flour and whole wheat berries