If you have decided to eat a low oxalate diet to support your health or if it was recommended by your health care practitioner as part of your healthy kidney or urinary tract program, you may be a bit overwhelmed. However, once you know what foods to avoid and how to properly substitute them, it becomes more manageable.
In this article, we will provide some key points to make following a low-oxalate diet easier. By learning the ways to reduce oxalate in your daily diet, you’ll be taking an important step on the path to reaching your health goals including those that can result in happy kidneys and urinary tract, without sacrificing nutrition.
Let’s start with the basics.
What is Oxalate?
Oxalate is a waste product that we get primarily from leafy green vegetables and nuts, although it is present in a wide range of foods. In addition, our bodies produce oxalate as a by-product of metabolizing certain organic acids, which are used as building blocks in the body. As some of you may know, when the calcium-oxalate ratio is out of balance, oxalate catches calcium and hangs on to it (binds with it) which prevents your body from using the calcium. In fact, when oxalate and calcium bind together, they form microscopic crystals.
How To Avoid FOODS FULL OF OXALATE
As you become more familiar with the oxalate reduction diet, you’ll notice that many plant-based foods, especially leafy greens, are loaded with oxalate. This may be puzzling as most of us were taught that vegetables and fruits were good for us when we were growing up. It’s that contradiction of what we learned growing up and what we’ve recently learned about vegetables, fruits and some other plant foods that makes it difficult to follow this diet plan on a long term basis.
The first step is to research foods that should be avoided because they contain lots of oxalates and which could be substituted into your diet. You can find a handful of helpful charts online that show oxalate content of different foods; just be sure that the chart you use is recent and from a reputable source. In addition, there are numerous recipes online as well as some low-oxalate cookbooks, such as Melinda Keen’s “Low-Oxalate Fresh and Fast Cookbook.”
A couple helpful hint that may help you learn how to reduce the oxalate in your diet, especially if you’re shopping and don’t have time to research before you go: In many plants, the leaves contain the most oxalate while the stems have the lowest oxalate content; oxalate also increases in plants as they age and ripen.
You may find that it is more effective and manageable to ease yourself into the low-oxalate diet gradually over time, rather than making one big shift. As with any diet, oxalate reduction does not work as a “quick fix” it requires a conscious lifestyle change. To start slow, you can choose one or two foods that have lots of oxalate and substitute them for foods that are lower in oxalate. For example, you could switch out spinach for kale and almonds for pumpkin seeds, gradually adding more substitutions as you become more familiar with low-oxalate options.
Just because you are cutting oxalate-loaded foods out of your life does not necessarily mean that you will not be able to cook or eat your favorite dishes anymore. There are a variety of substitutions that you can use for the foods you are planning on giving up. For example, you can substitute French fries made from potatoes for rutabaga fries. Rutabagas are lower in oxalate than potatoes are and you can easily skin them and bake them with olive oil and garlic powder or light salt as a delicious side to your burger. Another great low-oxalate substitute is popcorn instead of nuts. Air-popped popcorn is a delicious snack and carries a significantly lower level of oxalate as well as lower calories.
Kidney-Friendly Foods You Can Count On
Now it’s time to focus on the fun stuff: the kidney-friendly foods that you can eat without worrying so much about oxalates.
Foods you can count on to be low-oxalate include dairy products such as cheese, milk, yogurt, and butter, as well as meats such as turkey, chicken, beef, and seafood including salmon and mollusks. Dairy products are also packed with calcium, and meats provide a good amount of protein, which is important considering you’ll be staying away from other protein-rich, oxalate-packed foods such as nuts and legumes.
Committing to a healthy diet and lifestyle is difficult for almost everyone; it requires learning new recipes and substitutions while also kicking bad habits. As you move forward, remember to keep your long-term goals in mind. With research and practice, your initial frustration will give way to a sense of pride and achievement. We hope this guide to low-oxalate dieting will not only bring you closer to helping you achieve your kidney health program goals but will also increase your motivation to work for better nutrition overall, every day.