Yes you read the title right. Though 2/3 of our population is currently considered obese, as people load up on high fructose corn syrup-filled sodas, deep fried doughnuts and fried chicken, pizza and fast food supersized meals…green smoothies can be the thing that can “devastate” your health?! Yes, green smoothies, that are made of raw green vegetables and fruit. As preposterous as this claim will surely seem to you, read on.
Recently, an anti-green smoothie blog was published and some of you asked me about it. In a blog titled, “How Green Smoothies Can Devastate Your Health,” posted on the Healthy Home Economist blog, the author argued that green smoothies could raise oxalate levels in people with oxalate toxicity. She then went onto describe the devastating effects this could have on health – ranging from fibromyalgia and kidney stones to oxalate stone formation in the brain. This type of fear-based, sensationalist nutritional information concerns me greatly, because it can keep people from eating the healthy foods their bodies need.
Oxalates are organic acids that occur naturally in humans, animals, and plants. They exist naturally in the human body. Likewise, our bodies convert many of the things we consume (like vitamin C) into oxalates. When combined with sodium and potassium, oxalate forms soluble salts. When combined with calcium, however, oxalate produces calcium oxalate, which can form kidney and other types of stones. This occurs because calcium oxalate is relatively insoluble, so it combines and hardens instead of harmlessly excreting as a waste product.
There are oxalates in the foods you eat. Some foods, such as spinach and rhubarb, contain higher levels of oxalates than others. If your body absorbs high levels of oxalates and does not process it well, it may result in the formation of calcium oxalate stones, which most commonly form as kidney stones. Some people are more predisposed to this condition than others. No clear evidence exists linking dietary oxalate restriction to formation of fewer calcium oxalate kidney stones, however.
Some foods increase oxalate levels in the body more than others. These include rhubarb, soy, dark leafy greens, beets, chocolate, wheat bran, and tea. According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, however, you can mitigate the effects by drinking fluids and consuming more dietary calcium.
The topic of how oxalates in natural foods like spinach affect people with hyperoxaluria remains the subject of debate among experts. In his book Conscious Eating, Gabriel Cousens MD theorizes that eating oxalates in natural foods like spinach does not build up oxalate levels in the body as long as fat metabolism and digestion work properly. Cousens goes on to quote Dr. Norman Walker, author of Raw Vegetable Juices, stating that cooking oxalic acid-containing vegetables is what causes an irreversible bind with calcium, leading to kidney stones.
While oxalic acid may, indeed, cause a problem in a small percentage of the population, it would be a shame to allow fear of a condition that occurs in very few people to keep you from realizing the tremendous benefits associated with consumption of raw, leafy greens like spinach. With the vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and enzymes that have such a positive effect on your health, the benefits far outweigh the risk of developing a condition that affects such a small portion of the population.
Properly functioning metabolism and digestion offer protective benefits against oxalate related illnesses (see above). What’s the best way to ensure your metabolism and digestion function properly? Feeding your body the healthy, whole, non-toxic plant foods it was meant to eat. When you eat a diet full of healthful foods the body is intended to eat, it works more efficiently. As you detoxify, your body works more efficiently, as well.
While some experts express concerns about oxalates, others have the exact opposite opinion. With today’s highly processed diet, it’s not surprising that some humans react to elements in the foods our bodies were meant to eat (whole, raw, plant-based foods). Eliminating these foods and returning to a more pure, natural way of eating, however, can help restore health and vitality. With so many benefits to eating dark leafy greens, it’s a shame to allow fear of a condition that occurs in a small minority of people to keep you from achieving vibrant health.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinions about oxalates, and I’d definitely like to hear have the author of the original article respond to the points made here.