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Too Much of a Good Thing: These High-Oxalate Healthy Foods Can Cause Problems in Large Amounts

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You've probably heard the phrase, "everything in moderation" associated with consuming junk food.  It can also hold true for certain superfoods like spinach, almonds, and raspberries. 

Many people may believe that if a food is good for us, then eating a lot of it is even better. However, in some cases, too much of a good thing can be bad, according to some health experts like nutritionist Sally K. Norton, MPH, author of Toxic Superfoods: How Oxalate Overload is Making You Sick and How to Get Better.

"You can get yourself into trouble and have no idea," she told CBN News. "So it carries on for a long time because you would never suspect your favorite great food."

High Oxalate Foods
A number of our healthiest plant foods like spinach, chia seeds, beets, and raspberries, are high in oxalate, an often harmless chemical compound, that for some people proves problematic if consumed in large amounts.  

"The fashions are these foods that are high in oxalates, they're very popular and promoted as good for us, so it's really easy to overdo it," Norton said. 

Other high oxalate foods that are typically consumed in high amounts include quinoa, beans, and almonds. Oftentimes, these foods play prominently in gluten-free or dairy-free diets. 

"The almond milk, and the almond flour, the almonds are thrown into every trail bar, and every trail mix, and new version of granola, and snacks everywhere, and desserts. Almonds are a big problem because they're being eaten at a rate that's never been done before," Norton said. 

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Oxalate Binds to Some Nutrients

Oxalate can attach to the minerals in our body, and prevent these important nutrients from being absorbed. One example is calcium, which is necessary for strong bones.  A calcium deficiency could lead to developing brittle bones, also known as osteoporosis.

"With men, it's particularly fatal," Norton said, "It seems to be when men break a bone, they're more likely to have that end up shortening their life significantly." 

Eating a lot of these high-oxalate foods can also be tied to the formation of kidney stones.

"Any type of urinary tract problems are classic oxalate problems," Norton said. 

Personal Testimony

Sally Norton shared her personal health transformation in hopes that others may avoid the struggles she endured. For years, she wondered shy she suffered from foot pain, sleep problems, arthritis, and more. At the same time, she ate a lot of potatoes and Swiss chard. When she stopped eating those high-oxalate foods, those health problems also stopped. 

"This really shocked me, because I'm supposed to know how to be healthy, and I didn't," Norton said.

She says other people who are suffering from unexplained physical or mental health problems might consider examining whether they could be eating too many high-oxalate foods.

"Oxalates are classically known to harm digestion," she said. "You start having digestive issues that can look like stomach problems or reflux. It can look like swallowing problems, or more commonly, things like irritable bowel syndrome, and can become inflammatory bowel disorders."  

She recommends people who consume lots of high-oxalate food reduce their consumption of it or replace it altogether. One example is her instruction on how to reduce spinach and chard intake. 

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"At first you can switch to mixed greens. It might have small amounts of spinach and small amounts of chard," she explained, "Ultimately you want to get away from that, and start using romaine, leaf lettuces, and arugula, and watercress. Almost any other green is fine, except chard, beet greens and spinach. You get those three out of your salads and blenders and omelets, that's a huge benefit."

Another example is people on gluten-free diets who tend to eat a lot of high-oxalate quinoa in place of wheat products. She suggests substituting teff or buckwheat for some or all of the quinoa being consumed.

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