In searching information on green leafy vegetables, I was discouraged by certain sources from eating high calcium greens like spinach or collard greens.
How can that be?
Well, there's a naturally occuring substance found in plant foods called oxalates. It's an organic acid that the body makes, but is found in abundance in plants. And word on the street is that if you eat a high calcium, high oxalate food like spinach you're headed for trouble.
B/c if you combine calcium and oxalate together, you get a calcium oxalate which translates into kidney stones. And not only that, but the oxalate would prevent calcium from being absorbed in the body and instead be excreted into the urine.
The culprits listed are spinach, collard greens, parsley. And some add celery, strawberries, nuts, beets, sweet potatoes and some other vegetables. (Also on the list is oranges, instant coffee) Avoid these guys, we're warned by some, to avoid losing calcium and not get kidney stones.
Hmm, avoid these vegetables? There's a far more worse things to avoid to prevent calcium loss, ie. excess alcohol, sugar, etc. This didn't seem right to me.
Well, apparently it wasn't right to Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom. In this comprehensive health book, she writes that this is a tactic to prevent people from using these sources for calcium.
I nearly fell off my chair. But I needed more sources. I didn't have to look far. At WhFoods.com, regarding oxalates, it's written, "Since intake of dietary oxalate accounts for only 10-15% of the oxalate that is found in the urine of individuals who form calcium oxalate stones, many researchers believe that dietary restriction cannot significantly reduce risk of stone formation."
Now, they do add that if a person suffers from rare conditions like hypercalciuria type II-it's where loads of calcium are being excreted from the urine then they should avoid these foods.
The Kidney Foundation writes that if you have suffered from kidney stones or have a family history, then restricting these foods can be helpful in preventing future stones. And this caution should be heeded and a doc consulted. No question.
The NY Times reported that kidney stones are on the rise. Whereas in the past,people would get them at age 40/50. Now people are getting them at much younger ages. Some hospitals are even opening up pediatric kidney stone clinics. Obesity, a high salt diet, and not drinking enough water are factors that lead to stones.
Dr. Leroy Nyberg, of the urology dept at the National Institute of Health in Maryland says that people who are inactive can accumulate calcium in the bloodstream, and regular exercise puts calcium back where it belongs-in the bones.
And, lastly, dietician Nina Singh writes that, yes, green leafy vegetables do have oxalates which can prevent calcium absorption. But instead of avoiding them, we should make sure to eat foods that help with absorption-like fish, eggs, and liver. The target, here, she writes is vitamin D.
Now it could be that maybe, just maybe, that well-rounded, healthy meals that includes a variety of vitamins and minerals, avoiding too much processed food, drinking water, and exercise are the keys to making sure that everything interacts and flows smoothly like "nature" intended, oxalates and all...
Now, to me THAT makes sense.
Check it out yourself:
Dr. Christiane Northrup, Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom