What Is the Low Oxalate Diet?

Plate of fish, Brussels sprouts, and white rice

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At VeryWell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and take the whole person into consideration. Prior to starting a new diet plan, consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

The low oxalate diet works to reduce risk of developing kidney stones. Those who have a history of kidney stones may benefit from reducing their consumption of high oxalate foods.

Oxalates are found naturally in plant-based foods and are also a byproduct of human waste. While oxalates aren’t necessarily bad for you—the foods they’re found in are highly nutritious—too many oxalates contribute to the formation of kidney stones. Individuals who are susceptible to kidney stones or kidney infections may want to consider incorporating this diet into their lifestyle.

You don’t have to eliminate all oxalates when following a low oxalate diet, just foods that are highest in oxalates (meaning they contain more than 10mg of oxalate per serving). Foods high in oxalates include many leafy greens, beans, legumes, wheat products, soy, coffee, dark chocolate, certain grains, nuts, and nut butter, to name a few.

What Experts Say

"A low-oxalate diet is a therapeutic diet that can be prescribed if a person is experiencing kidney stones and their urinary oxalate levels are high. If the urinary levels are not high in oxalate, a low-oxalate diet may not be indicated. Most of the time avoidance of very high oxalate foods, such as spinach, nuts (almonds), beans (navy), rhubarb, and increasing intake of calcium-rich foods such as dairy, can be prescribed to reduce urinary levels of oxalate. Calcium binds oxalate in the intestine. This diet is usually temporary and people following it would benefit from working with a registered dietitian who specializes in this type of eating plan to avoid misinformation that is found online and ensure adequate nutrition." — Barbara Cervoni, RD

What Can You Eat

The low oxalate diet suggests reducing high oxalate foods. Instead, fill your diet with low and moderate oxalate foods; the occasional high oxalate food should not increase the risk of kidney stones.

Generally, foods don't come with labels outlining their oxalate content. The website Oxalate.org has a list of 750+ foods and their oxalate levels and is a great place to start. A low oxalate diet is considered less than 100mg per day, though many doctors will suggest 50mg or less.

Foods that contain 0-9mg of oxalates per serving include fruits and vegetables such as asparagus, apricots, artichoke, banana, blackberries, blueberries, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, celery, cherries, yellow squash, zucchini, strawberries, romaine lettuce, raisins, plums, pineapple, peas, pears, peaches, papaya, onions, mango, grapefruit, and grapes.

Examples of low oxalate grains and starches include oat bran, oat flour, barley, bran muffins, white bread, wheat bread, white rice, corn, and flour tortillas. Low oxalate protein and dairy include eggs, meat, poultry, fish, yogurt, cheese, milk, and butter. In addition, coffee, water, and fruit juice are considered low oxalate.

Moderate oxalate foods contain 10-25mg of oxalates per serving. These foods include avocado, lentils, lychee, olives, parsnip, peanut butter, pecans, pistachios, pomegranate, red kidney beans, refried beans, squash, sunflower seeds, tahini, and tomato sauce.

Additional Foods

While the low oxalate diet does not always suggest including calcium-rich foods, it is beneficial to do so especially if you’re going to include foods with higher oxalate levels. Calcium-rich foods include cheese, dairy, seeds, yogurt, sardines, beans, lentils, almonds, rhubarb, and bread and cereals that have been fortified with calcium.

What You Need to Know

The purpose of the low oxalate diet is to reduce dietary oxalate intake in an effort to reduce someone's risk of developing kidney stones. Because many nutritious foods are rich in oxalates, cutting high oxalate foods out altogether is not advised.

Calcium binds to oxalates and can increase absorption (instead of contributing to kidney stones) if calcium-rich foods are eaten with high-oxalate foods. In addition, drinking plenty of fluids will help prevent stone formation.

What to Eat
  • Fruits, including bananas, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, plums, pears, peaches, pineapple, grapefruit, and grapes

  • Vegetables, especially asparagus, cauliflower, celery, romaine lettuce, yellow squash, and zucchini

  • Grains and starches, including oat bran, barley, white or wheat bread, white rice, corn tortillas, and flour tortillas

  • Protein and dairy, eggs, fish, meat, poultry, yogurt, cheese, milk, and butter

  • Beverages, including coffee, water, and fruit juice

What Not to Eat
  • Fruits, including kiwi, raspberries, dates, oranges, tangerines, and rhubarb

  • Vegetables, especially spinach, beets, potatoes, turnips, and carrots

    Beans and legumes, including navy, kidney, lentils, fava beans, and chickpeas

  • Nuts, like almonds, walnuts, peanuts, macadamia nuts, and cashews

  • Grains, especially quinoa, brown rice, couscous, millet, bulgar, and wheat

  • Beverages, including hot chocolate, tea, tomato juice, and chocolate milk

  • Other, including soy products, cocoa, and chocolate

Pros and Cons

While a low oxalate diet is often specific in helping individuals who experience kidney stones, there are some downsides to this kind of eating pattern. Finding a balance that allows individuals to avoid kidney stones while still getting the nutrients they need for overall health can be difficult.

Pros
  • May reduce risk of developing kidney stones

Cons
  • Could lead to nutrient deficiencies

  • Difficult to follow

  • May interfere with social situations

Is the Low Oxalate Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

The low oxalate diet is neither healthy nor unhealthy. Anyone can be at risk of developing kidney stones regardless of their diet habits, especially if you don’t drink enough fluids. Additionally, the low oxalate diet does not teach healthy eating habits and in fact, may cause you to feel more restricted and frustrated.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) dietary guidelines include recommendations for a healthy, balanced diet. The following foods are meant to encourage and guide a nutrient-dense diet:

  • Vegetables (spinach, broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, carrots, asparagus, green beans, peppers, onions, peas, mushrooms, cabbage, etc.)
  • Potatoes, beans, and legumes (potatoes, beans, chickpeas, lentils, sweet potatoes)
  • Fruits (berries, melon, apples, oranges)
  • Grains (rice, quinoa, barley, bread, cereal, crackers, oats)
  • Dairy and fortified soy alternatives (yogurt, milk, cheese, kefir, cottage cheese)
  • Protein Foods (meats, poultry, eggs, seafood)
  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, chia seeds)
  • Oils (olive oil, avocado oil)

The USDA does not provide recommendations or tips for those who are prone to kidney stones. Following the USDA guidelines for a healthy, balanced diet does not mean you will reduce your risk of developing kidney stones. Discuss your options with a healthcare professional before beginning any new diet program, including the low oxalate diet.

The low oxalate diet is a medically necessary diet for those who are at risk of developing kidney stones. It is not a diet for weight loss or considered a healthy, balanced diet. You can lead a healthy lifestyle while following the low oxalate diet.

Health Benefits

Successfully reducing high oxalate foods could reduce the formation of kidney stones for people who experience kidney stones.

May Reduce Risk of Developing Kidney Stones
The conclusion is that oxalates from your diet have an impact on kidney stone formation. Though researchers are not sure of the extent, the risk is there. Therefore, reducing your intake of high oxalate foods might help you avoid future kidney stones.

Health Risks

While there are no direct health risks to following the low oxalate diet, eliminating a variety of nutritious foods from your diet could cause you to miss out on important vitamins and minerals. In addition, elimination-style diets are difficult to follow, tough in social situations, and can lead to feelings of frustration and restriction.

Could Lead to Nutrient Deficiencies
Because the low oxalate diet requires you to eliminate so many nutritious foods, the variety of foods left for consumption reduces drastically. Making sure you’re getting enough vitamins, minerals, and fiber is difficult when you’re removing so many fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and grains from your diet.

Difficult to Follow
With a laundry list of foods to avoid, following the low oxalate diet precisely is going to be a challenge. Finding yourself frustrated over a lack of options could cause you to ditch the diet altogether.

May Interfere with Social Situations
Diets that restrict foods or food groups make living your life as usual particularly difficult. Finding restaurants or foods at family gatherings that adhere to the low oxalate diet guidelines may pose a challenge leaving you to avoid the social event altogether. This can make you feel down, frustrated, or like you’re being left out.

May Not Be Necessary
Research shows that eating calcium-rich foods with high-oxalate foods helps with the absorption of calcium before it reaches your kidneys. Therefore it may not be necessary to eliminate high-oxalate foods.

A Word From Verywell

If you’re at risk of developing kidney stones because of high oxalate levels, you could benefit from the low oxalate diet. However, increasing your consumption of calcium-rich foods and drinking more water may also help reduce your risk of developing kidney stones. Talk to a health care professional regarding your options before starting any new diet plan.

Remember, following a long-term or short-term diet may not be necessary for you and many diets out there simply don’t work, especially long-term. While we do not endorse fad diet trends or unsustainable weight loss methods, we present the facts so you can make an informed decision that works best for your nutritional needs, genetic blueprint, budget, and goals.

If your goal is weight loss, remember that losing weight isn’t necessarily the same as being your healthiest self, and there are many other ways to pursue health. Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors also play a major role in your overall health. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.

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4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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