How Does a Low-Oxalate Diet Work?

A low-oxalate diet can have numerous health benefits for people who suffer from kidney problems. However, there are some drawbacks which are important to bear in mind.
How Does a Low-Oxalate Diet Work?

Last update: 15 December, 2020

Oxalate is a waste compound produced by the human body, but it can also be found in foods that we regularly eat. Consuming too much oxalate can increase the risk of kidney stones. Therefore, some people try to stick to a low-oxalate diet. In this article, we’ll tell you how this works and what the pros and cons are.

Many kidney problems are the result of poor nutrition and other important factors including drinking enough water and genetics. In fact, until very recently, it was also wrongly claimed that consuming too much protein could cause damage to your kidneys.

What is a low-oxalate diet?

Simply put, a low-oxalate diet is one where you try to reduce your intake of foods that contain oxalate, which is basically, the following:

  • Beer
  • Beetroot
  • Berries
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Oranges
  • Soya
  • Spinach
  • Tea
  • Tofu

So, as you can see, the majority of these foods are fruits and vegetables. Many of them are known for their antioxidants, which is why it’s important to adjust your diet to make sure that you still get enough flavonoids.

A bowl of blueberries, which should not be included in a low-oxalate diet.

Consequences of consuming too much oxalate

For people with a genetic disposition, consuming too much oxalate can increase the risk of kidney stones. You can read about this in this piece of research published in the American Journal of Physiology. Therefore, for these people, reducing their oxalate intake can be important to protect their kidneys.

Additionally, oxalate seems to be capable of interfering in the intestines with the absorption of some minerals. In such cases, it has a similar effect to phytic acid, as seen in this study published in Nutrición Hospitalaria.

This molecule can combine with calcium in the digestive tract and reduce its bioavailability. As a result, it’s also known as an anti-nutrient.

To prevent oxalate from reducing your calcium absorption, it’s important to increase your intake of vitamin D, as well as avoiding mixing high-oxalate foods with others that contain calcium.

Incorporating anti-oxidants into a low-oxalate diet

As we’ve mentioned, a low-oxalate diet restricts certain foods that contain a lot of phytonutrients. These substances are able to regulate inflammation and reduce oxidation in the body, and this helps prevent complex illnesses.

As a result, it’s really important to increase your intake of flavonoids from other food sources. One solution could be to include more tomatoes in your diet. Tomatoes contain lycopene, a pigment that has been shown to be very effective in preventing cardiovascular problems and some types of cancer.

Another option is to include supplements that contain anti-oxidants – anthocyanins and turmeric supplements are the best options. Both flavonoids are able to neutralize the formation of free radicals and have a positive impact on your overall health.

A bowl of turmeric next to some turmeric root.

Another good idea is to use more spices in your cooking since many contain phytonutrients with anti-inflammatory properties. Others, such as paprika, help to promote weight loss due to its capsaicin content.

A low-oxalate diet is a good preventative measure

Although there are other important factors in the formation of kidney stones, such as water intake and genetics, a low-oxalate diet can be a good preventative measure.

So, if you have a tendency to develop kidney stones, you might want to consider adopting a low-oxalate diet. But make sure you drink enough water to ensure that you get other minerals and remove waste from your system through urine.

Remember, any form of restriction in your diet can be counterproductive unless you take the appropriate steps. So, with a low-oxalate diet, it’s important to find other sources of anti-oxidants.

One option is to consume more vegetables that aren’t on the list above. Another option is to take supplements to compensate for any deficiencies.

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  • Mitchell T., Kumar P., Reddy T., Wood KD., et al., Dietary oxalate and kidney stone formation. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol, 2019. 316 (3): 409-413.
  • Martínez García RM., Jiménez Ortega AI., Salas Gonzálezz MD., López LM., et al., Nutritional intervention in the control of gallstones and renal lithiasis. Nutr Hosp, 2019. 36: 70-74.