I may receive a commission if you purchase through links in this post. I am not a doctor; please consult your practitioner before changing your supplement or healthcare regimen.
Did you know green smoothies aren’t healthy? Raw greens are high in oxalates or cruciferous (thyroid cooling). Learn alternatives, and avoid kidney stones.
This article is a bit personal, if you love green smoothies. Many of us started drinking green smoothies in an effort to get healthier, to heal some health condition or because we’re “crunchy” and love healthy tasting foods. But daily green smoothies or green juicing are counter-productive for those who are seeking optimum health.
Many raw leafy green vegetables need to have their oxalates reduced through fermentation or cooking. Some leafy veggies, like most foods, should be eaten in moderation, purposely choosing low-oxalate options and rotating different varieties.
What are oxalates
Oxalates are organic acids produced my humans, animals and plants. In plants, the leaves always have the greatest concentration of the oxalates.
Kale has perhaps been over-vilified regarding oxalates. It is actually low in oxalates, although the amount contained in any vegetable can vary depending on the soil and the season. Yet I am still an advocate for steaming or cooking kale, not eating it raw. Or ferment it.
Why? Kale and broccoli are both great examples of vegetables that may not be high in oxalates; but they are still hard to digest raw.
As Donna Gates of The Body Ecology Diet says,
…all members of the cruciferous family…in their raw state are considered to be “cooling” and suppressing to your thyroid.
How to make green smoothies healthy & gentle
We have gotten around the issue of oxalates in green smoothies at our little frozen kefir and green smoothie cart in Eugene, OR. How? Our green smoothies do not contain spinach, chard or other high-oxalate or cruciferous produce.
We green-ify with spirulina (find it here) and fresh basil (or other herbs). Delicious in smoothies and low in oxalates. Wheat grass is also a safe green juice. We use dehydrated organic wheat grass powder for convenience.
Many green smoothie lovers use smoothies as a meal replacement, especially for breakfast. But let’s face it; the traditional farmer’s breakfast has it right: eggs, sausage and sourdough are great ways to start the day. Going back further in history, soups and stews and soaked porridges or breads were nourishing breakfasts, and still are.
Smoothies are fun foods for occasionally. (Those who can’t have eggs or grains still have plenty of options with grass-fed meats, stews, cultured foods, cooked veggies, raw produce [the right kinds in moderation], raw dairy, coconut yogurt etc).
Changing habits can be challenging. I acknowledge that many Americans, especially, have a hard time switching away from cereals and smoothies. They’re easy; we thought they were healthy, even in excess, and they taste good.
Why oxalates aren’t healthy
What happens to the body when it’s inundated with too many oxalates?
Kidney stones are the most common outcome, especially for those in higher risk groups:
- Those with candida overgrowth
- 10-20% of the population who are genetically predisposed to producing excess oxalates themselves
- Those who have Asian and Caucasian heritage
- Those who are obese
- There are many health conditions that make kidney stones more likely to form- Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, IBS, high blood pressure, and hyperparathyroidism, to name a few
The problems that ensue, in addition to causing kidney stones, include these conditions:
- Musculoskeletal problems
- Yeast infections and general yeast overgrowth
- Crystallization anywhere in the body, wreaking havoc in vital organs such as the heart and thyroid, causing permanent damage
How to eat healthy without oxalates
Dr. William Shaw, an expert in diet and its relation to autism, ADD and Down Syndrome recommends low oxalate diets with the following supplements which compete in the gut for absorption, deterring crystallization: probiotics, the citrate forms of calcium and magnesium, vitamin C (which he vindicates in its role of contributing toward kidney stones), vitamin B6 and arginine.
I’ve been influenced by Weston A. Price and advocate for eating a high-fat diet, which aids the body in mineral assimilation. This mindset is interesting considering that most green smoothies are non or low-fat. A great option is to add a giant scoop of probiotic sour cream or homemade high-fat yogurt to your weekly smoothie. High-fat coconut milk or coconut milk yogurt work well too, for non-dairy diets. Lately, we love adding MCT oil (find it here).
If you are suffering from kidney stones there are many suggestions to be found online. But perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is to supplement with foods, not with supplements, unless under the care of an expert (naturopathic or functional) physician.
While it’s true that increasing K2 and B6, as well as many other nutrients, can aid in dissolving mineral build-up, these nutrients must be with their co-factors for proper assimilation and in the right ratio to other nutrients.
Here are some foods and one supplement (safe and not easily found in food) that will aid in kidney stone elimination and in deterrence of crystallization in general:
- Find K2 in brie and gouda, butter, fermented veggies and grass-fed eggs. These foods all provide K2 in the right ratio with magnesium, vitamin D and calcium.
- Magnesium (this is the one I like) helps balance calcium absorption properly so it won’t calcify.
- Taking 2 T. of olive oil and lemon juice mixed together 4 times a day is recommended by many herbalists. Lemon juice provides potassium citrate as well as vitamin C.
- Thyme, knotgrass, and juniper teas are all recommended.
- Use high-fat preparations when you do eat greens. Butter, ghee and coconut oil, as well as traditional fats like tallow, help nutrients like calcium to better assimilate.
- Consider chanca piedra, also known as Stone Breaker. Ehow says of it, “With a name that literally means “break stone,” this beneficial herb has been used for centuries to break up kidney and gall stones…” It truly has a wonderful reputation and some great success stories.
What exactly not to eat to deter crystallization of oxalates?
- Cut out foods like peanuts, chocolate, spinach, parsley, beet greens, collards, rhubarb, black tea, soda, and citrus fruits, which are all high in oxalates. Soy, grains, nuts and seeds, berries, kiwi and grapes are also high. Here’s a more exhaustive list to use as a guideline.
- The cooking liquid you use to steam, boil or blanch leafy greens should be discarded.
- Raw spinach salads have been en vogue for a couple decades. They should be wilted with hot bacon fat, for a gourmet dressing, steamed or sautéed first, or not eaten at all.
- Cut out excess fructose. See my smoothie ideas below, all of which are low-fructose!
How to make healthy smoothies without oxalates
Those of you who once loved green smoothies, as I did, what do you put in your smoothies now? There are so many creative new options!
I like frozen cooked carrots with fresh mint and grass-fed cream! Find my favorite Carrot “Milkshake” here, with ginger and turmeric. At our smoothie food cart, the most popular two (green) smoothies we serve are Watermelon-Basil made with Vanilla Frozen Kefir and Blueberry-Spirulina with Cultured Cream! 🙂
You can also steam greens and put them into your smoothie cooked; or freeze the cooked greens in little mounds on parchment-lined cookie sheets to throw into smoothies as needed (or fill ice cube trays).
Share with me what you do!