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Did you know green smoothies aren’t healthy? Raw greens are high in oxalates or cruciferous (thyroid cooling). Learn alternatives, and avoid kidney stones as well as other health issues.
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 (probiotics consume oxalates) or cooking. Eat certain leafy veggies, like most foods, in moderation, purposely choosing low-oxalate options and rotating different varieties. (source)
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,
How to make green smoothies healthy & gentle
We got around the issue of oxalates in green smoothies at our little frozen kefir and green smoothie cart in Oregon. How? Our green smoothies did not contain spinach, chard or other high-oxalate or cruciferous produce.
We green-ified with spirulina (find it here) and fresh basil (or other herbs). Delicious in smoothies and low in oxalates. Wheat grass is also a better 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-finished meats, stews, cultured foods, cooked veggies, fruits, 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 and well-known outcome, especially for those in higher risk groups:
- with candida overgrowth
- 10-20% of the population who are genetically predisposed to producing excess oxalates themselves
- who have Asian and Caucasian heritage
- with 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
- who are obese
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
Supplements for a low oxalate diet
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:
- calcium and magnesium
- vitamin B6
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.
And B6 isn’t for everyone, as it’s newly been implicated as neurotoxic. (Personally, I avoid it.)
How to eat healthily without oxalates
Find low oxalate food lists here:
- Low Oxalate Food List with Free Printable PDF
- Low oxalate and low histamine
- Low oxalate and low salicylate
Since first writing this article, I have also learned about the toxicity of vitamin A and what happens when we eat too much of it too often, or supplement. You can read here about vitamin A toxicity.
As a result, I believe the healthiest foods to be: grass-finished beef or wild red meat game, cooked peeled vegetables in moderation, hulled or sprouted grains and legumes if tolerated, certain fruits in moderation and many other Ancestral foods in moderation, foods our ancestors ate.
Foods and supplements for kidney stone elimination and prevention
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 tablespoons of olive oil and lemon juice mixed together 4 times a day is recommended by many herbalists. Lemon juice provides potassium.
- Thyme, knotgrass and juniper teas are all recommended.
- Consider higher-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.
- About chanca piedra, also known as Stone Breaker, Ehow says: “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, beets, beet greens, collards, rhubarb, black tea, soda, and miso soup, which are all high in oxalates. Soy, many grains, nuts and seeds, berries, kiwi and navy beans are also high. Here’s a more exhaustive list to use as a guideline.
- Discard the cooking liquid you use to steam, boil or blanch vegetables.
- Reduce oxalates slowly in the diet. If you stop eating oxalates too fast, your body can dump them too quickly and cause uncomfortable symptoms.
- Eliminate excess fructose. See my smoothie ideas below, all of which are low-fructose!
- Foods or supplements high in vitamin C, which adds to oxalate retention and causes the body to create oxalates.
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 served were 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).
What healthy green ingredients most appeal to you: cooked greens, fresh herbs, spirulina …
Keep in mind: we may not need as many leafy greens as we’re now told.
Being very high in vitamin A, I no longer believe we should load up on greens. The rainbow food fad is very new, and we don’t have long term studies showing what happens when people try to “eat the rainbow”. But we do have a lot of people in the low oxalate and low vitamin A groups who can testify what those kinds of diets did to their health.
Consider a more Ancestral diet that didn’t load up on certain foods year round. Instead, wild meat and other foods in moderation were a more natural diet.