Why You Should Not Eat Too Much Spinach

Have you noticed how popular the green leafy vegetable spinach is among health food advocates? I definitely have.

People everywhere are recommending that we should eat more spinach. It has even become popular to throw spinach into your green smoothie, to juice it, and to include it as a part of a balanced meal. I’m sure most people grew up with parents who were insistent that they finish the spinach on their plates.

This is not surprising because spinach is a popular food with high amounts of iron and other nutrients. In fact, regular consumption of greens (be it spinach, chard, or kale) is almost universally advised to people who want to have overall health or who want to detox.

For the most part, this is good advice when done in moderation, especially for people who suffer from kidney stones or gallbladder problems.

Yet, the practice of drinking raw spinach and other leafy green vegetables in smoothies has become a huge trend in the health food sphere lately. But we should proceed with caution when including spinach, because consuming too much of this leafy green may actually be detrimental to our overall health.

In this case, the negative effects from eating spinach are due to the intake of large amounts of oxalic acid (found at high levels in spinach), which may build up in the body over time.

Oxalates are organic acids that occur naturally in humans, plants, and animals. The amounts of oxalates can be increased in our bodies by the amount of foods we eat containing high levels of oxalates.

Many foods contain oxalates, but leafy greens, such as spinach, contain very large amounts of them. It has been the practice of health practitioners to recommend that people who are prone to kidney stones should be cautious about consuming high oxalate foods. There are also specific, rare conditions in which people should only consume a very low amount of foods containing oxalates. Yet, these are not the only people who need to reconsider eating their spinach.

Research, as well as anecdotal evidence, is beginning to show that consuming large amounts of foods containing high oxalate levels may be contributing to the build-up of oxalate crystals in many different tissues in the body. People with leaky gut syndrome, digestion disorders, or IBS are vulnerable to having high levels of oxalic acid building up in their tissues. This may be the cause of pain and other conditions such as cystic fibrosis, fibromyalgia, thyroid disease, and asthma. Even autism has been linked to high oxalate levels.

Therefore, the popular ritual of consuming spinach greens on a daily basis, in smoothie form or as a part of a balanced dinner, is probably not the best practice for people suffering with these and other conditions.

Even if you are not suffering with any of the aforementioned health issues, you may want to reconsider having a daily dose of spinach because the risk remains for these conditions to develop. Suppose you are prescribed antibiotics which diminish the good bacteria in your gut? In this situation, oxalate build-up is likely if you are consuming great amounts of oxalate rich foods and this can lead to the other conditions.

You may be cooking your spinach rather than blending it into a smoothie or eating it raw. It is still important to note that oxalates do not significantly decrease when you cook your spinach. Oxalates are a very stable substance and tend to stay present even after cooking at high temperatures.

You may be curious how you can continue to reap the benefits of spinach and also reduce your risk of developing issues from oxalate build-up…

Well, if you are one of the many people who include green smoothies in your daily health routine, then a good start is to reduce the amount of spinach you are putting into your otherwise healthy drink. This echoes the idea of always doing things in moderation, even healthy things. By simply reducing the amount of oxalate containing foods you eat, you can naturally reduce your oxalate levels. However, if you are already experiencing symptoms of high oxalate levels, it may be necessary to avoid spinach completely.

What Can You Do to Lower Oxalate Consumption

A great suggestion to lower your oxalate consumption is to opt for greens that are lower in oxalates in your smoothies, juices, salads, and on your dinner plate. Substituting mustard greens, turnip greens, romaine lettuce, and any other green or lettuce that is lower in oxalates may be the perfect way to still get the array of benefits that these foods offer.

In addition to these suggestions, you may be able to increase certain gut flora in your body in order to combat the ill effects of oxalate build-up that may exist. This is especially relevant if you have used antibiotics recently or if you use them regularly. If you have noticed that you are having any of the symptoms mentioned in the earlier part of this article, it may be advisable to begin taking probiotics in order to increase healthy gut flora. These bacteria are usually present in a healthy gut and they help the body’s ability to flush out oxalates naturally.

Other ways to increase the gut flora in your body are through drinking and eating fermented foods. This is an excellent way to increase your overall health and to aid your body in eliminating oxalates. There are many fermented foods that people eat and drink in cultures around the world and the recipes are easy to find. A few examples of fermented foods are kimchi, a fermented cabbage condiment traditionally made in Korea; yogurt, which is a fermented milk dish (most often from dairy but it can be made from plant-based milks as well); and kefir, which is similar to yogurt but it is drinkable and contains even more friendly probiotics. Keep in mind these products are all significantly more beneficial when made at home.

Therefore, it is advisable to take probiotics or include these fermented foods in order to help your body naturally overcome its inability to dispose of excess oxalates. However, an interesting relationship exists between the common probiotic lactobacillus acidophilus (a common strain of probiotic used in probiotic formulas) and oxalates. They are able to help the body to remove oxalates in small amounts, but higher levels of oxalates are actually able to kill off the lactobacillus acidophilus. This is yet another reason that reducing the amount of oxalic acid that you consume is probably the best way to mitigate the build-up in your body, especially in conjunction with other treatments.

We all know that eating vegetables is generally considered a healthy way to obtain necessary nutrients. I doubt there are any nutritionists or health food advocates who would claim otherwise. Yet, it is important to understand there are a wide variety of foods out there and it is important to know the nutrition profile of the foods you eat.

Even when you believe something is healthy, it’s important to remain vigilant and aware about how your individual body reacts to it. Everyone has unique body chemistry. Therefore it is best to properly investigate and research health trends before making changes in your diet.

About the Author:

Emma Deangela is the best selling author of The Alkaline Diet Program and 80/20 Fat Loss. She has helped over tens of thousands of men and women to lose weight and transform their health with sound nutrition advice.

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27 responses to “Why You Should Not Eat Too Much Spinach”

  1. Vicki Avatar

    What about Kombucha, the fermented drink? Is that a good choice along with yogurt, kefir and other natural probiotics?

  2. Margaret Joyce Avatar
    Margaret Joyce

    Is KALE OK to eat every day. I have consumed a LOT of spinach last few yrs. (for EYE safety) but do have some problems with IBS. I’ve been eating Plain Greek Yogurt,& try to take a Probiotic tablet every day, I do like fermented foods, such as Herring,;pickles, etc. Should I drink a small glass of Buttermilk ea. day,.??



  4. Kathy Avatar

    Yogurt is fine if it’s sugar free but no way are the little containers of yogurt healthy for anyone with 30-47 grams of sugar in them..Anything in moderation is best even when it comes to juicing..

  5. Carla Avatar

    As always, less is best…

  6. Ann Avatar

    I’ve been making a gelatin dish for years, which I make six servings of each time. A whole cup of diced celery goes into it, and I’ve been putting 1/4 to 1/3 cup of heated frozen chopped spinach (cooled) into the gelatin. I haven’t had any of the symptoms you mention, but I’m willing to switch over to frozen collards if they’re lower in oxalates than spinach is.

  7. Robin Bates Avatar
    Robin Bates

    I have been scouring sites to find out if ive been using too much raw spinach in my smoothies but I cannot find the answer, only that too much is bad. How much is too much? Ive been doing about 16 ounces throughout the course of 1 day. I believe it adds out to around 10 cups. I am young with no kidney problems btw. Is aaround 10 cups too much? I love all the fiber and protien in that amount. Or should I cut my intake in half to 5 cups in a day or less? I also eat non fat greek yogurt every day and take probiotics (prebiotics?) For my gut flora. Please answer asap if this is okay or if I should cut back and substitute with a different green, or if this okay since I use the yogurt and pro/prebiotics and have no kidney problems. I dont want to put my health at risk. Thank you very much.

    1. Monaya Avatar

      Hi, Robin! I think you are overdoing it with the spinach! 1/4 of that, and not every day, would be enough. Try to go for more variety from one day to the next… like adding arugula into the equation, or even dandelion leaves (yes, you can find them in your yard, and if nobody sprays pesticides/herbicides or any other …cides out there, they’ll be fine). And in any case, leafies should always be organic, since they are the ones receiving all the sprayed on bad stuff when they are farmed conventionally! Hope that helps!

  8. Lisa Avatar

    1/2 cup of spinach is 1060 g of oxalates. The body should not have more than 60 to 80 g of oxalates a day. Your 10 cups of spinach is equal to 20 servings x 1060, so I would say your daily serving is BEYOND what you should be having. You can find more information about low oxalate diet at Yahoo Groups – Low Oxalate Diet. They have a food list that show oxalate levels in different foods .

    1. Tony Avatar

      1/2 cup of spinach does not contain 1060 g of oxalates.

      1060g = 1.06 KG that is roughly 2.2 POUNDS !!

      a bag of store-spinach typically weighs about 230g and contains about 2.5 cups of tightly packed spinach

      so that makes about 45g of total spinach per 1/2 cup….
      the oxalates are some fraction of that 45g; i’d guess less than 50%

  9. Andy & Terri Kosinski Avatar
    Andy & Terri Kosinski

    I believe you are 100% wrong about spinach. We only eat spinach that is 100% certified organic. It is very good for you loaded with tons of nutrients. Most people do not eat 10 cups of spinach a day anyhow. I put spinach in so many dishes that I make.

    1. Jane W Avatar
      Jane W

      Hi it is true. People with gout do not need the high purines in spinich and they can also suffer great pain through consuming spinich. One cannot always say it is 100% good for all people.

  10. Janet Avatar

    I’m very pleased to see this article. I’ve had a number of kidney stones throughout the years & was told long ago to avoid high oxalate foods — spinach, black tea, rhubarb and chocolate. You don’t ever see this about spinach, though. Most articles on nutrition praise spinach as being a super food.

  11. Tembisile Jongilanga Avatar
    Tembisile Jongilanga

    I am one of the people who prefer to to have a meal with spinach almost once a day but daily.

    Is it steel dangerous consuming?

    I am not familia with the greens you mentioned above and would love to know the sample of brobiotics you talked about.

    I am staying at Eastern Cape Mthatha

    Thank you

  12. Susan A Martin Avatar
    Susan A Martin

    Very interesting.

  13. Liz Avatar

    Every thing needs to be eaten or drink in Moderation !
    Spinach and other greens also thins your blood so you have to be careful with how often and how much .
    Again Moderation

  14. JAN Avatar

    this is so interesting that this popped up in my email this morning as i have started to eat spinich daily. I do not eat that much maybe 8-10 small leaves. I have read it is good for your eyes and overall health. i also have IBS but have had it for 30-40 years so i know it is not spinich causing it. However i will not over do the spinich now that i have read this, i am hoping just a few leaves a day will be okay,

  15. Trieraggie Avatar

    2 years ago I started to grow Kale in my garden and ate it every day, often for breakfast, also for dinner. If I didn’t eat Kale it was organic spinach. Last year I was diagnosed with Thyroid problems. Never did I associated this with oxalic acid. Had I only known this earlier. Now I have ro take Levothyroxine. I stopped eating kale and spinach, wondering if this problem can be reversed?

  16. Susan Avatar

    How much spinach per day are you tlking about? What is a large amount?

  17. Kathleen warren Avatar
    Kathleen warren

    I have CLL and try to eat as many veggies with iron in them. Can you list some of the other veggies that are high in iron?

  18. Kathy Everett Avatar
    Kathy Everett

    I always knew about the Oxalate acid in spinach but thought it formed in abundance mostly in COOKED spinach. My thyroid tends to ‘vibrate’ on the high side (hyPERthyroid). Is any form of thyroidism (high – low) effected by oxalate acid? One last question….with leaky gut (of many years..Allergies etc) would ANY amount of oxalate acid be detrimental? I am happy to cut out most/all oxalate acid for the sake of improved health.
    Kathy E. from Kensington MD 3-30-15

  19. Anna McConnell St pierre Avatar

    The idea that oxalate can contribute to a thyroid issue is interesting. I have noticed that there are more woman with thyroid issues today than 10 years ago, however there seems to be a similar thread running through my clients who have thyroid issues. They all do not like shellfish and they typically do not use salt in their cooking.
    One must consider food variation as well as water intake. Most of my clients are dehydrated..Hydration is an issue that should be seriously looked at. Drink one half of your body weight daily, ie: if you weight 150lbs drink 75 oz. (or 9 plus glasses ) daily. Balance your body for health harmony.

  20. Pat Avatar

    Most interesting article. Thank you.
    I live in UK and grow my own spinach, kale and cabbage.
    I make a green smoothy about twice a week. Using about a cup of chopped greens. Is that OK?

  21. Shail Avatar

    So many interesting questions but not a single response from Emma?

  22. Roxanna Avatar

    I have read this article which brought me very painful memories! As i had developed huge oxalate kidney stones and had to undergo 4 surgeries to get them out and survived 2 septic infections and 6 months with a stent bypassing my kidney. There are a lot of vegetables extremely high in oxalate, not only spinach! Green peppers, eggplant, kale, chard. Etc. If it helps google “vegetables with oxalate” to educate yourself. Also, doing crash diets that causes you to lose weight drastically can cause your kidneys to metabolize foods differently and cause kidney stones as well. Be wise! Don’t learn like I did after 6 months of suffering in and out of hospitals which almost cost me my life! And left me with kidney scarring for the rest of my life.

  23. Mike Khan Avatar
    Mike Khan

    I observed when I eat spinach curry , I have to go to
    restroom after atleast 3 times- I take warfirin the blood
    thinner 6MG daily – May be they both are not compitable

  24. Muriel Avatar

    I eat at leat one bag of raw pinage a day I find I seam to crave it I have to have it is it oing to harm me I do have a lot of medical problems but I haad them before I started eating spinage if you could email me that would be great.

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