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Fact-check: Eating spinach does not cause kidney stones.

Published on Mon 22 May 2023 at 12:03

While high levels of oxalic acid can be harmful, the level of oxalates found in spinach is not enough to cause harm to most people.

By Tej Kumar

A viral Instagram reel claims that spinach consumption is injurious to our kidneys. The video, which has garnered over 1.5 million views on the social media platform, contends that spinach is “full of oxalates” which can cause kidney stones and gut issues.

First Check fact-checked the claim and here’s what we found. Most kidney stones are composed of calcium and oxalate (natural compounds found in vegetables, fruits, nuts, and grains). When oxalate levels are high, there’s a greater chance of it binding to calcium, forming kidney stones.

Oxalates, also known as oxalic acid, are not just found in leafy greens, legumes, and other foods, but our bodies make them as well. In fact, the body doesn’t absorb much oxalates from our daily food intake. An insightful study shows that dietary oxalate is not a major risk factor for nephrolithiasis (kidney stones).

“Oxalic acid is a naturally occurring substance found in many plant-based foods, including spinach. While high levels of oxalic acid can be harmful and even toxic in large quantities, the amount found in spinach is not enough to cause harm to most people,” maintains Zahid Shah, a nutritionist and life coach based in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Spinach is a great source of several important nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and K, as well as iron, calcium, and antioxidants. These nutrients can help support healthy vision, immune function, bone health, and overall well-being,” he says.

In case of those who are prone to kidney stones or have kidney disease, the doctor may recommend a low-oxalate diet. Also, cooking and blanching leafy greens significantly reduces its oxalate levels. For most people, though, the health benefits of spinach outweigh its risks.