Are beets high in oxalic acid?

Beets are a popular root vegetable packed with nutrients like folate, manganese, and potassium. However, some people wonder if beets contain high amounts of oxalic acid. This article will take a detailed look at the oxalic acid content of beets and how it impacts health.

What is Oxalic Acid?

Oxalic acid is an organic compound found in many plant foods. It binds with minerals like calcium and iron in the body, preventing absorption. High oxalate foods can increase the risk of kidney stones in susceptible individuals.

Foods high in oxalates include:

  • Spinach
  • Rhubarb
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Nuts
  • Chocolate
  • Tea
  • Beans

The oxalic acid content of foods can vary substantially depending on factors like where it was grown, time of harvest, cooking method, and more. Therefore, published numbers for oxalates in foods are estimates.

Oxalic Acid Levels in Beets

The oxalic acid content of raw beets is moderate compared to other vegetables. Cooked beets contain less oxalates because boiling helps leach oxalates into the cooking water.

Here’s how the oxalic acid content of beets compares to other foods:

Food Serving Size Total Oxalic Acid (mg)
Raw spinach 1 cup 656
Raw beets 1 cup 115
Cooked beets 1 cup 89
Sweet potato 1 medium 54

As you can see, raw spinach has incredibly high levels of oxalates. Raw beets have a moderate amount, but cooking them can reduce the oxalic acid content by around 20%.

Health Effects of Oxalates in Beets

For most healthy people, the oxalic acid content in beets does not cause any adverse health effects. However, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Kidney stones – High dietary oxalate intake increases the risk of calcium oxalate kidney stones in susceptible individuals. Those with a history of kidney stones may want to limit high-oxalate foods.
  • Nutrient absorption – The oxalic acid in beets can bind to minerals like calcium and iron, preventing absorption. However, cooking helps reduce anti-nutrient effects.
  • Vulnerable populations – Individuals with malabsorption conditions like Crohn’s disease and celiac disease are at higher risk for oxalate absorption.

For most people, oxalates in beets should not be a major concern, especially if enjoying cooked beets. However, those at high risk for kidney stones should be more cautious.

Tips for Reducing Oxalates in Beets

Here are some simple tips to reduce the oxalic acid content in beets:

  • Cook beets – Cooking beets lowers oxalate levels. Boil, roast, or steam beets.
  • Leach oxalates – Pour off boiling water after cooking. This helps pull water-soluble oxalates into the water.
  • Limit portions – Stick to 1/2 – 1 cup cooked beets per serving and avoid overdoing it.
  • Pair with calcium -Consuming calcium-rich foods with beets can hinder oxalate absorption.
  • Drink plenty of fluids – Getting enough fluids is important to flush out oxalates and prevent kidney stones.

Following a healthy, balanced diet with a variety of vegetables is recommended over restricting any single food group. Beets can be enjoyed in moderation along with other colorful plant foods.

The Bottom Line

Beets contain a moderate amount of oxalic acid, lower than many other vegetables. Cooking beets helps reduce the oxalate content. For most people, the oxalates in beets should not lead to adverse effects, especially when enjoyed in moderation as part of a varied diet.

However, individuals at high risk for kidney stones should be cautious with high-oxalate foods. Consume a calcium-rich diet and stay well hydrated to maximize oxalate excretion.

Overall, beets are a nutritious vegetable with many health benefits. With careful preparation methods and reasonable portions, both beetroots and beet greens can be enjoyed as part of a balanced, kidney-friendly diet.

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