Oxalates are a naturally occurring chemical in many plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts.
While most people can consume high-oxalate foods with no issues, around 250,000 people in the U.S. have a sensitivity to oxalates, which can cause pain and inflammation in different parts of the body.
If you are experiencing symptoms of oxalate sensitivity, it can be helpful to know if foods you enjoy, like almond milk, might be causing distress in your body.
Keep reading to learn more about how oxalates can affect your body, whether almond milk is high in oxalates, and how to minimize your oxalate intake with or without drinking almond milk.
Is almond milk high in oxalates?
Yes, almond milk is considered a high-oxalate food. One serving of almonds contains 122 mg of oxalates. People aiming to eat a low-oxalate diet should consume 50-100 mg of oxalates per day.
What are Oxalates?
Like histamines, oxalates, also called oxalic acids, are compounds naturally occurring in the body and are found in many plant-based foods.
In foods, oxalates are produced by some 215 plant families as a way to regulate their mineral content and protect against predators.
These plants contain oxalate crystals, which can create an unpleasant, even painful, sensation when eaten.
When you consume foods containing oxalates, the compounds can bind with essential minerals like iron, calcium, and magnesium in your body.
This also creates insoluble salts (oxalate crystals) that your body passes through urine.
However, these oxalate crystals accumulate and cause health issues in people with oxalate sensitivity.
Some plants with the highest oxalate levels include:
- Swiss chard
- Soy products, such as tofu and soy milk
- Sweet potatoes
- Cocoa powder and chocolate
- Black tea
- Berries, such as raspberries and blackberries
Is Almond Milk High in Oxalates?
If you love almond milk but are concerned about your oxalate intake, it's important to know whether the beverage is high in oxalates.
Generally, people aiming to eat a low-oxalate diet should consume under 100 mg of oxalates per day, while some research suggests 50 mg daily is ideal.
This means avoiding foods that have more than single-digit oxalate contents per serving.
Unfortunately, almonds are on the recognized list of foods with high oxalate content.
Just one serving of almonds, typically 1 ounce or about 11 nuts, contains 122 mg of oxalates. Since almond milk is made by blending whole, raw almonds with water, this means that almond milk is also high in oxalate content.
A 2015 study discovered that almond milk consumption had led to hyperoxaluria and genitourinary disorders in three children and was resolved after they stopped drinking the product.
This study found that homemade almond milk contained 68 mg of oxalates per 100 ml, with other almond milk having between 5.6 to 14.5 mg of oxalate per 100 ml.
A 2020 study linked almond milk as one of the foods identified as an oxalate source in a patient with chronic kidney disease.
This research suggests that almond milk is high in oxalates, and people sensitive to these compounds may need to limit their almond milk intake.
Can You Still Drink Almond Milk If You Are Sensitive To Oxalates?
If you are sensitive to oxalates or have a condition like hyperoxaluria, you may be able to fit almond milk into your diet.
While almond milk manufacturers don’t put oxalate content on the nutritional label, there are a few ways you can monitor your oxalate consumption and potentially include almond milk in your overall diet.
However, you should always consult your physician or a registered dietician about your body’s dietary requirements and oxalate limits.
Monitor Your Oxalate Intake
Eating a balanced, low-oxalate diet is one of the best ways to monitor your intake while still enjoying foods like almond milk.
Similar to the way you would count carbohydrates on the ketogenic diet, you can build almond milk’s oxalate content into your daily oxalate allowance.
For example, you might drink a limited amount of almond milk, like ½ cup daily.
You might also reduce other high-oxalate foods, such as tea or chocolate, to ensure you don’t exceed the recommended 50 mg to 100 mg of daily oxalate consumption.
Choose a Brand With Added Calcium
Increasing your calcium intake can help protect against excessive oxalate absorption.
Calcium binds with oxalate in your digestive tract, reducing the amount your body absorbs.
If you prefer almond milk over high-calcium alternatives like dairy, choose a brand fortified with calcium or naturally high calcium content.
Avoid Brands With High Almond Content
While it’s typically healthier to drink organic almond milk brands that use a high amount of almonds, those with oxalate sensitivity may need to choose alternative brands or plant-based milk.
For example, some brands use four times the almonds to ensure a rich, creamy consistency, but since almonds are so high in oxalates, this would up the oxalate content of the beverage.
If you have an oxalate sensitivity, consider switching to a lower-oxalate beverage. Cashew, hazelnut, and soy milk are also high in oxalates, while coconut, flax, and oat milk are all low-oxalate alternatives.
The most common health condition related to oxalate consumption is hyperoxaluria.
Hyperoxaluria is when a person cannot properly process oxalates, resulting in excess oxalate absorption and increased oxalates in their urine.
When too much oxalate is in your urine, and it combines with calcium, crystals and kidney stones can form.
Recurring kidney stones can damage kidney function and lead to kidney failure.
If your body can’t excrete excess oxalate, you may develop systemic oxalosis, in which the crystals build up in other areas causing serious health issues like eye problems, anemia, and bone disease.
While only around 1,000 people in the U.S. have primary hyperoxaluria, the genetic form of the condition, the majority have secondary hyperoxaluria.
Secondary hyperoxaluria has several causes, but diet is a primary factor.
Current research has found that high dietary oxalate intake plays a 10% to 20% role in developing secondary hyperoxaluria.
Other research shows that dietary oxalate, the oxalates you eat, can be 50% responsible for total urinary oxalate excretion, which indicates the importance of limiting oxalate intake in your diet.
Symptoms of hyperoxaluria include the development of kidney stones and kidney stone symptoms like sharp or sudden pain in your back or side of your body, burning during urination, sweating, nausea or vomiting, or bloody or frequent urine.
Should You Be Concerned With Dietary Oxalate Intake?
For many people, oxalate content in foods like almond milk won’t affect their well-being.
However, certain people may want to pay close attention to the oxalate content of their diet.
If you have any of the following, you’ll want to be cautious about what foods and drinks you consume:
If you have or are prone to kidney stones, you may need to limit your oxalate intake.
Calcium oxalate crystals cause about 75% of kidney stones, and this type of stone has a recurrence rate of 60% in 10 years.
Reducing oxalates in your diet can limit the risk of oxalate crystal formation and recurring kidney stones.
If you have been diagnosed with primary or secondary hyperoxaluria, your provider will likely recommend a low-oxalate diet.
Research shows that for every 100 mg of dietary oxalate consumed, 24-hour urinary oxalate can increase by as much as 1.7mg.
As little as a 4 mg increase of 24-hour urinary oxalate excretion can increase your risk of kidney stones by 60% to 100%, depending on your health.
This makes it vital to reduce oxalate intake as much as possible through dietary choices.
Inflammatory Bowel Issues
Those with gastrointestinal issues may absorb excess oxalates due to problems within their GI tract.
If you have conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease, you should limit your oxalate intake to prevent the development of kidney stones or secondary hyperoxaluria.
A 2022 study found that high oxalate intake was associated with a slightly increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
This was especially true for high oxalate diets that were also low in calcium intake. This research indicates that if you have cardiovascular health issues, limiting your oxalate intake may have a beneficial effect.
Tips For Minimizing Your Oxalate Intake
To minimize your oxalate intake, you can take a few different actions to help you fit almond milk into your diet occasionally or minimize your daily oxalate intake for improved health.
Soak High-Oxalate Foods Before Eating
Soaking high-oxalate foods, such as kale, spinach, and taro, before eating can reduce their oxalate content.
One study found that soaking taro in tap water for 18 hours reduced the oxalate content by 26%.
Soaking vegetables for even just 30 minutes can reduce the oxalates you consume when you eat these foods.
Cook High-Oxalate Foods
Cooking high-oxalate foods can help to reduce their oxalate content.
Boiling or steaming vegetables, for example, can help leach out some of the oxalates, similar to soaking.
This allows you to eat high-oxalate foods that contain healthy vitamins and minerals that can benefit your body without increasing your risk of kidney stones.
Drink Lots of Fluids
Drinking plenty of fluids can help to flush out oxalates and prevent them from forming crystals.
Plain water is an ideal choice, but a 2020 study found that grapefruit, orange, and apple juice decreased calcium oxalate crystal urine saturation.
Research also showed that plum juice and energy drinks had no positive or negative effect on kidney stone formation, making them an acceptable fluid for those with oxalate sensitivity.
The final takeaway regarding oxalates and almond milk is that this popular plant-based beverage has one of the highest oxalate levels of all dairy milk alternatives.
For those with oxalate sensitivity, digestive issues, or CVD, almond milk may not be ideal for a plant-based diet.
However, if you want to fit almond milk into your diet for other health benefits, consult with a dietician or your doctor to understand your body’s recommended oxalate intake.