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episode #252

Interview with Sally Norton: “Toxic Superfoods: How Oxalate Overload is Making You Sick-and How to Get Better”

May 15, 2023 in Podcast


This week I interviewed Sally Norton - she is an Ivy-league Nutritionist & Author of the book, Toxic Superfoods: How Oxalate Overload is Making You Sick-and How to Get Better.

We discussed how oxalates were affecting Sally and how it could also be affecting your health as well, along with:

  • Problems with so called "Superfoods" like almonds and spinach
  • Ways to detox from oxalates
  • Can you cook oxalates out of your foods
  • Advantages of calcium and lemon juice in your diet
and her one tip to get your body back to what it once was!

Brian (0s):

Coming up on the Get Lean e Klean podcast

Sally (4s):

Cuz it's, what's happening is we've been eating some of the basic things we grow up on that have high oxalate are potatoes, peanuts, chocolate. So as a kid you're giving peanuts and potatoes like tater tots in school, french fries, chips, mashed potatoes, big potatoes are everywhere. And then peanut butter is like a standard thing until the allergy thing happen now, right? People a little less sending it to school. But,

Brian (27s):

And who doesn't love peanut butter, right? I mean it's

Sally (30s):

Addictive. Peanuts generally can be kind of addictive and a lot of these high oxic foods like potatoes, chocolate, and peanut butter are great examples of standard foods that have this addictive pull. You start using them too much.

Brian (44s):

Hello and welcome to the Get Lean ean podcast. I'm Brian Grn and I'm here to give you actionable tips to get your body back to what it once was, five, 10, even 15 years ago. Each week I'll give you an in-depth interview with a health expert from around the world to cut through the fluff and get you long-term sustainable results. This week I interviewed Sally Norton, she's an Ivy League nutritionist and author of the book, toxic Superfoods, how Oxalate Overload Is Baking You Sick and How to Get Better. We discussed how oxalates were affecting and how it could be affecting your health along with problems with so-called super foods like almonds and spinach, ways to detox from oxalates.

Brian (1m 28s):

Can you cook oxalates out of your foods advantages of using calcium and lemon juice in your diet And her one tip to get your body back to what it once was. Really enjoyed my interview with Sally. I know you will too. Thanks so much for listening and enjoy the show. All right, welcome to the Get Lean E Clean podcast. My name is Brian Grn and I have Sally Norton on welcome to the show.

Sally (1m 52s):

Thank you for having me. It's fun.

Brian (1m 55s):

Thanks for coming on and glad to have you on. I was talking to you before we went live, we haven't talked too much about oxalates so we'll get all into that and your book Toxic Superfoods. But before we touch on that, I was looking into your story. I'd love to hear just sort of your background and how you got into, you know, obviously becoming an author of this book and, and all about health and wellness.

Sally (2m 18s):

Yeah, so I'm from the US and grew up with people who ate scratch cooking for the most part. And I was a kid who loved her vegetables and, and I also was a kid who had strep throat and some issues as a little kid and they took out my tonsils at age five, which is horrible. And it was really obvious to me that it's no good being sick, it's no good going to the hospital, having them do stuff to you.

Brian (2m 41s):


Sally (2m 42s):

And by the time I was 12 I was having arthritis and back pains and that was the same time in my life when I decided I would study nutrition because science teacher showed this film strip that showed that if you ate bad food you could get sick with heart disease and cancer and if you ate the right supposedly vegetables that you could not get those things. And I thought, well who wouldn't want to not get sick? Who wouldn't want to know? If you had a choice about whether you'd get sick and end up a patient like I did as a little kid, why wouldn't you want to know that? So I decided then I would study nutrition and didn't have the language for it back then. But basically I wanted to be in health promotion with nutrition being the core thing. And I haven't changed from that.

Sally (3m 22s):

I'm nearly 60 years old now and I'm still that same person who believes that food is the basis of our health. And the thing is, I was all misinformed by my professors and my profession and public health. I have a degree in public health as well as nutrition and my whole world of public health nutrition hasn't got it right and I'm doing all the right things and was very sick. I struggled with problems my whole life in college I had to leave for four years for foot surgery. I had terrible fatigue. I went vegetarian and vegan. I was 16 years total doing those things and I was really sick. Never blamed my diet of course cuz I had the perfect diet in my head and in our cultural heads.

Sally (4m 4s):

And that story is still living on, even though old dames like me already tried out all that vegan and vegetarianism and ruined our health. So it took a, it took a total collapse, complete collapse of my health where I couldn't do anything to for me. And then a three year experimentation slash additional research to finally land in this weird spot that the arthritis and back pain and stuff that I had as 12 year old, the foot problems when I was in college, the fatigue and all the other problems I had were because of my healthy foods.

Brian (4m 39s):

Hmm. Now you talk about healthy foods, it's a very broad term. It

Sally (4m 50s):

It's a very slippery term. A very slimy term.

Brian (4m 53s):

I mean it could mean one thing for one person. Yeah. And something completely different for another person. What were those healthy foods that, or so-called healthy foods that you were eating that perhaps caused this issue?

Sally (5m 5s):

As a kid we grew up on bee greens, charred and rhubarb treats and vegetables, occasional potatoes, you know, and then foods we knew weren't too healthy, which also have the same problem like peanuts and so on and all. I continued to grow Swiss chart. I was even growing Swiss chart in college and it was like old home week. Like my dad taught me to put vinegar on greens. And so it was really for me when I quit the vegan thing, it was because I could no longer eat beans and bread. So I started eating sweet potatoes as my starchy staple. So I was eating sweet potatoes every day for years. And it didn't take long. I, no retrospect Now when I started doing the sweet potato, which is another one of these supposed healthy foods that are supposed to be low allergy and full of great things and whatever, it was already ruining me very quickly I ended up with crow's feet.

Sally (5m 59s):

I'm in my mid to early thirties, I have crow's feet, I had got these little brown spots on my skin, which a dermatologist later told me were age spots. Like I would never imagine that at age 34 or whatever I was, I got this lump on my head, which is why I was asking the dermatologist cause I had to go in and take off this lump. And I said, well by the way I've got these little brown spots. And he laughed at me. I never in my life put it together with effect. I adopted sweet potatoes as a daily food. So for me it was that. But for other people it can be the almonds and nuts and the chia and the hemp and the turmeric and the kiwi and the blackberries. These are all supposedly good foods. And I think it's a place where everyone agrees they're good foods.

Sally (6m 39s):

There's, except maybe the carnivores, there's a real very little debate that these are good foods when in fact they're toxic.

Brian (6m 49s):

Now maybe explained individuals, what is toxic within them, you know, I know we've said oxalates perhaps maybe explain that in a little more detail so people understand

Sally (6m 59s):

Oxalate is a foreign language to all of us. So if you've never heard of it though, it's not because you're out of the loop, it's cuz nobody's been talking about it. So oxalate is like, what is, even doctors, you say oh there's oxalates in the food or there's, I'm having an oxalate problem, they'll tilt their head like a confused puppy and go, I don't know what you're talking about. Which is really sad because it's in the medical literature since the dawn of science, we've been working with oxalic acid, which is a basic chemical. It's a two carbon chemical compound with four oxygens on it. Plants make it other pieces in nature like fungus's make it, it's very abundant in nature and plants use it for lots of things and it's quite toxic to us if we eat too much of it.

Sally (7m 43s):

So it's in some plant foods we trust and you can eat too much of it and it grabs minerals. It, it's, so we use it, we started using it as a cleaner in the 17 hundreds and use it in factories to produce textiles. And we use it to bleach wood and etch things and it's a great chelator of mineral so it cleans up things. So in bar keeper's friend and sud cleaner and wood bleach, they all use oxalic acid. So you can use oxalic acid which comes from spinach or wherever to clean the rust off your patio or literally clean a rusty engine. That's how they use it. And we're eating it and it turns into these crystal salts that grabs calcium and other minerals and then starts crystallizing in the body and you get nanoparticles that are crystalline and even they grow into microparticles with the the nano crystals and the little ions of oxalic acid that are really harsh on your cells and start messing up the basic function of cells causing oxidative stress and inflammation and accumulation and degeneration, degeneration rather of tissues.

Brian (8m 51s):

Now obviously some people are more sensitive to this than others, right? I'm sure there's some people who had high oxylate foods their whole life and maybe not even have a symptom.

Sally (9m 0s):

Yeah, well a lot of diseases can be silent too. Sure. And this is definitely the case with you can be building up lead toxicity, you can be building up with cardiac problem, you can be building up cancer and not have any symptoms. That's definitely the case with oxide. It's often silent. But you know, just like with lead and mercury best, if you think about that before you fill up your body with lead and mercury or nano crystals of oxalate. So even if you don't have symptoms doesn't mean it's okay to eat it. And even if you don't really ultimately get what you think of as an oxalate problem, which is old age by the way. So if you avoid old age, if you can get to be a hundred and still feel like you're 30, then you didn't have an oxalate problem.

Sally (9m 40s):

But I don't know anybody who's done that. But you do know people who've smoked their whole lives and lived to a hundred, 120. They may be wrinkled and have stained fingers but they're didn't die of cancer. That doesn't make cigarettes safe for everyone, right? Yeah. We have to work on our logic with that and also recognize that it's not really a sensitivity when we talk about a toxin, it's more of a tolerance level or a more of an ability to mask the problems and to carry on despite the problems where you have deeper reserves, energy reserves, deeper physiologic capacity. And that's not well studied. So we can't really predict who's gonna get away with the high oxalate foods for very long.

Sally (10m 24s):

But in truth, if you're optimizing your productivity, your brain function and trying to avoid the problems of old age, you would wanna know about how much oxalate you're reading and try to curb that down to something that's within your capacity, which isn't very much really we're built to handle oxalate cuz it's a natural compound. The body's aware of it and even makes a little bit in the liver. But that doesn't mean that our current diets respect our capacity for handling it.

Brian (10m 52s):

So when did you start to realize that it was oxalates and how did you even know that this was causing the issue? And then what did you do to sort of rem remedy the issue? Well,

Sally (11m 2s):

It's hard to teach someone like me who knows everything about a new problem they don't know about. So you know, in college it was like one paragraph here and one paragraph here. And I, and my biases were, well it's for kidney stone patients and it does bind calcium so you don't wanna ruin your calcium status by having oxalates in all your meals. And that's all I knew about it. I had no idea that it could lead to a toxicity syndrome, ruin your connective tissues, ruin your bones, cause osteoporosis, cause wrinkled skin cause dementia. I had no idea about any of that. So of course I'm hard to teach and I I so I never paid attention. And they actually, it's hard to know how much you're eating because we in nutrition and public health aren't paying attention to its prevalence in the foods and aren't really having access to really good information about where it is in the food.

Sally (11m 50s):

So how would I know if it's oxalates if I don't even know when I'm eating oxalates or not. And even me a professional in academia in nutrition and public health, I am unaware, despite me teaching holistic healing and integrated medicine and doing research grants, I am really unaware of my oxalate intake. And I never heard in school that sweet potatoes were high. So I didn't know that I adopted a high oxidate diet when I added sweet potatoes. So how could you know, you can't know. And so I started getting aware and of my oxidate intake when I had an attack of vulva pain. So this is crotch burning and pain and stabbing and it's really unpleasant. And my husband did a Google search cuz where do you turn when you have a health problem?

Sally (12m 33s):

Dr. Google. Yeah. And he found this vulva pain foundation, like there's a female crotch pain foundation, I didn't even know this the thing. And she's teaching the low oxy diet. And now at this point in time it's been I think 30 years or more, maybe 31 years that she's been teaching us. And they found, they were talking about a connective tissue disorder, kind of a syndrome of connective tissue and inflammatory problems and pelvic pain syndromes. And I didn't have a chronic pelvic pain syndrome. I did have chronic connected tissue problems and just generally probably inflamed cuz I was having autoimmune symptoms.

Sally (13m 17s):

So I, I was desperate though. I was like, okay, I'll buy her stuff. So I started learning about when I was eating and oxidates started curving them. And of my crotch pain issue didn't last long. It only lasted a, you know, bad for three days and kind of lightly bad for three weeks and disappeared. And so I thought the diet was just for pelvic pain and if I didn't have pelvic pain didn't matter and I was having the sleep disorder that I was trying to rectify, this is why I no longer could function. The sleep study showed my brain was waking up 29 times every single hour. You can't function when you can't get any decent sleep. And I didn't e I was so tired I didn't know I wasn't sleeping, I was just in a kind of zoned out coma all night, not actually sleeping, not knowing it.

Sally (14m 4s):

So I was really going after the sleep problem and nobody told me that oxalates ruin your sleep. So I started adding back into sweet potatoes cuz I grow organic vegetables including organic sweet potatoes and I didn't feel worse eating them. So I'm like, well oxalates not my issue and I don't have a crocheted juice, I'm fine but I, in order to handle the sleep problem, I consciously now, now that I knew oxalates, I was adding in kiwi, which is a high oxy food to a day to deal with what I thought was SIBO and and constipation. If I could deal with the sibo, which is poisoning you and poisoning your brain, making you not sleep, then I could finally sleep again. So I was trying these things to fix my cut problems, adding oxy.

Sally (14m 47s):

And what happened was, over the course of three months I got stiffer Pieter cuz I was going to a Bikram yoga class three or four times a week. And it was the exact same temperature, the same routine, the same everything. And I kept getting worse and worse and worse. And I started doing yoga back in 1982 when you were like a year old or something like, so I know my body and yoga and it was getting worse and worse. And then my old arthritis was coming back and I laid in bed one night and thought the kiwi, I had added celery too kiwi and the celery and the oxalates are bringing back the arthritis. I thought, holy cow, you mean all that arthritis in my twenties when I was just horrible.

Sally (15m 26s):

It was so bad. I, it was a point where I couldn't turn the key in the knob of my parents' house when my fingers would just blow up so big and so weak that I couldn't open the door. And so it was pretty, my history of arthritis was quite gruesome and it was coming back and I'm like, are you kidding? You mean I went through all of that arthritis because of my I oxalate vegetables. And I'm like, oh bummer. I was so unhappy about, look, I'm trying to sleep, fix my sleep problem now I have to do this arthritis diet thing. Like I didn't really wanna do really, I didn't wanna do this oxy thing and I, I did it and I, my sleep got better within like 10 days I was reading again and functioning and my foot problems after 30 years of foot problems started clearing up.

Sally (16m 14s):

Like I was like, wait a minute, you mean it's not 15 things wrong with me or 25 things wrong with me. It's just one, it's just oxalate poisoning And I didn't even wait understand that that's what it is. It's this generalized toxicity syndrome that's occurring in most of us that's causing aging and causing suffering. And we're, we're not aware of oxalates and we're not aware of the connection. So I dove into the science, started teaching this for free and decided that nobody can help.

Brian (16m 45s):

Well I'm sorry, what year was this? Like when did you start, you know, making the change? 2013

Sally (16m 50s):

Was the year that I had the revelation. It was right around Thanksgiving of 2013 where I restarted a really serious attempt at the low oxy diet because I did not wanna have arthritis. And then what did

Brian (17m 2s):

You include in the low oxylate diet? I'm curious what was it mean?

Sally (17m 5s):

Yeah, so what did I do? I, I basically started using instead of sweet potatoes, more things like cauliflower and the cabbage family vegetables which are low in oxalate. Okay. And the following Thanksgiving I had so many of those cabbage family vegetables on the plate cuz Thanksgiving's all about the side dishes and how many vegetables and you can look abundant and all like fall harvesty, right? I was quite sick for three days after that Thanksgiving dinner where I had like roasted radishes and parade cauliflower and roasted cabbage roots like you know, the turnips, the rutabaga, the so on. I had so much of that in that meal that I was sick for three days and it I realized that my system, it turns out I'm sort of allergic to cabbage in a lot of those things.

Sally (17m 52s):

Oh. Which ate can cause this, these like food sensitivities.

Brian (17m 58s):

So if someone is maybe thinking they might have this like oxalate toxicity, what would you say good next steps? I mean do a low oxalate diet obviously I'm sure obviously you can Google and see what are some of the, obviously the main things they should do to so sort of help clean it out.

Sally (18m 16s):

Well part of the problem, you know I was saying it we don't even aware of oxalate is the lists online are all wrong and don't agree. Yeah. So Hub Pub or md, what is it called? WebMD says dates are high and they're not. And you can see on my blog I talk about that a little bit and talk about the mistakes that science are making. I have a beginner's guide with lists and other lists on my website and the book is loaded with lists. You know, so if you get serious about wine learn oxy, you'll read the book and see the millions of lists and menu's ideas. But if you're, I'd say the first thing to start with, if you're picking out on a lot of almonds and almond milk, cashews and peanuts, start there and start cutting those out first because you don't have to learn it all at once and do it all at once because it just becomes a traumatic shift for your body and you wanna back out of this mess slowly so you don't trigger the body's vastly excited desire to get rid of this stuff.

Sally (19m 12s):

Cuz it's, what's happening is we've been eating some of the basic things we grow up on that have high oxalate are potatoes, peanuts, chocolate. So as a kid you're giving peanuts and potatoes like tater tots in school, french fries, chips, mashed potatoes, big potatoes are everywhere. And then peanut butter is like a standard thing until the allergy thing happen now, right? People a little less sending it to school. But,

Brian (19m 36s):

And who doesn't love peanut butter, right? I mean it's addictive.

Sally (19m 40s):

Peanuts generally can be kind of addictive and a lot of these high oxide foods like potatoes, chocolate and peanut butter are great examples of standard foods that have this addictive pull. You start using them too much. So those are good places to stop. But the problem is we've been eating them as daily staples for decades and that means you have oxalate in your thyroid gland, your tendons, your bones, your bone marrow, your kidneys and the kidneys need time to clear out. But the body's been waiting for you to like hit winter when you quit eating this stuff. And I call it winter when you eat cuz animal foods do not have oxalate in them. And in the old days before refrigerators and you know, shipping stuff from all over the place and the whole highway system and the boats and trains and planes that now can afford to throw produce all over the planet, you just didn't eat oxley foods year round and peanuts were just invented as human foods About 160 years ago chocolate bar was invented about 130 years ago.

Sally (20m 40s):

Like these are new novel foods that we use as staples we're not built to take it. So start with the nuts and slowly come down because the body, once you get low enough and how much you're taking in, it will start releasing it from inside the body. Which is why when I added sweet potatoes back in my diet, I didn't notice I was feeling worse. Because you can start to feel bad from the oxalates that are coming out of your tissues, which makes this sort of complicated and a little weird to, to evaluate.

Brian (21m 12s):

Now are there ways, let's say if you're someone that enjoys almonds from time, time, I know you said eliminate, could you just sprouting and doing things like that and soaking nuts, is that help take out some of the oxalates?

Sally (21m 29s):

Yeah, so that's a really big question people ask early on is how to reduce the oxalates in the food that you're eating. And the overall big answer before you get into the details is it doesn't work. There aren't good ways to reduce oxalate except for extraction. So if you highly refine a food and turn potatoes into potato starch, there's no oxalate. If you turn whole turmeric root into curcumin extract, there's practically no oxalate. If you turn peanuts into peanut oil, there's almost no oxalate in oils. Okay. But the sprouting, see the seeds are storing calcium with oxy crystals. They're also putting oxy crystals out in the brand layers and the other outer layers of the seeds and grains to protect them, to make them hard.

Sally (22m 18s):

Cuz these crystals that form these calcium oxy crystals, they're harder than teeth. They're very sturdy and sharp and tough and they can just stay there for a long time. And so they're there as part of the outer shell. But when you're sprouting a seed, the the, the enzymatic action starts breaking down the calcium oxy crystals to use the calcium as an enzymatic co-factor to make proteins. So what do you have when you split the calcium off of a calcium oxalate crystal? You have oxalic acid. So now you've liberated the crystal, which is generally not absorbable and won't get into your blood, into the acid, which is the part that gets into your bloodstream and starts ruining your organs and your vascular system and your kidneys.

Sally (23m 3s):

So in a way sprouting might make it worse. There isn't a lot of research on this though. We haven't deliberately gone after this question in any deep systemic way. Okay. So we don't have good solid answers, but we know that it looks like the soluble oxalate that's oxalic acid goes up when you sprout it. So you may be making it even more toxic. And on the same vein, almond milk, which is mostly water, you think, well there's only eight almonds in there. I can have all the almond milk I want cuz there's not a lot. But it's actually pretty toxic because it's the acid that's floating around in the water so beautifully diluted that it's more easily absorbed because all that water is getting absorbed into the body and pulling oxalate with the water.

Sally (23m 47s):

So really in a way, maybe a handful of almonds might be less toxic than almond milk if you're not drinking a lot of fluids with them that it becomes less absorbable. That's confusing probably.

Brian (24m 1s):

Well, I was just gonna say, if someone like was gonna have a nut butter, was there certain nuts that might, you might be more tolerable to and are lower in oxidates?

Sally (24m 10s):

Well the lowest ones it are is really just one, a super low one is pumpkin seeds. Okay, that's very low. But if you want some moderately low, there's macadamia and walnuts.

Brian (24m 25s):


Sally (24m 26s):

And sesame, no, cancel that sunflower.

Brian (24m 31s):

Okay. So pumpkin seeds, macadamia nuts, wal walnuts and sun and sunflower seed sunflower seeds.

Sally (24m 38s):

Yeah. But the chia hemp and sesame seeds are not good. And the like the, the popular ones aren't so great.

Brian (24m 46s):

Okay. And to that individual who's having a spinach smoothie every day, what would you, what, what would you say to them? I mean,

Sally (24m 56s):

I would say in the future I hope people get arrested for doing that. A particularly if they do it to their children. But in the meantime, please, please, please put something other than spinach in your smoothie. Lettuce is fine that most of the greens are okay. The bad greens that are really uber, uber, uber high in oxalate are spinach, beats, beets, chard and sol. Very few people use sol, especially in the US unless you're a gardener and grow your own. So, and beets and, and chard is literally the same vegetable and the red is worse than the white char. So, but they're all off the charts too much.

Sally (25m 37s):

Oxidating them all. The other greens are low in oxalate, kale, cabbage, lettuces, water cress, arugula. And they're low enough to not worry about. But lettuce and cabbage are especially low in oxalate. So, and they have more nutrients, they're more bioavailable. You gotta know when there's oxalate in a food like spinach, you're not getting any calcium, you're getting negative calcium. It's actually sucking calcium out of your system. Whereas lettuce, you're getting nutrients out of it. You're not out of spinach.

Brian (26m 4s):

And what's your diet now? Is it more animal ba obviously animal based and and do you include like fruit and things like that? I know you said kiwi is not great. Are there any other fruits that people should maybe keep an eye on?

Sally (26m 17s):

Yeah, watch out. Definitely starfruit don't do that. Which people don't, in this country they're, that's like sort of the spinach of the fruit world. It's really crazy high. And then there's blackberries and whole pomegranate, but pomegranate juice, it's small amounts, it's probably fine. So the fruits aren't as bad as some other departments. But the kiwi, starfruit, blackberry, pomegranate figs, they're kind of bad. And if, you know, if you're doing things like grapefruit, you, you need to stick with just like half a grapefruit, you can, it's dose, you know. So if you're piling up on anything, you can, it starts adding up. But I, I do use papaya for myself and I recommend people use modest amounts of pineapple.

Sally (26m 58s):

But the really low, low, low oxalate fruits are the melons, the whole kubic family, the cucumber, the winter squash and the, the melons cassava, honey do cantaloupe, those kinds of things. Watermelon, those are all low oxalate.

Brian (27m 13s):

Did you say cassava?

Sally (27m 15s):

Oh, I didn't mean to say cassava. The,

Brian (27m 17s):

I was, I actually curious about that cuz you're seeing cassava in a lot of things now. It's like, right, it's a cassava root. That's

Sally (27m 24s):

Terrible. Taro, taro, cassava chips are everywhere now and so are planting chips. So planting cassava, tarot, they're very high in oxalate and they're popular. Yep.

Brian (27m 35s):


Sally (27m 36s):

No, there's a, there's a, obviously my brain is stalling today. I ate something I was allergic to last night and

Brian (27m 45s):


Sally (27m 46s):

Not helping my brain. So, but there is a several different types of those melons, one of which begins with a sea. But yeah, the, the plantains. Cassava and you know, it's like everywhere on the airplanes and we make these tarot chips with the, all the different roots in there, the beets and the purple sweet potatoes and these, they're, they're worse than potato chips and potato chips are pretty bad cuz they're very high in the oxalic acid. It seems like deep frying the potato seals in that oxalic acid. So that's what high in soluble like 87% or something soluble oxidate and potato chip.

Brian (28m 22s):

Now let's say you like sweet potato cause I do like sweet potato. It does cooking it do anything and like, well

Sally (28m 30s):

It makes it safe to eat because then most of these root vegetables are very toxic. Eat and raw. You, if you boil sweet potato, you can reduce it a little bit because the, the soluble oxalate leaks into the water and that's more true even for broccoli. But it's not true for every vegetable. The few tests we have, like on asparagus, it's the same amount of oxalate, whether boiled or not. But for the more medium foods, like the broccoli has got a little bit of oxalate for a normal healthy portion, it's a little on the high side unless you boil it. So a good solid three plus minutes of boiling will lower the oxalate in broccoli help with sweet potato, but you're still need to keep your portion down to like half cup or less.

Sally (29m 13s):

Yeah. And, and in the book I've got very specific tables about how much oxylate, if you want 20 milligrams of oxylate or 30 milligrams, this is how much sweet potato you get to have. You know, so there's some very specific ways to attempt to quantify it, both with weight and volume. But you have to remember that the food that you've purchased and the way you've prepared it hasn't been tested. And there's variability in nature based on the growing conditions, the variety, how much humidity, how much pesticides, how ripe it is, how it's been stored. All these things can impact oxalate content. So we, it's sort of a guesstimate, sort of estimating oxalate based on testing, but you don't get to know exactly how much you're eating because your food didn't run to the lab before you cut it open.

Brian (30m 2s):

Okay. So it's sort of an individualized basis as far as testing is concerned. And then as far

Sally (30m 7s):

As the food goes, like food is variable. Like even if I had a twin sister, she would still be different than me.

Brian (30m 14s):


Sally (30m 14s):

Right. There's variability in nature for lots of factors.

Brian (30m 19s):

And the book is toxic superfoods, when did you write the book? When did it, it just came out, it's super

Sally (30m 23s):

While and it just got released in January. So it's just four months old and four months in a week old. Okay. And getting some really interesting results where people are getting a chance to learn this and try it out. It has enough specifics in it where people can really take on this diet and it's, it's helping people.

Brian (30m 43s):

Right. I mean I think, you know, part of the reason the carnivore diet grew in popularity was sort of these, the anti-nutrients in plant foods and how, you know, they're trying to protect themselves and things like that. This is, goes along the same lines. Is this part of the reason why some of these plants are higher in oxalate? Is it for their protection?

Sally (31m 2s):

Yeah, you know, it's interesting because the plants who seem to be high in oxalate, we te we tend to say they're high in anti-inflammatory phytochemicals, which in itself is a whole mythology and misnomer. That's a whole nother discussion. But I, I'm beginning to think that if you make a lot of oxalate, you need more of these supposed anti-inflammatory chemicals as a plant. Like the plant's protecting itself from its own oxalate. And so yeah, oxy's sort of the, the big bad boy of plant anti-nutrients. It's the worst one because there's no good way to soak or sprout or cook your way out of the deal because the heat doesn't destroy them, the pressure doesn't destroy them.

Sally (31m 46s):

The soaking may make it worse, you know, but the other things phytates and a lot of them, there's a way around it with the lectins, you soak for three days and use a pressure cooker and you disarm these giant proteins. Right. But the acid and the crystals that, that it forms are not heat destroyed.

Brian (32m 4s):

I'm gonna have to, I, I order this s sprouted almond butter, which is really good from this philosopher stone I think it's called. It's a small company, but I'm gonna have to, I'm gonna have to change that a little bit. Maybe I'll go with macadamia not butter. How about that

Sally (32m 20s):

As a transition food? Yeah. And then start eating more butter. Butter.

Brian (32m 25s):

I do, I do. I mean I'm, yeah, I'm fairly animal based. We, we don't, we don't have a lot of the these oxylate foods that you mentioned. This is just the one that, the other one that I was looking on your blog you talk about is coffee. Is coffee or probably dependent on the bean, but is it, is it low oxidate

Sally (32m 41s):

Low? It's very low in oxy. Okay. Yeah. So the post is about how silly science can be and they have tea and coffee in the title of supposedly scientific articles is if tea and coffee are both high in oxylate and they're not, like tea is high compared to a lot of things not as high as spinach by a long shot. I mean a cup of tea might be 20 milligrams where a spinach salad is 550 or something like that. You know, like they're in different leagues. But if you have tea every day, potatoes every day and you throw in some spinach and your salads and some almonds, you're in trouble like they add up. Oh but this, there's a lot of mythology about what is high and what isn't high in oxalate.

Brian (33m 22s):

What is your current diet like now?

Sally (33m 24s):

Yeah, so I am very meat centric. I eat a lot of seafood, tuna and sardines and a lot of pork and butter and some papaya and coconut and some lemons and some limes. But mostly I'm pretty much pretty carnivore. But I need a little bit of carbs. I use a little coconut water and a little bit of papaya and I need a lot of butter. And for the first time, you know, I really feel hopeful. I don't feel I need my little ranch house. I could do stairs now for the first time. I'm almost 60 years old. I just turned 59 a few months ago and that means I'm in my sixth decade. And that sounds sort of scary, but it's the first time I've felt sturdy and fine physically and since I was 12.

Brian (34m 12s):


Sally (34m 13s):


Brian (34m 14s):

And, and my question too was you talked about, I think you talked about Dr. Saladino regarding calcium in the diet and how important that is because these oxalates do sort of strip calcium from your bones. Is that correct?

Sally (34m 30s):

Yes. And calcium's the key binder that removes oxalate from the body. So if you're calcium deficient it becomes hard to remove oxalate from the body. And when you take calcium, a lot of it just stays in the colon. And that's an attractant that helps the colon excrete oxalate. Now it's mostly the kidneys that excrete oxalate, you know, oxalate becomes kidney stones and a condition called nephrocalcinosis, which we all die with these calcium oxidates diffusely hanging out in the kidney tissue that didn't block the tubules and cause a kidney stone and, and make you have pain because the kidneys were literally eating and pulling in the oxalate out of these tubules where the urine flows to keep you from having a kidney stone.

Sally (35m 10s):

And because we eat potatoes and these all the time, we all die with oxy crystals in our thyroid gland. In our kidneys, our tendons, our bone and bone marrow and our brain tissue.

Brian (35m 22s):

So getting in calcium, what are the best ways would you say to get calcium? I, I remember we're like, I mean no leafy greens have calcium, but you probably don't need to absorb most of that. Not at all,

Sally (35m 32s):

Right? Yeah, Sage has some, yeah, some calcium. But you really, it's tough to get calcium and the way we've devastated ourselves with the plant foods that are high oxalate, you can't begin to get enough calcium. And the classic nutrition, we've always been pushing dairy foods because we need calcium so badly on this plant centric nutrition that we've been pushing since the dawn of the scientific nutrition in the 1880s and nineties. Very quickly we started turning, oh wow, we should get cheap protein and find cheap ways to get protein and we should make poor people eat beans and stuff. So we started doing plant heavy nutrition when we started measuring protein thinking, oh well if it's just a protein you need, you can get it from anywhere.

Sally (36m 16s):

So that's, that's the problem where we've been, we need calcium more than ever now. And so dairy foods are really the best. And then sardine bones, you know, cuz you can just chew those up. And they're sardines are great because they have the skin on 'em and the bones, that's collagen, that's omega-3 S, that's protein, that's calcium, that's other minerals, that's iodine. Like all these vitamin E, there's so many things that earn fish that really the most efficient food for getting all those nutrients is a sardine. But if you can eat cheese and real dairy products, the less processed, the better. You know, like classic Swiss cheeses that aren't even pasteurized milk.

Sally (36m 58s):

If you can eat those, those are great sources of calcium.

Brian (37m 3s):

And how do they test for oxalates? Is it, do you know how they do that

Sally (37m 8s):

In the body?

Brian (37m 9s):

Yeah, in the body and then even just like these companies that are putting these lists out. Yeah. You know, it's like how do they even test for this stuff? I don't, you know, it's just,

Sally (37m 19s):

Well and that's been a real conundrum because it's tricky in, you know, in a biologic fluid, whether it's your urine or whether it's a grapefruit, there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of compounds and one of the compounds in there is vitamin C and vitamin C quickly degrades into oxidate. And so you can get it wrong and, and having, you know, if you're doing a oil, you need a different task versus something very watery and depending you have to, so you have to be able to isolate enough what you're looking for and control all these other things that affect the chemistry and use the right test. So the, the coffee blog post on my website talks about how they used the wrong test.

Sally (38m 0s):

They used a permeate test, permeate test, which is terrible. And it used to be before about 1980, the, the testing was not very good with food and not all that great with biological co, you know, tissue samples such as urine. So, and this is one reason why oxalates got sort of thrown under the bus. We knew about this dietary poisoning syndrome called the oxalic acid diet in 1842 was when it started being used in medicine. So the, the toxicity syndrome of eating too many oxidates in your diet was a known diagnosis for over a hundred years.

Sally (38m 40s):

But when we started relying on blood tests and urine tests, especially blood tests, we, we dropped the whole thing because it doesn't show up in the blood. The body doesn't like a poison in the blood. The body carefully controls what's in the blood. It has to have the right things and not the bad things as much as it can. And so the kidneys work hard to keep the blood clean and the skin helps and the colon helps and the liver helps. And so it's hard to test for both in foods and in body fluids. So it's, it's a little tough plus in the, our biology in the background is this very wise life force. It's got all these agendas and all these ways of doing things and it's doing things in circadian rhythms on a daily circadian pattern monthly, annually.

Sally (39m 27s):

And there's all kinds of variation going on as part of the body keeping everything okay. And so you can't just pick any old time and say that's representative of the whole day, of the whole month, of the whole year. Like you have to keep being willing to sample and understand it. And we haven't studied it enough to really understand it.

Brian (39m 47s):

And one of the biggest risks you mentioned already was kidney stones. Do you run into a lot of people who reach out to you because of the, what oxides have done and how it it they've had kidney stones through

Sally (39m 58s):

Their whole renal system? I have kidney stone clients, I have people with cystic cystic kidneys and various kidney diseases. I have people with bladder stone problems and urethra problems. So the whole urinary tract can have different expressions. It's so interesting because it's the same problem of having eaten too much spinach and try to get healthy on my carrots and whatever and it shows up so differently. One man I've worked with, it was just his bladder. The rest, he's high energy. He doesn't seem to have osteoporosis, he doesn't seem to be having the brain fog or the sleep problems, it's just his bladder. And his bladder was so severely damaged.

Sally (40m 39s):

He told me that his doctor said he had over a hundred thousand stones in his bladder of oxil and it ruined his urethra. So his ability to control his urination is completely gone. His system just dribbles on him all the time. It is that destructive. Now he's been doing my protocol and juicing lemons cause citric acid and lemons and the other elements, but mostly the citric acid helps to dissolve those crystals. So now he's been scoped and his doctor says he has very few, maybe four or five crystals in his bladder down from a hundred thousand from going on the diet and doing lemons. So, but it's so interesting because then other people have cystic kidneys or kidney stones or none of the above. I have had zero urinary tract problems at all and I've been peeing out crystals cuz you can see them in the cloudy urine.

Brian (41m 27s):

Can you?

Sally (41m 28s):

You can, well when you

Brian (41m 30s):

Need a microscope,

Sally (41m 31s):

So here's the thing, most of what we pee out is actually the ion. So that's an invisible tiny little molecule dissolved in water that's said to be 80 or 90% of what we are peeing all the time. That's invisible. Okay. And then when you have a high spike of oxalate in your bloodstream because you just had a spinach salad, that you're gonna have a lot more of these toxic nano crystals, which are impossible to see. But then if you're getting bigger crystals coming out that are big enough to see in a microscope or big enough to refract light and you have a lot of these light refracting crystals in your urine, it looks milky or cloudy because the light is bouncing off, the light can't pass through that water.

Sally (42m 12s):

So if you don't have any crystals, you can see right to the bottom of the toilet bowl, it's just a little yellow dye kind of look in the water. But when you're peeing out a lot of oxalates, you're shedding not just whole crystals sometimes but cells because the tubules in the kidneys where the urine is forming, sometimes the body will just sacrifice those surface cells and kill 'em off, let to help flush out the crystals so you can also have lots of cell debris that's causing the cloudiness.

Brian (42m 40s):

What did that, that gentleman that you just mentioned, what was he, what was the main diet that he was eating that caused that was it? He

Sally (42m 47s):

Got on a health kick because he had a chronic, a virus, famous virus called H I V. And those guys all, all went on the like juicing and health food kick. So he'd been doing juicing and all the healthy foods as part of not dying of what originally was called the gay cancer. You know, it's very serious. Your friends are dying and they're on too much drugs and that's not helping them survive either. You know, it was really a credit crisis that arose in the mid eighties of the AIDS thing. And so he, he's around from, he's not a young thing anymore and he's survived all that. He's survived so many things and yet what he's left with is the oxy devastation in this urinary tract from

Brian (43m 30s):

From doing juices. Yeah. What if someone was doing juicing? Are there certain, like for example, carrots, how are carrots for the bot as far as oxy? They're

Sally (43m 40s):

Kind of high-ish and so you start juicing them and using them a lot. It's too much. Too much.

Brian (43m 44s):

Okay. So if you have a, you can

Sally (43m 46s):

Use care. It's like when you're making soup and you're cutting up one carrot to serve six servings, you're fine. Right? When you start making it a big side dish, juicing it, you know, or or piling up on it cuz you think it's gonna kill cancer, it's not gonna kill cancer, it's gonna create cancer because the,

Brian (44m 3s):

Yeah, you know there's a, it's, it's crazy cuz you know these super foods that, you know, there's, there's like a mixed message that goes on. You could drive yourself crazy with a lot of this stuff. It's really

Sally (44m 15s):

Tough. It's really tough because this is so against the way we've been trained to think, you know, that's why it was hard for me to pick up on it and understand it and when no one understood it, I had to, in order to understand it, I had to spend all my Sundays and other time in the library and really, really, really deeply trying to understand it and working with other people and seeing how when you go on this diet, how miraculously you start getting better from incurable things. So it's really just working with reality and getting back to actual science rather than all the assumptions that get translated into products, gets translated into cultural memes, gets translated into covers of magazines and we, we pick up theories and start making them true, true, true in culture when they're not true.

Sally (45m 2s):

True, true. In biology they were somebody's theory and now we believe a lot of mythology that's getting us into trouble. And we have a huge public health crisis where the children are sicker at younger, younger in ages. We have more and more problems. We're on more prescription meds, we have more depression, we have more pain syndromes, we have more people on pain medications and now addicted to drugs like we're really in trouble because a lot of what we believe about how to live isn't working.

Brian (45m 31s):

And you mentioned something about lemons, so like just squeezing lemons in water obviously. Is that a good place to start as far as getting vitamin C and things? It's, yeah,

Sally (45m 40s):

The research suggests that a half cup of lemon juice a day is enough to dissolve kidney stones. And we're talking about the kidney stones that are forming all over your body. Getting enough situate help is helpful. The citric acid and the lemons is helpful because it turns into bicarbonate some fraction of it helps to lower acidity in the body. So the first thing it does is it helps to alkalize us. The citric acid will sit on these crystals and help them break down instead of being harder than teeth, they become softer, more chalky and that makes it easier for the body to break them up. It protects the kidneys from forming kidney stones cuz it keeps the, the stones from and you have higher levels of citric acid in your urine when you're ha when you're more alkaline and when you're eating more citrate.

Sally (46m 23s):

So the lemon juice is very helpful. It also has a low level of vitamin C which is ironically quite helpful at the, at a physiologic level we need C, you just don't need to supplement vitamin C because a thousand milligrams of vitamin C creates a lot of oxylate in the body. Vitamin C degenerates into oxidate. So you don't wanna be doing 500 or a thousand milligrams of C supplements. You want to do things like lettuce and lemon juice to get vitamin C without overdoing it. So yeah this, the lemon juice is a great thing to do. Lo getting away from the nuts, getting out of the spinach green smoothie thing and not combining, like now on the internet people are combining sweet potatoes, cocoa powder chocolates, very high oxylate and other high oxylate ingredients to make brownies and cookies and treats and thinking, oh this is a healthy way to have treats and they're making them for children and children's kidneys cannot handle all this oxley giving them sweet potatoes with almond butter and chocolate.

Sally (47m 24s):

There's various ways to combine those and turn them into any treat you wanna make and it's quite dangerous.

Brian (47m 31s):

Hmm. Well there you have it. Clean out the cupboard

Sally (47m 37s):

And if you do send me a picture. Ooh like pull off, pull off these high oxalate, the cassava chips and the almonds and everything, the almond flowers and take a whole picture of all these different foods and look for the list on my website that she seeds the turmeric. You'll see it all over your cupboard potentially. And take me a picture and send me that because that's really eye-opening. How much? It's everywhere.

Brian (48m 1s):

K Norton book is toxic Super Foods and you can find it pretty much anywhere, right?

Sally (48m 7s):

Yes. Anywhere. It's been slow to get to Australia. The, the boat's coming any minute now and apparently they're gonna start producing it locally cuz it's been, it's been got stuck on some boats somewhere. Oh. But if you keep bugging your retailers they will come up with it cuz it is random house so they should be able to get it.

Brian (48m 25s):

Awesome. And your, your website's sally k norton.com and I really appreciate you coming on and sharing all this knowledge. And actually I, I've almost left. I will ask you one last question that I ask all my guests. If you had to give one tip to a middle-aged man or woman who's trying to get their body back to what at once was, what one tip would you give them?

Sally (48m 48s):

Eat plenty of protein every time you eat with some healthy fats. And so that would be animal proteins. I like to go for like five ounces minimum per meal and that will really help you rebuild your bones and muscles. You don't want sarcopenia, you don't wanna be a weakling, you want solid bones and muscles and that's good. That's not gonna cause kidney stones, but alkalies have the lemon and some minerals to alkalies and correct any potential acidity from any of that. That's easy to do. It's perfectly safe. And protein is, animal proteins are really good for you.

Brian (49m 23s):

Love it. Yeah, I just did a interview not that long ago, but I rebroadcasting with do Don Layman, Dr. Layman. He's a big protein guy so yeah, they got their full dose of that. So prioritize protein and little lemon water will go a long way.

Sally (49m 40s):

Yeah, yeah. Butter too is always good.

Brian (49m 43s):

There you go. Cook the meat and butter. How about that?

Sally (49m 46s):

How about that? And yep, I love to make like a butter sauce for fish. It's wonderful.

Brian (49m 51s):

Yeah, yeah. Well Sally, thank you so much and we'll look, I'll put links in the show notes for all this so people can, can get your book and I'll read all about it. So thanks again for coming on

Sally (50m 3s):

Ryan. I really appreciate you talking about oxalates and I can't wait to hear what you do instead of your almond butter. I'm so glad you guys,

Brian (50m 11s):

I know I gotta get rid of it. I, I, I pretty much knew this, but the fact that it was s sprouted, I was like, well that might help but doesn't sound, we always

Sally (50m 19s):

Like, I needed all these excuses to keep my sweet potatoes. I was sure it was like the kind of oxalates in the sweet potatoes aren't the kind that's bad for me. Like we're always working on like justifying something we're not ready to let go of. But eventually keep educating yourself and you'll be more than ready cuz it is scary. I don't wanna scare anybody. I just want you to have an option to be healthy and realize that you better off without it.

Brian (50m 43s):

Yeah, very true. All right, Sally, thank you.

Sally (50m 46s):

Thank you.

Brian (50m 49s):

Thanks for listening to the Get Lean EAN podcast. I understand there are millions of other podcasts out there and you've chosen to listen to mine and I appreciate that. Check out the show notes@briangrin.com for everything that was mentioned in this episode. Feel free to subscribe to the podcast, ensure it with a friend or family member that's looking to get their body back to what it once was. Thanks again and have a great day.

Sally Norton

I am a leader, teacher, and coach serving people in need of oxalate-aware eating and support for healing chronic health conditions naturally. I'm the author of the breakthrough best selling book, Toxic Superfoods.

I provide nutritional guidance to individuals, business, community organizations, and professional associations who are seeking concrete solutions to specific heath concerns. I love to deliver seminars and lectures on wellness and oxalate-specific nutrition. While specializing in seminars on oxalate-aware eating for pain relief, functional and life-threatening disorders, and general wellness. I also offer seminars on a variety of other health and lifestyle topics.

Throughout my career in Public Health, I have been lucky to work in many different settings with a wide diversity of people and organizations.

My credentials include a master’s degree in Public Health Leadership from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a bachelor of science degree in Nutrition Science from Cornell University, and experience in health research and education in medical schools and communities.


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