Oxalates in potatoes

Apr 07, 2024

Should you fear oxalates in potatoes? Are they a useful food? How can you reduce oxalates in potatoes to avoid accumulation?


Once again, food awareness > food fear so that you can enjoy nourishing food without hesitation. Of course some people do not do well with potatoes, but that doesn't mean everyone should fear oxalates in them!


Let's dive in!


I've been really loving potatoes, especially through the winter when produce options are a little slim here in Michigan (but potatoes store well throughout the entire winter).


So today' let's discuss why I love potatoes, and address oxalate concerns, and I'll share our favorite way to cook them right now. 

I love potatoes! I personally do really well with them (in particular, yellow young potatoes) - they make me warm, make me feel great, and I have great digestion when I regularly consume them well-cooked. (Also - they taste amazing!)


I have personally found that I do very well including both sucrose (fruits, honey, fruit juice, etc.) AND starches (potatoes, sourdough, etc.)) in my diet - not one or the other.

And that is exactly what our ancestors did. They ate a lot of potatoes!


Check out this grocery list from 'Warne's Model Housekeeper', 1882, where the author mentions this list in addition to other produce available at the market at that time of year.

3.5 lbs of potatoes per person per week!

Now, *I am not saying you have to eat potatoes - I am normalizing the consumption of potatoes because people are now afraid of them*


I used to be afraid of potatoes because one diet camp told me oxalates were horrible, and another diet camp told me starches (potatoes are a starch source) were bad and fattening. Lol 


Of course not everyone is going to do well with potatoes! And if that’s you, that’s fine! You don’t have to consume potatoes.


But don’t fear potatoes because an influencer used the scary word oxalate. 


Gauge your individual response.


The humble potato is actually jam packed with nutrients. (And did you know there are indigenous tribes that consume potato-dominant diets? We talked about some of the dietary trends of indigenous tribes in the Pacific Islands with our friend Suz who visited them last year in this last week's podcast episode - tune in here.)


Here are the nutrients in 300 g of cooked potatoes (according to Cronometer)

  • 60 g of carbs (yes carbs are a nutrient - our body requires ENERGY, and protein is not an efficient energy source)
  • 27% RDA of Vit B1
  • 28% RDA of Vit B3
  • 31% RDA of Vit B5
  • 62% RDA of Vit B6 (same amount of B6 per calorie of beef)
  • 30% RDA of Vit C
  • 56% RDA of Copper
  • 19% RDA of Magnesium
  • 23% RDA of Manganese 
  • 38% RDA of Potassium


And YES potatoes also contain oxalates, and some people cannot tolerate oxalates well at this point in their health journey. (So again, you don't have to consume potatoes)


But to reduce oxalates in potatoes you can 1) peel the potatoes and 2) boil the potatoes - as the skin contains the highest amount of oxalates, and boiling potatoes is more effective at lowering oxalate content in potatoes relative to baking. (ref)


Plus, if you consume potatoes with a calcium source (like cheese or milk), you will reduce your absorption of oxalates. (Chart below from ref)

AND - the current state of someone's metabolism and gut will impact how well one does with oxalates. 


For example - the oxalobacter formigenes bacteria in the gut breaks down oxalates, and this bacteria species can only survive in a CO2 rich gut environment. (Many people have low CO2 guts due to lower metabolic rates). Plus, things like antibiotics and glyphosate can kill off this bacteria species. There is also some data point to cases where endogenous production of oxalates (yes your body can make some) has increased, due to various vitamin deficiencies or other situations.


I am not saying negative reactions to consuming oxalates do not occur.


But the fear mongering in the health space has gone too far - as people who may not have any oxalate problems now fear any food containing oxalates because of fear-based Instagram reels.


And we all know the health space needs less food fear!

So here is my current favorite way to consume potatoes.


I digest starches well when they are well-cooked. I do not think people should be eating under-cooked starches, as those are tough to breakdown, and can cause digestion and endotoxin problems.


But I don't really like to eat mushy potatoes - I like some crisp to them. So here is a way that Say Say came up with - where we can use boiling to break down the starch fibers (which helps me digest potatoes like a champ) but also achieve that crisp.


So I first peel and chop a bunch of potatoes into coins for meal prep.


Then boil in a large pot until soft (but not falling apart) - the time will vary based on size of pot, number of potatoes, how thick you chop your potato coins, etc. But maybe 25-45 min time frame.


Then throughout the week when I want to have potatoes at a meal, I place the coins on a baking pan and broil them in the oven. Again, the time will vary depending on how high up in the oven you place your baking pan, but we want to brown and crisp up the potatoes. For me it takes ~10 min.


I then dress with some Organic ketchup, consume with a big ol mug of bone broth and a chunk of raw cheese (calcium consumption will significantly reduce the absorption of any remaining oxalate), and maybe some fruit or OJ. A meal that I have been absolutely loving.


What about resistance starches? Doesn't cooling the potatoes in the fridge increase the level of resistance starches? Yes, it does. However, re-heating the potatoes will reduce the level of resistant starches that remain when you cook up the potatoes day to day. For some people with compromised guts, they may not be able to tolerate that! So cooking their potatoes fresh each day may work better. But this method does not cause any gut problems for me personally. Always gauge your individual response and be willing to experiment!