For those of us who eat dairy, adding cheese into your diet at the right times can be really beneficial for supporting a low oxalate diet (LOD). If reducing the amount of oxalate you take in from foods is step one in following an LOD, step two would be trying to reduce the amount of oxalate that gets absorbed from the gut into the body once you’ve ingested it.
But how do I do it?
One way to do this is to include calcium rich foods with your meals. If you have kidney stones, you are probably well aware of calcium’s ability to bind with oxalic acid. The good thing about this is that if it happens in the gut, instead of the kidney, then the crystals can be excreted in the stool. That means fewer oxalates are absorbed into the body, and there will be less oxalate that will have to be filtered through the kidneys.
Cheese is generally considered to be a high calcium food, and in many cases it is, but there are some popular cheeses out there that tend to have less calcium than others, or not enough calcium to justify the high sodium content. If you are concerned about kidney stones, high blood pressure or health in general, choosing cheeses that are lower in sodium is something that you probably want to do.
In general, most cheeses have around 150mg of calcium and about 150mg of sodium per 1 ounce (28g) serving. Food labels generally list the quantity of a nutrient in grams or milligrams, along with a corresponding percentage, both numbers pertaining to the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of that nutrient by the FDA. For calcium, only a percentage is listed, so throughout this post I will refer to sodium and calcium in terms of the percentage of the RDA.
The important numbers to remember here are:
7% for sodium. 15% for calcium
If the cheese you are considering buying has 7% or LESS of the RDA of sodium, and 15% or MORE of the RDA for calcium, you are good to go. Many cheeses fall into this range, including cheddar, gouda, muenster, colby jack and queso fresco. Some can have a bit more calcium, including ricotta, gruyere, and fontina.
The absolute best cheese for a low oxalate diet is swiss. It generally has very little sodium, around 2%, and 20% or more of the RDA of calcium. If it tasted a little better, I would be the happiest person in the world, but in most cases it does the job. If anyone has any unique ways of incorporating it into a meal, be sure to let me know!
The worst cheese I’ve found for a low oxalate diet is bleu cheese, which tends to be super salty (~15%), and sometimes very low in calcium (as low as 8%). If you decide to use it, I recommend only having a little bit, and making sure there isn’t another big source of salt in the rest of your meal.
Don't forget to check the labels
One thing to be careful of here is to make sure you are checking the labels on everything you buy. The difference between two different brands of the same type of cheese can be quite large, so keep an eye out for the ones with 7% or less of sodium, and 15% of more of calcium.
Let me know if you found this helpful, or if you have any thoughts or recommendations, be sure to put them in the comments below!