Leafy Greens

Many people believe that plant foods are both necessary and beneficial for human health. However, not only are fruits and vegetable not necessary for human health, they can actually be quite detrimental for some people.

According to Wikipedia… “Salicylates are derivatives of salicylic acid that occur naturally in plants and serve as a natural immune hormone and preservative, protecting the plants against diseases, insects, fungi, and harmful bacteria. Salicylates can also be found in many medications perfumes, and preservatives. Both natural and synthetic salicylates can cause health problems in anyone when consumed in large doses. But for those who are salicylate intolerant, even small doses of salicylate can cause adverse reactions.”

The most common symptoms of salicylate sensitivity are:

  • Stomach pain/upset stomach
  • Tinnitus ringing of the ears
  • Itchy skin, hives or rashes
  • Asthma and other breathing difficulties
  • Angioedema
  • Headaches/Migraines
  • Swelling of hands, feet, eyelids, face, and lips
  • Bed wetting or urgency to pass water
  • Persistent cough
  • Changes in skin color/skin discoloration
  • Fatigue
  • Sore, itchy, puffy or burning eyes
  • Sinusitis/Nasal polyps
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Hyperactivity
  • Memory loss and poor concentration
  • Depression
  • Pseudoanaphylaxis

With a few exceptions, salicylates are present – to one degree or another – in virtually all plant foods. The only way to avoid them in your diet is to avoid the foods that contain them. Here is a list of salicylate content in fruits, vegetables, and spices: As you can see from this list, most of these common foods and herbs have medium to high levels of salicylates. Meat, however, is relatively free of salicylates – as long as it has not been subjected to preservatives or seasonings.

Since food is one of the most significant ways we can expose ourselves to salicylates, removing salicylate-containing foods from the diet is one of the easiest ways to reduce our exposure. As radical as this may seem, removing all plant foods from the diet is the simplest approach, especially if you have a limited capacity to process carbohydrates as well. After thoroughly researching this subject, Dr. Georgia Ede – who is herself salicylate intolerant – came to the conclusion that human health does not require the consumption of plant foods. Read her blog post on vegetables and watch the presentation below that she gave at the 2012 Ancestral Health Symposium regarding this subject for more information.



Other blog posts by Dr. Ede’s that discuss the downside to plant foods are: 1) Grains, Beans, Nuts, and Seeds, 2) Fruits, 3) Fiber, 4) Carbohydrates 5) Fruits, Vegetables, and Cancer, 6) Whole Grains and Health, 7) Fiber and Colon Health 8) Is Broccoli Good for You?

Nora Gedgaudasalso discusses this issue in her excellent book Primal Body, Primal Mind. She writes,

“Studies of ancient human coprolites, or fossilized human feces, dating anywhere from 300,000 to as recent as 50,000 years ago, have revealed essentially a complete lack of any plant material in the diets of the subjects studied (Bryant and Williams-Dean 1975). In other words, it is likely we subsisted for a very significant portion of our evolution largely on the meat and fat of animals we hunted. Fat was the prime commodity for its concentrated nutrient and energy value… Fat, too, is our most efficient, dense, and prolonged-burning fuel. It is essential for an important multitude of bodily processes, not the least of which is the functioning of the human brain.”

Gedgaudas further delineates,

“Another important limitation stems from the fact that we as a species have only relatively recently developed a universally controlled use of fire. By most accounts, this did not occur before fifty thousand to one hundred thousand years ago…[and the] oldest-known pottery [necessary for certain cooking methods] dates only as far back as 6800 BCE, incidentally. What makes the use of cooking especially significant is the toxicity of most plant species. Wild plants contain any number of toxic compounds that would have made their use as food in any significant quantity perilous. Cooking is the only means by which many of these ‘antinutrients’ can be neutralized. Modern produce has been genetically modified to reduce the presence of harmful compounds to a significant extent. Most wild plants, on the other hand, require extremely careful selection and preparation. Most starchy roots, tubers, and legumes would have been prohibitively dangerous to consume without extensive cooking. Furthermore, the energy expended in the procurement of the remaining types of plant foods easily exceeds their potential caloric value, to say little of their meager, inferior available protein content, which is so critical to our needs. Mass die-offs of mega-fauna following the last Ice Age ten thousand years ago and over-hunting by humans may have lead to an increased dependence on plant foods and ultimately to the development of agriculture.”

Dr. Larry McCleary, in an interview with Jimmy Moore, said that salicylates interfere with mitochondrial function inside the cell which can be a real problem for people with already impaired mitochondrial function, as is the case with illnesses like ADHD, Autism, Alzheimer’s. Mitochondrial dysfunction is also known to be present in people, like myself, with Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS/CFS). After examining the above list of foods and their salicylate content, I quickly realized why almost all food seems to make me feel bad! Since I was a vegetarian, and then vegan, for so many years, I was never able to understand that it was something unique to plant foods themselves that was the problem. I had assumed it was just food in general. It did not occur to me that I my body might respond differently to meat and other animal products since I did not even consider them to be a food option.

Most clinicians and scientists who promote a ketogenic diet recommend the use of avocados, nuts and seeds, coconut oil, and olive oil due to their low carbohydrate and high fat profile. But for someone with salicylate intolerance, like myself or Dr. Ede, this is a complete disaster. So, even when you are doing everything right from a ketogenic standpoint, you still feel terrible. This is, of course, very confusing and frustrating. It was such a relief when I finally figured out that there was a common thread link all of my bizarre reactions to food.

Amber Wilcox-O’Hearn whom I have come to know through her blog Empirica has eaten an all meat diet for 5 years now which she describes in the following posts: 1) A Carnivorous Diet; 2) Experiences of a 5-Year Carnivore Part 1 3) Experiences of a 5-Year Carnivore Part 2. Amber is extremely sensitive to fruits and vegetables, and she gains weight if she eat any plant foods at all. Most significantly, however, plant fods – in even the smallest amounts – have a profoundly negative effect on her moods. She was diagnosed with Bipolar II and required medication to remain somewhat stable. She practiced a traditional low carbohydrate Ketogenic Diet for a number of years, consuming less than 20 grams of carbohydrate a day, but she still could not lose weight, and she had difficult time attaining and sustaining a state of nutritional ketosis.

Eventually, Amber decided to eliminate all plant foods from her diet to see what would happen. Not only did she lose her excess body fat, but her mood improved so much that she was able to stop taking her medication. As long as she refrains from eating all plant foods, she remains free of any symptoms related to her Bipolar II condition. In other words, a “zero carb” or “zero plants” diet has put her Bipolar II disordered brain into complete remission. Is her recover due to the elimination of carbohydrates or salicylates or both? Who knows? Does it really matter? She says that she feels so much better eating just meat that plant foods are no longer even tempting to her.

Finally, Dr. H. L. Newbold, author of The Type A / Type B Weight Loss Diet, placed his morbidly obese patients on a very simple meat and water diet. His theory was that some people living in the modern environments of today still possess “old genes” and, thus, have a reduced tolerance for what he called “new foods,” namely grains, dairy, and most fruits and vegetables. While carbohydrates were clearly part of the problem for his patients, he also found that many of them were sensitive to low carbohydrate plant foods, as well as many chemicals in the environment. Exposure to certain foods and chemicals would trigger his patients to go on eating sprees of almost unimaginable proportions. Although Dr. Newbold did not seem to be aware of salicylates when he wrote his book, I strongly suspect that – in addition to carbohydrates – they where the common underlying factor that had such a profoundly negative effect on his patients.

Based on the information and understanding provided by each of these leading-edge thinkers, I decided that eliminating all plant foods, and plant-derived oils, from my diet. It has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.


54 thoughts on “Salicylates

  1. Brilliant! I have eaten a zero carb diet for a little more
    Than five years and I feel amazing! I’ve lost 125 pounds, regained my fertility/menstrual cycles, and feel awesom! I even had two carb pregnancies, resulting in two healthy babies! Here’s a link to my site that has before and after pics,as well as details of my story:

    Thank you for your site! I would
    Love to link to it from my blog! Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Interesting, Esy, and well written.

    I wouldn’t forget about oxalates, either. There is no known nutritional value to oxalates for humans. But they can interfere with mitochondrial function also. There is a genetic disease related to inability to detox oxalates, hyperoxaluria, which can kill you.

    Even some normal people are said to suffer symptoms of hyperoxaluria if they go on a low oxalate diet. Oxalates can be stored in the body, to be later mobilized. A damaged gut, excess vitamin C intake, and disturbed intestinal microflora, can contribute to oxalate retention in normal people.

    Also, there are reports that oxalates are on the rise in all vegetable foods due to depleted soils and plant stress. Plants form and uptake more oxalates in poor soils.

    This site has great information on oxalates:

    The Weston A. Price Foundation also has several good articles about oxalates. I found this one particularly interesting. It’s about health problems, and subsequent law suit, allegedly caused by excess soy protein in Illinois prisoners’ diets.

    Personally, I wouldn’t go near almond milk, or soy milk, due to the VERY high levels of oxalates. But they are touted as “health foods”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t know about toothpaste and oxalates, either. Probably it is not a big source of oxalates. Esmee told me about warm water a few years ago, and I adopted that with good success. I would be careful of baking soda, however, as an alternative. I think it can accelerate the wear on enamel, if you use it too often. But I don’t know what “too often” is.


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  5. Kelly Hogan did you mean to say you had two ‘zero’ carb pregnancies? I have a question about salicylates. Can you react to certain salicylate containing foods and not others? Many on that list give me reactions. But I can eat coconut oil all day with no reaction?


    • Hi, afloweringsoul, Kelly is not sensitive to salicylates, I am (Esmée). I personally react to coconut oil, but I have a friend who is also sensitive to salicylates, but he can eat “deodorized” coconut oil without reaction, so the salicylates must get removed in the deodorizing process. I have never tried the deodorized myself. You will need to speak with Kelly regarding your other questions, but my understanding is that she was Zero Carb throughout both pregnancies, except for pickles during one of them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m really confused regarding the coconut oil / salicylate issue. In Anne Swain’s study of salicylates, she found the coconut meat was relatively low — 0.26 per 100 grams — while almonds (another nut) were very high — 3.00 per 100 grams.

        And then on another site, a doctor pointed out that there is no salicylic acid in coconut oil.



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  8. I have come to the conclusion that salicylates are what make a food anti-inflammatory (as aspirin would for arthritics). I’ve also found that salycilates increase the ringing in my ears (as aspirin does), and now have found the missing link of info I’ve been missing…such as coconut oil. Here’s to a more silent world after cleaning up these last few foods from my diet!


    • After consulting your food list of salicylates, I find myself in a quandary: do I try to make my world a quieter place, or do I answer my food allergies first? Many of the low-salicylate foods on that list hate me–I’m allergic to them (mainly the dairy items).

      Where does one find “deodorized” coconut oil?


  9. how do we know if we have an issue with salicylates? is there any testing a person can seek that would confirm if we react to them or now?


    • Unfortunately the only reliable testing for food chemical intolerances is an elimination diet for three to six weeks and re-introduction to test your tolerance. There’s some good info about Sal levels in foods on but also some horrible advice about sticking to ‘low-chem’ options like white potato and rice and sugar to sub for the things you’re ‘missing out on’. Coming from a paleo/keto background, the idea of the RPAH low-chem diet as it’s prescribed is abhorrent (and it’s what was recommended for my Sal sensitive 2yo), but we’re using the info available to us to paleo-fy it for the little tacker. 🙂


  10. I’m pretty sure I’m sensitive to them too. Coconut oil doesn’t make me feel too great, nor do various leafy greens. It’s difficult to get enough fat on keto without coconut oil, whilst also having histamine intolerance 😦


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  12. Mitochondrial dysfunction is also known to be present in people, like myself, with Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS/CFS).

    I’ve ebv from 2y and with up and down they don’t leave me, is there a link? can i have more information on this mitochondrial dysfunction?

    i also suffer histamine intollerance, but the major problem for me is the conversion of histidine in histamine from my gut flora….. my stoll smell no good when i eat animal protein… i’m confused and frustated


  13. Thank you for this blog post. I’ve just recently figured out that after all of these years (10 plus) it is salicylates that have been doing so much damage to my body. So glad to know that I am not alone. I feel amazing with zero salicylates. Better than I ever thought that I could feel!!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This is amazing and very true. I have witnessed rashes hives, stomach pains digestive issues when being plant based, started eating me all those symptoms subsided. Great read thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. i can’t tell you how many issues I went through over the past 5 years or so and finally limited my diet to pretty much just meat and low oxalate and low salicylate fruits/vegetables, and my issues went away. I know that is brief, but I am backing up what is written here and Dr. Ede. She is on to something. There are people like myself that can’t eat fruits and vegetables, for the most part. I am a living example.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. this post might be very important for me personally. I have had serious health problems but one of the main symptoms over the years (!) is heavy conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eyes).
    Coconut and olive oil are a staple of my ketodiet so I am very curious if cutting them out helps with my inflammation.

    What oils are you eating instead of Coconut / olive oil ? I am thinking of butter but im wary of the lactose in it.


    • I cannot eat butter or ghee or cream either. They all give me migraines. The only fat I eat is beef fat. I buy fatty chuck roast. I usually eat all of the fat, but not all of the lean. So a with piece that weighs 2.25 lbs., I will eat about 1.5 lbs including all the fat, but give the remaining 12 oz of lean to my dog. If you know a private butcher, sometimes they can get beef suet for you. This is the fat that surrounds the kidneys. You can then cut of pieces of this and lightly pan fry them to add to your meat if it is too lean.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Several years ago when I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia my doctor R Paul Saint Amand was using Guaifenisen to help purge the body of the broken up pieces of ATP from mitochondrial Dysfunction. His theory was that those pieces got lodged in the muscles and the muscle cell’s efforts to dislodge them caused the overwhelming fatigue and pain. When using Guaifenisen, he would have me completely avoid salicylates (including toothpaste…the menthol has a high level) and topical salicylates in skincare products. Coupled with a very low carb diet, my symptoms (crippling pain and fatigue) lifted within six weeks. Whenever I ate more carbs, especially veggies, I would feel bad again.
    Now that I’m practicing ZC, I don’t need the Guaifenisen. My energy is amazing and I’m free if the fibro pain.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I have been eating a Zero carb diet for 10 years now. I was diagnosed with celiac disease and the standard gluten free diet actually made me considerably worse. So I decided to eliminate all plant based foods and eat animal foods only. My Doctor and also Gastroenterologist strongly warned me against doing so. Well all as I can say is it was the best decision I ever made. The list of conditions I suffered from is so long I’m not even going to bother to list them, Basically I was in a really bad way and desperate.

    Within months Most of my symptoms had considerably improved, now ten years on and I am absolutely thriving. I did learn some lessons along the way.
    1. Important to eat plenty of organ meats especially liver Very high in all vitamins and minerals especially vit A, which is crucial for a strong immunity, and copper for a healthy vascular system.
    2. I drink only distilled water, far too many toxins added to the water supply( Fluoride and chlorine for starters).
    3. I use no cleaning chemicals, no soaps or cleansers on my body what so ever, I shower usually only 2 times a week max. Due to the Zero carb diet I produce very little body odor.
    4. I usually eat once a day or twice a day max if I’m working really hard.
    5. Don’t drink water with meals.
    6. Try not to eat at night before bedtime.
    7. Always pick fatty cuts of meat and rejoice in eating as much cholesterol as possible.
    8, As mentioned above plenty of organ meats, muscle meat, eggs, butter and Thick cream all unpasteurized(raw). Only small amounts of sea food, due to being very costly.

    Also I teach tennis full time tennis and cycle about 200-300klm a week and race A grade all on Zero carbs without any lack of energy, actually quite the opposite, I always have good energy no flat spots or cravings what so ever. My bowl movements are perfect on Zero fibre. I never get sick or bored with my diet and I always look forward to my meals.

    Hope some of this helps.

    Liked by 1 person

    • First excuse my english im french. Im happy to red this testimonial because im sure i also have salycilates sensitivities. I tryies eviction diet during a month in april and it was impressive on my health. I lost weight. Lost my fatty belly gained so much energy … BUT i couldnt keep on this diet because i got so bored!! Of eating the same things 😦 no spices. No oignon no garlic. No herbs. It was so sad. So untasty.
      Honestly i truely cannot understand when you say you were looking forward to eating! You should share recipes with me. I would be very grateful 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Eendea – I wish I could share recipes, but honestly, I do not do recipes. I eat one meal per day. I eat only fatty beef. I eat about 1.5 lbs (675 gm) per meal. I eat it either freshly ground and raw (like steak tartare), or I eat it lightly pan fried super rare (maybe cook it 1 minute on each side). I use no spices. I don’t even use salt (although you can if you want).

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi eendea,

        Firstly I do understand where your coming from in relation to the boredom issue, but I think in your case you went cold turkey so maybe it was all a bit too much to soon so to speak. In my case for about 2 years I was just experimenting with low carb( still small amounts of plant food) with spices added, even though I considerably improved eating this way there were days where certain issues would flare up. So then I decided to go zero carb(for the last 10 years) with plenty of organ meats mixed in and liver been one of the organ meats I consume by far the most. So in your case maybe try taking it slowly I mean slowly try to eliminate plant based food out of your diet over a period of month’s and see how that goes. IMHO I believe humans are designed to be mostly carnivorous just from all the research and trial and error that I have done. Adjusting to this way of eating (mentally and physically) initially I think for a lot of people is hard in the early stages but then 6 months go by, and then 12 and slowly it just become a normal way of eating, atleast it did for me. It is drummed into us from a young age to eat low fat high carb so it does take time to adjust to a new way of eating. But I do know with patients the rewards are there.

        As far as recipes go I don’t really have any, just fatty cuts of meat and animal organs all cooked very slightly sometimes raw with no spices at all. Over time your mind and body adjusts to a new way of eating and I know for me I now just crave animal foods like I did chocolate years ago!

        So again take it slow and be patient the rewards are there if you do!

        By the way I love the simplicity of this way of eating!!

        Hope all this helps.


        Liked by 1 person

  19. What type of vitamin supplements if any do you require with this type of diet? I have developed issues with eating most carbs and have been taking edible clay minerals as a supplement and detox.


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  21. Couldn’t open your chart, but found a site listing the levels of different foods. Found what I was looking for. Tea is listed as very high. Recently (1 month) back to ZC, but using daily puerh tea. Was concerned. I add tallow, sometimes raw butter. Okay, I’m going to try going water only and see what difference it makes. I have in my history had hives and asthma, listed as symptoms of sensitivity.

    Was also wondering if we should be leaving veggies out of our dogs raw food diet. He is a fawn dobbie with the alopecia, but am suspecting that the little amount of veggies could be causing this. I’ve been leaving it out of his food, and his coat feels a little softer to me.
    Good article Esmee. Feel like I am learning so much more this time around ZC.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am sorry the link to foods high in salicylates is broken, I need to find a new one. But Google should bring up many similar ones with a simple search. Yes, tea is very high, as are coconut and olive oil which are often used on ketogenic diets and even by some on zero carb. Once I went zero carb myself, I removed all plant foods from my dogs diet. I feed him more beef now too because I feel it is more nutritious than chicken which used to be the mainstay of his diet. I also include beef kidney, beef liver, and lamb neck bones.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. I’m 3 days in to keto just eating meat. I have oxalate and salicylate issues as well as memory loss that’s scaring me. I bought MCT oil because it may be beneficial with Alzheimers. However, I don’t want to make myself more sick. Is the fat from the meat I eat enough? Better said, when I cook hhamburger should I eat the grease?


    • I would go with just beef and water for the first 6 months. Yes, the fat is very important. If you can eat fat that is rendered out of the ground beef during cooking without experiencing nausea or diarrhea, then you should do so. But you may also do better eating whole pieces of meat as steak. I know steak is expensive, but many people do much better with it than with ground beef. Ground beef is very high in histamines. You can buy New York Strip Loin from Costco in bulk for $5.69/lb and cut it into steaks and freeze in individual portions. Look for bulk packages with the larges fatty layer on the outside. This will ensure that you get enough fat that has not been trimmed off by the butcher. Another option is to buy fatty chuck roast and cook it very rare just like a steak. As long as you don’t over cook it, it will remain tender enough to eat.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Hi there, I’ve been extremely ill for 2 years after 2 rounds of Bactrim. While fighting off the yeast overgrowth, I started developing more & more food allergies and began to basically only eat meat. I felt much better, almost lighter & lost tons of weight (a bit too fast). I was finally free to eat certain veg again. However, now that my foods are sooo unbelievably limited, I’m starting to think I’ll just have to go back to meat & water but I have serious reservations. My question is: How in the world can someone survive on meat alone long-term? I already have calcification in my arteries thanks to major malabsorption/”leaky gut” issues… I am seeing a functional medicine doctor soon to figure out exactly what the heck happened to me but in the meantime I worry about cholesterol & micronutrients / vitamins etc. Can anyone enlighten me as to how one can not only feel sooo much better but also live long enough to see the kids graduate high school?

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you are on Facebook, please join us in the group Principia Carnivora. We can give you more hands on help there.

      An all meat diet is very healthy. There is absolutely nothing unhealthy about a diet high in animal fats. It does not cause heart disease, cancer, or any other chronic illness. In fact, it actually helps to heal these illnesses. You might want to check out my “Resources” page linked at the top of my blog. I will also send to private link to the Andersen interview.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. I think it may have been a salicylate sensitivity that almost killed me. In January I was eating a bag of Costco dates per day, along with eating loads of other high salicylate food like tumeric and ginger everyday. One day after my morning coffee I started getting severe abdominal pain. 6 hours later I went to the hospital and a CT scan showed internal bleeding from an unknown cause. They think it was likely a cyst somewhere, perhaps on my spleen near my colon, but that is their best guess.

    I remember one of the first questions they asked me, after the CT scan, was whether I was taking lots of aspirin or on blood thinners. I of course said “no”, but only heard about salicylates recently and their relation to aspirin, how they block the absorption of Vitamin K (I was doing this for a long time, so I imagine my blood was very thin?), and perhaps lead to such a severe adverse reaction.

    Of course I could be wrong, but it seems like another possibility.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Wow, how interesting. This idea of a basically meat diet I can understand. I am on the no salicylate and sulfite diet and the food I enjoy most is meat. I was feeling guilty about this as always considered the heavy veg diet was healthy for me. I had had the salicylate problem for 40 years or more and it is only recently that I have discovered why I had felt ill most of the time. Better late than never though. Thankyou


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