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Low Salicylate Diet

Medically reviewed by Melisa Puckey, BPharm. Last updated on April 13, 2021.

What is Salicylate Intolerance?

Salicylate (suh-lih-suh-late) intolerance or salicylate sensitivity is when the body has a reaction to salicylates, but it does not involve the immune system. 

In people who are sensitive to salicylate, when they eat foods that contain salicylates they may have symptoms of nasal polyps, bronchial asthma, rhinitis, gastrointestinal inflammation, diarrhea or hives.

They also need to avoid medications and skin products that contain salicylate including aspirin, bismuth subsalicylate, choline salicylate, diflunisal, magnesium salicylate, and salsalate. 

What are Salicylates?

Salicylate is a natural chemical found in plants that is used to protect themselves against disease, bacteria, fungi and insects. It is in varying amounts in foods and drinks that we consume, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, spices, alcohol, coffee and tea.

The synthetic form of salicylate is acetyl salicylate (aspirin). The amount of salicylate in plant-based food is lower when compared to taking a moderate dose of aspirin.

Although salicylate may cause issues for some people there is recent research looking at the beneficial effects they may have within the body. This includes its anti-inflammatory effect and also whether the positive effect of eating fruits and vegetables could be related to the levels of salicylates consumed. 

What is a Low Salicylate Diet?

A low salicylate diet means that you carefully eat foods that contain no salicylate or that are low in salicylate, and you avoid high salicylate food.  This diet may reduce symptoms of salicylate intolerance.

Usually you start by eliminating foods that contain salicylates, then reintroduce foods slowly to identify whether salicylates are tolerated and what level they are able to be consumed without causing symptoms.

If you are exploring a low salicylate diet it is important to consult a registered dietician as by removing or reducing fruit and vegetables from your diet may cause deficiencies in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.

Currently there are no peer-reviewed studies supporting the use of low salicylate diet in children, and due to the risk of negative outcomes including nutritional deficiencies, eating disorders or food aversion issues a low salicylate diet in children is not often recommended.

There are currently no standard tests to diagnose salicylate intolerance.

List of Foods that are High or Low in Salicylates

Many studies have be done to report the levels of salicylate in different foods, however the results remain variable due to differences in testing methods, where the products come from, type of food processing and storage.  For this reason food lists should be used as a general guide.

Beverages

High salicylate beverages (Avoid)

  • Beer, birch beer, and root beer
  • Bubbly drinks (like soda pop)
  • Regular coffee
  • Tea
  • Wine, port, rum and liqueurs

Low salicylate beverages (OK to drink):

  • Cereal drinks
  • Decaffeinated coffee
  • Milk (any kind)
  • Pear juice (homemade)
  • Whiskey, vodka or gin

Breads and Starches

High salicylate breads and starches (Avoid):

  • Sweet potato

Low salicylate breads and starches (OK to eat):

  • Breads and cereals
  • Noodles and pastas
  • Peas
  • Rice

Desserts / Sweets

High salicylate desserts and sweets (Avoid):

  • Mint or wintergreen products
  • Pies and cakes made with fruits

Low salicylate desserts and sweets (OK to eat):

  • Homemade cakes and cookies made without high salicylate fruits and jams

Fats

High salicylate fats (Avoid):

  • Almonds, peanuts and avocados
  • Mayonnaise
  • Olives and olive oil
  • Salad dressings

Low salicylate fats (OK to eat):

  • Butter and margarine
  • Cashews and poppy seeds
  • Vegetable oils

Fruits

High salicylate fruits and juices (Avoid):

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Berries: blackberries, boysenberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries and strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Currants
  • Dates
  • Gooseberries and huckleberries
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Kiwifruit
  • Lemons
  • Melon (all kinds)
  • Oranges and mandarins
  • Nectarines and peaches
  • Pineapple
  • Plums and prunes
  • Pomegranates

Low salicylate fruits and juices (OK):

  • Apples (golden delicious variety)
  • Bananas
  • Nashi pears
  • Papayas
  • Pears (peeled)
  • Rhubarb

Vegetables

High salicylate vegetables (Avoid):

  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Beetroot
  • Broccoli
  • Chilli
  • Cucumber
  • Endive
  • Olives
  • Peppers (Capsicum)
  • Radishes
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini

Low salicylate vegetables (OK to eat):

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Celery
  • Green beans
  • Iceberg Lettuce
  • Potato (white, peeled)

Other

High salicylate (Avoid):

  • Cloves
  • Mint or wintergreen flavorings
  • Pickles
  • Red, white and cider vinegar
  • Aniseed, basil, bay leaf, chilli powder, curry, coriander, nutmeg, vanilla essence and pepper

Low salicylate (OK to eat):

  • Carob and cocoa
  • Malt vinegar
  • Parsley
  • Salt
  • White sugar and maple syrup

 

Bottom line:

  • Salicylate sensitivity is when eating foods, taking medicines or when using skin products containing salicylates, this causes you to have symptoms including bronchial asthma, rhinitis, gastrointestinal inflammation, diarrhea, hives or nasal polyps..
  • If you are concerned about salicylate sensitivity you should consult with your health professional who can advise you about diagnosis and what lifestyle changes you could make.

Sources

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.