Making Sense of Salicylate Food Lists

by | May 20, 2022

So you’ve been diagnosed with salicylate sensitivity. Now what? Odds are that many of the foods you’ve been ingesting contain a level of salicylates that don’t agree with your body. The first step to minimising reactions is to learn the salicylate content of foods so you can create meal plans that cater to your personal chemical threshold.

Salicylate food/product lists

There are many lists published online cataloging the salicylate content of foods. However, after trawling through said lists, what you’ll discover are a number of inconsistencies between them – some websites may purport a certain food to be low in salicylates while another claims it to be high – very frustrating when you’re trying to moderate your salicylate intake.

While these list inconsistencies can often be attributed to outdated and incorrect information, other times (more so in the scientific literature than blog articles) it’s due to the fact that the published lists originate from different countries where foods are made and/or preserved differently thus vary in their salicylate content. Another reason for list inconsistency is due to the variation in the foods themselves. For example, apple varieties each have their own unique levels of salicylates, a problem as list authors often reference different studies which rarely specify varietals in their findings. Ripeness, processing and pesticides also play a role in salicylate variation in plant foods. The final verdict, when it comes to salicylate levels in classifications of fruit and veg: it’s apples and oranges, so to speak.

So what to do? Firstly, if your doctor or dietitian has provided you with a list, it will usually make senst to use that. If, however, you’re sourcing a list on your own, consider referencing the Malakar study published in 2017 which not only has the most comprehensive and up-to-date levels of salicylates in foods but also takes into account both free and bound forms of salicylates – a factor which may contribute to the salicylate load. Alternatively, you can head to my Salicylate Food List resource which takes into account the major studies testing salicylates in foods. The RPAH elimination diet handbook also provides details of the salicylate, amine, and glutamate content of an extensive range of food items.

Before using any list, it’s advisable to first show it to your healthcare provider so they can ascertain whether it aligns with your health goals.

Using salicylate food/product lists to shape your diet

When it comes to using salicylate lists day-to-day, those who are highly sensitive to salicylates may want to stick to meals that incorporate only low salicylate ingredients, while others may find they’re able to tolerate medium to high salicylate ingredients but only if they distribute them throughout the week so as to avoid ‘salicylate stacking’. For many people with food sensitivity, the problem often lies with eating too much of the culprit chemical in one sitting/day causing them to overshoot their chemical threshold. For example, I still eat zucchini (a medium salicylate food), however on days I know I’m going to eat it, I make sure to only consume other foods known to be low in salicylates, thus never exceeding my threshold.

For those looking to limit their intake of salicylates, I’ve developed a number of low salicylate recipes which can easily be adapted to incorporate higher salicylate ingredients if you’re looking to diversify your diet.

It’s important to remember that when it comes to food sensitivity, the goal is to keep the widest variety of foods possible in your diet while still feeling good. Variety, after all, is the spice of life (and incredibly good for your microbiome too!).


While low salicylate lists are indeed helpful, they’re not yet perfect, so should be seen as more of a guide than a hard and fast rule for navigating salicylate sensitivity. Hopefully with further research into the salicylate content of foods, a more accurate list will be developed covering a wider range of foods so those affected can go on to live both symptom-free and healthier lives.

Brigid xx

DISCLAIMER: This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute or be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 


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