What I am going to discuss today, is the theory behind the alkaline diet. The basics of the alkaline diet are easy – eat more fruits and vegetables. That’s it.
Despite what you may have read, you don’t need complicated food charts, alkaline water drops, green powders, potions, a cauldron or a broomstick. All it takes is a commitment to yourself to improve your diet and making sure you always have a stock pile of ripe fruit on hand, not for snacking but for meals!
Alkaline Diet and pH
The alkaline diet is based on proven scientific facts which makes it much more interesting than many of the fad diets that come in and out of vogue. The effect foods have on the pH of our bodies once we have eaten them is what determines if a food is either acidic forming or base (alkaline) forming. We have to realize that the acid or alkaline effect of what we eat is not directly dependant upon the pH of the food itself. So if we compare orange juice and milk, we can tell without even looking at any data that the orange juice is more acidic. Indeed, orange juice has a pH of around 3 while milk has a pH of about 6. These are both acidic. The pH scale goes from 0 to 14. The middle value of 7 is neutral and is the pH of water. Below 7 is acidic and above 7 is alkaline. You can see in the chart below that acid and alkaline solutions become weaker as they get closer to the middle of the scale.
The reason that oranges produce an alkaline effect within our bodies is explained, not by the actual pH of the oranges, which is low because of the citric acid they contain, but due to the minerals contained within oranges. In particular it is to do with the quantities of potassium, magnesium and calcium. High concentrations of these minerals are found in alkaline foods. You may be wondering then about the milk. Doesn’t this have lots of calcium? As we know, it does. However, foods become acidic when they have high proportions of protein and phosphorus. This is why meat, fish and dairy are acidic foods.
What Foods are Alkaline?
Now that we know what effects certain nutrients and minerals have upon the acid/alkaline balance of our foods. This means we can start to think about classifying foods into acid and alkaline (base) forming groups. On the acid side of the spectrum we have meats, fish, breads and drinks like milk. Then on the alkaline side are fruits and vegetables. There are loads of amazing alkaline juice recipes that we can enjoy. The alkaline diet does not say much about fat though. A lean piece of meat and a fatty cut both have an acidifying effect upon our body. That’s why thinking solely about the acid/alkaline divide is missing the bigger picture.
Potential Renal Acid Load
The relevance of potassium, magnesium and calcium, protein and phosphorus to the acidity or alkalinity of our foods is not something I’ve just made up because it sounds good/plausible/confusing. Two of the foremost genuine scientific authorities, whose research influences the Alkaline Diet, Thomas Remer PhD and Fredrich Manz MD  developed their PRAL formula which serves as a reliable indicator of whether foods are alkaline or acidic. Negative values = alkaline. Positive values = acidic. The further away from zero, the stronger the effects.
Some sample values (taken from their report):
- beef 7.8
- rye bread 4.1
- ice cream 0.6
- white sugar -0.1
- bananas -5.5
- spinach -14.0
Western Diets Today
It is easy to get the impression that the alkaline diet is proposing that we only eat alkaline foods. However, this is not the case at all. The point that we have to remember though, is that in general our diets contain too much acid forming foods. This is why the focus is on the alkaline foods. Think about how much fruit and vegetables you eat throughout the day. If you are not even consuming five servings then it is plain to see that your diet is simply too acidic to ensure optimum health. Acid and alkaline foods can be both healthy or unhealthy. For example, a greasy hamburger from a fast food joint is going to be acidic (low in potassium, magnesium and calcium) and un-healthy (high in fats and sugars). While whole grain rye bread, an acidic food has plenty of complex carbohydrates and is a great source of energy. Conversely, ready made fruit juices may well be alkaline forming but they are often heavily loaded with sugar, preservatives and artificial sweeteners. The acid/alkaline divide is simply one factor that is important to consider. If you take a look at a typical Japanese diet, you will find that this has more alkaline foods than what those of us in the West usually eat.
Acid Foods Cause Bone Loss
The rise in carbonated drink consumption over the last few decades is worrying for a number of reasons. One of them is the proven link between consumption of these drinks and bone loss.
A study in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research reports that:
higher intakes of carbonated soft drinks [...] were significantly associated with lower bone mineral density [...] in girls.
There is no beneficial nutrition to speak of in these drinks. Also, by having a soda, we are choosing not to have a fresh fruit juice or glass of water. Both of these options would be a healthier alternative. Carbonated drinks have a pH of around 3. Phosphoric acid, used for flavoring in these drinks, results in a higher ratio of acid:alkaline minerals being consumed. So knowing that sodas don’t have any positive health benefits and knowing that they are acid forming drinks means that simply having a freshly squeezed fruit juice, or a glass of water, is a healthier alternative. There are lots of little things that we can do that reduce the overall acidifying nature of our diets. Cumulatively and over time, these can add up to a healthier lifestyle. You should spend some time looking through juicer reviews to find out more about the various types of appliances on offer. You do not have to spend a fortune although the different machines on sale have their own specific strengths and weaknesses.
Benefits of the Alkaline Diet
A paper in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states:
in sports medicine, alkalization has been shown to increase the capacity for high-intensity exercise
As we have seen above, too many acid foods in our diet have a negative impact on our health. Also, if you decide to start eating more fruits and vegetables, you will soon find out for yourself the sorts of positive effects that they have. Issues such as lethargy, drowsiness, poor concentration, lack of motivation and malaise all begin to disappear when we consume more healthy alkaline foods. What you will also find is that once you start feeling healthier, you will then be encouraged to act even healthier. Diet is not the only important aspect. Thinking about our lifestyle in a more holistic fashion will certainly reap rewards. When you feel more energetic, how about taking more exercise? If you avoid taking a nap during the day, perhaps you will have a better night’s sleep too. The increased feeling of well being that results from following an alkaline diet may also encourage you to cut down the amount of coffee and alcohol you consume and quit smoking. As an aside, coffee is in fact a mildly alkalizing beverage. But does this mean we should drink more? I’ll let you decide for yourself.
This video is a great example of why we have to constantly question what we’re being told (and what we should spend our money on) with regards to the alkaline diet, or any diet for that matter. The video comes from Harley who runs a popular raw vegan forum.
Read More: Alkaline diet and sugar.
Can I Lose Weight with the Alkaline Diet?
A study in the American Journal of Public Health:
found clear associations of soft drink intake with increased energy intake and body weight. Soft drink intake also was associated with lower intakes of milk, calcium, and other nutrients and with an increased risk of several medical problems (e.g., diabetes).
Strictly speaking, the alkaline diet is not directed at those of you wanting to lose weight. But this is perhaps more a fault of the diet industry. To be frank, eating more fruits and vegetables will have benefits for the vast majority of us. What is appealing about this way of eating is that it is not really about restrictions and denial. It is really just about eating more. More of the right foods, that is. So even though the primary focus of alkalising is more on health than weight loss. Once you start to feel the benefits of an alkaline diet plan, it is then going to be much easier to push on and continue improving your diet and also working on your fitness levels. Moving towards better health is a process, there is no quick fix. For me, the alkaline diet fits well with my own philosophy of taking small steps, every day, every week, and over time moving to a place of greater vitality and well being.
Alkaline Diet Scam?
As far as I am concerned, the alkaline diet is the real deal. It makes sense on a conceptual level. The basic premise is that we should eat more fruit and vegetables in our diet. Who is going to argue with that? Just remember that it does not propose that we only eat these kinds of foods. Nor does it suggest that we should become a vegetarian, a vegan or adopt a raw food diet. In many ways, common sense naturally leads us towards this way of eating anyway. There are so many advantages to feeling good. Eating an alkaline diet gives us this chance!
What you should watch out for though are people who tell you that you have to drink alkaline water drops, green powders and so on. Really? I’d respectfully suggest that we’re much better off finding high quality organic produce. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, as nature intended, is surely better than processed vegetables turned into a powder. It’s your choice.
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More Alkaline Diet Articles
2. Carbonated Soft Drink Consumption and Bone Mineral Density in Adolescence: The Northern Ireland Young Hearts Project by C McGartland, PJ Robson, L Murray, G Cran, MJ Savage, D Watkins, M Rooney, C Boreham