Alkalinity. It’s a dirty word that’s been recipient to a whole lot of critique in the health and food industry in the last few years. The credit for which can go to the several alkalinity diets and detoxes that have popped up and advertise to drastic weight loss measure (always a lie), and certain celebrities endorsing alkalinity-inducing products and supplements.
However, while a lot of the above have harmful effects on the body, it is important to understand the positives of what alkalinity can do for the overall wellness of our bodies.
To start with the very basic, we all have a pH level in our body, just like any other living being. It’s set on a scale basis – so there’s a number which shows that either your body is alkaline or it’s acidic, depending on where you are on that scale. The alkalinity theory is based on the fact that the consumption of alkaline foods creates an overall alkaline load and offers protection from chronic and degenerative conditions such as cancer, osteoporosis and muscle wastage. In general, fruits and vegetables are alkali forming, whereas animal products and grains are acid forming. Neutral foods are those that don’t contain protein, sulfur, or minerals such as pure fats, sugars, and starches.
In the alkaline diet, the overall load is measured with pH test strips and both saliva and urine can be tested. And herein lies our first problem with the alkaline diet: foods don’t influence our blood pH. Our body tightly regulates blood and extracellular pH, through mechanisms that are beyond the scope of this article. The important point is that regardless of what you eat, your blood pH will be very close to our required 7.4 (the number that’s considered alkaline).
Proponents of the alkaline diet also state that in order to keep blood pH constant, the body pulls minerals from our bones to neutralise any excess acid that is produced from our diet. They believe that diets with a net acid load therefore, cause bone demineralisation and lead to osteoporosis. This is incorrect. The kidneys regulate blood pH and we are equipped with a very efficient buffering system in response to the consumption of acidic foods such as animal protein. Furthermore, adequate protein is necessary for the prevention of osteoporosis and multiple studies have found improved bone health with higher protein intake.
But can acidic foods give you cancer? Some foods certainly can aid to promote cancer-forming cells (e.g. trans fats, refined seed oils and refined sugar) but this has nothing to do with a net acid load. Food can’t change our blood pH remember, and cancer is also capable of growing in an alkaline environment, as this study shows.
While there seems to be a significant lack of clinical evidence to support the avoidance of acid-forming foods, an alkaline diet is still important for your health, but not because of why you may have originally thought.
If you have days when you’re feeling bloated, gassy or dehydrated, introduce some alkalising food in your diet and notice the difference. This is especially for those morning-afters a big night, you’ll notice how detoxing you’ll feel if you swap a jumbo cappuccino for a fresh cucumber, spinach, lemon and carrot juice. These will not just detox your body but also bring your pH level to the alkaline level of 7.4 rather swiftly.
If you want to alkalise your diet, then add the following foods to your regular diet and you’ll start to notice the difference:
- Green tea
- Apple cider vinegar
- Vegetable Juices
- Mineral Water
- Probiotic culture (found in natural yoghurt)
- Fresh young coconut water
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Why protein powder
- Herbs and spices
- Soured dairy products
Foods that are acidic in nature and you should avoid in an alkalising diet:
- Canned Fruits
- Dried Fruits
- Flour (all kind)
- Grains and seeds
- Soy milk
- Cheese and butter
- Cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts
- Animal protein (meat)
- Coffee, tea, alcohol
- Refined sugar
Also, this table below might help you start your alkalinity journey.