The alkaline diet is based on the idea that replacing acid-forming foods with alkaline foods can improve your health.
Alkaline diet describes a group of loosely related diets based on the misconception that different types of food can have an effect on the pH balance of the body. It originated from the acid ash hypothesis, which primarily related to osteoporosis research.
Proponents of this diet even claim that it can help fight serious diseases like cancer.
The alkaline diet is also known as the acid-alkaline diet or alkaline ash diet.
Its premise is that your diet can alter the pH value — the measurement of acidity or alkalinity — of your body.
Your metabolism — the conversion of food into energy — is sometimes compared to fire. Both involve a chemical reaction that breaks down a solid mass.
However, the chemical reactions in your body happen in a slow and controlled manner. When things burn, an ash residue is left behind. Similarly, the foods you eat leave an “ash” residue known as metabolic waste.
This metabolic waste can be alkaline, neutral, or acidic. Proponents of this diet claim that metabolic waste can directly affect your body’s acidity. In other words, if you eat foods that leave acidic ash, it makes your blood more acidic. If you eat foods that leave alkaline ash, it makes your blood more alkaline.
According to the acid-ash hypothesis, acidic ash is thought to make you vulnerable to illness and disease, whereas alkaline ash is considered protective.
By choosing more alkaline foods, you should be able to “alkalize” your body and improve your health.
Alkaline foods help in countering the risks of acidity and acid refluxes, bringing some sort of relief. Alkaline diet is based on the idea of cutting down on acid forming foods.
Some alkaline foods include:
Green Leafy Vegetables: Most green leafy vegetables are said to have an alkaline effect in our system.
Citrus fruits: they are the best source of alkaline foods. Lemon, lime and oranges are loaded with Vitamin C and are known to help in detoxifying
Root Vegetables: Root vegetables like sweet potato, taro root, lotus root, beets and carrots are great sources of alkali.
Onion, Garlic and Ginger are great flavour enhancers too.
Food components that leave an acidic ash include protein, phosphate, and sulfur, while alkaline components include calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Certain food groups are considered acidic, alkaline, or neutral:
- Acidic: meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, grains, alcohol
- Neutral: natural fats, starches, and sugars
- Alkaline: fruits, nuts, legumes, and vegetables
Regular pH levels in your body
When discussing the alkaline diet, it’s important to understand pH.
Put simply, pH is a measurement of how acidic or alkaline something is.
The pH value ranges from 0–14:
- Acidic: 0.0–6.9
- Neutral: 7.0
- Alkaline (or basic): 7.1–14.0
Many proponents of this diet suggest that people monitor the pH of their urine to ensure that it is alkaline (over 7) and not acidic (below 7).
However, it’s important to note that pH varies greatly within your body. While some parts are acidic, others are alkaline — there is no set level.
Your stomach is loaded with hydrochloric acid, giving it a pH of 2–3.5, which is highly acidic. This acidity is necessary to break down food.
On the other hand, human blood is always slightly alkaline, with a pH of 7.36–7.44. When your blood pH falls out of the normal range, it can be fatal if left untreated.
However, this only happens during certain disease states, such as ketoacidosis caused by diabetes, starvation, or alcohol intake.
Food affects the pH of your urine, but not your blood
It’s critical for your health that the pH of your blood remains constant. If it were to fall outside of the normal range, your cells would stop working and you would die very quickly if untreated.
For this reason, your body has many effective ways to closely regulate its pH balance. This is known as acid-base homeostasis.
In fact, it’s nearly impossible for food to change the pH value of blood in healthy people, although tiny fluctuations can occur within the normal range.
However, food can change the pH value of your urine — though the effect is somewhat variable. Excreting acids in your urine is one of the main ways your body regulates its blood pH.
If you eat a large steak, your urine will be more acidic several hours later as your body removes the metabolic waste from your system.
Therefore, urine pH is a poor indicator of overall body pH and general health. It can also be influenced by factors other than your diet.
The alkaline diet is quite healthy, encouraging a high intake of fruits, vegetables, and healthy plant foods while restricting processed junk foods.
However, the notion that the diet boosts health because of its alkalizing effects is suspect. These claims haven’t been proven by any reliable human studies.
Some studies suggest positive effects in a very small subset of the population. Specifically, a low-protein alkalising diet may benefit people with chronic kidney disease.
In general, the alkaline diet is healthy because it’s based on whole and unprocessed foods. No reliable evidence suggests it has anything to do with pH levels.
Written by Sarah Amah.