What’s the alkaline diet, you ask? Well, here’s a crash course on alkalinity and why it’s a big component of good health.
Your potential of hydrogen (pH) level measures how acidic or alkaline your body is on a continuum from 0 (very acidic) to 14 (very alkaline), with 7 being neutral, and is an important indicator of wellness or disease. Your pH levels can be tested via blood and urine samples. The optimal blood pH level in human bodies is around 7.4, which is the ideal alkaline level for survival. An acidic pH level, which is anything lower than 7.0, can lead to serious health problems and, in some cases, death.
We maintain an ideal pH level by consuming more alkaline foods and less acidic foods. Eating 75% alkaline and 25% acidic is optimal.
What do alkaline foods look like?
The alkaline diet focuses on whole fruits and vegetables, raw foods, green juices, beans, nuts, and unprocessed plant-based protein. Some items, as you’ll see in the chart below, are surprises. Who knew that lemons would be considered alkaline? They sure taste acidic, but lemons alkalize the body. The focus is on the effect of the food item on the body, not its normal quality.
An alkaline diet minimizes acid-forming food, such as processed and high-sodium foods, animal protein, cheese, certain fruits and vegetables, added sugars, and alcohol.
The alkaline fruits I prefer include watermelon, pomegranate, apples, cherries, and kiwi. Vegetable choices include spinach, beets, asparagus, cucumber, green grass powders (such as wheatgrass) and sweet potatoes. The grains, nuts, seeds, and beans, I go for include almonds, sesame seeds, and chickpeas.
Do note that alkaline/acid charts differ slightly in their labeling of acidic/alkaline foods. Look for items that show up consistently as acidic or alkaline.
Why an alkaline diet matters
Our digestive system transforms food into a type of ash that can be acidic or alkaline. Although we may think that the organic content of the food (its natural acidity or alkalinity) is what gives the ash its result, the truth is that the inorganic matter in the food–calcium, sodium, sulfur, magnesium and potassium–is what influences whether the ash is acidic or alkaline.
Our food choices result in balance, or a lack of it. If we err on the acidic side, we become more vulnerable to chronic illnesses like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. When the body can’t get nutrients from our food in order to stay alkaline, it will draw those nutrients from the body’s own stores, such as our bones and organs, thus weakening the body and making it susceptible to disease.
Five benefits of the alkaline diet
1. Increased growth hormone, minerals, and vitamins
An article published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health states that an alkaline diet increases growth hormone, which can lead to improved cardiovascular health, memory, and cognition. The article went on to note that the alkaline diet “would improve the K/Na [potassium-to-sodium] ratio and may benefit bone health, reduce muscle wasting, as well as mitigate other chronic diseases such as hypertension and strokes.” It also highlighted how the diet would lead to an increase in intracellular magnesium, which is needed to activate Vitamin D and all of its benefits.
A more alkaline pH level protects healthy cells and brings essential mineral levels into equilibrium. The result? Less plaque formation in our blood vessels, less accumulation of calcium in our urine; less likelihood of kidney stones; fewer muscle spasms; and stronger bones.
2. Healthy weight loss
By their very nature, alkaline foods are weight-loss magicians: low in calories but high in macro- and micro-nutrients. If you make 75% of your diet alkaline (think leafy green veggies, watermelon, berries, avocado), you immediately fast-track your metabolism to shed excess weight.
By limiting acid-forming foods and consuming more alkaline-forming foods, you decrease leptin, the hormone that regulates weight. Eating more alkaline-forming foods, which are anti-inflammatory, gives your body a chance to achieve normal leptin levels and lose weight.
3. Prevention of chronic illnesses
Eating organic alkaline food can cut your risk of metabolic syndrome, which is a group of risk factors for chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart and liver disease. These illnesses are more prevalent in an acidic pH environment, so an alkaline state helps keep your cells healthy and staves off illnesses. Reducing your level of morbidity (state of being diseased) will in turn lessen your level of mortality (likelihood of dying from preventable illness).
4. Decreased inflammation
Inflammation is the body’s first response to trauma and stress, but chronic inflammation compromises your health and creates a negative environment in the body. For example, acid-forming foods tend to reduce the efficiency of our muscles and our ability to expend energy. As Dr. Oz explains, “Inflammation, a process meant to heal, can often become a danger; chronic inflammation causes heart attacks, stroke and even cancer.”
Switching to alkaline-forming foods can help diminish pain from inflammation due to poor food choices and reverse nutritional deficiencies. With alkaline foods, muscles are given the tools to work as they should, with far less force needing to be expended.
5. Better holistic wellness
Beyond the more obvious benefits mentioned above, an alkaline diet leads to many other health pluses, such as more energy, better sleep, unclogged digestion, focused thinking, clearer skin, and less susceptibility to infections. When the body doesn’t have to deal with the toxic load from acid-forming foods, it’s free to resist all the symptoms that lead to conditions (colds and coughs, anyone?) that normally would take us out easily. Alkaline-forming foods decrease stress on our organs and leave us free to be about that happy, healthy life!
How have you alkalized your diet? What steps are you willing to take to bolster your health through alkaline-forming foods?