I’ve been reading a lot lately about the benefits of an alkaline diet. Like much that is written about diet and disease, there is some truth but lots of exaggeration about the pros of alkaline diet as they’re related to weight loss, beating cancer and general well being.
But before we get started let’s remind ourselves just what exactly is an alkaline diet. When you burn stuff, and here we’re talking about foods, you’re left with an ash. This ash can be tested for its alkalinity. As a quick review, the acid/alkaline spectrum starts at 0 and goes to 14.
This is also known as the pH scale that many of you will remember from high school chem class. 0 is extremely acidic and 14 is extremely basic or alkaline. The pH scale which is what is used to determine the alkalinity or the acidity of foods in the alkaline diet is logarithmic. This means that each whole number is ten times more or less acidic than the next number. As an example, something with a pH of 8 is ten times more alkaline than something with a pH of 7. And something with a pH of 9 is ten times more alkaline than something with a pH of 8 and it is one hundred times (10 x 10) more alkaline than something with a pH of 7.
Now, items at both extremes of the pH scale are bad for us. For example, battery acid has a pH of around 1. Obviously, that’ll kill you. Lemon juice however has a pH of around 2 and is fine, though it can eat away your enamel if you’re eating a lot of citrus fruits. So it’s always a good idea to drink some water after eating citrus, and not brushing your teeth for a half hour or more after eating citrus.
Funnily enough, for our discussion about alkaline foods, lemons are actually considered alkaline forming. We’ll get to that in a moment.
At the basic or extreme alkaline end of the pH spectrum, we have lye with a pH of around 13. Funny how both ends can sort of burn us! From what I can see, we’re more sensitive to alkaline items than we are to acidic items. For example, 2 levels down from the alkaline end of the spectrum at pH of around 12 is ammonia. Still not good for us. Yet 2 up from the acidic spectrum at pH of 2 is lemon juice.
Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked. The extreme ends of the spectrum on either end of the pH scale are irrelevant when it comes to alkaline foods. But before we get to a list of alkaline foods and examples of acidic foods, what is the “normal” pH of humans? Our blood is generally around 7.4 on the pH scale.
This is slightly alkaline. Remember, the pH scale is from 0 to 14, thus a pH of 7 is neutral. We are therefore slightly alkaline beings. Does this mean then that we should avoid acidic foods and only eat alkaline foods? The jury is still out.
Many of you who have been vegan or vegetarian for some time will recall that it appears that part of the risk for osteoporosis is because milk is an especially highly acidic forming food. As such, it is thought that eating a diet high in acid forming foods such as milk, eggs and meat causes the body to buffer this acidic overdose by leeching calcium from the body. But this might not be fully correct.
The bottom line is that we don’t fully know whether eating highly acidic foods like animal products is the whole picture related to osteoporosis. And conversely it cannot be said with certainty that eating alkaline foods is protective against fractures and osteoporosis. My feeling is that a vegan alkaline based diet is protective and healthy.
But let’s focus on what are the acidic forming foods and what are the alkaline foods that we can eat. Remember how I said that lemon juice is acidic at a pH of around 2? Well, it turns out that citrus foods are actually quite alkaline once they’ve been broken down to their ash.
Here is a list of alkaline foods: vegetables, fruit, some beans and some nuts. These are the acid forming foods: meats, eggs, dairy, fish, some nuts, and grains. Vegetable oils are generally considered neutral. The most acidic forming foods are cheeses.
Some doctors out there are suggesting that alkaline diets are helpful for eradicating kidney stones and cancer. That an alkaline diet is your best bet for weight loss. Alkaline diets are seen to have pros and cons, though in my mind an alkaline diet has more pros than cons.
And yet the research is still young, and there is still so much that we don’t know about diet and health. Especially when it comes down to the minutiae. And when talking about an alkaline diet we are talking about minutiae in my opinion.
For those of you interested in eating an alkaline diet, here’s what to eat. Focus mainly on vegetables and fruits. Make those items at least half of your food intake. And eat them raw as much as you can. You’ll also likely need to eat some nuts and grains and beans for sustenance and satiety. So choose, hazelnuts which are alkaline forming nuts. Choose whole wheat bread over brown rice. Oats over brown rice and choose peas and lentils as less acidic foods.
In general, a vegan diet will likely be slightly alkaline if you are eating a good variety of whole minimally processed plant foods.
Personally, I think that eating more alkaline based foods is a good idea. However, like everything in life don’t get militant about it. Unless you are quite sick, with cancer or other debilitating diseases, I don’t think that eating some acidic plant based foods like grains, nuts and beans is going to hurt.
If you are sick, especially with cancer, I urge you to take a look at “Healing Cancer From The Inside Out” and speaking with the fine folks at Oasis of Healing. Remember, that health is our greatest wealth. A plant based vegan diet can be extremely healthy. Base it on minimally processed whole plant foods. But more than that, be kind to yourself and to the animals, after all, that’s what choosing the vegan diet is all about.