The Alkaline Diet- Myth or Must
What is the alkaline diet?
The alkaline diet is based on the understanding that our bodies are healthier and happier in a more alkaline state and that what we put into our bodies can ultimately change our pH and thus our acidic/alkaline balance. Because an alkaline diet is generally a healthy one that revolves around eating an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables and avoiding processed food, meat, dairy, refined sugars and flours, it is hard to determine whether or not the diet is beneficial simply because it is alkaline promoting. Is it solely due to the fact that the foods being consumed are alkaline producing or is it because they are just healthy, unprocessed, nutrient dense foods that we know are good for us and make us feel good in turn?
The modern diet tends to be rich in foods that are acid producing, which alkaline dieters claim turn our bodies into cesspools of toxic acidity and leave them vulnerable to a multitude of diseases from arthritis to cancer. A diet containing alkalising foods can supposedly help in the prevention of kidney stones, aid in keeping bones strong, boost brain capacity as well as heart health. Alkaline diet-advocates contest that your body will not have to work as hard to maintain its pH balance on the diet and so there is less strain and demand on your bodily systems and organs, enabling us to obtain a host of health benefits instead.
The science behind it and a little chemistry lesson
A pH level ranges from 0-14 and measures the acidity or alkalinity of something. A pH of 0 is completely acidic, whilst a pH of 14 is completely alkaline, making a pH of 7, neutral. Our bodies have amazing homeostatic systems that keep our pH in check and within a minute but vital range, allowing everything to function optimally. The physiological feedback mechanisms that keep our pH levels at an optimum range come from the blood, organs and our diet.
pH levels vary in different parts of the body; blood is very slightly alkaline, with a pH between 7.35 and 7.45, a person’s stomach is very acidic to enable the break down of food and aid digestion, with a pH of 3.5 or below, and urine and saliva changes, depending on what we consume. We are able to optimise our pH through eating the right foods that will in turn shift the pH levels of saliva and urine.
So what can we eat?
Food falls on a scale of acid producing and alkaline promoting. Fruits, vegetables, most legumes, soya and tofu are all alkaline promoting foods. Dairy, meat, most grains, processed food, alcohol and even caffeine is off the menu and so following an alkaline diet can be tough for many people. Protein is limited to plant-based sources such as beans and tofu and so some acid-forming foods such as oats, fish and eggs. Despite these foods being regarded as highly nutritious to many leading a healthy lifestyle they are denied on an alkaline diet. In many senses it is a limiting and a fairly difficult diet to sustain but a vegetarian and even vegan diet can provide an abundance of delicious, flavourful and super healthy meals, you just have to get creative! Don’t be fooled into thinking that acidic tasting food is out of bounds either, citric fruit such as lemons are potent alkalisers within the body and so are highly recommended on the diet.
So whether any health benefits or weight loss is just the result of increased consumption of fruit and vegetables and the reduction of sugar, alcohol and processed foods consumed is widely debated, and whether we can truly have a considerable effect on our bodies pH levels is also questionable. The truth is most of us could do with eating more fruit and vegetables but perhaps the alkaline diet is more for the extremist; a diet should never be a fad or a quick fix but a sustainable lifestyle choice. Complicated lists of what is and isn’t allowed, monitoring your urine or avoiding nutritious foods because they are labeled acidic may not actually be too healthy. Simply eating balanced and eating what makes you feel good is the best approach to a sustainably healthy lifestyle.
Written by Sophie