You likely heard the terms alkalinity and acidity when learning about the pH (potential hydrogen) of various substances in your high school chem class. What you may not know, however, is that the concepts of alkalinity and acidity are also applicable to the human diet and physiology. Scientifically speaking, pH is the balance of the positively charged hydrogen ion molecules in our body and refers to the acidic and alkaline balance in our blood, saliva or mucus. The different parts of the body, such as our stomach, intestines, organs, blood, saliva, etc. all have their own pH range in which they must remain in order to operate at peak efficiency. In studying these delicate pH balances, nutritional researchers have found what foods we ought to be eating abundantly, as well as what we should consume in strict moderation in order to avoid possible health issues and maintain an optimal pH balance.
Alkalinity vs Acidity
Alkaline and acidic substances are essentially chemical opposites. Determined using the pH scale of 0-14, 7 indicates neutrality, the numbers lower than 7 indicate acidity and those above indicate alkalinity. Unfortunately, a food’s pH is not necessarily a clear indication of how it will affect the body, such as lemons which are chemically acidic yet produce an alkalizing effect in raising the body’s pH.
Studies involving alkalinity and acidity within the body have revealed to us that an overly acidic physiological environment, commonly known as acidosis, can provide a veritable breeding ground for a number of health issues, as the very structure of the body’s cells can become compromised. Tell-tale signs of over acidity include chronic sleepiness during the day; inability to sleep at night; mental, emotional and physical fatigue; depression; brittle hair, skin and nails; tooth decay; poor digestion; reflux; joint pain; aches; bone disease; weakness; loss of muscle mass; inflammation and much more. Acidity is also believed to provide an environment in which various forms of cancer are able to take root and thrive. “The countless names of illnesses do not really matter. What does matter is that they all come from the same root cause…too much tissue acid waste in the body.” - Dr. Theodore A. Baroody in his book Alkalize or Die.
An alkaline body, on the other hand, has been found to be on the complete opposite side of health spectrum. Those who maintain a healthy balance in their pH enjoy the desirable benefits of youthful, elastic skin; abundant amounts of energy; restful sleep; good digestion; stronger immune system; increased bone strength; increased mental acuity; less arthritis; a natural high and a physiological environment that cancers have difficulty surviving in. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, many of the foods in our ordinary diets aren’t doing us any favors in the way of alkalinity.
What to eat abundantly and what to moderate
Surveys have shown that the standard american diet (SAD diet) consists of a lot, or almost nothing but, overly acidic foods and substances such as breads, processed meats, dairy, cheeses, refined sugar, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, not to mention the high levels of stress and lack of sleep that many of us endure, which has also shown to contribute to a body’s pH balance. This is not to say that all acidic foods are all bad all the time, but one should aim for the 80/20 rule where the diet consists of 80% alkalizing foods and 20% acid foods to prevent or alleviate over acidity and acidosis.
Some solid, easy-to-integrate options for broadening your alkaline food sources include:
In trying to create or maintain an alkaline environment in your body, spinach is a great choice. It also has the added benefits of providing you with plenty of iron, Vitamin A and Vitamin C.
This alkaline food is known for its usefulness in fighting cancer and infections, and eating it fermented as live sauerkraut brings about even more benefits such as probiotic gut health.
Loaded with Vitamin A, pumpkin is a versatile superfood that can help bring your body into balance.
Hopefully, olive oil is already a part of your diet because of its many known benefits, such as its high content of vitamin E and monounsaturated fatty acids, both of which are great for the health of the heart.
This creamy fruit is a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C and fiber. It also has the added benefits of tasting delicious and helping you feel full.
Definitely some of the most alkaline foods, melons are also believed to help cut the risk of stroke and heart attack. They also have the added bonus of containing plenty of potassium, fiber, folic acid and vitamins.
Fresh Lemon Juice
Lemons are unique in that, alone, they are incredibly acidic, but once metabolized by the body, their citric acid does not result in acidity but rather in alkalinity. This makes lemon juice one of the easiest places to begin the journey to alkalinity. Simply add a bit of lemon juice to your morning glass of water or herbal tea, or make a fresh-squeezed, raw honey lemonade to sip on in the afternoon.
The water found within unripened coconuts is reputed as the purest liquid second to water itself, and is said to have numerous health benefits ranging from digestive support to relieving urinary problems and keeping diabetes under control. From a nutritional perspective, coconut water is high in naturally occurring electrolytes, notably potassium, calcium, and magnesium. These minerals are highly alkaline-forming, supporting the body’s proper pH balance and thus optimal metabolic function.
These alkalinity-inducing seeds are a must for a proper alkaline diet, as you can add them to almost any food virtually undetected. They are also rich in calcium and iron, as well as vitamin A.
Flax is known for its abundance of Omega-3 fatty acids which has its own array of benefits. Consumption of flax in the form of flaxseed oil and flax seeds has been linked to improvements in cholesterol and blood pressure, while their lignans have also proven to boost kidney function and can fight cancer.
An excellent substitute for wheat, buckwheat is very nutritious, boasting plenty of protein, calcium and iron, in addition to its alkaline properties.
This potent herb is a great, flavorful way to boost alkalinity, and its high content of vitamin C, iron and calcium make it a good all-round choice for overall health.
Basil boasts high amounts of Vitamin K, A and calcium, and is praised for its powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
One of the most powerful foods that we have at our disposal, there isn’t much that broccoli doesn’t help with. In addition to its ability to help you keep the right pH balance, it also provides an abundance of vitamins A and C.
Studies have found that non-food supplementation for alkalinity, such as sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) or potassium citrate, have proven helpful in combating the daily net acid load. When taken by individuals struggling with acidosis, results have shown improvements in growth hormone levels leading to reductions in cardiovascular risk factors, improvements body composition, and even improvements memory and cognition. This is not to say supplementation is an end-all, eat-whatever-you-want pass, but rather a powerful set of tools that can be used in junction with a conscientious diet to maintain a healthy pH.
This list is not all-inclusive, so if there if there are any foods you have found helpful in your strive for alkalinity, stick with them! Be your doctor and let your food be your medicine.
When it comes to your health, test don’t guess. For some, acidity can be a silent killer in that you may not even realize your body is experiencing any issues related to over acidity. If you are curious about where you fall on the pH spectrum, alkalinizing testing strips can be used to test your urine or saliva. A desirable urine pH generally falls into the 6.8 to 7.2 range and for saliva right around 7.2. Testing strips are easy to find and affordable online or at your local drug store.
Schwalfenberg, Gerry K. “The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline PH Diet Benefits Health?” Journal of Environmental and Public Health, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2012
Fenton, Tanis R, and Tian Huang. “Systematic Review of the Association between Dietary Acid Load, Alkaline Water and Cancer.” BMJ Open, BMJ Publishing Group, 2016
Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM. “Understanding the Alkaline Diet and Its Benefits.” Dr. Group's Healthy Living Articles, Global Healing Center, Inc, 20 Oct. 2016
Babcock, Jillian. “Is an Alkaline Diet the Key to Longevity?” Dr. Axe, 6 Oct. 2017