Goodbye Acidity: What is an Alkaline Diet?
The best diets out there are those that not only promote a healthy weight but also lower our risk of disease. Most people do not think about general health when starting a diet—their main concerns are usually related to weight loss only. Of course getting to a healthy weight will contribute to a lower risk of diabetes, heart problems, and arthritis, but there are many other health issues that should be considered when choosing the right diet plan. Low carb, Paleo, keto, and low fat are just a few common plans that most people go to for weight loss. The problem with these types of diets is that they are not a realistic way to eat for the rest of your life. When you simply cut out foods that are not good for you in any way in the first place you already get results both in weight loss and health.
What is pH?
More recently a new diet that has become quite popular is the alkaline diet. Research has concluded that there are numerous benefits to following this plan including weight loss. It requires one to be picky about their food sources, but so do all of the other plans, right? An alkaline diet is one that balances the pH level in the body. PH is short for the potential of hydrogen and is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity in our blood and urine. A standard pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. Evidently, 7, the middle number, is neutral. For the human body, the optimal value should be 7.4. This number signifies that an individual is slightly more alkalined. The types of foods we eat play a large role in the body’s pH levels.
It is said that it is difficult for disease to strike a body with a balanced pH level. If this is true then it makes sense to base our diet on this finding. What makes food more acidic is the higher levels of sodium and very low levels of magnesium, potassium, and chloride. This irregular electrolyte balance creates a more acidic environment in the body. The regular American diet consists of a significantly high amount of sodium in the majority of our meals, therefore contributing to an acidic pH. Studies show that a consistent acidic diet may lead to premature aging, loss of organ function, and degeneration of tissues and bones, causing osteoporosis.
Benefits of an Alkaline Diet
Improves Cardiovascular Health
Eating an alkaline diet promotes an increase in growth hormone and a decrease in inflammation. These physiological processes help protect against high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and stroke.
Protects Bones and Muscles
Research shows that alkaline foods provide the body with a better balance of the vitamins and minerals required to maintain proper bone health. Just including calcium in the diet is not enough to protect bones. Other minerals like magnesium and phosphate are important as well, and alkaline fruits and vegetables are rich in all. The improved production of growth hormone provided by these foods also helps decrease the risk of sarcopenia, which is the wasting of muscle tissue. Maintaining muscle mass and strength is another important component to protecting against osteoporosis.
Protects Against Cancer and Improves Immunity
The decreased inflammation provided by an alkaline diet helps reduce the risk of certain diseases including cancer. A higher pH has been shown to be more beneficial to the success of some chemotherapy treatments for cancer as well. Alkaline diets also improve vitamin and mineral absorption, which helps maintain a stronger immune system. When there is not a sufficient balance of these essential nutrients in the body, toxins and pathogens accumulate leading to disease and illness.
Helps with Weight Loss
Limiting acidic foods not only helps decrease inflammation in the body but also improves the level of the satiety-causing hormone, leptin. When improving the balance of leptin and ghrelin (the hunger-causing hormone), you will feel more satisfied after meals and are less likely to overeat.
The Best Alkaline Food Choices
Fruits and vegetables are the foods that promote the most alkalinity. It is best to choose raw sources when possible, as nutrients tend to be depleted during the cooking process. If you must cook your vegetables, try just lightly steaming them to maintain as much of the vitamins and minerals as possible. Green vegetables contain chlorophyll, which is a nutrient that helps alkalize the blood, so including a green smoothie every day is a great way to get a pretty good amount of alkaline foods in one meal. Plant-based protein options are higher in alkalinity than animal proteins, so it is best to include these sources in the majority of your meals.
The Worst Acidic Foods
As mentioned, foods high in sodium are the most acidic and contribute to many health problems. Processed and packaged foods such as cereals, pasta, and cold cuts are among the topmost acidic foods. Unfortunately, there has been recent research stating that milk actually promotes osteoporosis, even with its high calcium content. When our blood becomes too acidic, it will take the calcium from the bones to try to balance out the pH levels. This eventually weakens bones. High amounts of caffeinated foods and beverages, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives are also high on the acidic foods list.
Although it seems like an alkaline diet requires a bit more time and thought of what to eat and what not to eat, it is actually a more flexible way of eating compared to other diets. You do not have to cut out acidic foods completely but should at least try to make the majority of your diet based around foods with the most alkalinity. The healthiest diets include limiting processed and refined foods anyways, which is the basis of the alkaline diet. Not only will you lower your risk of disease and lose weight, but also limiting acidic foods will make you feel better, with higher energy levels and a higher exercise tolerance. Give it a try for a few weeks and you will notice the difference!