You may have heard of the alkaline diet and wondered what it is. After all, the diet is highly talked about and debated among health care professionals and scientists. While most can agree on exactly what the alkaline diet is, the question of whether the diet actually works is up for debate.
What Is the Alkaline Diet?
Unlike a low-carb diet or sugar-free diet, the alkaline diet is a little less self-explanatory. To understand what the alkaline diet is, we must first explain how our body reacts to food.
In general, the foods we eat are used as a source of energy in the body. When our body metabolizes food, it is actually burning food to extract the calories. It’s believed that in the process of burning this food, a residual ash is created.
In the same way that a burning piece of wood leaves ash behind, the burning food in your body does too. Furthermore, the ash that’s left behind is categorized as either being acidic, alkaline, or neutral. What category that residual ash ends up falling in is dependent on the type of food that was eaten, and whether that food was acidic, alkaline or neutral.
Supporters of the alkaline diet believe that the resulting ash can directly affect the body and its pH level. So if you were to eat an acidic food, your body’s acidity would increase.
Proponents of the alkaline diet believe that acidic ash encourages disease and illness, while alkaline ash protects the body. Many argue that this is inherently apparent from the blood’s natural pH level (7.4), which leans more alkaline. A neutral pH would have been 7.0.
In order to best promote our overall health, supporters of the alkaline diet believe it’s best to avoid acidic foods that result in acidic ash, and instead focus on eating more alkaline foods.
- Alkaline foods include: fruits, nuts, legumes, vegetables.
- Acidic foods include: meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, grains, refined sugars and alcohol.
- Neutral foods include: natural fats, natural starches, and natural sugars.
In general, an alkaline diet encourages eating an abundance of fresh vegetables, fruits, and plant foods. While it can be very restrictive, the foods it does encourage one to eat are very healthy.
Does the Alkaline Diet Work?
If weight loss is your goal, then the alkaline diet may very well work for you. This doesn’t have anything to do with the acidity and alkalinity of foods as much as it has to do with the fact that when you are on the alkaline diet, you won’t be consuming a lot of the processed foods or junk foods you may have been eating before.
Eating a plant-based diet like the alkaline diet can prompt you to eat much healthier than you may be, which is a natural cause for weight loss. But whether the alkaline diet affects your body’s pH level is controversial.
Proponents of the alkaline diet suggest that the foods you eat directly affect your body’s pH level. However, to test this, the diet recommends you use urine strips to test the pH of your urine throughout the day.
The problem lies in the fact that urine pH can be affected by many things other than just diet, and is a poor indicator of your body’s actual pH level. Rather, your blood’s pH level is regulated by a powerful set of mechanisms in the body known as Acid-Base Homeostasis.
These mechanisms exist because the blood’s pH level must remain constant in order for us to function. If this pH level fluctuates just the slightest bit, it can have dire effects on the body. Our body is set up to protect our blood from any changes in pH, which is why food cannot affect the blood’s pH level.
Alkaline Diet and Disease
Some argue that disease, especially disease like cancer, is linked to high levels of acidity in the body. They suggest that cancer cells grow in acidic environments and an alkaline diet can help treat, and even cure, cancer.
However, as stated before, food does not affect the blood’s pH level. Moreover, there has been no direct link found between cancer and acidity in the body. In fact, experiments have been conducted where cancer cells have been successfuly grown in healthy body tissues that have alkaline pH levels of 7.4.
While tumors do grow more rapidly in acidic environments, it’s often the tumors themselves that cause the acidity in the body, not the other way around.
Will the Alkaline Diet Hurt You?
While the evidence for the alkaline diet affecting the body’s pH levels or curing disease in the body is unsubstantiated, the alkaline diet isn’t necessarily harmful.
The alkaline diet encourages eating fresh fruits and vegetables rather than processed foods and refined sugars, which is not a bad suggestion. Following an alkaline diet can encourage healthier eating habits. However, the alkaline diet is also very restrictive and can be difficult to follow.
Creating a lifestyle change in which an alkaline diet remains a permanent plan may prove to be very hard. It can, however, be a temporary way to encourage your taste buds and eating habits to become healthier. Whether an alkaline diet will prevent disease is still in need of greater research and evidence.
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The Alkaline Diet: An Evidence-Based Review. (n.d.). Retrieved April 04, 2018, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/the-alkaline-diet-myth#section5
Bonjour, J. (2013, April 04). Nutritional disturbance in acid–base balance and osteoporosis: A hypothesis that disregards the essential homeostatic role of the kidney | British Journal of Nutrition. Retrieved April 04, 2018, from https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/nutritional-disturbance-in-acidbase-balance-and-osteoporosis-a-hypothesis-that-disregards-the-essential-homeostatic-role-of-the-kidney/3EAD569004A55B4AEAA0DAFC30AB5BE6