Balancing Acid/Alkaline Foods
By Peter Shepherd
The current typical Western diet is largely composed of acid-forming foods (proteins, cereals, sugars). Alkaline-producing foods such as vegetables are eaten in much smaller quantities. Stimulants like tobacco, coffee, tea, and alcohol are also extremely acidifying. Stress, and physical activity (both insufficient or excessive amounts) also cause acidification.
Many foods are alkaline-producing or neutral by nature, but manufactured processed foods are mostly acid-producing and these are the ones most heavily advertised in the media, and filling the shelves of supermarkets. The whole issue is denigrated as pseudo-science by many in the medical establishment - for more information, download and read this excerpt from Naturally Good Magazine, The Relationship between Body PH and Disease - or download this more formal scientific paper about the role of alkaline/acidic balance in chronic disease and detoxification. Whatever, the experience of my own family and friends clearly demonstrates eating a diet that correctly balances acid- and alkaline-producing foods is beneficial to health.
It is important to consume at least 60% alkaline-producing foods in our diet, in order to maintain health. We need plenty of fresh fruits and particularly vegetables (alkaline-producing) to balance our necessary protein intake (acid-producing). And we need to avoid processed, sugary or simple-carbohydrate foods, not only because they are acid-producing but also because they raise blood sugar level too quickly - with high glycemic index, therefore fattening and stressing our insulin response - plus they tend to be nutrient-lacking and may be toxic too.
The body maintains correct pH in the blood at all costs, by homeostasis, but that is stressful for the body's systems and resources when the diet is unbalanced in terms of acid-forming foods (the residue after digestion, that is). Within cells it's a different story. Saliva and urine tests show clearly enough the changes in alkalinity or acidity that are caused by diet and lifestyle.
What is the body's pH?
Water is the most abundant compound in the human body, comprising 70% of the body. The body therefore contains a wide range of solutions, which may be more or less acid. pH (potential of Hydrogen) is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution - the ratio between positively charged ions (acid-forming) and negatively charged ions (alkaline-forming.) The pH of any solution is the measure of its hydrogen-ion concentration. The higher the pH reading, the more alkaline and oxygen rich the fluid is. The lower the pH reading, the more acidic and oxygen deprived the fluid is. The pH range is from 0 to 14, with 7.0 being neutral. Anything above 7.0 is alkaline, anything below 7.0 is considered acidic.
Human blood pH should be slightly alkaline (7.35 - 7.45). Below or above this range means symptoms and disease. If blood pH moves below 6.8 or above 7.8, cells stop functioning and the body dies. The body therefore continually strives to balance pH. When this balance is compromised many problems can occur.
An imbalanced diet high in acidic-producing foods such as animal protein, sugar, caffeine, and processed foods puts pressure on the body's regulating systems to maintain pH neutrality. The extra buffering required can deplete the body of alkaline minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, making the person prone to chronic and degenerative disease. Minerals are borrowed from vital organs and bones to buffer (neutralize) the acid and safely remove it from the body. Because of this strain, the body can suffer severe and prolonged damage--a condition that may go undetected for years.
Health problems caused by acidosis
Research shows that unless the body's pH level is slightly alkaline, the body cannot heal itself. So no matter what means you choose to take care of your health, it won't be effective until the pH level is balanced. If your body's pH is not balanced, for example, you cannot effectively assimilate vitamins, minerals and food supplements. Your body pH affects everything.
Acidosis will decrease the body's ability to absorb minerals and other nutrients, decrease the energy production in the cells, decrease it's ability to repair damaged cells, decrease it's ability to detoxify heavy metals, make tumor cells thrive, and make it more susceptible to fatigue and illness.
An acidic pH can occur from an acid-forming diet, emotional stress, toxic overload, and/or immune reactions or any process that deprives the cells of oxygen and other nutrients. The body will try to compensate for acidic pH by using alkaline minerals. If the diet does not contain enough minerals to compensate, a build up of acids in the cells will occur. Acidosis can cause such problems as:
Cardiovascular damage. |
Weight gain, obesity and diabetes.
Acceleration of free radical damage.
Osteoporosis and joint pain.
Aching muscles and lactic acid buildup.
Low energy and chronic fatigue.
Slow digestion and elimination.|
Lack of energy and fatigue.
Lower body temperature.
Tendency to get infections.
Loss of drive, joy, and enthusiasm.
Inflammation of the corneas and eyelids.
Loose and painful teeth.|
Inflamed, sensitive gums.
Mouth and stomach ulcers.
Cracks at the corners of the lips.
Excess stomach acid.
Nails are thin and split easily.
Hair looks dull, has split ends, and falls out.
Skin easily irritated.
Leg cramps and spasms.
Test Your Body's Acidity or Alkalinity with pH Strips
It is recommended that you test your pH levels to determine if your body's pH needs immediate attention. By using pH test strips (Litmus Paper), you can determine your pH factor quickly and easily in the privacy of your own home. The best time to test your pH is about one hour before a meal and two hours after a meal.
Saliva pH Test: Simply wet a piece of Litmus Paper with your saliva. While generally more acidic than blood, salivary pH mirrors the blood and tells us what the body retains. It is a fair indicator of the health of the extracellular fluids and their alkaline mineral reserves. The optimal pH for saliva is 6.4 to 6.8. A reading lower than 6.4 is indicative of insufficient alkaline reserves. After eating, the saliva pH should rise to 7.5 or more. To deviate from an ideal salivary pH for an extended time invites illness. If your saliva stays between 6.5 and 7.5 all day, your body is functioning within a healthy range.
Acidosis, an extended time in the acid pH state, can result in rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, lupus, tuberculosis, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, most cancers and many more. If salivary pH stays too low, the diet should focus on fruit, vegetables and mineral water as well as remove strong acidifiers such as sodas, whole wheat and red meat.
Urine pH Test: The pH of the urine indicates how the body is working to maintain the proper pH of the blood. The urine reveals the alkaline (building - anabolic) and acid (tearing down - catabolic) metabolic cycles. The pH of urine indicates the efforts of the body via the kidneys, adrenals, lungs and gonads to regulate pH through the buffer salts and hormones. Urine can provide a fairly accurate picture of body chemistry, because the kidneys filter out the buffer salts of pH regulation and provide values based on what the body is eliminating. Urine pH can vary from around 4.5 to 9.0 in extremes, but the ideal range is 6.0 to 7.0. If your urinary pH fluctuates between 6.0 to 6.5 first thing in the morning and between 6.5 and 7.0 in the evening before dinner, your body is functioning within a healthy range.
Urine testing may indicate how well your body is excreting acids and assimilating minerals, especially calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium. These minerals function as "buffers." Buffers are substances that help maintain and balance the body against the introduction of too much acidity or too much alkalinity. Even with the proper amounts of buffers, acid or alkaline levels can become stressful to the body's regulatory systems. When the body produces too many of these acids or alkalis, it must excrete the excess. The urine is the method the body uses to remove any excess acids or alkaline substances that cannot be buffered. If the body's buffering system is overwhelmed, a state of "autointoxication" exists, and attention should be given to reducing this stress.
Understanding How an Alkaline Diet Works
Alkaline diets are a popular choice for people who want to achieve optimum good health. However, many people don't actually understand this diet or how it works. The concept is actually fairly simple - the diet just focuses on regaining the balance that was lost when man started to eat a more domesticated diet. Instead of focusing on foods that are high in sugar, simple carbohydrates (like white bread and chips) and fatty meat and dairy... an alkaline diet primarily moves the balance toward fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, wholesome protein sources such as beans and legumes, and healthy oils such as olive and flax seed.
These foods may be either alkaline or acid in their natural state, but after the process of digestion they all produce what is termed as an "alkaline ash" once digested and metabolized by the body. When the body's pH is kept at a slightly alkaline level, all the systems can work more efficiently.
Understanding the Effects of the Body's pH Level
The pH level of the body has the ability to affect every single cell of the body. When the blood has an alkaline pH instead of an acidic pH, it will have a positive effect on how every bodily system functions. The brain, circulatory system, nerves, muscles, respiratory system, digestive system, and reproductive system can all benefit from a proper pH level. On the other hand, when the pH of the body is too acidic, it is susceptible to many diseases and problems. Weight gain, heart disease, premature aging, fatigue, nerve problems, allergies, muscle disease and cancer are all more prevalent when the body's pH is not optimal. Because these problems are all more likely to occur when the body's pH is too acid, it makes good sense to eat a diet rich in alkalizing foods. The primary goal is usually to eat approximately 75-80% alkaline foods along with only about 20-25% acidifying foods. If this level is maintained in the diet, the end result is a slightly alkaline pH in the body, which is perfect for optimum good health.
Choosing Foods for an Alkaline Diet
It's actually quite easy to eat a diet rich in alkaline-producing foods. Most fresh fruits and vegetables are excellent choices. Red meat is not a good choice, but you can add plenty of protein to your meals by using soy products, delicious beans, legumes, and nuts such as almonds. You should eliminate unhealthy fats from your diet, but you can use good fats such as olive, canola, and flax seed oil. High fat dairy products should be avoided, but you can drink soy milk and goat's milk. Cheeses made from soy milk and goat's milk would also be good choices. Replace the empty calories of soda with delicious iced herb tea, green tea and lemon water. Coffee should be avoided, but you can drink hot herbal or green tea. Replace pasta with healthy whole grains such as wild rice, millet and quinoa. When sweetening your foods, focus on natural products such as raw sugar, Stevia and maple sugar. As you can see, you'll have many nutritious choices that are both delicious and high in alkalizing properties.
Use the food charts below to make your lifestyle more alkaline and reap the benefits of vibrant health and abundant energy...
|FOOD CATEGORY||High Alkaline||Alkaline||Low Alkaline||Low Acid||Acid||High Acid|
|BEANS, VEGETABLES, LEGUMES||Vegetable Juices, Parsley, Raw Spinach, Broccoli, Celery, Garlic, Barley Grass||Carrots, Green Beans, Lima Beans, Beets, Lettuce, Zucchini, Carob||Squash, Asparagus, Rhubarb, Fresh Corn, Mushrooms, Onions, Cabbage, Peas, Cauliflower, Turnip, Beetroot, Potato, Olives, Soybeans, Tofu||Sweet Potato, Cooked Spinach, Kidney Beans||Pinto Beans, Navy Beans||Pickled Vegetables|
|FRUIT||Dried Figs, Raisins||Dates, Blackcurrant, Grapes, Papaya, Kiwi, Berries, Apples, Pears||Coconut, Sour Cherries, Tomatos, Oranges, Cherries, Pineapple, Peaches, Avocados, Grapefruit, Mangoes, Strawberries, Papayas, Lemons, Watermelon, Limes||Blueberries, Cranberries, Bananas, Plums, Processed Fruit Juices||Canned Fruit|
|GRAINS, CEREALS||Amaranth, Lentils, Sweetcorn, Wild Rice, Quinoa, Millet, Buckwheat||Rye Bread, Whole Grain Bread, Oats, Brown Rice||White Rice, White Bread, Pastries, Biscuits, Pasta|
|MEAT||Liver, Oysters, Organ Meat||Fish, Turkey, Chicken, Lamb||Beef, Pork, Veal, Shellfish, Canned Tuna & Sardines|
|EGGS & DAIRY||Breast Milk||Soy Cheese, Soy Milk, Goat Milk, Goat Cheese, Buttermilk, Whey||Whole Milk, Butter, Yogurt, Cottage Cheese, Cream, Ice Cream||Eggs, Camembert, Hard Cheese||Parmasan, Processed Cheese|
|NUTS & SEEDS||Hazelnuts, Almonds||Chestnuts, Brazils, Coconut||Pumpkin, Sesame, Sunflower Seeds||Pecans, Cashews, Pistachios||Peanuts, Walnuts|
|OILS||Flax Seed Oil, Olive Oil||Corn Oil, Sunflower Oil, Margarine, Lard|
|BEVERAGES||Herb Teas, Lemon Water||Green Tea||Ginger Tea||Cocoa||Wine, Soda/Pop||Tea (black), Coffee, Beer, Liquor|
|SWEETENERS, CONDIMENTS||Stevia||Maple Syrup, Rice Syrup||Raw Honey, Raw Sugar||White Sugar, Processed Honey||Milk Chocolate, Brown Sugar, Molasses, Jam, Ketchup, Mayonnaise, Mustard, Vinegar||Artificial Sweeteners|
Foods: are they Acid or Alkaline-forming?
Note that a food's acid or alkaline-forming tendency in the body has nothing to do with the actual pH of the food itself. For example, lemons are very acidic, however the end-products they produce after digestion and assimilation are alkaline so lemons are alkaline-forming in the body. Likewise, meat will test alkaline before digestion but it leaves acidic residue in the body so, like nearly all animal products, meat is classified as acid-forming.
It is important that your daily dietary intake of food naturally acts to balance your body pH. To maintain health, the diet should consist of at least 60% alkaline forming foods and at most 40% acid forming foods. To restore health, the diet should consist of 80% alkaline forming foods and 20% acid forming foods.
Note: there are inconsistencies between the acid- or alkaline-forming values given in the lists provided by many websites, and few reliable references. Please don't take the above chart as any more than an approximate guide. Sites copy information (and errors) from each other and we're not scientific institutes, we go by personal experience and experience with clients, measuring with litmus paper, health results gathered over time, and such - not laboratory testing of isolated substances.
Nevertheless, the principles are clear: eat plenty of vegetables, some fruit daily, and don't eat too much of dairy products, grain products, and direct protein from eggs, meat and fish (as is typically the case in Western diet). But remember... you don't have to cut out all acid-forming foods - some are necessary, typically 40% - otherwise you probably wouldn't get enough protein and variety of nutrients, yet alone make interesting meals that you enjoy. But you DO want to shift the overall balance of your diet over toward the alkaline, and away from the excessively acid-forming diet of a quick-food culture.
Free range eggs, fish, beans, unsaturated oils - these are healthy foods, low glycemic and nutritious, and even if marginally acid-forming (or alkaline or between the two depending on how you measure or what chart you read). They are NOT the culprits in an acid-forming diet. The real culprits are highly sweetened foods, pastries, red meat, colas and highly processed foods - these are the ones to reduce to a sensible amount or cut out of your diet if they also contain stimulants and undesirable chemical additives.
Similarly, be sure to include your share of the high alkaline-forming foods to balance those low-acid foods you eat for their overall nutritional value. And make alkaline choices, e.g. better to have brown rice than white rice, even though both are on the acid-forming side, because it moves you in the right pH direction - less acid - and also it is more healthy and nutritious in other respects.