The word Alkaline alone reveals that the alkaline diet has something to do with pH levels, but what exactly does this style of eating entail?
The idea behind the alkaline diet is to change pH levels in your body to match what our ancestors used to eat. The concept reached peak levels in 2019 but had been slowly growing in popularity since 2012.
It is believed that, by avoiding foods that cause your body to produce acid, you can improve your health, lose weight, and maybe even fight cancer.
In practical terms, this means consuming more fruits and vegetables, nuts, and legumes. Moreover, those following the alkaline diet should drink more water and reduce their consumption of sugar, meat, alcohol, and processed foods.
What is alkaline and how does it apply to food?
The pH scale, which goes from 0 to 14, measures how acidic or basic something is. For something to be considered alkaline, it’s pH level needs to be greater than 7.
As you convert food into energy, your body undertakes a chemical reaction that breaks down a solid mass. The foods you eat leave an “ash” residue known as metabolic waste, which can be alkaline, neutral, or acidic.
Followers of the alkaline diet believe this residue can affect your body’s acidity. Many diseases thrive in acidic environments, so alkaline ash is considered to be protective.
The evidence on this, however, isn’t solid. Your body is incredibly good at regulating your pH levels, which means that, whatever you eat, you’re unlikely to affect them.
Measuring pH levels in your body
Followers of the alkaline diet monitor their pH levels through urine to ensure this is alkaline. However, getting rid of acids in your body through urine is one of the main ways your body regulates pH in the blood.
Additionally, there is no set pH level across the body, with some parts being acidic and others alkaline.
“If you change your diet you may see changes in the pH of your saliva or urine because these are waste products, but there’s no way you could ever eat enough alkaline food that it impacts your blood,” writes Kellie Bramlet Blackburn from MD Anderson Cancer Center.
“It’s critical for your health that the pH of your blood remains constant,” reports Healthline. “For this reason, your body has many effective ways to closely regulate its pH balance.”
All in all, urine is a poor indicator of body pH.
The alkaline diet
While the alkaline diet might not affect your body’s pH levels, this doesn’t mean it’s not a healthy diet, it’s just that its benefits come through other reasons.
This eating style is healthy by encouraging high intakes of vegetables, fruits, legumes and seeds, and restricting meat, alcohol, sugar, and processed foods.
This eating style is conductive to health and might help you lose weight, which is a great outcome, but it certainly won’t affect tour body’s pH levels.
What can you eat on an alkaline diet?
Alkalizing or neutral foods, which include:
- Fresh vegetables
- Most fruits
- Beans and lentils
- Soy, tofu, tempeh
- Unsweetened yoghurt
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
What is restricted?
Foods that are acidic should be consumed in reduced amounts. These include:
- Milk, cheese, eggs
- Rice, corn, wheat
- High-protein foods
- Processed foods
- Sweetened beverages
A 2012 review of the alkaline diet in health found the following benefits to following the alkaline diet:
- Increased fruit and vegetable consumption benefits muscle retention and bone health
- Improved growth hormone levels which could improve cardiovascular health and memory and cognition
- Reduced low back pain through increased supplementation of alkaline minerals
- Might improve efficacy of some chemotherapy agents
Additionally, a three-year study from 2008 researching a diet rich in potassium – found in fruits and vegetables – and low acid load, found increased muscle preservation in older men and women. There is a loss in muscle mass as we age, which may lead to falls and fractures, so adopting an easting style such as the alkaline diet might be beneficial for older populations.
It is believed the alkaline diet might help fight cancer, as cancer cells thrive in highly acidic environments, but there is no scientific literature to back this up yet.
Pros and Cons
|More consumption of fruits and vegetables||Many foods are acidic in nature, such as blueberries or kiwis, but they’re great for human health|
|Better overall health markers compared to Standard Western Diet||The alkaline diet has nothing to do with your body’s pH levels|
|Improved muscle retention and bone health||Consuming some acids is essential for human health|
|Might help you lose weight, generally through cutting back on processed foods||The diet’s main claims are not backed by scientific evidence|
|Doesn’t eliminate whole food groups|
Should you adopt the alkaline diet?
If this diet sounds interesting to you, know that while the changes you make in your eating style won’t affect your blood pH levels, they might have an overall positive effect on your health, as it reinforces healthy eating habits.