People have become more aware of eating an acidic vs alkaline diet as we are making efforts to improve our health. “The alkaline diet” has actually become a thing. So what exactly does acid and alkaline foods do to our bodies and how you should really eat?
Benefits of eating an acidic vs alkaline diet
Just like water, your body’s tissues and fluids have a pH level. Zero is completely acidic, 14 is completely alkaline and 7 is neutral.
At its best, the pH level of your blood will be 7.35 – 7.45, or slightly alkaline. Your kidney normally controls the pH level of your blood.
However, when your body is too acidic (acidosis) – 3.5 or below – you may experience symptoms, such as:
- brittle hair and nails
- dry skin
- mood swings
- poor digestion
- poor sleep
- sensitive gums
- shallow breathing
Why? With mild acidosis, the amount of free radicals in your body can increase, making you more susceptible to bacteria and viral infections. So eating an acidic diet does not offer any known health benefits and can actually wreak havoc on your body.
On the other hand, eating an alkaline diet offers several health benefits. It can help:
- decrease blood pressure and cholesterol
- decrease risk for kidney stones
- improve bone density
- improve hormone levels
- maintain a healthy weight
- reduce acid reflux
- reduce chronic pain (and inflammation)
An alkaline environment may also make certain chemotherapy drugs more effective and less toxic, though this has not yet been validated by research.
However, as always, moderation is best. If your stomach environment is too alkaline (alkalosis), you might experience confusion, nausea or muscles twitches.
Your best option is to limit acidic foods and eat plenty of alkaline foods.
Understanding and balancing alkaline vs acidic foods
Fruits and vegetables have a negative Potential Renal Acid Load (PRAL) score, which means, in simple terms, that they may not produce the effect you would expect. When foods reach the kidney, they produce more ammonium (acid) or bicarbonate (alkaline), and this result is called the PRAL score.
For example, a lemon is acidic outside your body, but when eaten, it has an alkalinizing effect. Contrary to this, milk is alkaline outside your body, but is acidic when eaten.
For optimal health, aim for that slightly alkaline pH level of 7.35-7.45 by limiting your intake of these acidic foods:
*Regardless of your pH, these foods should be limited or avoided when seeking better health.
Next, eat plenty of these alkaline foods (fresh, organic are best):
Note that these lists of foods are not exhaustive but will get you started in the right direction. And do not necessarily eliminate eggs or walnuts from your diet, as they offer many other health benefits, but just be aware that they are more acidic foods.
More regimented than just being mindful of eating an acidic vs alkaline diet, some people actually choose to follow the alkaline diet, also known as the alkaline ash diet, alkaline acid diet, acid alkaline diet, acid ash diet or pH diet. This diet’s protocol allows fruits, vegetables, soybeans and tofu (organic, without the isolates), some nuts, seeds and legumes. But you need to avoid dairy, meat, eggs, most grains, walnuts, processed foods, alcohol and caffeine. The alkaline diet works for both vegans and vegetarians.
Summarizing acidic vs alkaline diet considerations
Too much acid does no good whatsoever.
Keep in mind that calcium is the most important mineral your body uses to neutralize acid, which in turn, helps prevent osteoporosis. If you choose to follow the alkaline diet, be sure you get plenty of calcium through leafy greens, sea vegetables, nuts (except walnuts) and sesame seeds.
Adding more alkaline foods will likely benefit your health, as many of those foods are fresh fruits and vegetables, which we can’t seem to get enough of. But if you have other health conditions or think you may already be too alkaline, consider testing your own pH level using a special litmus paper before making any drastic changes to your diet.
*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.