The importance of consuming alkaline foods vs acidic foods is a hot topic in alternative health circles, which is the concept behind the popular Alkaline Diet.
But, are alkaline foods good for you or better for you than acidic foods? And what exactly are high-alkaline foods, and how can they improve your health?
In this diet guide, we will discuss the difference between acidic foods and alkaline foods, the potential benefits of alkaline foods and the alkaline diet, and an alkaline foods list you can use if you decide that eating more alkalizing foods into your diet will be beneficial for you.
We will look at:
- What Is the Alkaline Diet?
- What Foods Are Alkaline?
- Is the Alkaline Diet Legitimate?
- Complete Alkaline Foods List
Let’s get started!
What Is the Alkaline Diet?
The alkaline diet, also called the acid-ash diet or alkaline ash diet, focuses on eating high-alkaline foods and minimizes or eliminates acidic foods as much as possible.
But, what are alkaline foods?
According to the alkaline diet theory, or the principles of the acid ash diet, foods can be classified as alkaline foods or acidic foods based on how much acid they produce in your body when they are digested.
Therefore, the list of alkaline foods includes foods that produce less acid in the body when consumed, but this does not necessarily mean that an alkaline food necessarily has a high pH outside the body.
This can be a pretty confusing concept, and the reality is that there isn’t an abundance of research that clearly indicates that the alkaline diet or even concepts referring to alkaline vs. acidic foods are scientifically sound.The alkaline diet is based more on a premise or theoretical concept that makes sense in some regards but may not be as effective or important as staunch proponents of the alkaline diet suggest.
The concept of the alkaline ash diet is that the foods that you eat change the pH value, which is a measure of the acidity vs alkalinity of your body.
The alkaline diet is sometimes called the alkaline ash diet or the acid ash diet because the framework of this diet compares your metabolism to a fire burning, as both our chemical reactions in which energy is converted.
In the case of eating alkaline foods, your metabolism breaks down the chemical bonds in alkaline foods or acidic foods to create usable energy.
Believers in the alkaline diet suggest that this leaves behind an “ash” or metabolic waste residue that can be either acidic, neutral or alkaline based on the pH of this metabolic ash.
Then, the alkaline ash or acidic ash will affect the pH of your blood, according to the alkaline diet theory.
Furthermore, based on the acid-ash hypothesis underlying the alkaline ash diet theory, an acid ash increases your risk for certain diseases and leaves you more vulnerable to acute and chronic illnesses, whereas alkaline ash helps protect your body from threats to your health and improves your health overall.
What Foods Are Alkaline?
So, what foods can you eat on an alkaline diet? What are alkaline foods vs acidic foods?
We will provide a list of alkaline foods at the end of this acid ash diet guide, but as a general overview, some trends are seen in acidic vs alkaline food lists.
On the other hand, the list of alkaline foods tends to be those that include nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and potassium, as these are thought to be alkalizing nutrients.
Neutral foods are those that are thought to produce neither an acidic ash nor an alkaline ash but a neutral ash with a pH of 7.
Natural fats, such as plant-based oils, certain starches, and sugars, generally fall in the neutral category.
The alkaline food list primarily includes non-starchy vegetables, fruit, legumes, and nuts.
Is the Alkaline Diet Legitimate?
Before looking at our alkaline foods list, discussing pH briefly is helpful.
Acids and bases are measured on the pH scale, which is a logarithmic scale that runs from 0 to 14.
A pH of 7.0 is considered neutral, whereas anything less than seven is classified as an acid, and anything over seven is classified as a base, which is also considered an alkaline.
The more extreme ends represent a more significant acid or base such that something with a pH of 2 is more acidic than a substance with a pH of 5, which is still much more acidic than something with a pH of 11.
One criticism of the alkaline diet is that the pH of the body varies depending on the body fluid or region of the body.
Proponents of the alkaline diet suggest checking the pH of your urine as an indicator as to whether your alkaline diet plan is working or not, with the goal of having a urine pH above 7.
However, urine pH is not a mirror or a representative of your blood pH, which is ultimately what the alkaline diet concept is trying to address.
Human blood is always slightly acidic naturally, generally having a pH of around 7.36 to 7.44. The body has to keep blood pH or blood alkalinity within a finite range in order to ensure that your body functions properly.
In fact, if your blood pH drops too low, it can be fatal, though this generally only happens in extreme cases of starvation, poorly managed diabetes, severe ketosis, alcohol abuse, or some other disease or stress on the body that affects the kidneys or overall metabolic health of the individual.
In contrast to the alkaline blood, the stomach has a very low pH because it has extremely caustic or acidic digestive enzymes such as hydrochloric acid, which help break down food. Stomach pH is generally between 2 to 3.5.
Though the alkaline diet is said to help improve the alkalinity of your blood—or increase the pH of your blood—studies indicate that the foods we eat only seem to affect the pH or acidity of urine.
The body has inherent mechanisms to deal with the blood’s acid-base homeostasis, including buffering mechanisms when the blood becomes too acidic.
For example, if you eat a food that increases acid in your body, such as a large steak, urine pH will increase, and you will be excreting extra acid (hydrogen ions) from your system as a way to ensure that your blood stays alkaline.
Complete Alkaline Foods List
Below, find a list of the best alkaline foods and worst acidic foods so that you have a usable alkaline diet grocery list if you want to try an alkaline meal plan:
- Most fruits
- Non-starchy vegetables like dark, leafy greens
- Sea vegetables (kelp, seaweed, dulse)
- Sprouts (soy, alfalfa, bean)
- Himalayan salt
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Almond milk
- Meat, especially processed meat
- Brown rice
- Carbonated beverages such as soda and seltzer
- Coffee and caffeinated drinks
- Protein supplements
- Refined sugars
- Salty foods
- Processed foods
Some evidence suggests that when the acidic load in the body is high, minerals are leached from bone, leading to osteoporosis, and certain other functions and systems are disrupted because the environment is too acidic.
For example, metabolic acidosis may reduce levels of growth hormone, cause kidney damage, increase muscle loss, and may increase cancer risk, while following an alkaline diet can reduce back pain and promote muscle growth.
The alkaline diet is not a weight loss diet but supposedly a health-promoting, disease-reducing diet.
However, it should be re-stated that the alkaline diet and the concept of alkaline ash and acidic ash are largely unsupported by scientific evidence.
This is not to say that the alkaline diet doesn’t work to improve health and is a bad diet to try, as you will notice that the alkaline diet food list includes many of the most nutritious, nutrient-dense foods, and the list of alkaline foods is wholly devoid of processed foods and universally-accepted unhealthy foods.
Though some foods excluded from the alkaline foods list are generally considered healthy by registered dietitians, nutritionists, and the medical community at large.
That said, the general alkaline foods list is very healthy and likely to support improved health for anyone, even if the science behind the alkaline diet is more “woo-woo” and theoretical than evidence-based.
For a complete Mediterranean diet food list, click here.