Diets come in a lot of different forms: reduced calories, focusing on specific foods, restricting mealtimes and including supplements. The alkaline diet is a little different. While it still promises better health and overall weight loss, this particular diet focuses on reducing the acidity of your blood and urine.
If that last line had you thinking, “Now I’ve heard it all,” read on. You might be surprised at the reasoning behind this unique diet.
Focusing on your body’s pH levels may be the key to better health
Every living creature on the planet has to maintain an appropriate pH level in order to survive. Some people take that a step further and hypothesize that disease or disorders can’t occur in a body with the proper pH.
Does a pH imbalance really cause disease, though? According to the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, it might. “The acid-ash hypothesis posits that protein and grain foods, with a low potassium intake, produce a diet acid load, net acid excretion (NAE), increased urine calcium, and release of calcium from the skeleton, leading to osteoporosis.”
The idea behind the alkaline diet is that your body has to maintain a very narrow pH range to function properly—and if you eat a lot of acidic foods, it can throw off the balance. In turn, your body may have to work overtime to adjust.
We know that pH levels can affect everything from marine life to how many minerals a plant contains. The human body’s normal pH level should hover right around 7.4—a slightly alkaline level. Eating acidic foods (or foods that cause “metabolic acidosis”) can affect how hard your body must work to maintain the right levels. Since modern diets contain less fiber, potassium, magnesium, antioxidants and vitamins, and more fats, sugar and sodium, our kidneys are working harder than ever. Generally speaking, most of us do not have optimal pH levels.
However, the diet does face criticism—namely, that none of its claims have been definitively proven.
How the alkaline diet can help
- Improves your mineral intake. Magnesium and vitamin D deficiencies are incredibly common these days—and as a result, people may experience muscle pain, sleep disorders, headaches, anxiety and depression. An alkaline diet improves your mineral intake (especially magnesium) and ensures that you properly absorb vitamins. In turn, this protects your bone density and muscle mass, improves your mood and makes it easier to sleep.
- Reduces chronic acidosis. Chronic acidosis can lead to chronic pain: menstrual symptoms, back pain, headaches and more. Studies have shown that alkaline supplements and the alkaline diet can reduce chronic acidosis, and consequently reduce your chronic pain.
- Lowers inflammation. Inflammation can cause a number of issues, including premature aging, hypertension, stroke, cardiovascular problems, immune deficiency, cancer and stroke. Any diet that lowers inflammation will help you better stave off disease and chronic pain. (Plus, you’ll look younger, longer—who can argue with that?)
- Helps you lose weight. Weight loss isn’t the primary goal of the alkaline diet, but any time you eat a primarily plant-based diet, you’re bound to lose some weight. Stave off obesity by following a keto alkaline food program.
What can I eat on an alkaline diet?
If you’re on an alkaline diet, your primary food source will be plant-based. Alkaline foods usually include vegetables, fruits, legumes and nuts. Neutral foods include natural sugars, starches and fats—so you’ll have to ditch the refined stuff.
The bad news is that “acidic” foods include dairy, meat, poultry, fish, grains and alcohol. If you can’t quite quit the cheese, the alkaline diet may not be for you.
Other “acidic” things to avoid include food coloring and preservatives, pollution, over-exercise, exposure to chemicals and radiation, chronic stress, overuse of antibiotics and high caffeine intake, among others. (If that sounds like you should just avoid, well, living in the modern world, you’re not too far off.)
While you can certainly engage in a modified version of this diet—it’s pretty much impossible to avoid radiation and chemicals, after all—it’s probably too restrictive for most people. And since it hasn’t received a scientific stamp of approval, you might want to find a different plan that allows you to enjoy your favorite treats on occasion.
However, the theory behind the diet isn’t all bad. As a society, we should boost our vitamin and mineral intake, lay off the refined fats, sugars and sodium and be more conscious of our diets in general.