What is alkaline diet?
The Honestly Healthy Alkaline Programme, set up by nutritional therapist Vicki Edgson and organic chef Natasha Corrett (she’s also the step-sister of Sienna Miller), involves eating mainly alkaline foods in order to keep the body’s pH between 7.35 and 7.45. The ultimate aim is to eat 80 per cent alkaline foods and 20 per cent acidic foods.
Alkaline diet Promise
It’s a pitch Hollywood celebs love: that the alkaline diet — also known as the alkaline ash diet or alkaline acid diet — can help you lose weight and avoid problems like arthritis and cancer. The theory is that some foods, like meat, wheat, refined sugar, and processed foods, cause your body to produce acid, which is bad for you.
Eating specific foods that make your body more alkaline, on the other hand, can protect against those conditions as well as shed pounds. The alkaline diet really rocketed into the news when Victoria Beckham tweeted about an alkaline diet cookbook in January 2013.
pH is a measure of acids and alkalines throughout the body on a 0 to 14 scale. Acidic substances range from 0 to 7; vinegar, for example, has a pH of about 2.0, which means it’s acidic. Alkaline substances, meanwhile, fall between 7 and 14 on the scale. Calcium, which is highly alkaline, has a pH of about 10. In its natural state, our body is slightly alkaline – hovering between 7.35 and 7.45. Supporters of the Acid Alkaline Diet argue that eating acid-forming foods – like red meat – tips your pH balance out of whack and sets the stage for poor health. Balancing your pH through diet, they say, leads to numerous health benefits. The thinking goes: If we’re constantly putting acidic foods into our body, how does our system have time to do anything other than work to remove them?
How many Americans today follow a healthy diet and regularly engage in other health-promoting activites?
The standard American diet is highly acid-forming, overwhelming the body’s mechanisms for removing excess acid. The staples of the American diet are meat, dairy, corn, wheat, and refined sugars (all acidifying foods). At the same time, the diet is notably deficient in alkalizing fruits and vegetables.
The alkaline diet greatly reduces this acid load, helping to reduce the strain on the body’s acid-detoxification systems, such as the kidneys.
Can What You Eat Influence Your Bodies pH?
We know that a typical ‘Western diet’ (one which is high in cereals, ‘processed’ convenience foods and meats combined with a low fruit and vegetable intake) has high acid load (i.e forms mostly acidic ‘ash’). Obviously, this type of eating is at odds with current dietary recommendations and often means you miss out on essential nutrients and fibre. In the long term this can have a negative effect on our health (I’m sure this idea isn’t new to you). However, acid forming foods aren’t necessarily ‘bad for you’, a diet is judged as a whole entity and not just on single foods. Many foods which cause ‘acid ash’ are nutritious and can make up part of a healthy balanced diet such as meats, fish, dairy, beans and whole grains.
Advocates of the alkaline diet however, disagree with this. They claim that by eating mostly alkaline forming foods, you can avoid creating an acidic environment in your body. They suggest that by modifying your diet, you can change the pH of your blood and protect yourself from disease. Often dieters are encouraged to test the pH of their urine, to check if the diet is working.
- Includes lots of vegetables and fruit
- Encourages whole grains
- Discourages fizzy drinks
- Discourages processed/refined/convenience foods
- High in fibre
- Limited research
- No scientific proof of benefits
- Cuts out some nutritious foods which may be beneficial to health
How much does it cost?
Other than your grocery bill, which should be no higher than usual, there are no expenses.
Will you lose weight?
Probably. While the Acid Alkaline Diet lacks robust clinical studies examining its weight-loss potential, its ban on processed food and emphasis on eating whole grains, vegetables and soy products will likely yield weight loss. Just build in a “calorie deficit” – eat fewer calories than your daily recommended max, or burn off extra by exercising – and you should see the numbers on the scale budge. How quickly and whether you keep the weight off, however, is up to you.
The approach also shares tenets with vegetarianism, and vegetarians tend to eat fewer calories and weigh less than their meat-eating counterparts.
As to the other health claims, there’s some early evidence that a diet low in acid-producing foods like animal protein (such as meat and cheese) and bread and high in fruits and veggies could help prevent kidney stones, keep bones and muscles strong, improve heart health and brain function, reduce low back pain, and lower risk for type 2 diabetes. But researchers aren’t sure of some of these claims yet.
People who believe in the alkaline diet say that though acid-producing foods shift our pH balance for only a little while, if you keep shifting your blood pH over and over, you can cause long-lasting acidity.
What is the role of exercise?
The Acid Alkaline Diet is only an eating pattern, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise. Physical activity lowers your risk of heart disease and diabetes, helps keep weight off and increases your energy level. Most experts suggest getting at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise – like brisk walking – most or all days of the week.