The alkaline diet, which gained popularity primarily because of its celebrity followers, is thought to optimize the body’s pH balance and lower the risk of many diseases, including cancer and diabetes.
In this article, we will consider whether the alkaline diet has the benefits ascribed to it and why you might want to give this diet a try.
The background of the alkaline diet: the pH balance
All the foods we eat provide us with different micro- and macronutrients, like vitamins, minerals, proteins, fiber, etc. Our bodies need them to produce hormones, repair damaged cells, make new ones, and synthesize DNA. In addition, micro- and macronutrients help to maintain a proper pH balance.
The pH balance, also known as the acid-base balance, is a crucial health factor. This is because all biochemical reactions in the body are related to hydrogen (H+), and the pH level indicates its concentration in various body fluids. The more hydrogen ions there are, the lower the pH level. Conversely, fewer hydrogen ions mean higher pH levels. The most important indicator is the pH of the blood. Even minor deviations from the norm can lead to health problems.
If the pH of the blood falls below 7.35, the blood becomes acidic. This condition is called acidosis. The opposite of acidosis is alkalosis which occurs due to alkalization, which means an increase in pH levels above 7.45. The optimal environment for maintaining body functions is slightly alkaline.
The importance of the pH balance extends well beyond the human sphere. For example, the ocean’s pH levels influence their ecosystems’ diversity, and the pH balance in the soil affects its mineral content and, therefore, the minerals found in agricultural products.
What is the alkaline diet
A French medical scientist Claude Bernard is considered the founder of the alkaline diet. He made experiments with rabbits in his laboratory. The animals were fed with meat instead of their typical plant-based aliment. Bernard observed that the pH of their urine shifted from alkaline to acidic. The alkaline diet is also associated with Marcelin Berthelot – a scientist who studied alkaline nutrition from the point of view of chemistry.
Berthelot experimented by burning various substances and mixing their ash with water. In this way, he discovered that substances had different pH levels (although the concept of pH levels itself was not formulated then). The work of Bernard and Berthelot was the foundation on which further studies concerning pH balance and the alkaline diet are based.
The main principle of the alkaline diet (alternatively known as the alkaline ash diet or the alkaline acid diet) is based on allowing foods with a pH higher than seven and limiting acidic foods. The hypothesis is that this can help to reverse body acidity and achieve the desired state of slight alkalinity.
A typical American diet consists of foods that are poor in essential nutrients, high in sodium, chloride, and sugars, and refined and trans fats. In addition, many people are deficient in magnesium, potassium, vitamins, and other crucial substances. Maintaining proper pH balance requires nutrients, so those who lack them can experience metabolic acidosis. This condition means that biochemical reactions in the body can no longer proceed properly.
for your health and
balanced meal plan
As Hippocrates said, you are what you eat. The meaning of this phrase concerns every person, who takes care of his health. The food we eat has a big impact on our vital activity, state of health and quality of life.
Nowadays healthy diet is very popular and everyone knows that he should give up junk food. But not everyone knows what he must eat except for grain, vegetables and protein food.
It's essential to diversify your diet. Every bite of food should provide you with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that are necessary for good health.
So how can we have a proper nutrition plan?
We prepared a PDF-file to help you. It contains TOP-10 ingredients, which should be added to everyone's diet.
The alkaline diet aims to fix this problem.
Diet-induced acidosis and alkali supplementation
How does the alkaline diet work
The alkaline diet is built on the following principles:
- most of the foods (about 2/3) are alkalizing;
- acidic foods are minimized;
- animal protein is consumed in small amounts;
- alcohol, coffee, and processed foods are excluded;
- water intake is crucial (about 125 ounces for men and 91 ounces for women), as well as alkalizing drinks between meals. The pH level of the water should be between 9 and 10;
- sugar intake should be minimal;
- physical activity is not recommended.
The diet has three distinct stages:
During the first stage, the acidifying foods are minimized. It usually takes time for the body to adapt to the new diet, and most weight loss happens at this stage (which can be as much as 10 pounds).
The second stage involves more stringent nutritional requirements, while the weight loss slows down.
During the final stage, the acid-base balance gets stabilized.
It is recommended to embark on the alkaline diet during warmer seasons (i.e., summer). This is because in summer it’s easier to put aside animal derived products and fats. When it’s warm outside our body doesn’t need “extra” calories to warm itself and there’s also plenty of fresh alkaline foods available.
Health benefits of the alkaline diet
Reducing the intake of acidic foods and switching to an alkaline diet can help reduce inflammation in the body. Other health benefits of the alkaline diet include:
- Reduced risk of hypertension and stroke. This is because alkalizing foods help reduce cholesterol levels and inflammation, directly affecting the cardiovascular system’s functioning.
- Reduced chronic pains, including muscle cramps, menstrual symptoms, back pain, etc.
Supplementation with alkaline minerals reduces symptoms in patients with chronic low back pain
- Improved absorption of vitamins and minerals is associated with reduced levels of inflammation.
- Strengthened immune protection because of better absorption of vitamins and minerals.
- Boosted bone health and reduced muscle wasting.
- Weight loss occurs due to reduced inflammation which helps to normalize hormone levels in the body, especially leptin – a hormone responsible for satiety. Alkaline foods, mainly fruit and vegetables contain a lot of fiber, which is essential for weight loss.
The alkaline diet can also help improve memory and cognition, optimize detoxifying processes in the body, lower the risk of kidney stone formation, and reduce overall morbidity and mortality of chronic diseases (like type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and non-alcoholic hepatic steatosis).
The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline pH Diet Benefits Health
Alkaline and acidic foods
All products can be divided into four groups according to their alkalizing properties:
|Acidic||Very alkalizing||Medium alkalizing||Slightly alkalizing|
|cottage cheese||leafy greens||apple||cucumber|
Let’s now look at the top alkaline foods and their health benefits:
|Lemons||Despite the sour taste, lemons induce an alkaline reaction. Water with lemons is an excellent alkalizing drink. However, with the addition of sugar, the reaction will change to acidic.|
|Leafy greens||Leafy greens not only have an alkalizing effect but also contain vitamins and trace elements essential for the body.|
|Root vegetables (carrots, radishes, horseradish, beets)||Besides the alkalizing properties, root vegetables also contain a lot of fiber, enhancing intestinal motility.|
|Cucumbers||Can reduce the acid levels in the cells.|
|Garlic||Helps to strengthen the immune system and has antibacterial properties.|
|Cruciferous (broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, and white cabbage)||Contain compounds that destroy malignant tumor cells.|
|Avocado||Strengthens the body’s defense mechanisms.|
|Sprouts (wheat and barley)||Have anti-fungal and anti-cancer properties.|
|Algae||The alkalizing effect of algae is achieved due to the high chlorophyll content.|
|Green tea, chamomile extract||Herbal extracts and antioxidants in tea have anti-inflammatory and alkalizing effects.|
In addition, combinations of certain foods can enhance the alkalizing effect. For example:
- Carrots and berries (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries);
- Oatmeal and kiwi;
- Algae and asparagus;
- Broccoli and lemon.
Sample recipes with alkaline foods
In preparing alkalizing meals, there is no need to follow specific cooking instructions. Simply combine foods from the alkalizing list the way you like.
For your inspiration, we provide some sample recipes for delicious alkalizing dishes.
Alkaline smoothie (1 serving)
Take a handful of spinach, 1 kiwi, 1 small banana, and half cucumber. Blend the ingredients, adding water to achieve desired consistency.
Zucchini and golden beet salad (2 servings)
- 2 golden beets;
- 1 zucchini;
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt or coconut yogurt;
- A pinch of cinnamon and sea salt;
- 1 tablespoon orange juice;
- 1/4 teaspoon of fresh ginger root;
- 1 tablespoon coconut or other plant-based milk;
- Fresh mint leaves and orange zest for garnish.
Peel the vegetables and shred them into srtips separately in a food processor. Cook beets in a microwave for a couple of minutes or fry them lightly in a frying pan. Mix the raw zucchini and beets in a bowl. Make a dressing by mixing yogurt, milk, juice, and other ingredients in a blender until well combined. Add sauce to the vegetables and mix well. When serving in smaller bowls, garnish with orange zest and mint leaves.
Soft tofu scramble (2 servings)
- 1 package of firm tofu;
- 2 cups spinach;
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice;
- 1 tablespoon tahini;
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt;
- 1 tablespoon oil for cooking;
- A pinch of turmeric, smoked paprika, black pepper, and garlic powder;
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast;
- A handful of cherry tomatoes.
Heat the oil in a frying pan. Drain the water from the tofu, crumble and fry, add tahini, lemon juice, and salt, and mix well. Next add spices and combine with tofu while cooking. Add tomatoes and spinach when the liquid evaporates and the tofu starts to brown. Cover the frying pan and steam for 3-5 minutes. Enjoy your soft tofu scramble!
Beet latte (1 serving)
- 1 shot of beetroot juice;
- 1 teaspoon honey or date syrup;
- 1 cup plant-based milk (coconut, oat, rice, pea, or almond);
- A pinch of turmeric, cinnamon, and cardamom.
Heat the milk with honey or syrup and froth it. Combine with beetroot juice and spices.
Risks and side effects of the alkaline diet
It is important to remember that long-term use of any unbalanced diet may lead to serious adverse consequences. Therefore, your regular menu should contain alkalizing and acidifying foods, as both have beneficial properties. In your daily meal planning, it is important to balance these foods.
It’s also necessary to remember that the alkalizing diet is not for everyone because of the low protein content and energy supply. This means that on this diet, you might feel hungrier and weaker than usual, especially during the initial week.
Because the alkaline diet is low in protein, it is not recommended for children and pregnant or breastfeeding women who require a protein-rich diet.
The diet is not recommended for athletes and people doing heavy physical work. This is because they need more significant energy replenishment, which is quite challenging to get on an alkaline diet.
Effects of an Alkalizing or Acidizing Diet on High-Intensity Exercise Performance
Excessive consumption of alkalizing products is not recommended with the following health conditions:
- diseases of the gastrointestinal tract;
- heart and kidney failure;
- chronic diseases in the acute stages.
If you have any chronic diseases, it’s better to consult your healthcare provider before embarking on an alkaline diet.
Criticism of the alkaline diet
Even though it is well-accepted that alkalizing foods have health benefits, some voices claim that the alkaline diet is pseudoscientific. The critics argue that the research into the alkalizing properties of foods is limited, and there is no hard evidence that health improvements are due to the effect of alkalizing foods on the pH balance of the blood. Instead, other properties of these foods might be responsible for apparent health benefits, such as the nutrients they contain.
This view is based on the fact that various plant-based diets (including the alkaline diet) are known for their benefits on overall health, including reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, obesity, and diabetes.
Nevertheless, even the fiercest critics of the alkaline diet agree that the diet’s principles, which include reducing the number of processed foods and sugars and limiting red meat intake, are beneficial to health in general.
- Diet-Induced Low-Grade Metabolic Acidosis and Clinical Outcomes: A Review
- Blood pH
- Diet-induced acidosis and alkali supplementation
- Supplementation with alkaline minerals reduces symptoms in patients with chronic low back pain
- The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline pH Diet Benefits Health
- Plant-based diets and their impact on health, sustainability and the environment
- Effects of an Alkalizing or Acidizing Diet on High-Intensity Exercise Performance
- Frontiers in the measurement of cell and tissue pH
- Meta-analysis of the effect of the acid-ash hypothesis of osteoporosis on calcium balance