For decades natural health practitioners have recommended a diet that ‘alkalises’ the body. Basically the premise is that many diseases including cancer, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and others are influenced by dietary acid-alkaline balance. For example, in osteoporosis may be the result of a chronic intake of acid-forming foods consistently outweighing the intake of alkaline foods leading to the bone being constantly forced to give up their alkaline minerals (calcium and magnesium) in order to buffer the excess acid.
Our body likes to be in a state of steady balance also known as homoeostasis. Preferring blood pressure to be within a certain safe range, same goes for blood sugar levels, hormone levels, temperature and pH levels. pH is a measure of acidity. The pH scale goes from 0-14 0 being the most acidic, 14 being the most alkaline (also known as base). Different parts of the body need to have differing pH levels, for instance blood needs to hover around a pH of 7.4 (slightly alkaline) whereas stomach acid should be a corrosive pH of 2-3, in order to kill bacteria and improve absorption of minerals. The aim is to create a more alkaline environment in the space between the cells of the body.
In regards to creating an optimal pH balance, the dietary goal is quite simple – make sure that you have a higher intake of alkaline producing foods than acid producing foods. Basically, an alkaline diet is one rich in vegetables and fruit while avoiding over consumption of processed sugar, grains, meat and dairy. A source of confusion is that there is a difference between between acidic foods and acid-forming foods. For example, while foods like lemons and citrus fruits may TASTE acidic they actually have an alkalizing effect on the body. What determines the pH impact of the food in the body is the metabolic end products when it is absorbed across the intestinal wall, and the minerals and other nutrients absorbed into the bloodstream. For example, the citric acid in citrus fruit is metabolized into citrate which is alkaline, and may even be converted to bicarbonate – also alkaline.
The PRAL (Potential Renal Acid Load) scale calculates how acid or alkaline a food is. The lower the number, the more alkaline, the higher the number, the more acidic. See the link below for a complete list of foods and their PRAL scores.
Foods that are alkaline forming include: all vegetables especially spinach, all herbs especially parsley and basil, all fruit especially dried fruit such as figs, raisins, soy beans and tofu. See below for a more complete list of foods.
Foods that are acid forming include: All grains (wheat, rice, oats), cheese (parmesan and cheddar more acid forming than cottage and ricotta), peanuts, prawns, red meat and chicken etc See below for a more complete list of foods.
It’s important to remember that like everything in life … it’s about balance. Although many people will benefit from being more alkaline, we need to eat acid forming foods too. If you want to keep things simple… make sure you eat lots of vegetables, particularly the dark green ones and include plenty of herbs.