Just what is an alkaline diet?
When foods are consumed and metabolised in the body, a residue is left which can be alkaline or acid forming. Ideally in a healthy diet we should be eating 80% alkaline forming foods and 20% acid forming foods. In an alkaline diet we look at creating a balance of this pH ratio.
Many vegans or vegetarians will tend to have a more alkaline based diet due to the lack of animal proteins and milks, however sometimes you may unconsciously nibble on snacks or eat foods that perhaps are more acid forming (such as breads/crackers, grains, alcohol, spreads, sauces, etc) and this may be the cause a pH imbalance, this goes for meat eaters too.
Introducing an awareness of the type of foods that are acid/alkaline forming is about empowering yourself with knowledge of how you can create a healthier lifestyle which is dis-ease/illness free. For example, a general misconception is that some foods are acid forming namely lemons, limes, tomatoes or oranges are acid to us. This is true in the respect that they are an ‘acid’ fruit and contain citric acid, but they have a high alkaline mineral content and when they are broken down the citric acid is completely metabolised and thus is actually an alkaline forming food.
By starting an ‘Alkaline diet’ and looking at foods from a new perspective, one idea is to write a food diary to keep track of the types of foods that you eat everyday for two-three weeks, and compare them with the list of acid/alkaline forming foods below. Make sure you read the labels of your packaged foods too, and write the ingredients down – you may be surprised by some of the ‘hidden’ ingredients you find in so called ‘natural foods’.
You could also ‘kick start’ an alkaline diet by drinking smoothies, juices, and also filtered water, as part of a cleanse using just alkaline foods (see ‘Cleansing’ article in the first edition of Vegan Magazine – on the nutrition page here also), which will also help flush some acid excess out of the body and kick start yourself in balancing your pH levels. Then the trick is to maintain it!
Why is this good idea?
Your pH (potential/power of hydrogen) in the body is a measurement of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution, and is measured on a scale of 0-14. The higher the pH number, the higher the levels of alkaline in the body , and the lower the number the more acidic the body is. When a measurement of pH is 7, it is considered ‘neutral’ and therefore is neither acid nor alkaline.
It was discovered by Dr William Howard Hay, M.D. (of the ‘Hay’s Diet’) that people with a low pH had tendency to become ill, more so than those with a pH of around 7.2 or above.
If a person’s body be high in acidity then they are more at risk of disease, as the high acid levels actually weaken all their bodily systems. For example: In the respiratory system high levels of acid influence the cells and the organs are depleted of oxygen and this can cause a build up of mucus and/or infection in the lungs (colds, asthma, etc). In the immune system, anaerobic pathogens thrive in high acid levels causing bacterial, parasitic, fungal and viral infections, and even tumours/cancers. In the skeletal system, high acid levels and acid deposits in the joints of the body can cause arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. In the Digestive system excess acid in the intestines can cause bloating, gastric reflex and nausea. Also in the Circulatory system, arteries of the heart can thicken with plaque in order to ‘protect’ it, (not caused by good’ fats which can actually help to heal the body and arteries) due to the high acid levels in the environment of the heart. This thickening can be the cause of heart disease and heart attacks. Plus, on another note, poor diaphragmic breathing can affect a person’s pH as well as overall health.
A balanced pH level means that the body has enough alkaline reserves to combat excess acid levels (caused by too much acid forming food), and so helps to maintain a healthy pH level in body in order to resist disease. Increasingly our alkaline forming foods will help to put back this alkaline reserve in case of consuming too much acid forming foods. This is not to say we cut all acid forming foods out, as we do need a certain amount for a balanced pH.
How can it be achieved?
Firstly, an idea might be to test your pH levels just to see where you are at. This is really a rough measurement as pH levels can change on a day by day basis, due to what you eat, or drink and even how you think! You can test your levels by purchasing some pH strips (litmus paper) which can be used by dipping one in your urine or saliva. A urine test would show how well you are eliminating acids and optimising minerals in the body (the primary alkaline minerals are potassium, magnesium, calcium and sodium) and a salvia pH test would indicate the activity of digestive enzymes in the body. A reading of 6.5 or less might indicate that the body and its ‘buffers’ are not able to balance the acid levels. An ‘ideal’ reading is between 7.2 and 7.4.
To get the best reading would be to record the level in the morning and in the evening, ideally one hour before food or two hours after food. Should you have a reading of 6.5 or below, then introducing more alkaline foods into your diet would be ideal, and also reducing the amounts of acid forming foods or drink that you consume.
To start you off, I have listed some of the foods that are ‘acid forming’ and also ‘alkaline forming’
Carbonated water (High)
Energy drinks (High)
Processed Foods (High Medium)
Regular Tea (Medium)
Dried fruit (High)
Green Beans (Medium)
Root vegetables (Medium)
Most spring water
Most tap waters
Now, it’s not to say that you need to completely eliminate acid forming foods, just more that you are aware of the ratio of acid forming foods (20%), and alkaline forming foods (80%), and of course, what food type is acid/alkaline forming. As usual it really is a balance of foods that create a healthy balanced pH level in the body. Testing your pH levels once a week and making a food diary will enable you to measure where you are at with your pH and what foods can affect it.
Eating and drinking for a healthy pH is a way of life. Bring this awareness into your life and it could prevent any potential illness and disease.
Some suggestions on bringing in more alkaline foods and creating a better PH balance are listed here:
- Write a food diary and make the necessary changes to your diet and lifestyle (i.e. introducing more alkaline forming foods and reducing acid forming foods).
- Take plenty of alkalising green super foods such as(you can add a scoop to a smoothie, or juice each day SEE THE CLEANSING WEBPAGE FOR CLEANSING DAYS!):
Wheatgrass – It’s an excellent source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. Wheatgrass cleanses the body as it is a natural raw detoxer.
Barley grass – 24 times the potassium of bananas, 10 times the calcium of milk, 44 times the vitamin B2 of lettuce and 5 times the iron of spinach – Chlorophyll rich, it is revered for its immunity boosting and detoxifying properties.
Spirulina – Is rich in easily digestible protein (useful for vegans!) and well balanced in amino acids. It is especially high in vitamin B12 and beta-carotene.
Broken Cell Chlorella – a pure green algae rich in chlorophyll (chlorophyll is a biomolecule which allows plants to absorb energy from light. It is vital in photosynthesis)
- Make sure any supplements you take are non synthetic and are derived from whole foods as they are more easily absorbed at a bodily cellular level.
- Starting drinking alkaline ionized water
- Become mindful about what you eat and drink! Your food diary will help with this.