What are alkalizing foods and are they that important to our health?
You have probably heard about alkaline foods and the alkalizing diet often over the last few months. The alkalizing diet takes a different approach to our health than most that I have looked at. With the alkalizing diet, you look at food as the source of the problem, not a side effect.
I have been following the alkalizing diet for some time and find that it fits well into my plant-based lifestyle.
But what exactly is alkaline and why should it matter?
If you can’t remember back to your high school science classes, let me remind you what alkaline and acidic means and what it has to do with our health.
All foods and substances have a pH, which stands for potential of hydrogen, but that’s not really all that important to know. The pH scale runs from 0, most acidic, to 14, most alkaline, with 7 being a neutral pH.
The human body’s blood pH is 7.4. This means that our blood runs on the more alkaline side. The body is awesome at maintaining its blood pH and will go to great lengths to make sure our pH doesn’t sway too far one way or the other. This also means that just a slight change in blood pH has a drastic effect on our health.
That’s where alkalizing foods come into play. We all know the old adage we are what we eat. Well, what we eat plays a very important role in how our bodies perform. We can fuel our bodies to be energy efficient super machines, or we can feed it in a way that makes it work overtime to keep everything in balance.
What are alkalizing foods?
Alkalizing foods are those that have a pH higher than 7 when in their digested forms. An alkalizing food may be acidic in its undigested form, but has an alkalizing effect on the body. Take lemons for example. They are an acidic food, yet have an alkalizing effect on the body due to their minerals: potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
Foods that are considered alkaline foods include: Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes.
What are acidifying forming foods?
Acidifying foods are those that have a pH lower than 7 when digested. These foods will work to make your pH lower and more acidic. Foods that have an acidifying effect on the body puts more strain on the body’s energy supplies and can have a detrimental effect on your health if not neutralized with alkalizing foods.
Foods that are acidifying include meat, dairy, wheat, eggs, processed foods, and alcohol.
Why is it important to balance our pH?
Our body naturally works hard to balance our pH. Since the blood pH is more alkaline, by eating alkalizing foods, we expend less energy in maintaining our natural pH.
If the body was to become too acidic, that is when ailments arise. An acidic environment in the body will have a negative effect at the cellular level. It isn’t possible to have good health if our bodies are constantly acidic or going through acidosis, which occurs when our bodies blood pH is too acidic.
An acidic body is prone to fatigue since at the cellular level, cells are being broken down and damaged and our bodies are working overtime to maintain a healthy pH. An acidic environment is known as a stressor. When stress is high, cortisol levels will increase which impairs sleep.
Consuming acidic foods is the number one cause of an imbalanced pH that is too acidic. The body is set up to buffer pH naturally, but over consuming acidic foods puts undue stress on that system forcing it to work harder and put a strain on the bodies facilities. This causes our immune systems to falter which opens the door to diseases.
What foods to eat?
In order to perform and feel at your optimal health, you should be focusing on eating alkalizing foods. These foods are going to put the least amount of strain on your body and cause less stress.
You should be eating foods that have been the least processed and cooked. I always advocate for eating a diet that is based on whole food, plant-based ingredients for optimal health. These foods tend to be the best alkalizing foods as well.
A diet high in vegetables, especially leafy greens, fruit, nuts, and seeds are all alkalizing foods. Whole grains tend to be acid forming so should be eaten sparingly.
Eating foods that are acidifying is okay as long as they are eaten in small amounts sparingly and are offset by alkalizing foods. Having a grain at dinner will not be detrimental to your health if it is served with a large serving of vegetables.
What foods to avoid?
You should be avoiding foods that have an acidifying effect on the body. There are different levels of acid forming foods. There are those that are slightly acid forming including oats, brown rice, chickpeas, and hemp. These are okay to include when eating a mostly alkalizing diet.
Then there are the acid-forming and highly acid forming foods. These include meat, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs, refined wheat flour, white rice, and white sugar.
Foods that fall into this latter category should be avoided as much as possible or eliminated from the diet. A plant-based diet naturally eliminates most of the highly acidifying foods from meals naturally.
What are the benefits of an alkalizing diet?
An alkalizing diet helps the body naturally maintain it’s ideal pH levels. This requires the body to use less energy and puts much less strain and stress on ourselves.
There are many benefits to an alkalizing diet. Our immune systems are less taxed which protects us and staves off diseases. We have better longevity and reduction in morbidity and mortality from numerous chronic illnesses including hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, low bone density, and vitamin D deficiency.
Following an alkaline diet will result in stronger bones, reduction of muscle wasting, prevention of plaque formation in blood vessels, lower risk of hypertension and stroke, boosts vitamin absorption, help to maintain a healthy weight, lowers chronic pain and inflammation, improved immune function and cancer protection.
Here are my quick tips to an alkalizing diet.
- Eat plenty of greens
- Have a glass of lemon water every morning
- Decrease your intake of sugar
- Cut out meat and dairy
- Increase your raw vegetable intake
- Limit your alcohol intake
- Get out and exercise
- Limit your caffeine
- Eliminate processed foods
Following an alkalizing diet is not difficult. If you stick to foods in the most natural whole form and load up on green veggies and avoid acidifying foods, you can easily eat an alkaline diet. Plant-based diets are a great place to start when looking into an alkalizing diet plan.