Just What IS An Alkaline Diet and The Benefits? - Adaptive Nourishment

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This question has been posed to me multiple times of late so it seemed apropos to discuss it here. I actually first heard of the theory around alkaline and acidic foods in the mid-90’s. Since then, I have remained cognizant of the foods that I eat and whether they are considered alkaline or acidic. Now this does not mean that I subscribe to the lifestyle 100% of the time, but I understand the science behind it. So let’s break it down!

Alkaline Science

The entire basis for the alkaline diet is due to the scientific knowledge that our human bodies requires that we remain at a pH level of 7.4, which is in the slightly alkaline range. Basically, all cellular life on this planet requires a specific pH, or pH range, to thrive and survive. When the pH level goes outside of the normal range, then that is when disease and death begins to occur. Some quick points to note that have changed in our modern diets today, versus the diets we had for centuries prior, are that now:

  • Decrease in Potassium (K to Na Ratio used to be 10/1)
  • Decrease in Fiber
  • Decrease in Magnesium
  • Decrease in Bicarbonate
  • Increase in Sodium (K to Na Ratio now is 1/3)
  • Increase in Sugar
  • Increase in Saturated Fat
  • Increase in Chloride

The massive change in our diet over the past 200 or so years has actually caused cases of metabolic acidosis, which is when the chemical composition of the blood becomes too acidic. A few of the physical side effects of metabolic acidosis are:

  • Decreased Bone Health
  • Muscle Wasting
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Decreased Growth Hormone (which can affect memory, cognition and cardiovascular health, to name a few)
  • Decreased Intracellular Magnesium

The theory here is that if we eat foods that have a more negative Potential Renal Acid Load (PRAL) over foods that have a more positive PRAL, then we will continue to keep the pH of our blood at the proper pH of 7.4.

Alkaline Foods

The basis for this diet makes scientific sense to me, but there are still studies being completed to confirm, or refute, whether or not eating more foods with a negative PRAL will keep our blood pH stabilized. The bigger question here is which foods are considered “alkaline” and which are considered “acidic?” The following is a general list of which foods have a negative PRAL (alkaline):

  1. Fruits  
  2. Veggies  
  3. Potatoes 
  4. Legumes
  5. Nuts
  6. Sprouts
  7. Grasses
  8. Oils
  9. Tea
  10. Fruit Juices
  11. Mineral Soda Waters

Whole Food Nutrition
Whereas, these foods are considered to have a positive PRAL (acidic):

  1. Meat
  2. Fish
  3. Dairy
  4. Grains
  5. Pale Beer
  6. Cocoa
  7. Coffee
  8. Wine (although Red wine is more alkaline, they are all still considered acidic)

The Consensus

I realize that this list seems extremely limiting! This is why, even though I have known about it and am cognizant of the foods I eat, I don’t follow a strictly alkaline diet. Based on the fact that I have been a vegetarian with Celiac Disease eating organic and following a low sodium diet for most of my life, I already eat mostly alkaline anyway.

However, I really like red wine and coffee (just for the flavor not the actual caffeine) but have been recently trying to wean myself off of the coffee in lieu of delicious teas, such as the teas from Zest Tea. As for the red wine, I think that the sulfites have been causing some issues with me, so I am trying to find some other more affordable red wine options without them.

Cheese and eggs, but mostly cheese, have always been a love of mine. I was a strict vegan for a short period of time many years ago, and still have days now that I am, but I have a hard time giving up the cheese. I know that vegan cheese has come a long way since I was a vegan, but it’s still not quite the same yet. I realize the bulk of it is mental, so I am consciously working on changing my perception.

In all reality, in our current world, it is very difficult to follow a strictly alkaline diet. But if we can make an effort to eat mostly alkaline foods, as opposed to the detrimental acidic options, then we may just be keeping ourselves healthier. The scientific community is still out on the full benefits of following a strictly alkaline diet, but I think they would all agree that the food choices for this diet are all healthy options.

Everything comes down to balance, diversification and making smarter choices. Adding in more fruits and veggies, more healthy fats, more antioxidant rich tea and reducing the processed foods, grains, sugar, sodium, meat and dairy can only help us, not hurt us.

Have you heard of the “alkaline diet?” If so, what are your thoughts on it and have you tried it?