As a society, we are always trying to stay on top of the latest trends. Clothes, hair, shoes, even food. There always seems to be trendy foods to eat and fad diets to follow, usually based on some celebrity telling us it worked for them. The thing is, everyone is different so it’s really hard to find a ‘one size fits all’ diet or food plan.
Also, most diets on their own are not sustainable to the average individual and shouldn’t be taken as a ‘be all, end all’ approach to eating. What works for one person may not work for another, and while a lot of these diets have good backbones, you need to do your research and understand your own body type before you dive headfirst into one.
A hot topic diet at the moment is the Alkaline diet. In this blog post we’re going to break down what it means and hopefully clear up any confusion. First of all, it’s important to understand how the body’s pH levels work. pH stands for potential of hydrogen and without getting too science-heavy, it basically means the acid/alkaline balance of a substance. Acid being pretty self explanatory – the acidic properties of food once it’s digested in our system (meat, dairy; most animal products and processed food are highly acidic once the body breaks them down). Alkaline is the opposite of acid, it’s known in science as the “basic” property of a substance (most vegetables, some fruits, certain grains, nuts and oils are alkaline) and is needed to buffer or neutralize the acid in our system.
pH levels are measured on a scale of 1-10 with neutral being 7, which is a state neither acid nor alkaline. In this case, the substance in question is the human body. For a healthy individual, the human body’s neutral blood pH level is always between 7.35 – 7.45 (slightly alkaline). It’s very rare that the body will ever drop below 7.35 in a healthy person, as the kidneys naturally balance the blood pH level on their own, no matter what you eat. So unless there’s a problem with your kidneys, you won’t have to worry about your blood pH levels dropping below neutral. This is one of the main myths about the Alkaline diet.
Some people have said if you eat only alkaline foods and cut out acidic foods completely, this will keep the body’s blood pH levels neutral. There is actually no scientific evidence to back this up. As the body is so resilient, it will neutralize the body’s pH levels no matter what food you eat.
However! While our diet doesn’t have a direct impact on our blood pH levels, there is some truth behind the effectiveness of eating a diet rich in alkaline foods. If you eat too much acidic food and not enough alkaline food, your body can go into a state of acidosis, which can be a very dangerous condition if left untreated. Over acidity can lead to bone diseases like osteoporosis, tooth decay and bone spurs. It can also lead to things like weight gain, premature aging, bladder and kidney conditions including the very painful kidney stones, immune deficiency and much more. But don’t fear! There is a very simple solution.
Eat lots of vegetables, fruit and other foods high in alkaline (see the full list here: https://www.avocadoninja.co.uk/pages/list-of-alkaline-foods), and limit your intake of acidic foods and your body is pretty much guaranteed to never get to the state of acidosis.
It’s also important to note though, that most acidic foods are high in protein, which is a compound that the body does need. It’s just that these protein compounds need a “buffer” of bicarbonate or alkaline minerals (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium), to break down the acidity and regulate our blood pH levels. Interestingly, foods that you might think are acidic, like grapefruit or other citrus fruits are actually alkaline. It’s true they are high in citric acid, but the end product in the body after digestion is alkaline. Conversely, meat and other animal products will test alkaline, but are actually acidic in the body after digestion. When the body doesn’t get enough alkaline minerals for the buffering process, the body adapts by breaking down bone and releasing the required calcium and potassium, which will affect the body’s bone mineral density. This is why the most common disease linked to over acidity is osteoporosis – when the body takes those minerals from the bones, it creates a hydrogen ion that gets inserted into the bone in place of the calcium and potassium which is the cause of osteoporosis. Also, as kidney function decreases with age, it’s important especially for older people to have a diet high in alkaline rich foods as less functional kidneys won’t be able to naturally buffer the body’s acidic food intake.
There have been countless studies that have proven the link between poor diet and disease. Consistently having an acid/alkaline imbalance can weaken all bodily systems and leave us prone to all sorts of diseases. Having a diet balanced in acid/alkaline can be the ultimate weapon against many chronic illnesses. You shouldn’t completely cut out acidic foods as you will miss out on some important nutrients like protein. You want to fill your diet with mostly alkaline foods – a good place to start is by eating 70% alkaline and 30% acidic, eventually getting to an optimal 80/20 split.
What’s most important to take away from all this is, that the key to good health isn’t latching on to the trendy diet of the day, but staying active and having a well-balanced diet.