Alkaline Diet: Overview, Research, Food List, and More

Alkaline Diet: Overview, Research, Food List, and More

The alkaline diet, sometimes referred to as the alkaline-ash or alkaline-acid diet, gained popularity thanks to its celebrity adherents. Notable people including Tom Brady, Kate Hudson, and Victoria Beckham have claimed to have tried the diet and seen success.

Beckham previously tweeted that her favorite alkaline cookbook is Honestly Healthy: Eat With Your Body in Mind, the Alkaline Way, authored by dietitian Vicki Edgson and vegetarian chef Natasha Corrett. The alkaline diet has gained a lot of popularity since then.

However, not everyone can follow a celebrity diet, and they don’t always produce long-term benefits. Not to mention that the fundamental tenets of the alkaline diet lack scientific support and may pose health hazards to certain individuals.

So, is an alkaline diet considered healthy? You can use this information to determine if an alkaline diet is something you should attempt.

What Diet Is Alkaline?

The basis of the alkaline diet is the idea that the foods consumed alter the pH balance of the blood. Chemistry education may have taught you that pH is a measurement of an object’s acidity or alkalinity. It has a range of 0 to 14.

  • 0 is quite acidic.
  • 7 is neutral
  • 14 has a high alkaline pH.

The alkaline diet’s proponents contend that diets heavy in some foods—like meat and grains—and low in others—like fruits and vegetables high in potassium—may lead to blood pH imbalances, which can exacerbate a number of health issues. The alkaline diet is frequently referred to as the acid-ash diet because of this theory, which is known as the acid-ash hypothesis.

It is crucial to remember that this assumption is still just a hypothesis and has not been validated. As one review that was released in 2022 pointed out, there is no evidence to back up these claims. Furthermore, the review’s authors stated that an alkaline diet might potentially be “harmful” because it severely restricts important elements like calcium and protein.[1]

The alkaline diet promotes generally good eating habits, such as placing an emphasis on unprocessed and plant-based meals and minimizing red meat and refined carbohydrates, even though the pH of food probably has no bearing. According to one study, eating an alkaline diet increases the intake of certain micronutrients, including magnesium and potassium, which may help reduce the risk of stroke and hypertension while also enhancing bone health, cognitive function, and cardiovascular health.[2]

How Is the Alkaline Diet Implemented?

Foods are categorized in the alkaline diet based on the amount of acid they produce after digestion. That quantity and the acidity of food in its unprocessed form aren’t always the same. According to studies, meals that make acids have a pH of less than 7, and foods that form alkalines have a pH of more than 7.[3] Foods with a pH of approximately 7 are regarded as neutral. In light of this, the diet suggests:

Steer clear of foods that cause acidity, such as dairy, meat, fish, eggs, wheat, and alcohol
Eating a lot of foods that generate an alkaline environment, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes
restricting neutral foods such natural fats, sugars, and carbohydrates
Again, there is little evidence to suggest that the pH of food affects general health, but a wealth of data indicates that dietary modifications to the body’s pH are simply impossible. The pH levels of different physiological parts actually differ from one another. For instance, the stomach must be extremely acidic in order to carry out its function.

The body’s pH levels are strictly maintained, and the kidneys and lungs play a major role in preserving a balanced pH. According to Jennifer Fitzgibbon, RDN, a licensed oncology dietitian at Stony Brook University Cancer Center in New York, blood pH ranges from 7.2 to 7.45. The pH of urine is likewise regulated by the kidneys; normal urine pH tests range from 4.6 (more acidic) to 8.0 (more alkaline).[4]

Your body’s pH cannot be altered by your eating habits. Urine pH can be determined with a simple dipstick test, commonly known as a urine test strip, but it won’t reveal your overall levels because urine pH doesn’t reflect your body’s pH. However, you may notice a difference in your urine pH. This is because, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), the body may excrete more acid through the urine in order to maintain apH balance.[5]

Your body is experiencing a major health concern if the pH of your body fluctuates. A low pH could be an indication of malnutrition, diarrhea, or diabetic ketoacidosis, whereas a high pH could be an indication of kidney stones or a urinary tract infection.[6]

What Potential Health Advantages Can an Alkaline Diet Offer?

Proponents and writers of the numerous alkaline food lists, manuals, and recipe books regarding the alkaline diet claim that illnesses and chronic ailments, such as renal disease and cancer, can be cured with it.

According to Adrienne Youdim, MD, an associate professor of medicine at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine in Los Angeles, these assertions are unfounded from a scientific standpoint. However, she notes that alkaline food lists are generally healthy, and you can fairly argue that emphasizing these foods is a good strategy when you consider eating strategies like the extensively researched and advantageous Mediterranean diet.

Although the alkaline diet has been extensively researched, none of the studies conclusively show that this strategy can affect cancer, which is one of the diet’s main selling points. According to Fitzgibbon, the hypothesis behind cancer treatment is predicated on the idea that acidic environments are favorable to cancer cells. Although this is accurate in a laboratory context, she claims that it is practically hard to change cells in a way that makes the body’s milieu less acidic. The following is what the alkaline diet and a number of chronic illnesses have been linked to in research:

Bone Health It has been suggested that an alkaline diet lowers the incidence of osteoporosis. The “acid-ash hypothesis of osteoporosis” postulates that by decreasing calcium levels in the body and raising calcium in the urine, an acid-rich diet—such as the Western diet—can erode bones and cause osteoporosis. However, the theory is not supported. According to one analysis, consuming an acidic diet may even be protective if calcium levels are high. However, it appears that inadequate calcium consumption combined with acid-producing foods may cause bone problems.[7] A different assessment came to the same conclusion: there is no proof that eating an acidic diet will prevent bone disease or cause it to worsen.[8]

Cancer Prevention Although much of the associated research has been equivocal, one study suggested that alkaline diets may offer a preventive advantage against hormone receptor negative breast cancer.[9] However, as many researchers have noted, the majority of results do suggest one dietary intervention that may lower the risk of breast cancer: eating less meat and more fruits and vegetables. The AICR asserts that food acidity and alkalinity have no bearing on human body chemistry, refuting assertions made regarding the correlation between cancer and an alkaline diet. Rather, the AICR suggests that consuming a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (without concern for alkalinity) is a good way to reduce your risk of chronic diseases and cancer. Thus, as one study pointed out, the alkaline diet may be a useful strategy for cancer patients, but not for the reasons advocates suggested.[10]

Chronic Kidney Illness Since too much protein strains the kidneys, people with chronic kidney illness may also benefit from emphasizing alkaline diets. One review article’s author made the case that kidney disease progression can be slowed down and kidney function can be improved by lowering the acid load on the kidneys through a low-protein diet that emphasizes plant proteins.[11] According to other studies, an alkaline diet reduces the pace of deterioration of the kidneys’ blood-filtering capacity.[12]

Heart Conditions Eating more alkaline foods, like fruits and vegetables, may help lower the risk of hypertension and stroke, according to a review of the literature.[2]

Does Losing Weight Help With the Alkaline Diet?

Any diet that restricts food types also tends to restrict calories overall, even though weight loss is not the main objective of the alkaline diet and is not supported by research as a major outcome. Furthermore, it’s widely acknowledged that sticking to an alkaline diet that prioritizes fruits and vegetables over processed meals might help with weight reduction and maintenance.[13]
An alkaline diet has been linked to the preservation of muscle mass, and muscle burns more calories than fat.[14] A more alkaline diet was positively correlated with larger muscle mass indices in women, according to a study. This is probably because fruits and vegetables have potassium and magnesium, which support the maintenance of muscle.[15]

Foods on the Alkaline Diet: What to Eat and What Not to

The foods in the alkaline diet are arranged according to their respective pH values. Some are less stringent than others, therefore even though grains have a slightly acidic pH, they might still be allowed for their health benefits. However, if you decide to try the alkaline diet, you should generally stick to the following food list, avoiding or limiting neutral meals, avoiding acidic foods, and emphasizing alkaline foods.

Acid-Forming Foods to Avoid

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Milk
  • Cheese (especially cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, reduced-fat cheddar, and hard cheeses)
  • Yogurt
  • Ice cream
  • Eggs (the yolk in particular)
  • Grains (white and brown rice, rolled oats, spaghetti, cornflakes, rye bread, whole-wheat bread)
  • Alcohol
  • Soda
  • Lentils
  • Peanuts and walnuts
  • Packaged, processed food

Neutral Foods to Limit

  • Natural fats, such as olive oil and butter
  • Starches, including corn and sweet potatoes
  • Sugars

Alkaline-Forming Foods to Eat

  • Fruit
  • Unsweetened fruit juices
  • Nonstarchy vegetables
  • Almond milk
  • Mineral soda water
  • Soy foods
  • Almonds
  • Coconut and avocado oils

There isn’t a specific meal plan or guide — although you can follow recipes online or from alkaline diet cookbooks, or simply use the list of alkaline foods above to create your own dishes.

What Are the Alkaline Diet’s Benefits and Drawbacks?

For general health, a more lenient alkaline diet that does not completely cut out whole grains and healthy nuts may be advantageous. According to the American Heart Association, a plant-based diet can essentially reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and other malignancies.[16] A review article suggests that a plant-based diet, but not necessarily an alkaline diet, may be beneficial for individuals with a history of kidney stones or renal disease.[17] The alkaline diet is typically healthy for those without a history of medical issues, though some may experience hunger pangs or may not consume enough protein to meet their needs. Not only are a lot of bad meals restricted, but certain beneficial items are also excluded.

“Walnuts and eggs are two examples of acidic foods that are quite healthful,” explains New York City dietitian Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, RD. She goes on to say that cutting out certain meals can make people compulsive and prevent them from eating nutrient-dense foods that we genuinely need. (Research has shown that eating items like eggs in moderation can be an important element of a balanced diet.)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise regular exercise and portion control, but the alkaline diet does not aim to help people lose weight even if it places a strong emphasis on plant-based foods.[18] Additionally, you can feel really hungry if you don’t know how to obtain adequate protein from plant sources.

In Brief

The alkaline diet belongs in the category of pseudoscience since there is no proof that the acidity or alkalinity of food affects general health or weight. The fundamental principles of the alkaline diet, which emphasize plant-based meals over animals and processed foods, make sense despite this. Before attempting the alkaline diet or any other restrictive diet, see your doctor to be sure you’re not inadvertently depriving yourself of vital nutrients or endangering your health.

Sanchita Patil

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