Acids have a pH level of less than 7 while alkalis have a pH level of more than 7. Acids are sour in taste while alkalis neutralize acids. Our stomach secretes gastric juice during the process of digestion. The pH balance of the stomach is 2 to 3.5, which is highly acidic but helps in proper digestion. The stomach's pH may be further decreased due to unhealthy food habits and lifestyle. It causes gastric problems, acid reflux, and acidity.
Most urban dwellers include a large number of acidic foods in their diets such as cheese sandwiches, burgers, samosa, rolls, pizza, colas, pastries, bacon, sausages, and doughnuts. The acidic balance in the stomach can be hampered due to these foods. Acid ash is left behind when these foods are broken down and may cause stomach problems.
Foods that are acidic in nature when digested include whole grains, dairy products, meat, eggs, refined sugar, and processed food items. It should be noted that the actual pH of food has nothing to do with the food's alkaline or acidic forming tendency in the body. Some foods such as citrus fruits are acidic in nature, but in our body, it has an alkalizing effect.
Alkaline foods are important since they can help bring balance in the body. For years, experts and doctors have been saying that we should have a healthy balanced meal that contains a mix of everything. However, we should not restrain ourselves to certain foods. The risks of acidity and acid reflux are counteracted by alkaline foods. To create a balanced diet, most traditional Indian meals contain alkaline ingredients.
Examples of alkaline foods are fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. These foods have a low-calorie density. The ideal balance between acidifying and alkalizing foods is created by healthy alkaline foods. Organ systems in our body also adapt to neutralize and eliminate excess acid. However, there is a limit to acid elimination even in people with healthy bodies.
An alkaline diet is also called as the "acid-ash diet". Alkaline foods can influence the acid-base homeostasis in the body and are thought to produce a "net alkaline effect". According to advocates, an alkaline environment in the body is very beneficial. It helps in weight loss, increases energy, and boosts the immune system. However, it's hard to say that an alkaline diet provides real positive effects when it comes to the pH balance of the body since there are still no substantiated claims in spite of having lots of data.
How does pH affect health?
To properly function, the human body needs to maintain a pH range of 7.35 to 7.45. Aside from body fluids and tissues, this pH is ideal for the digestion of foods. Blood is neutral and it helps in the transportation of these substances. The body can get seriously affected if the body's pH is altered.
Does an alkaline diet work?
It is important to establish specific goals and indicators of success to determine if the diet really works. An alkaline diet is strong from a nutritional point of view. Instead of meat and grains, the diet centers on fruits and vegetables. According to researchers, the excessive consumption of processed foods, simple sugars, starchy foods, saturated fat, and meat can cause health problems. An alkaline diet supports one's health since it contains health-promoting foods. The entire point of an alkaline diet is to not change the internal acid level.
The pH of urine may be affected by the food we eat, but the body's pH level is not altered. An alkaline diet can offer good dietary recommendations. A study done at Tufts University included 400 men and women above the age of 65, who followed an alkaline diet. The study revealed that the actual benefit may be from the potassium content in healthy foods instead of the net alkaline load. At the end of the trial, it was revealed that those who consumed potassium-rich fruits and vegetables had more lean mass than the control group.
Alkaline foods are usually nutrient-dense and contain fewer calories. Alkaline foods support the immune system and promote gut health. An alkaline diet also promotes eating foods rich in vitamin C along with organic plant-based food. When foods rich in omega-6 fatty acids are avoided, there is also a reduction in the level of arachidonic acid, which causes inflammation associated with joint pain and heart problems.
An alkaline diet recommends the avoidance of food containing refined sugar or processed foods since these foods are common causes of imbalances and do not offer any nutritional benefits.
Benefits of Alkaline Foods
1. Protects Muscle Mass and Bone Density
An individual's intake of minerals is quite important in the development and maintenance of bone structures. Research reveals that when people consume more vegetables and alkaline foods, the better protection they get against muscle wasting and decreased bone strength as they age. The condition is called sarcopenia, which is the loss of muscle mass associated with aging.
The ratios of minerals can be balanced with the help of alkaline foods. The ratios of minerals need to be balanced, so that lean muscle mass could be maintained. It includes the maintenance of magnesium, calcium, and phosphate. Moreover, the production of growth hormones and the absorption of vitamin D are improved with alkaline food consumption. An alkaline diet not only mitigates chronic diseases, but also protects the bones.
2. Reduced Risk of Stroke and Hypertension
Low inflammation in the body is one of the anti-aging effects of alkaline foods. The production of growth hormones is also increased. Studies have revealed that an alkaline diet improves cardiovascular health and protects individuals against hypertension, stroke, kidney stones, high cholesterol, and memory loss.
3. Lowers Inflammation and Chronic Pain
A connection has been found between alkaline foods and low levels of chronic pain. Chronic back pain, muscle spasms, inflammation, menstrual symptoms, headache, and joint pain can be caused by chronic acidosis. According to one study conducted by the German Society for Minerals and Trace Elements, 76 out of 82 patients with chronic back pain who were given alkaline supplements on a daily basis experienced a reduction in pain, which was measured using the "Arhus low back pain rating scale".
4. Prevents Magnesium Deficiency and Improves Vitamin Absorption
An increase in magnesium is required for the proper functioning of hundreds of processes and enzyme system in the body. People may experience symptoms of magnesium deficiency such as muscle pain, anxiety, heart complications, and sleep troubles. Moreover, magnesium should be available to activate vitamin D and to prevent its deficiency. Magnesium is also important when it comes to proper endocrine function and overall immune functioning.
5. Anticancer and Boosts Immunity
The whole body suffers when the proper disposal of waste or oxygenation of body fluids does not happen due to a lack of enough minerals. Vitamin absorption is compromised due to mineral loss and the immune system is weakened by the accumulation of toxins and pathogens.
In the British Journal of Radiology, a research was published and showed that in an alkaline body, cancerous cell death is most likely to occur. Due to an alteration in the electric charges and since the basic components of protein are released, an alkaline shift in pH occurs. This shift is believed to be associated with cancer prevention. Inflammation can be reduced and the risk of cancer can be reduced by alkalinity. Moreover, it has been found that some chemotherapeutic agents work better in a higher pH, which can be provided by alkaline foods.
6. Helps Maintain a Healthy Weight
Leptin levels and inflammation can affect hunger and the ability of the body to burn fat. Consuming alkaline foods can protect the body from obesity by decreasing leptin levels and inflammation. Thus, alkaline foods should be increased and acid-forming foods should be limited.
The body is able to achieve normal leptin levels since alkaline foods are anti-inflammatory and eating the recommended calories needed by the body makes the body feel satisfied.
Alkalinity is promoted by fresh fruits and vegetables, which include:
- Summer black radish
- Barley grass
- Green beans
- Ripe bananas
- Red beet
Raw foods are also alkaline foods. Uncooked vegetables and fresh fruits are considered to be life-giving or biogenic. Alkalizing minerals get depleted by cooking foods. The intake of raw foods should be increased by juicing fruits and lightly steaming vegetables.
Good choices of alkaline foods are almonds, lima beans, navy beans, and other beans.
- Alkaline Water - The pH of alkaline water is 9 to 11. It is fine to drink distilled water. The water can be slightly acidic if the water is filtered with a reverse osmosis filter. However, it is still a better option when compared to tap water or purified bottled water. Boost the alkalinity of water by adding a few drops of lemon, baking soda, or lime.
- Green Drinks - Green vegetables and grasses in powder form are used to make green alkaline drinks. The chlorophyll present in the food is structurally similar to human blood. It also helps alkalize our blood.
Other Alkaline Foods
- Green Leafy Vegetables - In our system, green leafy vegetables have an alkaline effect. Thus, it is recommended to always include them in our daily diet. Since they contain essential minerals, they are important when it comes to carrying out various life functions. You can add alkaline foods in your meals such as lettuce, celery, spinach, mustard greens, arugula, and parsley.
- Broccoli and Cauliflower - Both are beneficial for the body since they contain phytochemicals.
- Citrus Fruits - It is believed that citrus fruits have an acidic effect on our body since they are highly acidic. However, the best alkaline sources are citrus fruits. They include lime, orange, and lemon, which contain vitamin C and provide relief from heartburn and acidity. They also help detoxify the system.
- Seaweed and Sea Salt - They are known to provide various health benefits to our body. They are also considered as highly alkaline in nature. Seaweed can be included in soup and sea salt can be sprinkled in soups, salads, and omelettes.
- Root Vegetables - They include taro roots, sweet potato, carrots, beets, and lotus roots. They are great alkaline food sources. They taste best when roasted with sprinkled spices and seasonings.
- Seasonal Fruits - Adding seasonal fruits in the daily diet is beneficial to health since they contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They include pineapple, watermelon, kiwi, apricot, apple, grapefruit, and nectarines.
- Nuts - They are not only good sources of fats, but they also have an alkaline effect in the body. However, it is important to limit their consumption since they are also high in calories. They include chestnuts, almonds, and cashew nuts.
- Onion, Garlic, and Ginger - They can be added to enhance flavor and can also be used in various ways.