You’re already watching your saturated fat, sodium, refined carbs and sugar intake to improve your diet, but are you also watching the pH balance of your foods? What? As if limiting unhealthy fare from your diet isn’t enough, now you have to worry about whether your foods are acidic or alkaline? Before you run screaming into the night out of diet information frustration, here’s what you need to know about acid and alkaline foods.
Why does pH balance matter?
Your body’s pH balance, or acid/alkaline balance, is regulated by biological processes, such as respiration, excretion, digestion and cellular function. Your blood contains buffers that actually resist changes in pH balance. Your body is designed to maintain proper pH, and it likely does, unless you have a medical condition that prohibits acid/alkaline regulation. Does that mean your diet can’t play a role in your pH? Not necessarily.
Proponents of acid/alkaline diets claim that too much acid in the body leads to disease and that a diet high in alkaline foods (or alkaline supplements) will help counter acidity. Some research does support that a diet high in acidic foods can lead to weakening of the bones — and let’s face it, the typical American diet high in red meat, processed fare and sugar isn’t doing our bones or health any favors. But experts, such as Dr. Andrew Weil, aren’t promoting alkaline products, such as supplements or “special” water.
Acidic foods include meats and meat products, fish, legumes, plums or prunes, cranberries, peas, carrots, nuts, spinach, coffee, alcoholic beverages and artificial sweeteners.
Alkaline foods are believed to help maintain a healthier pH in the body. Alkaline foods include most vegetables, citrus fruit (it may taste acidic but they turn alkaline when metabolized), grapes, mangoes, melons, apples, pears, dates, figs, cruciferous vegetables, winter squash, sweet potatoes, eggplant and tea.
If you do an internet search for “acid-forming foods” or “acid/alkaline food lists,” you’ll find plenty of acid/alkaline guides, but don’t be surprised if one guide lists a certain food as acid-forming and another lists it under alkaline foods. More research needs to be done to refine the acid/alkaline lists as well as support whether or not the alkaline-focused diet is the key to perfect health. In the meantime, simply base your diet on fresh produce, high-fiber whole grains, small portions of lean protein and healthy fats, and you will be ahead of the game compared to those eating the typical American diet.