An alkaline diet is still one of the most misunderstood diets. Nutrition experts like to deride the diet for making false claims about body pH. To be clear, your body and blood pH almost never change – an alkaline diet is not designed to change your body or blood pH. The purpose of an alkaline diet is to lessen the external forces (from the foods you eat) that cause stress on your body. Let’s discuss this in detail.
Your body runs much like the engine in your car. Instead of gasoline, it uses food for fuel – but the results are the same. The food you eat is combined with oxygen and burned to create energy. During this process heat, carbon dioxide, water, and ash residue waste are created and released. In your car, this ash residue is released through the tailpipe and also accumulates in the oil – changing it from a sweet honey color to a black gunk. In your body, the process is more complicated and can lead to serious health problems.
The ash residue from the food you digest can either be acidic or alkaline. Your body tissues are naturally slightly alkaline and your blood pH is strictly controlled to always be pH 7.4. Acidic ash residue must be neutralized so that it does not change the pH of your blood.
Your body will do whatever it takes to make sure that blood pH is always near 7.4. It uses alkaline minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium to neutralize this acidic ash residue. It robs these minerals from your bones, muscles, body fluids, and saliva as needed. When alkaline minerals are removed from these tissues it leaves an acidic and unhealthy environment. Eating an abundance of foods that leave an acidic ash residue puts an enormous stress on your body.
The most common symptom of excessive acidity in the body is fatigue. In the long-term, an overly acidic environment in the body has been associated with many degenerative diseases including cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and osteoporosis.
Acidity in our tissue creates a breeding ground for illness and disease and allows yeasts and fungi to flourish – which can then rob the body of important nutrients and vitamins. An acidic body can also make it more difficult to lose weight. Researchers have found that acid wastes accumulate in fat cells. Your body may produce more fat cells to protect it from an overly acidic state by storing the acid away from vital organs.
Unfortunately for us, the typical American diet is high in foods that leave an acidic ash residue in our bodies: meats, pastas, breads, cereals, cheese, and sugar. Fast food, processed foods, soda, and artificial sweeteners also create an acidic environment in our bodies. The most acidic food is low-fat cheese.
On the other hand, alkaline foods include fresh fruits, vegetables, potatoes, and raw nuts. When these types of foods are burned for fuel, what remains are copious amounts of alkaline minerals that your body can use to neutralize acid ash residue. The most alkaline foods are lemons and watermelon. Now, this may be confusing since lemons are typically thought of as acidic foods, but remember – we are talking about the residue remaining after the food is used by our body, not the pH of the food when it sits on our dinner plate.
Most of us are eating too many acidic foods – too many meats, grains, and processed or fast foods and too little fruits and vegetables. This makes us feel tired all the time and puts us at risk for developing serious diseases in the future.
Ideally, your dinner plate would be about 25 percent lean protein and 75 percent fruits, vegetables and healthy complex carbohydrates (sweet potatoes). The goal is to balance the healthy protein with enough alkaline foods to neutralize the acidity of the protein.
Since this health blog is all about making positive changes in small easy steps, let’s discuss what we can do to improve the acid-alkaline balance in our diet.
One easy tip is to replace snacks such as candy, chips and 100 calorie snack packs with fresh fruits, dried fruits, and nuts. These foods are rich in the important alkaline minerals that your body needs to neutralize acid ash residue. If your diet provides enough of those vital nutrients, the body won’t have to take them out of your bones, muscles, and other tissues. Therefore, our goal would be an overall diet that is more alkaline than acidic – again, a diet that naturally provides enough alkaline minerals to buffer the acidic foods that we eat.
Another easy step in a healthier direction is to introduce just one additional serving of vegetables into our diet each day. Frozen vegetables are convenient, healthy, delicious, and are available in a wide variety of combinations. Raw vegetables are also extremely tasty, crunchy and convenient. Also, we must reduce the amount of protein we eat to a 4 ounce serving per meal. A portion of meat the size of a deck of cards is all that is necessary to give your body the protein it needs. It may feel weird at first, but your body will adjust and you will feel better.
For all of you athletes, following an alkaline diet will help you train harder and recover faster. I’ve been eating this way for the past ten years and it’s the eating plan that has worked the best for me by far – improving the way I feel, my energy level, and the way that my body responds to exercise and training.
It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle!