There's a hot debate regarding acid and alkaline-forming foods. The alkaline diet is based on the idea that replacing acid-forming foods with alkaline foods can improve your health. Numerous studies and articles support both sides of the argument [source].
One side claims alkaline-forming foods are essential to the treatment of certain diseases and improving overall health [source], while the opposing view says the studies are inconclusive [source]. While research continues, anecdotal evidence is growing in favor of incorporating more alkaline-forming foods into your diet.
What does "alkaline-forming" even mean? Read on!
Bear with me while we travel back to high school chemistry class and remember the pH scale…it runs from 0 to 14, the acids are the low numbers, 7 is neutral, and alkalines, or basics, are in the higher range over 7.
The human body is constantly at work to maintain the ideal internal pH range of 7.35–7.45. But eating too many highly acidic foods forces the body to work overtime by taking elements from bone and muscle to neutralize the acids [source]. The body needs to keep blood pH levels steady for our immune system, digestion, and other functions to work properly.
When we eat alkaline foods, our blood takes in more oxygen. When we consume too many acidic foods and drinks (including sugar, caffeine, dairy, and glutinous grains), overexercise to the point of dehydration, or have chronic stress, it can disrupt our balance by causing our pH level to become too acidic.
Those interested in following the alkaline diet will want to consume a ratio of 80% alkaline-forming to 20% acid-forming foods. A diet with large amounts of alkalizing foods reduces the body's burden to neutralize excess acids and may make absorbing food nutrients easier.
But when it comes to knowing which foods are acid- or alkaline-forming, things can get confusing. Foods that we think of as acidic aren't necessarily acid-forming once metabolized by the body. Two examples are apple cider vinegar and lemon juice. They are acidic to the tongue but alkaline in the body.
What are some acid-forming foods?
Acid-forming foods can be more difficult for our body to digest and also make the kidneys work harder.
- meat and poultry
- dairy (especially butter and cheese)
- refined carbs (sugar, white rice and flour)
You don't need to eliminate these foods completely from your diet, just aim to make them about 20% of the foods you consume.
What are some alkaline-forming foods?
Alkaline-forming fruits and veggies should make up the bulk of your diet. The idea behind this is that it's easier on your kidneys and body when you eat less acid-forming foods. There is also a theory that because alkaline-forming foods are easier to digest, their vitamins, minerals, and nutrients are more easily absorbed by the body.
It probably won't surprise you, but alkaline foods are some of the very healthiest foods. Each list seems to differ slightly, but this is a great chart for reference. Most of these foods are easy to add into your day. Eating them raw seems to be particularly beneficial.
12 Best Alkaline Foods To Add Into Your Day
Cucumbers and celery are extremely alkaline because of their high water content. Leafy greens (kale, collards, spinach, chard), wheatgrass, sprouts, and microgreens are also quite good because their alkalinity can help your body more easily retain its alkaline balance.
Citrus fruits (lemon, lime, grapefruit, tangerines) are the most alkaline fruits we eat today. Citric acid metabolizes into water and other alkalizing agents, so add a bit of lemon to your water bottle.
3. Cruciferous vegetables
Some of the best alkaline-forming veggies are cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. Cruciferous veggies contain isothiocyanates that help fight against the growth of cancer cells in the body [source].
So eat your broccoli to support your body's alkalinity AND fight off cancer. Yes, please!
Don't forget your berries! Low-sugar berries, as well as melons, papaya, and pineapple, are high on the list of alkalizing foods.
5. Raisins, nuts + seeds
Raisins and dates also make the cut, so grab a handful of trail mix with raw nuts and seeds as you're running out the door. Raisins are low-glycemic and excellent for providing antioxidants [source]. And almonds are high in calcium and magnesium, both of which aid in the alkaline-forming process.
6. Sea vegetables
Nori, dulse, and wakame are naturally cleansing and extremely alkaline. If you have any thyroid issues, make sure to check with your doctor before adding these to your diet, as the concentrated iodine content can interfere with thyroid function.
This wonder food is not only full of fiber and omega-3s, but it’s also one of the most alkalizing foods. And it’s awesome in just about everything. Bring on the tacos!
8. Beet greens
Although beet greens aren’t the most common green in our diets, their high alkalinity score makes them worth hanging on to! You can use beet greens in place of spinach, chard, or kale in just about any recipe.
Recipe to try: Beet Greens and Avocado with Creamy Tahini Dressing or add beet greens to a Green Juice Recipe
Bananas are another highly alkaline food and easy to include in your daily diet. Not only do bananas contain potassium, but they're also an excellent source of dietary fiber.
10. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are an alkalizing food that provides your body with plenty of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. They do contain a lot of starch, but because sweet potatoes are so high in fiber, they help keep blood sugar levels stable. They provide your body with a boost of alkaline nutrients, along with energy.
Recipes to try: Stuffed Sweet Potatoes and Moroccan-Inspired Sweet Potato and Chickpea Stew with Spinach
Not only is pineapple an alkalizing food, but it's also great for digestion. That's because pineapple contains a digestive enzyme called bromelain that has numerous health benefits [source] in addition to vitamins, minerals, and lots of antioxidant compounds.
12. Ginger and turmeric
Pungent herbs like ginger and turmeric are well known for their health benefits, and lucky for us, they also add to an alkaline diet. Packed with antioxidants, these flavor makers also help your body to keep its pH in check and your immune system in tip-top shape.
How to alkalize your body
It's all about balance! Aim to eat alkaline-forming foods to balance out the acid-forming foods. For example, have a side of veggies with your egg in the morning. Have a big salad full of leafy greens and top it with sliced avocado and some nuts in the afternoon or evening.
A few tweaks can do your body a world of good and lead to more energy and fewer illnesses.
This is another tip you see just about everywhere for helping with a number of ailments! The point of alkalizing is to introduce more oxygen into the body, and breathing deeply and consciously will do just that while making any other steps you try more effective.
Easier said than done, right? But simply cutting out a few small stressors, talking things out with a friend, taking a few minutes every day to relax, or emotionally letting something go that's bothering you (reminding myself that absolutely no one cares how messy my basement is) can bring tremendous relief.
Try meatless Mondays (or Tuesdays, or Saturdays...)
Take a break from meat when you can to let your body alkalize. The process of metabolizing meat causes acid residue to form.
It's also believed that eggs, dairy, processed grains, poultry, and fish produce this same residue, so taking occasional breaks from those foods is a good idea too. Everything in moderation, right?
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Gina Jansheski, a licensed, board-certified physician who has been practicing for more than 20 years. Learn more about Hello Glow's medical reviewers here. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.124