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.
One side claims alkaline-forming foods are essential to curing diseases and improving overall health, while the other says the studies are inconclusive. While research continues, anecdotal evidence is growing in favor of incorporating 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 of 7.365. But many foods are highly acidic, which forces the body to work overtime to neutralize acids and keep blood pH levels steady in order for our immune system, digestion and plenty of other functions to work properly.
Alkalinity means there’s more oxygen present—so 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), or overexercise to the point of dehydration, or have chronic stress, it can disrupt our balance and cause our pH level to become too acidic.
Ideally, a healthy diet should consist of 80% alkaline-forming and 20% acid-forming foods. A diet with large amounts of alkalizing foods reduces the body’s burden in neutralizing 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 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 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, the 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), wheat grasses, sprouts and micro-greens are also quite good because they help increase the amount of oxygen that your blood can absorb.
This one seems counter-intuitive since lemons and limes taste acidic. They actually have alkalizing properties, though. Add them to infused water, or drink cleanse water first thing in the morning to balance your pH.
Citrus fruits (lemon, lime, grapefruit, tangerines) are the most alkaline fruits we eat today. Citric acid metabolizes into water and other alkanizing 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 spouts. Cruciferous veggies contain isothiocyanate, a molecule that helps fight against the growth of cancer cells in the human body. So eat your broccoli to increase 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 forming foods.
5. Raisins, Nuts + Seeds
Raisins and dates make the cut, so grab a handful of trail mix with raw nuts and seeds as you’re running out the door. Raisins help the body retain nitrogen, which helps alkaline blood regenerate muscle mass. And almonds are high in calcium and magnesium, both of which help 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 about 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, 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
Bananas, are another highly alkaline food that are great to include in your daily diet. Not only do bananas contain a boat-load of potassium, they’re also a great source of dietary fiber.
10. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are an alkalizing food that provides your body with plenty vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. They do contain a lot of starch, but because sweet potatoes are so high in fiber, they help to keep blood sugar levels stable. Sweet provide your body with a boost of alkaline nutrients, along with energy.
Not only is pineapple an alkalizing food, but it’s also great for digestion. That’s because pineapple contains a digestive enzyme called bromelain in addition to vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
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 to keep your 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 a little grated cheese in the afternoon or evening.
A few tweaks can do your body a world of good and lead to more energy and fewer illnesses.
- Breathe Deeply
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.
- Reduce Stress
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 letting something go that’s bothering you (I have to continuously remind myself that absolutely no one cares how messy my basement is—least of all me) can be a tremendous relief.
- Try Meatless Mondays (or Tuesdays, or Saturdays…)
Take a break from meat once in a while to let your body alkalize. The process of metabolizing meat causes acid residue to form. It’s also believed that eggs, dairy, grains and fish produce this same residue, so taking occasional breaks from those foods is a good idea too. Everything in moderation, right?53