What are alkalizing and acid producing foods? In today’s article, I share how consuming or eliminating certain foods help balance your pH level, and how alkalizing your body can improve your health.
When you hear the phrase “pH level,” I’m guessing you have flashbacks to high school chemistry class.
While your knowledge of the subject may be limited to those acid rain experiments (remember how the paper changed colour when it was exposed to either acids or bases?), learning why pH is important when it comes to your health is a topic worth exploring.
You may have heard about the alkaline/acid relationship as it relates to diet, but what does it all mean? Can eating or eliminating certain foods help balance your pH level? And why is that even important?
Why Alkaline Gets an “A”
Simply put, some foods are acidifying when introduced to the body, and others are alkalizing. So what you consume on a daily basis will change the pH levels of your blood, saliva and urine. The pH scale goes from 0-14 (with acidic substances falling below 7 and basic substances falling above 7). Normal levels for body fluid pH hover right in the middle of that range. Foods can either raise or lower your pH level, and this is based on the mineral content of the food – not the actual pH of the food itself. Lemon juice, for example, has a low pH, but has an alkalizing effect on the body when consumed.
Now, let’s talk about why your pH level matters. A growing body of research suggests that having lower, or acidic, pH levels is associated with greater risk for conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Higher, or alkaline, pH levels, accordingly are linked to improvements in memory and cognition, reduced pain and lower risk of hypertension and stroke.
Another area that has been researched quite extensively is how pH levels affect bone health. Many studies have shown that low-acid diets can help improve bone density. One particular study published in The Journal of Nutrition also found that alkaline mineral waters can decrease bone resorption and even lower parathyroid hormone levels, which regulate the release of calcium from bone.
An alkaline diet, one that incorporates foods that can increase your pH levels, is also associated with an increase in growth hormone, which I call “The Fountain of Youth” hormone – it helps you shed excess fat, improve your libido and retain a general sense of well-being. Who doesn’t want that?
6 Steps for Going Alkaline
If you’re already someone who eats fairly clean, I have good news for you – you probably have a higher than average pH level. Yet you may be surprised to find that some of your favorite foods are actually acid-producing, and the ones you think are acidic really aren’t. Additionally, your pH will vary depending on the time of day, what you ate or drank the day before and even your stress levels.
If you want to boost your alkalinity, however, there are easy dietary adjustments you can make.
Here are 5 tips:
1. Pump up your produce intake.
This one isn’t rocket science, but many fruits and most vegetables are alkaline in nature. For fruits, avoid pomegranates, pineapples and raspberries, however. For vegetables, almost all are alkaline unless they are pickled or frozen.
2. Ban bread.
Unless you’re opting for a minimal amount of sprouted grains, get rid of tortillas, sourdough, white bread, whole grains and brown rice. On the acid-alkaline scale, most grains fall into the acidic range.
3. Chuck the condiments.
Most condiments, like ketchup, miso, mayonnaise or mustard are highly acidic. Also steer clear of canned vegetables, canned tuna and peanut butter (yes, even the organic kind).
4. Boost your beans and seeds.
Soy, navy and lima beans are all highly alkaline, while caraway, cumin, fennel and sesame seeds are good for raising pH, too.
5. Get rid of artificial sweeteners, but keep your stevia.
Popular sugar alternatives like honey, xylitol and beet sugar are all acidic, but stevia is alkaline.
6. Reduce alcohol, dairy and coffee.
Your wine and cheese habit isn’t doing your pH any favors, so minimize these foods. And if you can swing it, give up your daily cup of joe, too.
If you want more information about which foods are alkaline and which are acidic, check out this handy resource guide.
How to Test Your pH
By now you might be intrigued about giving this alkaline diet thing a shot, but how can you really tell if it’s working? The good news is that you can easily test your pH levels at home. Just head to your local drugstore or online retailer and pick up a pack of pH test strips.
You can test your pH levels often throughout the day, but try to do so at the same time each morning, as your body will be more acidic the earlier you measure. The goal is to get your morning urine pH between 6.5 and 7.5.
For saliva, your pH should be similar to your urine. Wait at least two hours after eating to measure your saliva pH. Fill your mouth with saliva and then swallow it. Repeat this step again to ensure your spit is clean, and then place some saliva on the pH strip.
If you’re not ready to completely overhaul your diet, that’s OK. Aim for about a 70-30 ratio of alkaline to acid foods. In addition to the foods you eat, know that stress can also affect your pH levels. Practice deep breathing, eat your veggies and drink plenty of water to lighten your acidic load.