The Alkaline Diet: Does it work?

The alkaline diet promotes eating foods with less acidity to maintain your body's pH levels for the benefit of your health. What is it and does it work?

What is an Alkaline Diet?

What’s trending in the world of health and nutrition?

You may have heard of the alkaline diet and how it is crucial in order for you to maintain the pH levels in both your blood and urine, but is this just another fad based on loose scientific evidence or is it the real deal?

First things first, let’s establish what it is.

An alkaline diet is based on the assumption that foods can play a role in maintaining your body’s pH levels. This is due to the belief that when you “burn” foods, converting them into energy, they leave behind “ash” that can be acidic or alkaline that directly impacts your body. 

As a result, proponents of the diet say that you should choose foods that are more alkaline rather than acidic in order to stay healthy and stave off diseases.

Food components that leave an acidic ash include protein, phosphate and sulfur, while alkaline components include calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

In short, while foods being more acidic or alkaline in nature is true, what is not true is that food has any sort of effect on the pH level of your blood.

Foods to eat on an Alkaline Diet

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Certain food groups are considered acidic, alkaline or neutral:

Acidic: Meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, grains and alcohol.

Neutral: Natural fats, starches and sugars.

Alkaline: Fruits, nuts, legumes and vegetables.

This means that by eating more alkaline foods, you will have a more alkaline pH level in your urine, which could point to you having more stable mineral levels.

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What does the research say?

Research on the alkaline diet is thin due to researchers not exactly knowing what proponents of the diet want to say it does. In a study, it is true that alkaline diets result in a more alkaline urine pH and may result in reduced calcium in the urine, however, as seen in some recent reports, this may not reflect total calcium balance because of other buffers such as phosphate. And there is no substantial evidence that this improves bone health or protects from osteoporosis.

Another study that investigated the alkaline diet being potentially beneficial towards fighting towards found that despite the promotion of the alkaline diet and alkaline water by the media and salespeople, there is almost no actual research to either support or disprove these ideas. This systematic review of the literature revealed a lack of evidence for or against diet acid load and/or alkaline water for the initiation or treatment of cancer.

The fact of that matter is that eating alkaline foods with the hope of regulating your body’s pH, or achieving long-term health benefits, will only lead to disappointment. Your best bet is to eat alkaline foods (like fruits, veggies, plant-based proteins) not because of the pH of their byproducts, but because they are important components of a healthy eating style.

Finally, many alkaline diets fail to address a major factor in weight loss and wellness success: exercise. You should include fitness in any healthy eating plan that you choose. The American Heart Association and the CDC recommend getting at least 150 minutes of exercise each week. If you have any medical problems or are out of shape, talk to your doctor first.

Main Takeaways

The alkaline diet does have a role to play due to the healthy food options it promotes, but its core message is flawed.

If your blood pH falls out of a normal range, you more than likely have a serious disease or are close to death.

Eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly will ensure that you stay healthy, and no fad diet will ever solve this for you.

Long-term sustainable health and diet is largely down to eating the foods that are right for you and exercising regularly.

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