One of the latest trends in dieting is the alkaline diet. Now endorsed by some major celebrities, this trend is spreading all over the Internet, which leaves many people wondering whether the diet actually works. In this article, we’ll explain the principles behind the alkaline diet as well as the potential health benefits and health risks it poses.
What Is The Alkaline Diet?
The human body has a natural pH level of about 7.4 found in the blood, meaning that our body is slightly more alkaline than acidic (for those who are unfamiliar with the term, pH is a measure of acidity). The guiding philosophy of the alkaline diet is that the foods we consume should help us to maintain this pH level. Therefore, acidic foods are eaten in minimal qualities while more alkaline foods are given top priority in determining a person’s daily diet. The idea is that, by maintaining the proper pH level, people will be healthier and feel better in their day-to-day lives. In addition, many people who use this diet claim that it has helped them to lose a significant amount of weight.
Some proponents of the alkaline diet claim it has its roots in the dietary habits of our ancestors (think caveman diet). As hunters-gatherers, these ancestors had a diet that contained minimally processed plant and animal food sources, leaving dairy and grain products out of the equation. As these other foods were introduced, the average diet became more acidic. In a way, many people on this diet are trying to get back to their roots by consuming a more natural diet that shares many qualities like those of our ancestors.
What You Can Eat
An alkaline diet is composed of foods that alkaline – basically, the more bitter a food is, the more alkaline. The following are examples of some foods that are recommended for the alkaline diet:
- Dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale
- Lima beans
What You Can’t Eat
Those on the alkaline diet are encouraged to cut back on their intake of acidic foods, such as:
- Fruit juice
This doesn’t mean that acidic foods have to be completely eliminated from the diet. According to an ABC News article, the ideal ratio of food is 70-75 percent alkaline and 25-30 percent acid.
There are many potential health benefits for those who follow the alkaline diet. One of the most widely cited benefits is the decreased risk of kidney stones due to a high urine pH level. In addition, an alkaline diet may help prevent cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and age-related muscle loss. Many alkaline dieters also assert that the diet has caused them to lose weight; however, scientific evidence to support these claims does not exist.
Other purported benefits include the relief of the following chronic symptoms and conditions:
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Nasal congestion or excessive mucous production
- Frequent colds and flu
- Anxiety, irritability or nervousness
- Ovarian cysts and benign breast cysts
- Polycystic ovaries
Since the diet is largely vegetarian, some proponents claim that it can also reduce the risk of cancer. Vegetarians do have lower cancer rates, but this cannot be attributed solely to their diet since these individuals usually have better overall health habits as well, such as not smoking and exercising regularly. The same rule applies to alkaline dieters, so no specific links can be made in this area.
Unfortunately, sufficient scientific evidence to back up the health claims for the alkaline diet does not exist. In fact, some people who take the diet too far by consuming supplements or even baking soda to boost their pH levels may be putting their health at risk. Many doctors assert that the body naturally regulates its own pH level, and a low pH reading may be indicative of a more serious health issue, such as kidney failure, rather than a dietary concern.
Although many people using the alkaline diet plan feel better or even lose some weight once they make the switch, the difference they feel may be attributed more to committing to a healthy diet than to the specific diet plan they are following.
Making A Decision
While it’s true that there is no scientific evidence to back up the health claims that some alkaline diet proponents make, there are some doctors and researchers who agree that very acidic diets can be hazardous to a person’s health. It’s important for all individuals to maintain a proper balance within their diet, which includes eating many of the alkaline foods recommended in the alkaline diet. However, it’s best to talk to you doctor in detail about this diet before deciding to try it. He or she can help you determine how to go about the diet safely and whether it is a good choice for you based on your personal health circumstances.
The alkaline diet may be a very good system for determining which foods to eat. After all, most health experts recommend eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts and eating smaller portions of wheat, dairy and meats, which is quite similar to an alkaline diet plan. Following this type of diet may even help you lose some weight. Regardless, it’s best to talk to a nutrition expert or your doctor before starting any new diet.