As with any other eating plan, knowing the correct alkaline diet food list will help you achieve your nutritional goals. Equally important is the way it is executed.
One of the most important aspects of the alkaline diet is that it encourages the consumption of vegetables. On the negative side, the theory on which it is based has no scientific basis, according to nutrition experts. We explain how it works.
Surely you’ve heard of the alkaline diet, also called the “pH diet.” Celebrities like Victoria Beckham, Gwyneth Paltrow, or Jennifer Aniston have collaborated in popularizing it.
What is the alkaline diet consist of?
The alkaline diet is based on the theory that diseases develop in an acidic environment (i.e., with a low pH). Therefore, to prevent them, we should “alkalize” our body to increase its pH.
Many of its followers and experts, in fact, believe that this can be achieved through diet. According to this theory, optimum levels of alkaline pH in the body prevents diseases.
Following this thesis, the alkaline diet food list is classified as alkalizing and acidic, which has nothing to do with taste (lemon, for example, is considered alkalizing).
The diet should include 80% or more alkalizing foods and 20% (or less) neutral or moderately acidic foods. And by the way, highly acidic foods are discouraged.
Alkaline diet food list
Although there are variations among the different food tables used by alkaline diet advocates, in broad terms, it would consist of the following classification:
- Alkalizing foods (80% of the diet): Cucumber, spinach, soybeans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, lemon, grapefruit, avocado, beets, eggplant, celery, garlic, ginger, green beans, lettuce, onion, radish, tomato, artichoke, asparagus, carrot, zucchini, potato, peas, buckwheat, quinoa, lentils, almonds, olive oil…
- Neutral or moderately acidic foods (limited to 20%): chickpeas, red beans, seitan, melon, nectarine, plum, watermelon, cashew nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, apple, apricot, banana, blueberries, grapes, orange, mango, peach, rice, and whole wheat pasta…
- Highly acidic foods (not recommended): red meat, poultry, pork, eggs, fish, seafood, dairy products, mushrooms, chocolate, coffee, tea, alcohol…
In addition to following these dietary guidelines, centers and websites dedicated to the alkaline diet also recommend consuming certain alkalizing supplements.
Nutrition experts and researchers agree that there is no scientific evidence to support the ideas on which this diet is based or prove that an “alkaline body” is synonymous with a healthier body.
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According to some experts, the theory on which the alkaline diet is based has many basic errors.
Firstly, because the body has its own mechanisms to regulate pH: “We cannot change the pH of the body, only that of some fluids, such as urine.” However, in this case, it is not proven to have an impact on our health either.
This diet is not based on scientific criteria, according to Research Gate.
And secondly, because “the lists that alkaline diets usually have do not follow any scientific criteria, neither because the foods are acidic or alkaline as they define them, nor because they produce either acidification or alkalinization.”
The body does not have a unique pH
Another argument often used by experts to discredit the alkaline diet theory is that the pH is not the same throughout the body but varies greatly among the body’s different organs and fluids so that each can fulfill its function.
The pH scale goes from 0 to 14, where between 0 and 6 would be an acid pH; 7, a neutral pH; and from 8, alkaline in the body, as published by the National Library of Medicine (USA):
- The skin has a natural pH of 4-6.5 that allows it to act as a protective barrier. Normal urine pH values are between 4.6 and 8 to limit microbial overgrowth
- The stomach ranges between 1.35 and 3.5, which is very acidic to digest food, especially proteins
- While the range of blood pH limits is minimal, between 7.35 and 7.45
- The body regulates the pH levels through the kidneys, respiration
In other words, one cannot speak of “alkalinizing” the organism since there is no single pH. Hence, some advocates of the alkaline diet speak of “controlling” that of the blood and others of the urine.
The pH is different in different compartments of the body. This does not mean that we can change it deliberately, nor that it is so important in developing a disease.
The organism has its own methods for regulating pH levels through the kidneys, respiration, certain molecules, etc. But food cannot modify the blood’s pH, and when it’s altered, it is usually the result of serious diseases, such as kidney failure.
So, is the alkaline diet good or bad?
Perhaps this is just a physiological lie that somehow is trying to justify the consumption of foods that, in general, are healthy because this diet is based mainly on vegetables.
If a person improves, it is not because the alkaline diet is working, but simply because they are eating more vegetables.
According to some nutrition experts, if the diet is well designed, it can be healthy; otherwise, it can be harmful: “But it has absolutely nothing to do with whether it is alkaline or not.”
It is as if we say, is it dangerous to take only products of national origin? Well, it depends on which ones you take. It can be a good diet if you make it based on gazpacho, broths, seasonal fruits. Or it can be an unhealthy diet based on sausages, fried food, and gluten products. It depends on the choices.
It’s not that it is harmful; it’s just that it does not have the effects it promulgates. Even so, the experts insist that the benefits attributed to the alkaline diet, as explained, are not true.
Let’s say your diet produces this supposed alkalinization (which does not happen): it will neither purify, nor cleanse, nor drain, nor eliminate toxins, nor make you lose weight, nor prevent diseases.
If, after all, it can become a healthy diet, it is simply because it is based on vegetables, but not because it will alkalinize the body.
Alkaline diet food list and acid load chart
To find out how acidic or alkalizing foods are, their acid load in the urine is calculated. This makes it possible to choose the least acidifying foods.
The acid load of foods in the urine is expressed by what is known as the potential renal acid load or PRAL. It is calculated from their content in 5 nutrients that alter the body’s pH: protein, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Thus, we find:
Acidic foods: Foods with positive values exert an acidic effect.
Alkaline foods: Alkalizing foods obtain negative values.
Below you will find the acid load of some of the most common foods in the diet:
Greens and vegetables
- Spinach: -14.0
- Celery: -5.2
- Carrot: -4.9
- Zucchini: -4.6
- Potato: -4.0
- Lettuce: -2.5
- Eggplant: -3.4
- Tomato: -3.1
- Onion: -1.5
- Broccoli: -1.2
Fruits and nuts
- Raisins: -21.0
- Dried figs: -18.1
- Black grapes: -6.5
- Banana: -5.5
- Apricot: -4.8
- Cherry: -3.6
- Orange: -2.7
- Lemon: -2.6
- Apple: -2.2
- Almond: +4.3
- Walnut: +6.8
- Peanut: +8.3
Cereals and derivatives
- Whole wheat bread: +1.8
- White bread: +3.7
- Rye bread: +4.1
- White rice: +4.6
- Corn flakes: +6.0
- Pasta: +6.5
- Green beans: -3.1
- Lentils: +3.5
Fats and oils
Olive oil: 0
Sunflower oil: 0
- Orange juice: -2.9
- Lemon juice: -2.4
- Red wine: -2.4
- Coffee: -1.4
- Green tea: -0.3
- Coca-Cola: +0.4
- Beer: +0.9
Sugar and sweets
- White sugar: 0
- Whole sugar: -1.2
- Honey: -0.3
- Dark chocolate: +0.4
- Milk chocolate: +2.4
- Pork, lean: +6.7
- Chicken: +8.7
- Veal, steak: +9.0
- Lamb: +9.9
Fish and seafood
- Cod: +7.1
- Salmon: +9.4
- Sardines in oil: +13.5
- Mussel: +15.3
- Shrimp: +15.5
Dairy products and eggs
- Skimmed milk: +0.7
- Whole milk: +7
- Yogurt: +1.5
- Egg: +8.2
- Fresh cheese: +11.1
- Manchego cheese: +28.7
- Parmesan cheese: +34.2
Urine pH level test
One option is to measure 24 hours of urine, mixing it well, and another option is to take samples on an empty stomach and after meals.
A pH measuring paper is then introduced into the collected urine and the result is read.
The pH measuring paper comes in the form of strips. It is sold in any pharmacy, is cheap, and gives the reading in decimals. You have to be careful to keep it in good condition.
There are instruments for measuring pH, which are called potentiometers (or pH meters); they are costly and can read up to thousandths.
But to measure the pH of urine, it is not necessary to refine so much. An adequate urine pH ranges between 6.3 and 7.2; lower is considered acidic and higher, alkaline.