All foods have a pH value, the balance between acidity and basicity, or alkalinity. This information is useful in agriculture and food processing; however, it's also become the focus of a popular health trend called the alkaline diet. Rice is an acidic food, but its pH value has no effect on health.
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With a pH value between 6 and 6.8, rice is a slightly acidic food.
Is Rice Alkaline or Acidic?
The term pH is used most often in biology, chemistry and agronomy, and refers to the concentration of hydrogen ions in a particular food. The more hydrogen ions in a food, the more acidic it is.
The pH scale, ranging from 0 to 14, is used to measure hydrogen concentration. The middle of the scale — 7 — is considered neutral. Anything below that is acidic, and anything above is alkaline.
The pH of rice varies, depending on the type. White rice has a pH of 6 to 6.7, brown rice has a pH of 6.2 to 6.7 and wild rice has a pH of 6 to 6.4. Therefore, all varieties of rice are slightly acidic.
Read more: Top 10 Healthiest Fruits & Vegetables
PH Balance in the Body
Your body's pH level also relates to the concentration of hydrogen atoms in your cells. This level is strictly controlled by the body to keep a neutral blood pH of approximately 7.4. According to registered dietitian Keri Carpenter, in order to survive, blood pH levels must remain between 7.35 and 7.45.
Different body systems may maintain different pH levels, depending on their function. For example, the stomach maintains a very acidic environment, with pH levels around 1.2 to 3.0. This enables it to break down dietary protein and rid the body of ingested pathogens, explains Robin Foroutan, registered dietitian and national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Stomach pH doesn't affect blood pH.
The body maintains blood pH via normal bodily functions including respiration and kidney function. In a healthy person, there is no danger of the body becoming too acidic or too alkaline. However, certain health conditions can affect pH levels. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), people with pulmonary dysfunction and kidney failure may need assistance in regulating pH balance via mechanical ventilators and dialysis.
The Alkaline Foods Myth
Unless you have an underlying health condition, you don't have to worry about your pH level; your body automatically takes care of it and maintains a stable, neutral environment. However, proponents of a fad diet called the alkaline diet disagree. They believe that what you eat can make your body more acidic or more alkaline. One of the claims the diet makes is that by creating a more alkaline environment, you reduce your risk of diseases, including cancer.
This has largely been debunked by the mainstream medical community. The AICR explains that foods can't alter pH to reduce the risk of cancer. Although results from laboratory tests show that acidic environments encourage cancer cell growth, this applies only to cells in a lab setting. It's nearly impossible to alter the acid-base balance in the body.
Other claims are that the diet promotes weight loss, fights cancer, improves heart and kidney health, treats back pain, prevents osteoporosis and increases growth hormone levels.
Advantages and Disadvantages
The alkaline diet is a generally healthy diet that promotes an increased intake of fresh fruits and vegetables and decreased intake of processed foods, red meat, alcohol and soda. But this is the basis of all healthy diets, not just the alkaline diet. Making these changes won't affect your body's pH, but it will bring about dramatic changes in your health.
The alkaline diet also makes some recommendations that could possibly be detrimental to your health, including cutting out grains, dairy foods and fish. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies, warns UC San Diego Health.
Dairy is a primary source of calcium in the diet, without which many people can't get the calcium they need for strong bones.
Fish is the main source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are critical for heart and neurological health. The diet also recommends cutting out beans, citrus fruits, nuts and healthy fats from hemp, avocado and flaxseed oils.
When it comes to grains, there are good and bad. Refined grains fall under the category of processed foods. They have been milled, a process during which fiber and other healthful nutrients are removed. Refined grains are simple carbs that your body digests quickly, which can cause unhealthy blood sugar fluctuations. White rice is an example of a refined grain.
But whole grains retain all their healthful properties, including fiber, iron and B vitamins. Because of their fiber content, they are digested more slowly, which maintains stable blood sugar levels. Brown and wild rice are examples of whole grains.
In addition to a healthy diet, regular exercise is crucial for disease prevention. According to the National Cancer Institute, there is significant scientific evidence that increased physical activity is associated with a lower risk for several cancers, including colon, endometrial and breast cancers.
To reap these benefits, aim to meet or exceed the U.S. Health and Human Services Department's recommendations for all adults to get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise each week. In addition, engage in a full-body strength training workout twice weekly.
A Better Choice
White, brown and wild rice all have similar pH values, but they are not all equal when it comes to health and nutrition. The only rice you should consider cutting out of your diet is white rice; whole-grain rice can be part of a healthy diet.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics warns against fad diets that recommend cutting out one or more food groups. The alkaline diet falls into this category. The AICR suggests making dietary changes that are proven to reduce your cancer risk, including eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and whole grains like brown rice, and limiting your consumption of red and processed meats and other processed foods.
Additionally, the alkaline diet doesn't make any recommendation for exercise, which a well-rounded, health-promoting dietary program should include. The best way to protect your health, lose weight, build bone and muscle strength and lower your risk of cancer and other diseases is to eat a well-balanced diet and get regular exercise.
- Clemson: "What Is pH?"
- Vital Record: "Point of View: The Alkaline Diet, a Healthy Diet Backed by Faulty Science"
- Food & Nutrition: "Alkaline Diet: Does pH Affect Health and Wellness?"
- American Institute for Cancer Research: "Alkaline Diets"
- UC San Diego: "pHear pHactor: Debunking the Alkaline Diet"
- NIH: "Calcium"
- NIH: "Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Health"
- Choosemyplate.gov: "All About the Grains Group"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar"
- U.S. Health and Human Services Department: "Physical Activity Guidelines"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Staying Away from Fad Diets"
- Oklahoma State Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center: "The Importance of Food pH in Commercial Canning Operations"