What you eat matters to your waistline and to your health. An alkaline diet menu promises to improve your health by reducing your acid load and decreasing the amount of metabolic waste you produce.
Research even suggests that an alkaline diet may have value in reducing morbidity and mortality from chronic disease. A comprehensive paper that analyzed the literature on alkaline eating published in the October 2012 issue of the_ Journal of Environmental and Public Health_ concluded that an alkaline diet may have positive effects on your health.
If you're following an alkaline diet plan, focus on eating low acid foods at all meals, including breakfast.
Alkaline breakfast foods include fruits, nuts and vegetables. Fresh-pressed green juice and a handful of raw almonds or chia seed pudding made with almond milk and fresh fruit are good options.
About an Alkaline Diet Plan
An alkaline diet is designed to support a healthy blood pH in your body. Human life requires blood to be at a pH of about 7.4 — or slightly alkaline. Blood pH may range from 7.35 to 7.45, but the pH value is really quite tightly controlled by the body. Your lungs and kidneys are the major organs responsible for controlling your blood pH.
The theory behind an alkaline diet is that, when you eat a less-acidic diet, your body (specifically the kidneys) has to do less to help you maintain the optimal pH.
The Problem With Acidic Diets
The analysis published in the_ Journal of Environmental and Public Health_ notes that modern diets tend to be lower in potassium, magnesium and fiber and high in sodium, simple sugars, saturated fat and chloride. This can result in a diet that induces metabolic acidosis, and as you age you may see a decrease in the ability of your kidneys to function well and regulate your body's regular pH blood levels.
So, if you follow a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet, your blood chemistry isn't going to change very much since the body keeps a tight hold on the pH of 7.4. But, this diet plan could result in changes in urinary chemistry and increased risk of kidney stones, as pointed out in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health research.
An imbalance in pH — specifically a shift toward acidity — is associated with a number of disease states, including respiratory distress, renal failure and reduced cardiovascular output.
Another issue with a high-acid diet is that it may decrease bone density if not enough alkaline foods are consumed. While it's necessary that you eat enough protein to maintain bone health and prevent muscle loss as you get older, you should be sure to eat ample alkaline foods such as fruits and vegetables.
A study published in the April 2018 issue of the journal Nutrients explains that a more alkaline diet can be especially valuable for older adults vulnerable to compromised renal failure and rapid bone loss.
Benefits of an Alkaline Diet
An alkaline diet reduces the acidic foods in your diet and focuses on those that place less load on your kidneys. By increasing the fruit and vegetable intake in your diet, you improve your intake of potassium compared to sodium, which may benefit bone health, ease muscle wasting and potentially reduce the risk of hypertension and strokes.
An alkaline diet can also increase growth hormone levels. The results of more growth hormone can be:
- Reduced signs of aging
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Optimal memory and brain function
pH Levels in Foods
As U.C. San Diego Health notes, the exact pH value of the food you eat doesn't really have a net effect on your body's pH levels. Low alkaline foods are those that have a minimal effect on your kidneys, or a low renal acid load. So even foods that seem acidic, like lemons, have a low renal acid load and are considered alkaline.
Foods that are acidic include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, grains and alcohol. Neutral pH foods are usually starches and sugars while alkaline foods include legumes and nuts, as well as the aforementioned vegetables and fruits.
Alkaline Breakfast Foods
Foods to avoid on an alkaline diet plan are breakfast meats, especially the processed ones such as bacon and sausage, as well as oatmeal, grain-based cereal and bagels. These may seem like staple breakfast foods, but you still have lots of options.
Green juice, raw nuts, fresh fruit and cut-up vegetables are great breakfast choices on an alkaline diet. You may also do a breakfast hash of sweet potato, pepper, onion and black beans, for example, if you seek something hot and hearty. If you miss oatmeal, go for a hot quinoa porridge topped with fresh berries and almond milk. Or, stir chia seeds into almond milk, let sit overnight and top the morning pudding with halved grapes, walnuts and sliced kiwi.
Eggs and an Alkaline Diet
Eggs, especially egg whites, actually fit into an alkaline breakfast. According to the American Egg Board, egg white is naturally alkaline with a pH value as low as 7.6 at the time of lay and increased alkalinity as the egg ages, reaching levels that are quite alkaline of up to 9.2.
The yolk is more acidic, with a fresh egg having a pH of about 6.0 and increasing to almost neutral pH levels of 6.4 to 6.9 with storage.
Enjoy an egg-white omelet filled with chopped peppers, spinach and onions, for an alkaline breakfast. You could add a whole egg and not greatly increase your acid load.
- American Institute for Cancer Research: "Alkaline Diets"
- American Egg Board: "pH Stability"
- Journal of Environmental and Public Health: "The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline pH Diet Benefits Health?"
- Nutrients: "Acid Balance, Dietary Acid Load, and Bone Effects — A Controversial Subject"
- UC San Diego Health: "pHear pHactor: Debunking the Alkaline Diet"
- Permanente Journal: "Plant-Based Diets: A Physician’s Guide"