Acidic v. Alkaline Foods: Does it Matter?

Many debate the validity of the popular Acid-Alkaline Diet. It claims that most foods cause the body’s pH to become either acid or alkaline, and that disease has roots in consuming an overly acidic diet. But is this true?

Many of my colleagues like to use the acid-alkaline system, but certainly not as the ONLY measure of nutrition, which I think would be quite foolish. Personally, the acid-alkaline model doesn’t really suit me. In my opinion, it’s far too simplex and misleading. I don’t eat vegetables because they’re alkaline. I eat them for many, many more reasons – they are delicious and make me feel great, are super nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory, detoxing, etc., etc. Moreover, it can be a real threat to avoid healthful foods, such as grass-fed meats, simply because they are “acid-forming.”

Here’s nutrition maven Sally Fallon’s 2-cents:

“The slightly alkaline condition of the blood is maintained primarily by the action of the kidneys and the lungs regulating the balance between the amount of carbon dioxide and bicarbonate ions in the blood…Good quality protein is needed for the body to maintain the proper pH values of the blood and extracellular fluids and to maintain the health and integrity of the lungs and kidneys, those organs which have the most to do with regulating the pH values of the blood. Phosphorus…is an ‘acid-forming’ mineral but actually plays an important role in preventing the blood from becoming too acid.” (Page 59, Nourishing Traditions)

And let’s not forget that too much alkalinity is undesirable, too. Excess alkalinity in the stomach may lead to bloating and indigestion because there is not enough acid in the stomach to break down proteins.

Traditional Eskimos lived on a diet composed almost exclusively of “acid-forming” high-protein foods, but when tested showed no signs of acidosis. Other studies have shown that healthy primitive people that were free of modern degenerative disease had a predominately “acidic” diet.

There is also debate as to what is and is not acid-forming. Some say that pure fats like butter and lard are acid-forming, but they are actually “buffers.” Buffers are foods with neutral pH. Sugar is said to be a buffer, but many say it’s acid-forming. Lemons and raw apple cider vinegar are said to be alkaline-forming, but in my experience are acid-forming (perhaps turning alkaline toward the end of the GI tract). It just gets confusing!

The only case in which I suggest an alkaline diet is in the very common occurrence of yeast overgrowth in the body (Candida) because yeasts thrive in acidic environments.

I do see how a meat-centric diet can lead to acidity, but the simple trick is to eat more vegetables! So, for instance, a successful Paleo diet really ought to emphasize a LOT of vegetables to create balance, in addition to foods and activities that support the kidneys and lungs (anti-inflammatory foods, anti-oxidants, cruciferous vegetables, breathing exercises, etc.). Good quality protein, eaten within a balanced diet is important, and may need to be restricted more if your kidneys do not function optimally.

Ultimately, I think the best scientific validity is in how the acid-alkaline dietary system makes you feel. Try an alkaline diet and see what happens!

Posted by Andréa in Nutrients April 19th, 2012 | No Comments

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