a) That’s personal, don’t ask.
b) No, my last acid trip was in the 70s
c) I only eat 10 lemons a day—so, no, couldn’t possibly be.
d) Well there’s hydrochloric acid in my stomach to digest food—so, yes, obviously.
e) What the fig does that even mean*?
For most of you, the answer is e.
For starters, what is an acidic diet?
Every standard food (fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy items, etc.) has a number assigned to it based on how acidic or alkaline it is. (Basic is another word for alkaline). This number refers to the potential renal acid load of foods, or PRAL. The PRAL model measures the effects of diet on the acidity of urine. The theory is that every food leaves behind a residue known as metabolic waste, and the composition of metabolic waste affects your body’s acidity. Eating alkaline foods leaves behind a residue of calcium, magnesium, and potassium, while acidic foods leave behind protein, phosphorus and sulfur. The pH of your diet can be measured in your urine.
pH values—acid to alkaline—range from 0 to 14. The pH in your blood has a much narrower range, with a normal value of 6.36-7.44. The body strives to stay in homeostasis, or balance, so it does what is needed to keep the blood pH fairly constant. If it drops below 6.36 you are technically in acidosis, and below that becomes dangerous and is usually associated with serious conditions like disease or starvation.
- Acidic 0 to 6.9
- Neutral 7.0
- Alkaline 7.1 to 14
There is a lot of controversy over whether diet actually impacts the pH of the blood. For example, health coach Yuri Elkaim explains in his blog that alkalinity is essential for bone health; the pH in and around the bone area influences the activity of osteoclasts, which are cells that break down bone. (This process is called resorption and it leads to osteoporosis). By contrast, a higher blood pH correlates with more activity by osteoblasts, which are cells that build bones.
Yuri claims that if your body is too acidic, you are more likely to suffer from a host of symptoms including low energy, acne, brain fog, depression, headaches, colds, join pain and digestive issues.
On the other hand, the website Healthline claims that food only affects the pH of your urine but not your blood. In other words, eating acidic food will result in more acid in your urine but not in your blood. They argue that this is because the body works hard to keep the blood pH constant. For example, the kidneys produce bicarbonate ions that neutralize acids. These ions bind to your blood and produce carbon dioxide, which you exhale. So both your kidneys and your respiratory system work to regulate your blood pH, and any fluctuations are very minor.
I found a lot of conflicting information on other websites that I visited, including those of hospitals, so I went in search of scientific articles. It turns out that there are a number of studies that test the diet hypothesis. This one discusses the impact of diet on acidosis. Here’s another one that claims that acidosis is diet related and clinically significant. This one describes the correlation between acidosis and bone-destroying cells called osteoclasts. This one cites a British Journal of Nutrition study confirming a link between diet and acidosis. Diet appears, after all, to play a role in influencing blood pH. Notably, it can lead to and worsen osteoporosis, a disease in which the density and quality of bone are reduced. It turns out that the body leeches calcium from the bones to balance the acidity in your blood. As bones become more porous and fragile, the risk of fracture increases.
There is also evidence that an acidic environment can increase your risk for cancer, liver conditions, and heart disease. This list of foods to detoxify your liver are all alkaline.
What does this mean?
It may be too early to conclude that cancer prefers an acidic environment and cannot thrive in an alkaline one. But it is not too early to conclude that if you want to maintain your bone density, or reverse bone loss, eating acid-forming foods will likely worsen your condition, and alkaline foods may improve it.
So which are which??
There are many ways to compare the two kinds of foods. Here they are on a spectrum of acidic to alkaline. Yellow is acidic and purple is alkaline.
Here is the USDA PRAL list, otherwise known as Acid-Base Food Table.
As you can see, the most acid-forming foods are:
- leavening agents, wheat
- red meat, chicken and pork
- swiss, camembert and brie cheese
- candy and sweets/high-sugar foods
Neutral foods are:
- pure fats like cod liver oil and olive oil
- goat milk/yogurt
Alkaline foods are:
- most nuts
The most Alkaline foods are:
- spices, like parsley, celery flakes, dill, marjoram, rosemary
- beet greens
- lima beans
- dried apricots
Here is Yuri’s list of the best alkaline foods. They include beet greens, spinach, kale, celery and carrots. Unsurprisingly, these are known anti-cancer foods.
Here are some delicious recipes for alkaline foods by Yuri Elkaim:
Apple Cider Vinegar & Greens Detox Salad
Kale and Curried Chickpea Salad Bowl
3-Ingredient Paleo Sweet Potato Waffles
Keep in mind that the Good Food Fighter brings you diet and health tips, but I am not your doctor or nutritionist, and everyone has different needs and conditions. Some of you need more protein, calcium, or iron than others. This information is just a guideline, so discuss with your health practitioner if a more alkaline diet will help you.
How do you know if your body is too acidic? You can use pH test strips for saliva and urine. Here is one brand on Amazon, and there are many others, all relatively inexpensive and providing the same results.
*Who likes figs? They are one of the most alkaline foods!
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