Alkaline Diet Review

Alkaline diet proponents—including A-list celebrities—strictly adhere to a diet of alkaline-rich foods that are purported to keep blood pH levels more alkaline and less acidic, which allegedly leads to weight loss, disease prevention and can even assist in cancer treatment. Acid-rich foods include dairy, meats and grains. Alkaline foods include fruits and vegetables and plant-based proteins.

Though experts say the foods you eat won’t significantly change the pH levels in your blood; your body adjusts pH on its own. But—and this is a pretty big but (no pun intended)—the foods you’re required to eat on the alkaline diet are really good for you and are beneficial for heart health, just for starters. So an alkaline diet plan may be a nutrimental way to eat, but not for the reasons proponents claim.

Alkaline Diet Claims

“People who believe in the alkaline diet say that though acid-producing foods shift our pH balance for only a little while, if you keep shifting your blood pH over and over, you can cause long-lasting acidity.” [1]

Much of the discussion surrounding the alkaline diet focuses on the significant changes in the human diet over the last 10,000 years. Until a recent point on our evolutionary timeline, humans mostly consumed fruit, vegetables, and small amounts of lean protein. Once the food industry came into existence, we began eating more refined grains, fattier sources of meat, and processed foods that are high in sodium, saturated fat, and refined sugars — all of which cause inflammation and contribute to serious, chronic diseases. The alkaline diet discourages such foods. [2]

Alkaline Diet Ingredients

So what is an Alkaline Diet?

In an alkaline diet plan, meats of any kind, all dairy, all sugars (except from fresh fruits), breads, pasta, grains, processed foods of any kind, coffee and alcohol are all forbidden. Think fresh fruits and vegetables and plant-based proteins like tofu and beans—that’s basically it.

The Science Behind the Alkaline Diet

What is pH? It measures acidity and alkalinity, 0 being the most acidic, 14 being the most alkaline and 7 being right in the middle and thus, neutral. The human body is a little bit more on the alkaline side, so an average is around 7.4. Of course the gut is the most acidic place in the body at 4 or below; it’s churning away in there pulverizing food.

As far as WebMD is concerned, though the alkaline diet claims to help your body maintain its blood pH level, “nothing you eat is going to substantially change the pH of your blood. Your body works to keep that level constant.” [1]

That said, all alkaline diet foods are great for your body and let’s face it, cutting out sugar and processed foods is also a thumbs-up in any nutritionist-approved diet. In fact, researchers have found some evidence that eliminating acidic foods including animal products, may lower people’s risk for diabetes and heart disease, and improve bone and muscle health. And more.

And WebMD says there’s “early evidence” a high alkaline diet may help to block kidney stones and improve brain function. [1]

A National Institutes of Health (NIH) study isn’t so sure about the bone health claim, because it’s not conclusive that any increased pH in urine isn’t just transitory. “There is no substantial evidence that this improves bone health or protects from osteoporosis.” It’s the potassium-sodium ratio that may do that.

But NIH says regardless of the reason, eating more alkaline foods over acidic has a lot of health benefits, including lessening your chances of having a stroke, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. And, alkaline foods are more likely to help prevent the muscle-wasting which comes with age. [3]

According to the NIH, there’s a lot going on in your body when you consume more alkaline foods. And it appears, from a quick study of the available science, an alkaline diet might be an especially good one for the elderly. More alkalinity increases growth hormones, for example, which can maintain a healthier heart and sharpen cognition and memory. And the increase of magnesium that comes from a higher pH in the blood switches on vitamin D which, according to the NIH, “may result in added benefit for some chemotherapeutic agents that require a higher pH.” [3]

Besides recommending further study, the NIH cautions that the soil fruits and veggies were grown in matters greatly, so I’m thinking certified organic is the way to go.

Word on the Street About the Alkaline Diet

Madelyn Fernstrom, diet and nutrition editor for the Today show, does not mince words: “The reason behind it really makes no difference because it’s a health-promoting eating plan. But to say that the alkaline diet specifically is altering your body function because of a change in your body pH? That’s not something you can do.” [4]

  1. S. News and World Reports rated the Alkaline Diet 2.7 out of 5 stars. “Experts dealt it mostly lackluster scores, pronouncing it difficult to follow and noting that its nutrition profile isn’t ideal.” The review says that while it’s full of healthy fruits and vegetables, it’s difficult to follow and the reviewers aren’t convinced the science backs it up, [5]

Keep in mind that since there are no supplements or special gadgets or gear required, reviewers are mostly commenting on books that teach the alkaline diet. On Amazon.com, it’s The Acid-Alkaline Food Guide that is most popular and has the most reviews, with 250 customers giving it an average 4.3 out of 5-star rating. [6]

Reviewer “Eve” gave it a five-star rating. “This is your list of everything and its alkaline/acidic levels. Worth having if you’re looking to alkalize. There are also a few chapters on the basics that are very helpful.” [7]

But it wasn’t perfect. “Judy G.” gave it 3 stars: “Mostly ratings of different foods. Did not come away with a clear understanding of alkaline/acid balance.” [8]

Though not everyone was a fan—of the book or the diet. “Teri Powell” gave it 1 star and wrote: “I stayed on this diet for 3 weeks and when my ph test strips arrived I tested with them and found that my ph level was as far acidic as it could be.” [9]

For the most part, reviewers loved the alkaline diet recipes in The pH Balance Diet: Restore Your Acid-Alkaline Levels to Eliminate Toxins and Lose Weight. With nearly 5 stars from almost 95 reviewers, and at just $7 (from $2 if you buy it slightly used), if you want to just try the alkaline diet plan, this is the book. [10]

“jessica” wrote (2015, 5 stars): “This book saved my life! Easy to follow! Great starter book. I was suffering with fibromyalgia and it took doctors almost a year and a half to diagnose me. With that came every diet imaginable from each different physician I saw. This book is life changing! Finally found a natural cure and would recommend everyone to try.” [11]

And “Odyn” says (2009, 4 stars): “This is a good reference book for anyone starting/beginning to learn or carry out a alkaline/acidity pH balance diet. It does contain some recipes (needs more recipes) but is a good reference book on the subject. Recommended.” [12]

The Bottom Line: Is The Alkaline Diet Worth a Try?

Depends.Go for it, if you can stick to it and can afford it—organic produce can be pricey. Then again, if you’re not buying steaks… But remember, no fast food, no pre-prepared foods, no meats, no bread, pasta, or rice, no sugar and no alcohol.

You’ll probably lose weight. You’ll probably ward off some disease. But for most of us, this would be a difficult diet to follow in our everyday busy lives. Buying all your healthy organic fruit and plant-based foods and preparing them yourself is the best way to assure you’re not consuming foods forbidden in this diet. And that can be time-consuming.

Then again, it would be healthy and it could be enjoyable, if you love to cook and have the time. The other thing to note is that you need to make sure you’re getting calcium and Vitamin B12 from some source, since there’s no dairy allowed on an alkaline diet. And you’ll need to love, or learn to love, tofu and beans.

Or, if this seems a little too extreme to start with, opt for a Mediterranean diet that’s high in fruits and vegetables but doesn’t cut out fish or some cheeses—simply work in moderation. Either way, getting back to fresh foods isn’t going to hurt you at all.

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