If you’re trying to lose weight or just feel better, you may have stumbled across the alkaline diet, a new way of eating generating some buzz. Attracting celebrity fans including Victoria Beckham, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston, is this diet right for you?
Although it’s only just becoming newsworthy, the alkaline diet has been around since the 19th century when a French biologist (Claude Bernard) discovered that changing the diet of rabbits from herbivore (mainly plant) to carnivore (mainly meat) turned their urine from more alkaline to more acid. The theory behind the alkaline diet is to eat foods that optimize your pH balance to a level of slight alkalinity (7.35-7.45). Alkaline diet gurus believe that an alkaline diet puts less stress on the body’s natural homeostatic mechanisms and that this is essential to good health. If followed correctly, proponents claim it can help improve energy levels and memory, headaches, bloating, heart disease, muscle pain and insomnia. Some advocates also believe that it can prevent and cure cancer.
To put the alkaline diet into practice, you will have to avoid meat, dairy, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, grains and processed foods. Focus on eating nuts, seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables such as edamame, artichokes, broccoli, almonds, coconut oil, and kale. The ultimate goal is to eat 70 per cent alkaline foods and 30 per cent acid foods, meaning you can still have a little of the “bad” stuff such as pasta and rice, although things can get slightly complicated.
The lists of foods aren’t intuitive. For example, lemons and apple cider vinegar, which are acidic in nature, are listed as alkaline, because of how they are metabolized in the body. The way you cook your vegetables, for example, can have an impact. Raw spinach is alkaline, but when you cook it, it becomes acidic. And different versions of alkaline/acidic charts may list the exact same food, such as quinoa, in both categories. The alkaline diet is more a theory than a program, so there isn’t a single accepted structure, which may make it confusing.
What do the experts say?
While it sounds good in theory, experts say that regardless of what we eat, that the body maintains its pH balance regardless of diet. And while there is evidence that an alkaline diet may help prevent the formation of calcium kidney stones, osteoporosis, and age-related muscle wasting, there isn’t any proof that an acid-producing diet would lead to chronic disease.
On the plus side, the alkaline diet is unlikely to cause any harm. Its premise to increase alkalizing foods (such as fruit and vegetables) and reduce the intake of acid foods (such as meat, salt, and refined grains) is pretty much what is considered mainstream healthy eating anyway. If you’re overweight, the diet will probably help you shift some pounds.
What do you think – is it right for you?