The Alkaline diet …what does it mean?!?
Believe it or not the theory surrounding the alkaline diet has been around since the 19th century when the French biologist, Claude Bernard, provided the classical observation of this effect when he found that changing the diet of rabbits from a herbivore (mainly plant) diet to a carnivore (mainly meat) diet changed the urine from more alkaline to more acid. It gained credence with early nutrition scientist in the early part of last century, but then laid somewhat dormant until recent years until prominent nutrition scientists such as Jeffrey Bland and Deanna M. Minich, started to investigate how blood alkaline-acid balance is connected with our optimal health and chronic disease in western world.
Recently it has exploded in the press and media with the honorary title of the newest and best “Celebrity Diet” as Victoria Beckham, Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow have all publically rubber stamped it as there ‘diet du jour’! That’s all very well and good for those celebs who have teams of nutritionists, trainers and chefs but if you or I want to do it …. What does it all mean and how does it work?!
SO here comes the SCIENCE bit………
The key point of this diet is to do with the pH of our blood. pH is the measure by which a substance is acid or alkali. pH 7 is the point of neutral in between the two, anything above (7+) is alkaline and below is acid (7-). The further away either ends of the scale towards 14 or 0, means the more alkali or acid the substance is respectively. Acids and alkalis work to neutralise each other so if you add them together it makes the pH become closer to neutral (ph 7)
When we eat food it is broken down and absorbed into our blood, depending on what food it is it will produce an acid or alkaline substance. Our blood is slightly alkali at a pH of between 7.35 and 7.45. By a process called homeostasis our bodies will always keep our blood at this optimal pH. So the theory is, that if we eat lots of acid forming foods our body has to work harder through the process of homeostasis to maintain the optimal pH balance. The process uses up the bodies resources and therefore we become depleted, moving away from optimal health.
Somewhat confusingly the pH of a food when broken down and absorbed is not linked to natural ‘whole food’ state i.e. lemons we know taste acidic but they are actually alkaline forming in the blood. Also some foods are more acid or alkali forming than others. There are long lists of different foods but, as a general rule most vegetables, and some fruits, nuts and seeds are alkaline, while animal proteins, processed foods, sugars, sweeteners, alcohol, some grains and fats are acid forming. As explained above, alkali and acids neutralise one another so it is creating the right balance between the two is the way to achieve results. The theory recommends 80% alkaline forming foods to 20% acid forming foods, but trying to avoid those on the very high end of the acid forming scale.
I would like to add that although the theory of the alkaline diet scientifically makes very good sense at this stage of investigation it is still only a theory. According to the rigours of science it cannot be said it is proven. However, whether it be proven or not, a diet that is based on a balanced healthy diet with high levels of vegetables has already been proven to help your overall wellbeing. Adapting your diet to become more in line with 80/20 balance of alkaline/acid foods will for whatever reason most probably improve your optimal health. Whether that be by balancing your blood pH or by increasing your antioxidants & nutrient density of your diet, whilst decreasing inflammatory foods, which it will almost certainly do too.
Learn more about how to incorporate the alkaline diet principles into your every diet by taking part in FRAME REBOOT-CAMP April 12th -19th 2013.
By Libby Limon, mBANT BSc (Hons) Nutritional Therapy