Eating alkaline foods for optimal health, a.k.a., the “alkaline diet,” while controversial, remains popular in celebrity circles, with proponents claiming that it can lower your risk of cancer and other health problems by reducing the acidity in your blood.
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While there is little scientific evidence to back up the alkaline diet’s claims (more on that later), incorporating these fresh, whole, alkaline foods into your existing diet certainly won’t harm you, either.
Below, we name the top 10 alkaline foods to enjoy every day, while going into the pros and cons of an alkaline diet a bit further, so you can decide if alkaline is right for you.
Nutritious and delicious, broccoli is a good addition to any healthy diet. It helps increase your alkaline levels. Just remember, the health benefits and nutritional value of broccoli are greatly reduced by boiling it.
Asparagus is low in calories and sodium, and is great as part of a meal or a snack. Not everyone likes asparagus, but there are a myriad benefits of including it in your diet.
Carrots are great source of Vitamin A and dietary fibre. You can eat carrots in many different ways, and they make a perfect and delicious snack.
Who doesn’t love bananas? These yellow fan-favourites have lots of vitamin B and dietary fibre, and are another great food to eat on the go.
A staple food for many people, potatoes have a low acid content, and are packed full of vitamins and minerals.
Apricots are a delicious fruit that fit perfectly into an alkaline diet. They are full of fibre, which is great no matter what kind of diet you are going for.
Spinach is a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and many other vitamins and minerals. Eat spinach cooked, as a mixed salad, in a smoothie or in a sandwich.
Raisins are chock full of antioxidants and can help satisfy sugar cravings. A study by the American College of Cardiology even suggests that raisins can help lower blood pressure.
Cherries are an addicting and delicious fruit that are great for an alkaline diet, but, boasting antioxidants, fibre, Vitamin C and more.
If you want a fruit that is high in Vitamin C, look no further than watermelon. It complements an alkaline diet well, and can keep you hydrated during hot summer months.
Alkaline Diets: The Controversy
A favourite among celebrities like Kate Hudson and Jennifer Aniston, the alkaline diet claims that diseases are caused by acidity in the blood, and that balancing our pH levels is therefore the key to optimal health. This, of course, inspired a series of high-alkaline diets and cleanses, based on the idea of cutting out acidic foods and eating more alkaline ones.
The concept of an alkaline diet is to increase the alkaline content in your blood in order to decrease your acid levels. The normal pH range of your blood is 7.35 to 7.45, and alkaline diets attempt to push that level above the normal range. The thing is, your body has natural mechanisms for keeping your pH steady, so even if you manage to increase your pH, the effect will be temporary. Your body, in general, has a pretty good idea about what it needs to be doing to keep you healthy, and it will resist any attempts to upset its normal balance.
Unfortunately, there is very little scientific evidence to support the theory behind his now-famous diet. While it’s true that different foods have different pH levels, eating them (or cutting out certain kinds) has no real effect on body chemistry whatsoever.
“We have an incredibly sophisticated machinery to keep the pH levels where they should be throughout the body, and there’s not a lot that you can do, eat, or drink to change that,” Evan Dellon, MD, a gastroenterologist and associate professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, told Health.
Many of the foods recommended on the diet are fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds — proven health foods that are full of fibre and nutrition. The diet also calls for avoiding “high-acid” foods like meat, dairy, refined sugar, or anything processed, a.k.a, junk food.
So while the alkaline diet’s theory about pH levels and health holds no water, cutting out sugar and processed foods while upping your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables is sure to have health benefits.
Bottom Line? It’s All About Balance
The goal of an alkaline diet is to cut out foods that have high acid content. While there may be benefits to this, you should be aware of the dangers of cutting out entire food groups. If you’re not careful to make sure you get all the vitamins and minerals you need, you could end up lacking many of the nutrients your body needs that happen to be present in foods with higher acid content.
Examples of some of the foods you’ll be cutting out in an alkaline diet include fats and oils, dairy, and beans and legumes. If you pursue an alkaline diet, you’ll need to make sure you are still getting enough vitamin D, calcium, fiber, protein, and phytonutrients. It is possible to get those nutrients while maintaining an alkaline diet, it will just take more work on your part.
In the end, it’s up to you to do the research and make healthy, informed decisions about your diet and your body. There are conflicting opinions about every diet, and only you can choose the one that is right for you.