Thursday, 15 March 2018

Alkaline diet: why do we need it and how do we have it?


There are many diets out there, and you are probably not alone in trying to work through the minefield and decide which is the best for you.  Should you be keto, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, mediteranean and the list goes on.  There needs an element of individualisation according to your genetic tendency and lifestyle needs.

An alkaline diet is a diet that is high in fresh vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts.  A review in the Journal of Environmental Health 2012 showed that alkaline diets reduce morbidity and mortality from chronic diseases such as arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes and loss of bone density.

Our blood runs in a tight pH band of about 7.36-7.40.  Our body goes through great lengths to maintain stable blood pH.  A lower pH means our body is acidic, a higher pH means it is basic.  We want to maintain a neutral to slightly alkaline pH.  Alkaline diets have been shown to be beneficial for maintaining good blood pressure, preventing formation of kidney stones, build stronger bones, reduce muscle wasting, lowers chronic pain, boost vitamin absorption and help weight loss.  (NOTE:  do not confuse blood pH with stomach pH.  The stomach is the only part of the body that should maintain an acidic pH to allow digestion to pass through efficiently.)

The total acid load in our diets from our hunter gatherer diets to our current modern diets has increased dramatically.  Our foods have significantly less potassium, magnesium, fibre, essential vitamins and antioxidants and have significantly higher sodium, processed fats and refined carbohydrates.  This causes electrolyte imbalances and acidity.

How to keep an alkaline diet:
  1.  Buy organic foods that have been grown in an alkaline soil.  If you grow you own fruits and vegetables, give the soil enough essential minerals and seaweed.
  2.  Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, they are best bet to increase alkalinity.  Fruits and vegetables like beetroot, cucumber, cabbage, spinach, carrots, beans, alfalfa, barley grass, celery, watermelon, figs, tomatoes, mushrooms, lemons, grapefruit and kale.
  3. Eat plant based protein like almonds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, tempeh, tofu, sunflower seeds and hazelnuts.
  4. Reduce intake of acid forming foods, keeping it to no more than 25% of your food intake.  These foods include animal meat, shellfish, dairy, eggs, deli meats, peanuts, walnuts, grains and its derivatives, breads, and baked goods.
  5. Decrease processed and refined foods, sugar, coffee, carbonated drinks, alcohol and cordials.

Precautions and Implementation of Alkaline Diet

It is important to keep a balance of alkaline and acid forming foods.  Some acidic foods like eggs, fish and walnuts have much to offer in terms of nutritional benefits like essential fatty acids and antioxidants.  We are aiming for a healthy balance.  Eat a variety of real, whole, unprocessed foods like fresh fruits and vegetables and limit consumption of packaged and processed foods and beverages.  Should you be drinking alkaline water or bicarbonate of soda to alkalise?  The short answer is No.  Whilst short term studies done on subjects drinking alkaline water and bicarbonate water showed an increase in pH, these studies have not tested the long term effects and addressed the potential of the alkaline fluids in neutralising stomach pH that can cause more problems with pepsin and delayed protein digestion and acid reflux.

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