The alkaline diet is a diet that emphasizes eating foods that are low in acidity and high in alkalinity. The diet is based on the premise that consuming acidic foods can lead to health problems and that by eating alkaline foods, you can improve your health and experience weight loss.
There is little scientific evidence to support the claims made about the alkaline diet, and it is unclear if the diet provides health benefits. However, some people may find that following the diet makes them feel better and may help them lose weight.
The alkaline diet includes a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes. It also limits foods high in acids, such as red meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, and processed foods.
How the Alkaline Diet Works
The pH scale expresses how acidic or alkaline a substance is. A pH below 7 indicates acidity, whereas a pH above 7 means alkaline conditions.
Quite often, the term acidity is associated with bad conditions. For example, biting into a lemon is unpleasant due to its acidity.
However, the human body utilizes acidity for several beneficial purposes, such as digesting food or fighting pathogens. The stomach cannot break down protein without acidic conditions, and the skin cannot protect against harmful microorganisms.
On the other hand, bile is alkaline to neutralize stomach acid as food enters the small intestine. Blood pH is also alkaline; the kidneys maintain its pH.
Many experts argue that dietary changes will have minimal effect on pH in the body because several mechanisms are already in place to regulate pH. While it could be argued that some foods such as protein can make urine acidic, this has little effect on the body overall.
So what facts are the alkaline diet based on? Some nutritionists state that the modern-day diet is considerably more acidic than ancient diets.
As a result, people consume food they are not genetically matched for. Some believe this could contribute to chronic metabolic acidosis or impact bone and muscle health.
The main guidelines of the alkaline diet are only to consume alkaline-forming foods and beverages. However, this can get confusing because not all acidic food will be acidic after entering the body, and lemons are a prime example of this.
Therefore, if you are considering the alkaline diet, it does pay to do some research first to ensure you are consuming the right foods.
The alkaline ash hypothesis is one method to determine whether foods are acidic or alkaline after digestion. However, some say this technique is not particularly reliable for deciphering which foods are acid-forming. Examples of known acid-forming foods include meat, dairy, and artificial sweeteners.
Instead, it’s probably best to stick with the list of foods already known to be alkaline-forming. Other than that, there are no other specific guidelines and what else you decide to include as part of your diet plan is ultimately up to you.
For example, you may wish to include exercise or promote better sleep habits to support your diet. Some also claim that a glass of water with freshly squeezed lemon should be taken every morning.
The Diet Plan
You should select more alkaline-forming foods from the following lists as part of your diet plan.
Fresh fruits and vegetables:
- Green vegetables, such as kale, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, peas, and beans
- Grains, such as quinoa, wild rice, amaranth, or rye
- Oils, such as olive, coconut, or flaxseed
Acid-forming foods include:
- Foods high in refined sugar
- Foods high in saturated fats
- Sugary drinks such as cola
- Artificial sweeteners
- Meat, including poultry
Acid-forming foods should be avoided or limited. However, you also need to consider that while some foods are acid-forming, avoiding or restricting them entirely is not practical.
For example, meat may form acid after being digested, although it’s a good source of iron and protein. If you want to include meat, avoid meats like corned beef or processed meats because they have a greater acid-forming capacity.
Except for the cost of food, there are no extra costs. However, supplements can be used if needed. Although these are not essential, following the list of alkaline-forming foods is sufficient.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Opt for alkaline-forming foods the most
- Maintain a nutritionally balanced diet – include foods such as meat even though they are considered acid-forming
- Cut acid-forming foods completely as some still offer excellent nutrition value
- Replace exercise with this diet
- Rely on this diet completely to overcome chronic metabolic acidosis or other health conditions
Sample Diet Plan
Banana and berry smoothie made with soy milk
Asian style vegetable soup with tofu
Wild rice risotto with your choice of vegetables, topped with almonds
Optional — add oven-baked chicken or salmon on the side
Health Benefits and Drawbacks
One review article found some benefits of the alkaline diet. These benefits include:
- Alleviating chronic metabolic acidosis
- Improving bone health
- Improving muscle health
Chronic metabolic acidosis
Older people are more susceptible to developing metabolic acidosis – a condition where body fluids become more acidic. This occurs because pH regulatory systems become less effective.
Opting for alkaline-forming foods may help to some extent. However, other inventions such as medication are usually required.
Improving bone health
As a result of highly acidic diets, bones may release more calcium compounds to maintain the blood’s pH. Because of this, some experts believe that an alkaline diet could help those with bone conditions such as osteoporosis. However, there is not enough supporting evidence to back this claim.
Improving muscle health
One three-year study found that a diet rich in potassium, fruits, vegetables, and reduced acidity preserved muscles by preventing a loss of muscle mass in older people. However, this is linked more to acidosis since this condition can cause skeletal muscles to waste.
The major drawback to the alkaline diet is that there is not enough evidence to conclude whether it significantly helps reduce acidity. As mentioned before, several mechanisms in the body already control pH in healthy individuals, and diet may have little effect.
Another drawback is that while many vegetarians can maintain a healthy diet without meat (acid-forming), the alkaline diet is very limited in protein sources since eggs are also classified as acid-forming.
It might be challenging to stick to this diet if you already consume many acid-forming foods. You could have cheat days or allow yourself to have a small portion of acid-forming foods every day.
The Bottom Line: Is Alkaline Diet a Healthy Way to Lose Weight?
The Alkaline Diet can be a healthy way to lose weight, but not because you’re only eating “good” alkaline foods and avoiding “bad” acidic foods like red meat and dairy. The diet involves primarily eating healthy produce and legumes while limiting processed foods, so by that measure, it’ll likely improve health and help with weight loss. However, there’s no magic involved with eating alkaline foods over a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins.