Find the Right Balance of Acid and Alkaline Foods

Long ago in science class, I learned about the pH scale which measures the relative acidity of a solution. Acid solutions generally measure between 0 and 7, while base (or alkaline) solutions measure between 7 and 14. At room temperature, pure water is neither acidic nor basic and has a pH of 7.

balance acid and alkaline foodsAs the human body is predominantly liquid, it has a pH as well. It runs between 7.35 and 7.45, which is alkaline. It must maintain this environment for all necessary cellular functions and reactions to occur. When faced with an influx of acidic material, the body has the ability to neutralize it within reasonable limits. But this activity can have unwanted consequences – e.g., leaching the calcium out of our bones. Excess acid disrupts the delicate machinery of the body.

An acid-forming diet introduces excess acids into our bodies. Until I read a little booklet about it, I had no idea what that statement meant. I didn’t know which foods were acid and which were alkaline. At a high level, here’s how they play out:

Alkaline-Forming Acid-Forming
Most fruits
Most vegetables
Most spices
Most herbs and seasonings
Most seeds and nuts
Most Grains
Most Legumes

The worksheet on acid/alkaline foods provides more detailed information. Looking through it, I found many things that seemed counter-intuitive. For example, I would have thought that citrus fruits (lemons, limes, grapefruits, oranges) were acidic, but they’re alkaline! I also noticed that honey, maple syrup, sugar, and cocoa sit on the acid side of the divide. Finally, sea salt is “most alkaline” while common table salt is “most acid.” (Fortunately, I’m not big on salt, period!)

A health-promoting diet ensures that the body is not battling an excess of acid. The 5 principles of the Alkaline Way® Diet are:

  1. Eat high quality foods – fresh fruits and vegetables, free-range poultry, grass-fed meats.
  2. Restore health by eating 80% of foods from alkaline sources; maintain health by eating 60% of food from alkaline sources.
  3. Eat a wide variety of high quality foods as each delivers its special blend of vital nutrients and helps sustain healthy digestion.
  4. Strike the right balance of acid and alkaline foods at each meal. (When your plate is filled with colorful produce, you’re on the right path!)
  5. Consume enough fiber and pure water to keep things moving smoothly through the digestive tract.

Some quick tips to boost your daily dose of alkaline foods:

  • Drink the juice of a half of a lemon or lime or a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in 6-8 ounces of water a few times during the day.
  • Add lentils, yams, and sweet potatoes to your diet regularly.
  • Eat at least 1 cup of alkalizing greens daily – i.e., kale, mustard greens, collard greens, or endive. (Note: Spinach is acid-forming!)
  • Add miso and seaweed soups as a precursor to meals. They are alkalizing and aide in digestion.
  • Give preferential treatment to oats, quinoa, and wild rice when choosing grains.
  • Enjoy liberal amounts of fresh fruit and avoid dried fruit.

Note: The Alkaline Way® Diet was developed by Susan Brown, PhD, CCN and Russell Jaffe, MD, PhD, CCN.