The Acid Alkaline Debate
To understand this debate, we must first understand what pH is and what we mean when referring to the pH balance of the body’s internal environment. Your body comprises 70% water and then many other fluids. Human blood should be slightly alkaline – 7.35 to 7.45. Anything below or above is a breeding ground for disease, where the self-healing capacities of the body are compromised.
Your diet can be thrown off by the foods you eat and what you choose to do by abusing it with things on a daily basis (like smoking, alcohol, excessive coffee, tea, drugs, and antibiotics). An imbalanced diet, high in acid-producing foods like animal protein, sugar, caffeine and processed foods, puts pressure on the body as it struggles to maintain a good pH balance. At least 60% of your daily volume consumption must comprise alkaline foods (if you want to strive for the optimum, then go for 80%). To balance that, you will need an intake of acid-forming foods from the right sources. By consuming acid-forming foods, I don’t mean you can have those copious amounts of sugar, coffee, and processed junk.
The overly acidic condition that most people suffer from is called Acidosis. It decreases the body’s ability to absorb minerals and other nutrients, the energy production in the cells, and the ability to repair damaged cells. Other adverse effects involve growth in tumour cells and the body’s susceptibility to fatigue and illness. Acidosis will also disrupt the healthy ecosystem of your digestive system, causing bad bacteria to thrive in your digestive system. The various ways in which the body’s state of imbalance becomes visible include weight gain, bloating, cancer, hormonal problems, premature aging, aching muscles, low energy, chronic fatigue, slow digestion, irritable bowel syndrome, depressive patterns, anxiety, headaches, eye problems, dry/bad skin, leg cramps and then cancers as well.
While all dieticians/nutritionists harp on keeping the body alkaline, they fail to understand that a healthy pH balance is determined by the correct ratio and combination between alkaline and acidic foods. While a purely alkaline diet can make you feel great in the initial phases of regaining your health, it will, in fact, weaken you over time. A combination of acid and alkaline foods is required to produce what is termed an “alkaline ash”. Once digested and metabolised by the body, this alkaline ash helps to sustain a healthy internal environment.
A Macrobiotic approach is based on living foods like whole grains (millets, brown rice, barley, amaranth [rajgeera]) and lentils as acid-forming, while vegetables and fruits as alkaline-forming. This is why it's important to eat as many vegetables as it is to eat whole grains in a day. If you add animal and dairy foods, your diet becomes acid-forming. So make sure you maintain a ratio of 60% alkaline to 40% acid-forming foods to balance the acidic nature of dairy and meats. Our body has the ability to manage neutral foods and not overly extreme acid or alkaline energy. It is not possible to create a balanced acid and alkaline diet from a list, but what you can do is ensure that your diet includes a supply of both types of natural living foods.
So how do you start?
- Highly acid-forming foods like sugar, red meats, soft drinks, white flour products (maida), nuts (except almonds), wine, beer, sweeteners (which include synthetic ones and refined ones), and vinegar. All processed foods have preservatives and chemicals and should be avoided.
- Start by having equal amounts of grains and vegetables, and try to match additional alkaline and acidic foods. For example, if you eat more fish, reduce your grain intake and increase your vegetable and fruit intake. The same would apply to heavy meat eaters. Lemon and chopped almonds (see acid/alkaline foods chart below) will also balance out the fish or have grated mooli (radish).
- Using millet and reducing your intake of other grains will increase your diet's alkaline quotient.
- Combining foods properly – Improper food combining can result in fermentation in the stomach, causing acidosis and multiplying the bad bacteria or yeast. It creates toxins and causes the pH balance of your digestive system to go completely off. SEE PRINCIPLES BELOW in our acidic and alkaline food chart.
ALKALINE FOODS CHART
|MOSTLY ALKALINE||MODERTELY ALKALINE||SLIGHTLY ALKALINE||NEUTRAL|
|Celery||Beans (pulses, dals)||Olives, eggplant||Ghee, cows milk|
|Herbal Teas||Beetroot, sprouts, bananas||Millet, coconut (fresh)||Oils (except olive)|
|Watermelon||Asparagus, cauliflower||Cucumbers, honey (raw)||–|
|Lemons||Green tea, mooli, dates||Onions, sesame, spices||–|
|Mangoes||Kiwi, peaches, ginger, lettuce||Sprouted grains||–|
|Papaya||Potatoes, corn, mushrooms||Tangerines, okra||–|
ACID FORMING FOODS CHART
|SLIGHTLY ACID FORMING||MODERATELY ACID FORMING||MOST ACID FORMING|
|Eggs, kidney beans||Honey, bran, cheese, dry||White bread, cakes|
|Pumpkin, seeds, butter||Coconut, goats milk, pasta||Cookies (packaged)|
|Beef, spinach||(Whole grain), grains (unrefined)||Alcohol, soft drinks|
|–||Mustard, popcorn, prunes||Artificial sweeteners|
|–||Brown rice, tea, wheat||Beef, pork, fish|
|–||–||Sugar, dairy, molasses|
|–||–||Table salt, Indian chai|
|–||–||Coffee, whole wheat|
PRINCIPLES OF PROPER FOOD COMBINING FOR GOOD pH
- Eat fruits on an empty tummy.
- Always eat animal protein (includes eggs) with non-starchy vegetables like bamboo shoots, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, mooli, endive, garlic, green beans, leeks, okra, onion, parsley, red bell pepper, spinach, sprouts, turnips, and zucchini.
- Always eat grains and starchy vegetables (corn, potatoes, pumpkin) with non-starchy vegetables.
- Combine fish with steamed or stir-fried vegetables, chicken with leafy greens, or a vegetable soup.
- A veggie salad with protein (fish or egg) and dressing (unrefined oil).
- Combine millet with leafy greens and yellow squash or leeks.
- Have mostly cold-pressed, unrefined oils and ghee. Never combine large amounts of fat (oils) with protein. An example is mayonnaise with chicken or the more popular tuna salad. Use oil-based dressings with the ones that are suggested. Olive oil is good for this. Avoid hydrogenated fats, like margarine.
- Do not have a glass of milk after meals, especially at bedtime, as it feeds the yeast. If you consume dairy, combine it with acid-forming foods like seeds, nuts, non-starchy vegetables and leafy greens.
- Initially, to balance the body quicker, avoid beans. As you regain digestive health, add them.
- Eat a grain meal with vegetables for breakfast, a protein meal with vegetables for lunch, and grain and vegetables for dinner.
It takes a bit of practice, but it will soon come to you as your brain gets wired to follow these principles. Remember, if you can follow the 80% to 20% (or even 60% to 40%) principle, then 80% of your daily consumption should be land vegetables, and the remaining 20% can be meats, fish, eggs and starchy vegetables.
If you have thyroid: Tomatoes are slightly alkaline but are acid-forming in a system with thyroid or where the digestion is weak. Since Indians use a lot of tomatoes, people with thyroid or stomach weakness should be aware of this.