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The Alkaline Diet: What you need to know! - Dietetic Directions - Dietitian and Nutritionist in Kitchener/Waterloo
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The Alkaline Diet: What you need to know!

The Alkaline Diet: What you need to know

The Alkaline Diet: What you need to know!

Did you catch the recent article, “the celebrity diet that actually has some science behind it,” in the Washington Post?  This article got many people debating the merits of the alkaline diet.  Today, we will take a closer look at this diet, break down the science and provide a nutrition review.

What is the Alkaline Diet?

The alkaline or “acid-alkaline” diet proposes that “acid-producing” foods such as meat, fish, dairy products, sugar, caffeine and grains make the body acidic, which can lead to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and even cancer. Therefore, the theory is that by increasing the intake of “alkaline” (or basic) foods like fruits and vegetables, you can restore the body’s equilibrium and improve energy, weight loss and prevent chronic diseases. Sound too good to be true?

 

Three Facts to Get Straight:

  1. There’s no evidence to support that alkaline diet can prevent or cure chronic disease or cancer.
  2. The foods we eat cannot change the pH level of body cells and blood, which remains tightly controlled at around 7.4 to keep us alive.
  3. The fact that certain foods can change pH of urine is not a reliable indicator for health outcomes. Instead, the fact that urine pH changes is a sign that our kidneys efficiently excreting waste to maintain equilibrium.

 

Some Good in the Alkaline Diet?

The typical ‘Western diet’ tends to be high in processed foods and meats and low in fruit and vegetables. Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption helps to boost potassium intake, which helps protect from high blood pressure and stroke. Consuming more veggies is also important because we tend to not get enough. At least this diet encourages people to decrease processed foods and eat more fruits and veggies!

 

Major Nutritional Shortcomings:

Strict adherence to the alkaline diet can cause lack of essential vitamins and minerals and fibre.  After all, you’d basically be eating fruits and vegetables, nuts and tofu!  This is not to say that you cannot  avoid certain foods and still meet your nutritional needs; it’s just that strict avoidance of so many otherwise healthy foods means you may not be receiving your balanced nutrition. Plus, the idea of severely restricting a diet based on unreliable science is troublesome.

 

Milk

 

Foods Restricted 

Nutritional Considerations

Health Impacts

Meat Protein intake, B12, iron, zinc Supports growth, maintenance and repair of red blood cells.

Involved in hormone production, muscle growth and repair, energy status etc.

Fish Omega 3 fats, protein, vitamin D and iron May help prevent heart disease. Supports infant healthy brain development. May lower risk of cancer, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and depression.
Eggs Protein, Vitamins A, D, E and B12, riboflavin, selenium and folate.

 

High-quality protein and low in saturated fat.

Choline is essential for normal functioning of all cells and support brain development in pregnancy.

Lutein reduces the risk of developing cataracts and slows the progression of macular degeneration

Dairy Calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, B12, vitamin A, phosphorous and potassium Calcium prevents against osteoporosis, helps in formation of teeth. Magnesium helps guard against heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and prostate cancer.

 

Grains Fibre, iron, potassium, B vitamins, magnesium Prevents cardiovascular disease caused by narrowed or blocked blood vessels.

 

 

Eggs

 

Bottom Line:

The foods we eat cannot influence the pH of our cells and blood.  Strict alkaline diets restrict otherwise healthy foods without taking into account overall nutritional balance. Chowing down on more veggies and reducing processed foods is always a good idea.

 

DYK: food cannot influence the pH of our cells and blood Click To Tweet

 

Check out what I had to say to Toronto Star, “Alkaline diet is a bit basic, experts say

  • Joanne

    Thanks for your informative analysis of this new diet. It would be great if people could work on eating balanced, varied diets for optimal health.

  • Andrea D’Ambrosio, RD

    Thanks for reading and sharing your views Joanne!

  • Julia

    I certainly have an opinion on this Alkaline diet! First of all, just like you said, our body will always return to homeostasis with a pH of 7.4 (which is technically already in the alkaline range). Obviously any diet that encourages increased fruit and vegetable consumption and limiting sugary, processed foods will improve health, that’s not new news. But restricting foods full of vital nutrients like meat, fish and dairy based on poor evidence is not attainable or healthy.
    I would also like to add that in the Washington Post article the depict a pH scale with different foods for each level. I found it funny that in the acidic end of the spectrum (around pH 3-4) they chose many unhealthy acidic foods to show like cupcakes, ice cream and soda rather than healthy acidic foods like oranges, grapefruits or strawberries.

    Thanks for the great blog Andrea!

  • Andrea D’Ambrosio, RD

    Thanks for reading Julia! I found that comical as well, they were certainly not emphasizing the level of restriction on the otherwise “healthy” acid-containing foods. It’s important to be skeptical of what we read and hear!