What's the Deal With The Alkaline Food Diet?
Not only does the alkaline diet have A-Lister endorsement (it skyrocketed in 2013 when Victoria Beckham tweeted about it), it has an incredibly scientific-sounding name... so it has to be legitimate right?
The premise is simple: some foods such as meat, wheat, refined sugar and anything processed leave behind waste products known as ‘ash’. This ‘ash’ can be acidic or alkaline, depending on the protein, sulphur or mineral content of the food. It is claimed that a diet that makes your body more alkaline can help you lose weight and avoid problems like arthritis and cancer.
Considering that it's essentially a vegetarian diet, we decided to investigate what exactly the alkaline diet is and why it is claimed to work so well.
How does it work?
We know that a typical ‘Western diet’ - one high in overly processed foods and meat with a low intake of fruit and vegetables - gives the body an acidic balance. However, acid forming foods aren’t necessarily ‘unhealthy’, a diet is judged as a whole entity. Many foods which cause ‘acid ash’ are nutritious and can make up part of a healthy balanced diet such as dairy, beans and whole grain.
In following an alkaline diet, the aim of the game is to keep your body's pH between 7.35 and 7.45. No, you don't need a degree in chemistry to play along - nor do you need test every day to check your body's pH levels. By eating 60-80% "alkaline" foods, the idea is that they'll naturally fall between those levels regardless.
The diet breaks food up into three categories:
Acidic: This includes meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, grains and alcohol.
Neutral: Natural fats, starches and sugars.
Alkaline: Fruits, nuts, legumes and vegetables.
But it gets a little more complicated than that. Not all fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes are considered alkaline. In fact some of them are alkaline but become acidic when cooked (e.g. spinach) or you'd assume are acidic but have alkaline effects on the body (e.g. lemon). And the diet doesn't advocate for cutting all acidic food out your diet, in order to be balanced you're supposed to eat 60-80% alkaline-forming foods and 20-40% acid-forming foods.
So does it really prevent cancer?
It has been suggested that cancerous cells thrive in an acidic environment. This may be true but interestingly, cancerous cells can create their own acidic environment. So even though there is a link between acidity and cancer cells, it’s not really something you can control.
I'm not really sure about this one. We already know we should be upping the amount of fruits and vegetables in our diets but do you really need complicated food lists, to monitor your urine and limit seriously nutritious foods to be truly healthy? Personally, I would avoid the fad and the rules and just focus on increasing your fruit and veg consumption while making sure you don't go overboard on alcohol, fat, salt and refined sugar.Sumati Menda
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