Do you feel sluggish and weary, even after sound sleep? Do cravings derail your intent to eat clean? Are you prone to skin problems, indigestion, illness, and joint aches? If you experience the above symptoms, you may have acidosis, a condition of low blood pH. As a holistic nutritionist, I’ve found that eating alkaline foods and drinks has many advantages. Since my goal is to help you look and feel healthy, I’m thrilled to share this gold mine of vital information.
In this blog, you’ll learn the benefits of consuming alkaline foods. I’ll introduce you to tasty, less-known alkaline sources of which you may be unaware. I’ll also mention acidic culprits to minimize in your diet. As you incorporate healthier foods, you’ll be delighted by the positive changes in your body!
What happens if your blood pH is too low?
Blood pH is a measure of hydrogen ion concentration. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. The low end of the spectrum is acidic, and the upper end is alkaline. In the middle is a pH of 7, that of pure water, which is neutral.
Ideally, the pH level in your body should hover around 7.3. This pH supports immunologic, enzymatic, and repair functions. However, metabolic processes yield acidic byproducts.
While exercising, your body generates carbon dioxide and lactic acid. Protein digestion releases sulfuric, nitric, and phosphoric acids. Allergies and stress also increase acid production.
Your body has a protective mechanism that balances blood pH. When disrupted, your tissues become acidic. Consequently, skin and organs are vulnerable to disease. Your body also has difficulty repairing injuries. Acidosis triggers fluid retention, energy drain, and toxic molecules called free radicals.
About pH testing
Some advocates of the alkaline diet advise regular pH testing. They recommend monitoring urine and saliva with test strips. However, what you eat doesn’t regulate blood pH. This role is performed by your kidneys, adrenal glands, and lungs. When these organs function optimally, they maintain proper blood pH. Regardless of what you ingest, your body strives to keep your blood at a pH of 7.3.
Food affects urine pH. For example, if you drink a green smoothie for breakfast, your subsequent urine will be more alkaline than if you ate bacon and eggs. However, urine pH doesn’t represent blood acidity. This is the finding of a 2009 study by the American Physiological Society. (1)
By now, you’re probably thinking, “If food doesn’t affect my body’s pH, why adopt an alkaline diet?” Although your organs are designed to adjust pH, they need the proper nutrients to perform this task. Alkaline foods provide essential minerals. They also buffer acidic byproducts.
Key minerals are potassium, calcium, magnesium, chromium, sodium, iron, and selenium. Your bones are storehouses of many of these elements. To neutralize an acid pH, your body may pull them from your bones, leading to osteoporosis.
What are the most alkaline foods?
While delivering buffering minerals, alkalizing foods impart the phytochemicals, antioxidants, and fiber your body needs. Below are foods known for their alkalizing effects and ways you’ll benefit.
1. Root vegetables
Root vegetables are at the top of the list of alkaline foods. They include beets, carrots, garlic, onions, radishes, turnips, rutabagas, and yams. Try to incorporate a rainbow of them in your diet, with their peels intact.
Now, let’s discuss how best to prepare them. Are you confused by conflicting advice on cooking vegetables versus eating them raw? I can explain the discrepancy. Some veggies release more of their nutrients when heated, and others lose vitamins. Some types are easier to digest when cooked. The key to preparation is making the distinction. (2)
Regarding root vegetables, steam carrots to make their beta-carotene bio-available. Eat beets raw, since they lose 25 percent of their folate when cooked. Relish garlic and onions raw. This preserves allicin, protecting against cancer and heart disease. Did you know that garlic cloves melt pounds? Credit goes to allicin’s fat-burning power. (3)
Savor rutabagas, turnips, and yams steamed. Eat radishes raw. When steaming veggies, stop the heating process when they become slightly tender.
2. Cruciferous vegetables
Crucifers are bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower. Think of them as the cabbage family. They provide generous amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, carotenoids, folate, and fiber.
Eaten steamed or raw, broccoli is one of the most nutritious alkaline foods.
Note about raw foods: Consuming these vegetables raw will provide you with plenty of nutrients and natural enzymes. However, raw cruciferous vegetables could suppress thyroid function, slowing your metabolism, causing fatigue, and increasing cold sensitivity. When cooked, crucifers form an organic compound called indole, killing precancerous cells. For these reasons, it’s best to eat crucifers slightly steamed.
3. Leafy Greens
In this league of alkalizing champions are kale, spinach, Swiss chard, arugula, and turnip greens. Steam them to better assimilate their minerals and make them more digestible. Mild heat also neutralizes the effect of oxalic acid in chard and spinach. Oxalic acid blocks calcium and iron absorption and may contribute to kidney stone formation. (4)
Cucumber is one of the most alkaline foods you can eat. It’s also your skin’s best friend! It restores antioxidant levels, reversing sun damage. Silica, a precursor to collagen, prevents wrinkles. Other compounds reduce inflammation.
Do you have under-eye circles? Vitamins C and K in cucumber can fade them. Vitamin B5 helps your skin retain moisture, along with cucumber’s high water content. Retinol prevents freckling and dark spots by controlling melanin production.
Be sure to eat the peel, where cucumber’s minerals are concentrated. Lignans are a type of fiber, reducing the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. To preserve cucumber’s nutrients, consume it raw.
NOTE: Complement veggies with a teaspoon of olive oil. Many plant nutrients need fat to be assimilated. Three studies on salsa, avocado, and salad dressing have shown that pairing veggies with fat improves absorption of the antioxidants beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene. (5)
Like cucumber, avocado is water-rich, flushing out acidic waste. Its high concentration of minerals makes it an excellent alkalizing food. Avocado is a potent source of essential fatty acids, aiding weight loss.
It’s also an antioxidant powerhouse! Among all fruits, avocado is the best source of lutein, a plant pigment that prevents eye disease and cancer. Avocado is the richest fruit source of Vitamin E and beta-sitosterol, promoting heart health. Phytosterol inhibits tumor growth.
Did you know avocado is a complete protein? It contains all the essential amino acids. Three of them comprise glutathione, an antioxidant that buffers acids contributing to aging, heart disease, and cancer.
6. Herbs and Spices
Certain herbs and spices have alkalizing effects. Basil is high in flavonoids, a class of plant pigments. Cinnamon is mineral-rich. Cayenne pepper packs a punch of enzymes vital for endocrine glands.
If you have a lawn, you may not favor dandelion. However, the root detoxifies the liver and gallbladder. The leaves aid kidney function and lower blood pressure. Other herbs that combat acidity are cilantro, mint, parsley, and thyme.
I must mention ginger. This spice has 22 documented health benefits! Those related to alkalinity include fighting cancer, improving digestion, balancing blood sugar, and boosting nutrient absorption.
Ginger relieves arthritic pain. It strengthens immunity by killing bad bacteria, cleansing your lymphatic system and flushing toxins. Ginger revs circulation, making you warm and cozy on winter days.
7. Pumpkin Seeds
The most alkaline seed is pumpkin. Phytosterols lower cholesterol, and zinc shields bones from osteoporosis. The seeds also reduce arthritic inflammation. Do you ever experience insomnia? Pumpkin seeds can ease you into slumber. They’re high in tryptophan, an amino acid that converts to serotonin, a neurotransmitter needed for sleep.
8. Sesame Seeds
These tiny seeds are loaded with minerals. Just one tablespoon contains 88 mg of calcium! Essential for bone health, calcium also relieves migraine and premenstrual discomfort.
Sesame seeds are rich in zinc. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a link between low intake of zinc and osteoporosis of the hip and spine. (6) Copper reduces the pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis. Lignans and phytosterols protect your heart.
Since sesame seeds are hard to digest whole, the best way to consume them is in butter form, known as tahini. Yum! Are you getting hungry? Hang in there. We have one more classic alkaline food on today’s menu.
Although lemon is acidic in its natural state, it’s alkalizing for your body. A high mineral content overrides the effect of citric acid. Vitamin C in lemon increases immunity due to its antibacterial properties. Flavonoids fight cancer.
As lemon travels through your system, it neutralizes any free radicals it encounters. Lemon reduces arthritic swelling. It also dissolves the uric acid crystals responsible for gout. By triggering bile production, lemon aids digestion.
Upon arising, if you drink warm lemon water, it rids your body of toxins pronto. Lemon water is one of the best alkaline drinks. Juice a lemon half and mix the juice with 8 ounces of warm water. Then, drink it with a straw, and rinse your mouth afterward. One hour later, brush your teeth. These precautions protect tooth enamel from erosion.
If you’re still not jazzed about alkaline foods, watch this video!
Some less-known alkaline foods & drinks
1. Coconut Water
If you’ve never tasted coconut water, you’re in for a treat! When chilled, its flavor is bright, clean, and sweet. The clear liquid is sourced from young, green coconuts.
A low-calorie elixir, it’s rich in potassium, on par with a banana. It also contains calcium, magnesium, and B vitamins. High in electrolytes, coconut water is a hefty competitor against sports drinks. In addition to being alkalizing, coconut water lowers blood pressure and fights free radicals.
Brands of coconut water abound, not all of them healthy. Some use concentrate, sweeteners, and heat-treating, destroying its nutrients. I recommend Cocozia, which you can buy online here.
Spirulina is a sea algae native to lakes and ponds in South America, Mexico, and Africa. It’s one of the best alkaline foods. Among plant foods, it’s also the most nutrient-dense per weight. One teaspoon of spirulina contains:
- 230 percent of your daily value (DV) of Vitamin A
- 150 percent DV of Vitamin B12
- 94 percent DV of Vitamin K
- 39 percent DV of iron
- high mineral levels
- concentrated chlorophyll
Chlorophyll is a green pigment produced by plants when making food. All green plants acquire their hue from chlorophyll. Your body uses chlorophyll to build new blood cells, heal wounds, prevent cancer, and support intestinal flora.
Here’s a remarkable phenomenon! Chlorophyll is nearly identical in chemistry to blood hemoglobin. By eating spirulina, your energy level increases and immunity gets a boost. Your liver and kidneys are better able to cleanse your blood of waste.
Spirulina is available in powder and tablet form. I recommend Nutrex-Hawaii Hawaiian Spirulina Pacifica powder, available here.
A cousin to spirulina, chlorella is a blue-green algae found in the freshwater of Japan and Taiwan. Chlorella is chock full of chlorophyll, phytonutrients, amino acids, beta-carotene, B vitamins, and minerals. A one-gram serving of chlorella provides 60 percent of your DV of Vitamin A and 35 percent of your DV of iron.
Chlorella assists hormone function, immunity, cardiovascular health, and detoxification. It increases circulation and revs energy. You may also see an improvement in the health of your skin. (7)
Chlorella is available as tablets and powder. Since it has a strong taste, you may prefer tablets. I recommend NOW Organic Chlorella, available here.
NOTE: If you take medication to thin blood, lower blood pressure, or treat cancer, consult with your doctor before taking chlorella since it can interfere with such drugs. It’s also contraindicated for iodine allergy.
4. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Unpasteurized ACV is the only vinegar that’s alkaline-forming. All other types, including white, red wine, and balsamic, are acidic. ACV is made from fermented apples. It’s a natural antibiotic, killing bacteria, viruses, and mold. It improves insulin sensitivity and lowers blood sugar and cholesterol. ACV contains high levels of enzymes and potassium.
Use ACV in salad dressing and smoothies, or dilute in water for a beverage. To improve digestion, take 1 tablespoon of ACV before eating.
It’s recommended not to exceed 2 tablespoons per day. Side effects of an overdose include nausea and delayed gastric emptying. Begin with 1 teaspoon daily, and gradually increase to no more than 2 tablespoons. After ingestion, rinse your mouth with water, and wait 30 minutes before brushing your teeth.
Here’s a great alkaline and detox drink (shared by Dr. Axe) that contains cleansing and healing properties:
All you need to do is to mix these ingredients together:
- Warm water (about 16 oz)
- Lemon juice (2 tablespoons)
- Apple cider vinegar (2 tablespoons)
- Ground ginger (1/2 teaspoon)
- Cinnamon (1/4 teaspoon)
- Cayenne Pepper (1/4 teaspoon)
- Stevia (optional)
Buy ACV unpasteurized, indicated by “raw” or “from the mother” on the label. The term “mother” refers to protein strands, enzymes, and friendly bacteria that yield a cloudy appearance. My favorite brand is Bragg’s Raw Apple Cider Vinegar. Amazon.com sells it here.
5. Himalayan Salt
Himalayan salt contains 84 trace minerals. Also known as pink salt, iron oxide renders its rosy hue. Its most concentrated elements are potassium, calcium, sulfur, sodium, and chloride. The salt is mined in the Pakistani region of the Himalayan Mountains. Pink salt has six merits:
- banishes brain fog
- promotes arterial health
- lowers blood pressure
- improves sleep
- alkalizes the body (8)
Here’s your appetizing alkaline menu:
- root veggies, cabbage family, leafy greens
- cucumber, avocado
- herbs and spices
- pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds
- coconut water
- spirulina, chlorella
- apple cider vinegar
- Himalayan salt
What about acid-forming foods? When digested, high-protein foods yield acidic residues. Sources are meat, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs, most grains, and alcohol. Refined sugar also produces acid. Simple starches and saturated fats join the list of foods to avoid.
Technically, on this diet, 80 percent of your food should be alkaline-forming. Rather than getting bogged by amounts, consume a volume that’s comfortable for your body. You’ll see measurable results!
Calling all fans of the alkaline diet! Please share your favorite alkaline foods and drinks below.