Top Alkaline Foods to Eat & Acid Foods to Avoid
Diet is one of the biggest determinants of your health. What you put into your body every day affects everything: your biochemistry, your mood, your brain, immunity, muscles, tendons, bones, nerves, kidneys, liver.
Unfortunately, when it comes to diet, most people are on autopilot, following a disease-making Western Diet that is high in acidic foods and low in alkaline foods. The Western dietary pattern, also called the Standard American Diet (SAD), is high in processed foods, fried foods, and red meat. It’s low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, omega-3 fatty acids, and proteins such as nuts, seeds, and fish.
Many studies have concluded that the Western Diet increases inflammation and cholesterol. It also causes and contributes to the development of osteoporosis, heart disease, dementia, cancer, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases.
The explanation is very simple. Your body evolved to work optimally when provided with the right environment to function. The internal environment in your body requires a healthy mix of nutrients, and when it doesn’t get them consistently over time, things go haywire.
The Role of pH
One way diet affects your health is through a process called “acid-alkaline balance.” The pH (potential of hydrogen) determines a substance’s acidity or alkalinity and is measured on a scale of 0 to 14. The lower the pH, the more acidic the solution. The higher the pH, the more alkaline (or base) the solution. When a solution is about in the middle of the range—neither acid nor alkaline—it has a neutral pH of 7.
The body regulates pH in very narrow ranges. In the different organs throughout the body, finely tuned physiological systems constantly work to keep the pH within specific ranges for optimal function. Stomach acid, which is important for healthy digestion and as a protection against potential infections, has a low pH, about 2-3. When the pH of your stomach cannot get low enough, it causes problems with digestion and can create acid reflux. Most people and medical approaches to acid reflux assume that there’s too much acid when, in fact, the problem might be too little acid. Blood is kept at a neutral pH, between 7.35-7.45.
When your blood becomes too acidic, fine-tuned physiological mechanisms kick in to adjust the pH to a healthy level. One way it does this is by releasing calcium from bone. Over many years, this may contribute to developing osteoporosis.
The Western Diet is composed of acidic foods such as proteins, cereals, sugars, and processed foods. Many foods, as they exist in nature, are alkaline-producing, but manufactured and processed foods transform the nutrient content of foods and make them mostly acid-producing.
Processed foods are highly acidic and almost completely stripped of their nutrients. Refining flour removes more than 80% of B vitamins, 85% of magnesium, and 60% of the calcium from what was in the whole wheat. Eating a Western Diet increases your risk for nutritional deficiencies. When I couldn’t find a dietary supplement for my patients that contained the optimal doses and combination of nutrients to adequately support healthy nutrient levels, I created Supreme Multivitamin.
Stimulants like tobacco, coffee, tea, and alcohol are also extremely acidifying. Stress and physical activity (both insufficient or excessive amounts) also cause acidification.
In addition to the nutritional deficiencies damaging your health, dietary acid load in the modern diet can lead to a disruption in acid-alkaline homeostasis in various body compartments and eventually result in chronic disease through repeated borrowing of the body’s alkaline reserves.
The opposite of acidic foods is alkaline foods. In the Western Diet, alkaline foods such as vegetables are eaten in much smaller quantities; their alkaline content is insufficient to neutralize surplus acids. A healthier eating pattern is a plant-forward diet that’s rich in whole fruits and vegetables. Eating naturally alkalinizing whole foods is not only better at balancing pH, but it also gives you lots of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, beta-carotene, and minerals like iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Whole fruits and vegetables also provide dietary fiber, which keeps you full longer, promotes a healthy gut microbiome, and promotes healthy blood sugar and insulin.
The 75/25 Rule
Remembering the 75/25 rule will help you eat a more balanced diet. It’s important to balance each meal with 75% alkaline-producing to 25% acid-producing to maintain health. We need plenty of fresh fruits, particularly vegetables (alkaline-producing), to balance our necessary protein intake (acid-producing). This pattern is essentially similar to the Mediterranean Diet, which research over the past 50 years has shown to be the healthiest dietary pattern. We also need to avoid processed, sugary, or simple-carbohydrate foods, not only because they’re acid-producing but also because they raise blood sugar levels too quickly (high glycemic index, therefore fattening), are nutrient-lacking, and may be toxic too.
In fact, research shows that these recommendations are so effective at promoting bone health and reducing osteoporosis and hip fracture risk that I’ve incorporated them into my book, Fracture-Proof Your Bones: A Comprehensive Guide to Osteoporosis.
Water is the most abundant compound in the human body, comprising 70% of the body. The body has an acid-alkaline (or acid-base) ratio called the pH, which is a balance between positively charged ions (acid-forming) and negatively charged ions (alkaline-forming.) The body continually strives to balance pH. When this balance is compromised, many problems can occur.
It is important to understand that we are not talking about stomach acid or the pH of the stomach. We are talking about the pH of the body’s fluids and tissues, which is an entirely different matter.
Test with pH Strips
If you want to test your pH levels to determine if your body’s pH needs immediate attention you can do so using pH strips. Doing so lets you determine your pH factor quickly and easily in the privacy of your own home. If your urinary pH fluctuates between 6.0 to 6.5 in the morning and between 6.5 and 7.0 in the evening, your body is functioning within a healthy range. If your saliva stays between 6.5 and 7.5 all day, your body is functioning within a healthy range. The best time to test your pH is about one hour before a meal and two hours after a meal.
Urine testing may indicate how well your body is excreting acids and assimilating minerals, especially calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium. These minerals function as “buffers.” Buffers are substances that help maintain and balance the body against the introduction of too much acidity or too much alkalinity. Even with the proper amounts of buffers, acid or alkaline levels can become extreme. When the body ingests or produces too many of these acids or alkalis, it must excrete the excess. The urine is the perfect way for the body to remove any excess acids or alkaline substances that cannot be buffered. If the average urine pH is below 6.5 the body’s buffering system is overwhelmed, a state of “autotoxication” exists, and attention should be given to lowering acid levels.
The blood pH has to be kept within a tight range, with a normal range of 7.36 to 7.44. An imbalanced diet high in acidic foods such as animal protein, sugar, caffeine, and processed foods puts pressure on the body’s regulating systems to maintain this neutrality. The extra buffering required can deplete the body of alkaline minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, making the person prone to chronic and degenerative diseases.
Minerals are borrowed from vital organs and bones to buffer (neutralize) the acid and safely remove it from the body. Because of this strain, the body can suffer severe and prolonged damage due to high acidity–a condition that may go undetected for years.
Acidosis can cause such problems as:
|Weight gain, obesity and diabetes
|Acceleration of free radical damage
|Osteoporosis and joint pain
|Aching muscles and lactic acid buildup
|Low energy and fatigue
|Slow digestion and elimination
|Loss of drive, joy, and enthusiasm
|Lower body temperature
|Tendency to get infections
|Loose and painful teeth
|Inflammation of the corneas and eyelids
|Cracks at the corners of the lips
|Inflamed, sensitive gums
|Mouth and stomach ulcers
|Nails that thin and split easily
|Excess stomach acid
|Skin easily irritated
|Hair looks dull, has split ends, and falls out
|Leg cramps and spasms
Is a Food Acid or Alkaline-forming?
Note that a food’s acid or alkaline-forming tendency in the body has nothing to do with the actual pH of the food itself. For example, lemons are very acidic, however, the end-products they produce after digestion and assimilation are very alkaline so lemons are alkaline-forming in the body. Likewise, the meat will test alkaline before digestion, but it leaves an acidic residue in the body, so, like nearly all animal products, meat is acid-forming. It is important that your daily dietary intake of food naturally acts to balance your body’s pH.
This chart is intended only as a general guide to alkalizing and acidifying foods.
Parsnips (high glycemic)
Alkalizing oriental vegetables
Banana (high glycemic)
Whey Protein Powder
Alkalizing spices & seasonings
Apple Cider Vinegar
Fresh Fruit Juice
Soured Dairy Products
Calcium: pH 12
Cesium: pH 14
Magnesium: pH 9
Potassium: pH 14
Sodium: pH 14
There are several versions of the Acidic and Alkaline Food chart to be found in different books and on the Internet. The following foods are sometimes attributed to the Acidic side of the chart and sometimes to the Alkaline side. Remember, you don’t need to adhere strictly to the Alkaline side of the chart, just make sure a good percentage of the foods you eat come from that side.
Organic Milk (unpasteurized)
** These foods leave an alkaline ash but have an acidifying effect on the body.
Although it might seem that citrus fruits would have an acidifying effect on the body, the citric acid they contain actually has an alkalinizing effect in the system.
Note that a food’s acid or alkaline forming tendency in the body has nothing to do with the actual pH of the food itself. For example, lemons are very acidic, however the end products they produce after digestion and assimilation are very alkaline so, lemons are alkaline forming in the body. Likewise, meat will test alkaline before digestion, but it leaves very acidic residue in the body so, like nearly all animal products, meat is very acid forming.
Canned or Glazed Fruits
Acidifying grains, grain products
Hemp Seed Flour
Acidifying beans & legumes
For more information on diary, read What’s in Your Milk? Top Reasons to Rethink Dairy.
Acidifying nuts & butters
Acidifying animal protein
Acidifying fats & oils
Acidifying other foods
Acidifying drugs & chemicals
Drugs, Medicinal Drugs, Psychedelic
Acidifying junk food
Beer: pH 2.5
Coca-Cola: pH 2
Coffee: pH 4
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