The alkaline diet
Our bodies reflect what we eat, drink, think, and do. Therefore, our diet should be aimed at alkalizing our body in order to prevent illness and disease by more safely meeting its needs.
An alkaline diet consists of not only alkaline nutrients, but also avoidance of immune-intolerant foods and optimal hydration. It is also about taking care of the soil we grow our food in. Research shows that the type of soil that plants are grown in can significantly influence their vitamin and mineral content, which means that not all alkaline foods are created equally. This is why organic foods, because they are grown in a more mineral dense soil, tend to be more alkalizing (4).
The ideal soil pH for the best overall availability of essential nutrients in plants is between 6 and 7. Acidic soils below a pH of 6 may have reduced calcium and magnesium, and soil above a pH of 7 may result in chemically unavailable iron, manganese, copper and zinc. Soil that’s well-rotated, organically sustained and exposed to wildlife/grazing cattle tends to be the healthiest (3).
The 7 principles of the alkaline diet
According to Dr. Russell Raffe, MD, PhD, CCN, in order to follow an alkaline diet, there are 7 basic principles to follow (4):
1) A wide variety of fresh, high-quality, whole foods
The basis of eating an alkaline diet is to eat predominantly whole foods grown organically. Focus should be on eating plant-based, including fresh vegetables and fruits, lightly toasted nuts and seeds, lightly steamed vegetables, sprouts of grains and beans, fermented foods, freshly squeezed fruit juices, and vegetable juices. All these foods retain active enzymes that enhance digestion.
A wide variety of whole foods is advised, as eating the same foods repeatedly limits digestive and nutritional variety and also increases the likelihood of becoming reactive to those foods if digestion is weak, stressed, or compromised. Focus should be placed on a diverse selection of foods that are easier to digest, assimilate, and eliminate.
Super foods are those foods that are considered specially healing, such as:
- Seeds, nuts, and sprouts
- Dark fruits & berries
- Sea vegetables and mushrooms
- Lentils, beans, and artichokes
- Healthy oils, vinegars, and spices
- Fermented/Probiotic foods
2) 60-80% alkaline forming foods:
The majority of our diet should be alkaline, approximately 60% if the person is already in good health. If the immune system is compromised, the person is reacting to certain foods, or their health needs to be restored in any way, Dr. Raffe suggests an 80% alkalinizing diet. This will help calm the immune system and support digestion.
3) Immune system friendly foods:
Foods that cause the immune system to react should be avoided, at least until the root cause has been addressed. A test can be done to determine which foods each individual’s immune system is reacting to. The test is known as the ‘LRA by ELISA/ACT’, a therapeutic and diagnostic test that can analyze hundreds of common substances known to cause immune reactions, by measuring the reactivity of white blood cells (lymphocytes).
Since many allergic reactions or sensitivities are delayed, occurring hours to weeks after exposure, the immune system can be triggered by any number of these substances without the sufferer being aware of the link. In that case, the body shifts into a constant defensive mode. Identifying and eliminating the substances that are causing these reactions can lighten the burden on the immune system allowing the body to restore and repair itself.
While the body is healing, healthy substitutes can be used instead. For a complete list, including recipes, please check this link: https://www.perque.com/pdfs/Joy_In_Living_TheAlkalineWay.pdf
4) Healthy ratio of complex carbohydrates to proteins and fats. The recommended ratios are as follows:
- 60-70% plant-based complex carbohydrates:
The alkaline way eating plan should be rich in complex carbohydrates from vegetables, and legumes (beans, peas and lentils), as well as seasonings, spices, and herbs.
- 15-20% quality protein:
Proteins should be approximately 15-20% of your total calorie intake. This is the equivalent of approximately 50 to 60 grams of protein per day. Sources of protein may include organic eggs and dairy products, whey protein, as well as deep cold-water fish such as mackerel, sardines, tuna, herring, and salmon. Additional protein sources include nuts and seeds, sprouts, nutritional yeast, blue-green algae, miso, and mushrooms. ‘Complimentary proteins’ can be added by pairing grains with beans, and/or gains with dairy. Protein requirements may be higher in the case of pregnancy, recovery from chronic illness, intense exercise, or other specific needs. In special circumstances, working with a healthcare professional is advised.
- 15-20% healthy fat:
Fat should be 15-20% of your daily calories. Focus should be on healthy ‘omega-3 essential fats’, which enhance the body’s energy production, protein production, and tissue repair. Food based sources of protective ‘omega-3 essential fats’ are found in fresh nuts and seeds as well as cold-pressed organic oils such as avocados, olive oil, safflower, flaxseed, walnut, sesame, peanut, and pure deep-sea fish oils. Other sources include borage, black currant, grape-seed and evening primrose oils. Unless you eat line-caught, oily, deep-water fish more than three times per week, ‘omega-3’ supplements are recommended. When selecting ‘omega 3’ supplements those obtained from uncontaminated sources and not oxidized during processing are the freshest. Unsaturated, non-hydrogenated “expeller-pressed” and preferably organic or oils such as olive, grape seed, coconut, and peanut, along with exotic oils such as avocado, almond, and mustard seed are highly recommended. Trans fats and hydrogenated oils should be avoided entirely as hydrogenated oils can interfere with liver enzymes and are associated with higher cholesterol levels. These artificial oils can also have a negative effect on immune function and are known to promote certain types of tumors. Solid cooking fats such as margarine, hydrogenated vegetable oils, lard, and Crisco should be avoided, as well as deep-fried fast food.
For more information on this, please check our blog on fats.
5) Probiotic and fermented (Cultured) foods and drinks:
The term ‘probiotic’ means ‘promoting life’. A healthy gastrointestinal tract is home to a plentiful variety of beneficial (probiotic) bacteria responsible for keeping our bodies and immune systems in balance. Poor diet, stress, illness, and antibiotics can deplete these beneficial bacteria, allowing pathogens to proliferate. Probiotics in food or drink can colonize the gut with beneficial bacteria.
Some probiotic-rich foods and drinks are:
- Kombucha (fermented tea)
- Kefir (fermented milk)
- Yogurt (dairy or nondairy, with live cultures)
- Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
- Kimchi (a spicy fermented cabbage common in the Korean diet)
- Tempeh (fermented soybeans)
- Microalgae (freeze dried)
- Hatcho Miso soup
- Natto (a fermented soybean)
6) Plenty of fiber and water:
As compared to traditional cultures who consume 40-100 grams of dietary fiber from whole, lively foods, Americans consume far too little food fiber, around 10 grams.
A minimum daily fiber intake of at least 40 grams is recommended. The beneficial ‘roughage’ from fiber makes the stool bulky and soft and helps to maintain a shorter transit time (the time from food consumption to waste elimination). A healthy transit time ranges from 12–18 hours. This reduces the opportunity for unhealthy bacteria and yeast to dominate in the body. Adequate fiber encourages wastes to be eliminated easily and comfortably on a regular basis. Doing this means less toxic waste matter will be reabsorbed back into circulation.
Plentiful water intake is also key to health, especially when consuming a high-fiber diet. Water helps fiber do its job of efficiently moving wastes through the body. Room temperature, warm water or healthy tea is a better option, as cold water can really slow down digestion. Fresh lemon juice, lime juice, and/or ginger act as digestive aids and alkaline enhancers while enhancing the taste of water.
7) Healthier food combinations:
The way foods are combined can have a tremendous impact on digestion, and therefore overall health. Just as the typical American diet is unhealthy, the American meal, usually represented as meat (protein) and potatoes (starch), combines foods in the least effective manner.
The art of healthy food combining is an important aspect of balanced nutrition, as it lessens wear and tear on the digestive system. Food combining is especially important in the case of digestive discomforts (acid reflux, bloating, leaky gut, heartburn, irritable bowel, diverticulosis, or other digestive problems).
Basic eating and food combining tips for optimal digestion and assimilation are:
- Simple meals, those with fewer ingredients, digest better
- Overeating is not recommended. We should eat until 75% full, leaving 25% for digestion
- Foods that digest faster should be eaten first
- Fruit juices and healthy sweets should be eaten on their own (30 minutes before or 2 hours after a meal has digested)
- Concentrated proteins (meat, fish, or eggs) should not be combined with starches/carbs, especially while digestion is weak or repairing. Each of these can be eaten at separate meals
- Green, non-starchy vegetables pair with everything (except fruit)
- Cold water with meals should be avoided as it dilutes digestive juices and reduces digestive ability. Warm water or broth to start any meal or 1 hour after meals is a better option. Hot tea during or at the end of a meal may assist with digestion.
Best alkaline foods
- Fresh fruits and vegetables: they promote alkalinity the most. Some of the top picks include the green leafy vegetables, the cruciferous vegetables, wheat grass, mushrooms, citrus, tomatoes, avocado, summer black radish, cucumber, oregano, garlic, ginger, green beans, endive, cabbage, celery, red beet, watermelon and ripe bananas.
- Raw food: Ideally we should try to consume a good portion of our food raw. Juicing or lightly steaming is also a good option, as it can help release the nutrients stored in fiber. Cooking depletes alkalizing minerals and enzymes.
- Plant proteins: Almonds, navy beans, lima beans and most other beans are good choices.
- Alkaline water has a pH of 9 to 11. Distilled water is fine to drink. Water filtered with a reverse osmosis filter is slightly acidic, but it’s still a far better option than tap water or purified bottled water. Adding pH drops, lemon or lime, or baking soda to water can also boost its alkalinity.
- Green drinks: Drinks made from green vegetables and grasses in powder form are loaded with alkaline-forming foods and chlorophyll, which is structurally similar to our own blood and helps alkalize it.
Acidic foods and habits
An acid forming diet results in cells that are too acid. When this happens, the cell slows down its energy production partially or completely. Another side effect of acid cells is that the body pulls minerals from them and from bones to protect the body from this acid load, causing osteoporosis.
Foods that contribute most to acidity include (3):
- High-sodium foods: processed foods contain high amounts of sodium chloride (table salt) which constricts blood vessels and creates acidity
- Cold cuts and conventional meats
- Processed cereals
- Caffeinated drinks and alcohol
- Oats and whole wheat products: All grains, whole or not, create acidity in the body. Americans ingest most of their plant food quota in the form of processed corn or wheat
- Milk: Calcium-rich dairy products cause some of the highest rates of osteoporosis. That’s because they create acidity in the body. To buffer this acidity in the bloodstream, the body steals calcium (an alkaline mineral) from the bones to try to balance out the pH level. Because green leafy greens also contain calcium, balanced with other minerals, consuming these every day is the best way to prevent osteoporosis
- Peanuts and walnuts
- Pasta, rice, bread and packaged grain products
- Antibiotic overuse
- Artificial sweeteners
- Chronic stress
- Declining nutrient levels in foods due to industrial farming
- Low levels of fiber in the diet
- Lack of exercise and over-exercising
- Excess animal meats in the diet (from non-grass-fed sources)
- Excess hormones from foods, health and beauty products, and plastics
- Exposure to chemicals and radiation from household cleansers, building materials, computers, cell phones and microwaves
- Food coloring and preservatives
- Pesticides and herbicides
- Poor chewing and eating habits
- Shallow breathing
Measuring your pH at home
The first morning urine pH is a good indicator of the body’s mineral reserve and its acid/ alkaline state. This is because the body routinely uses overnight rest time to excrete excess acids. This capacity varies based on toxin load and individual ability to make energy, to make toxins inactive, and to excrete them (4).
To test pH, one can purchase a packet of pH test paper with a test range of 5.5 to 8. For best results, a 6-hour to 8-hour period of rest prior to pH testing is needed.
The pH strip is inserted in the urine collected and as the tape comes in contact with urine it will change color. The color relates to the urine’s acid or alkaline state and ranges from yellow to dark blue. A chart is usually found on the package and it can be used to match the color of the test strip. Results should be recorded daily or periodically based on the person’s needs or as recommended by a health care provider.
Any number below 7.0 means urine is on the acid side. The lower the number, the more acid the urine. Ideally, the first morning urine pH should be 6.5 – 7.5. If the first morning urine is neutral or just slightly acidic, this is an indication of a healthy alkaline pH. If the readings are below 6.5, this is an indication of an acid pH. Increasing the body’s mineral reserves can help alkalinize the body.
We have seen how the cells in our body function better when our body’s pH is maintained at a constant alkaline level. For that to happen our diet has to contain a high percentage of alkalizing foods. This, together with a sensible food combining approach can make a great difference in our overall health, and consequently, the health of our heart.
Thank you for reading.