Updated: Jan 27
The alkaline diet, also known as the acid-ash diet, is based on a theory that foods can change the pH of our bodies based off their acidity or alkalinity.
Advocates of the diet state that acidic foods such as meat, grains, dairy and fish are harmful to health and are the root of many chronic health problems whereas alkaline foods which mainly comprises of certain fruits and vegetables and select nuts promote health. The diet has claimed to be a miracle cure for many diseases from osteoporosis to cardiovascular disease to even curing cancer. It’s also suggested by its followers that eating acidic foods is the root cause of obesity as excess acid in the body can get turned into fat.
What do Acidic and Alkaline Mean?
The pH scale is a scale that ranges from 0-14 and measures how acidic or alkaline something is. Anything under 7 is acidic whereas over 7 is alkaline.
The pH levels in our body are very tightly regulated by our lungs and kidneys to stay within 7.35-7.45. If there are deviations in the pH levels somewhere within our body, it’s an indicator that something is very seriously wrongly and requires medical attention right away.
So Can Food Change The pH of Our Body?
The pH levels in our blood which are indicative of health cannot be influenced by diet. The pH of our urine can be changed by our diet. However, to be clear, the pH of our urine is not an indicator of our health. In fact, it tells us nothing about what’s going on with our health expect what we ate for lunch. It’s simply a method of excreting waste which changes pH based on the foods we’ve eaten.
What About Dairy? I heard it’s Acidic and Bad For Our Bones?
According to the diet, dairy is classified as being acidic which supposedly leaches calcium and other important minerals from our bones, putting us at an increased risk of osteoporosis.
As we said earlier, the alkaline diet doesn’t have any scientific basis. Our diet can only alter the pH of our urine which has zero connection with the pH of our body and zero effect on our health. So dairy and no other food can alter the pH of our body.
Dairy is one of the richest sources of calcium in our diet with a glass of milk… Calcium requirements are quite high, especially for infants, breastfeeding mums, women past the menopause and people with certain medical conditions which affect nutrient absorption, such as those with coeliac disease or inflammatory bowel disease.
The calcium in dairy products is also more readily absorbed in the body than from other sources such as spinach, dried fruit and beans, which have poorer bioavailability to the presence of oxalates and/or phytates, which inhibit calcium absorption. It’s also rich in essential amino acids, making it a fantastic source of high quality protein which is also a really key nutrient for healthy bones. Dairy products also contain other key nutrients for healthy bones such as phosphorous and vitamin D.
Could The Diet Be Harmful?
Despite a complete lack of evidence and no biological plausibility, people are still advocating this restrictive diet. While you might initially think “what’s the harm”, a diet like this can have serious consequences.
While it’s always a good idea to eat more fruits and vegetables, excluding whole foods groups and macronutrients can lead to many health problems and nutritional deficiencies. The diet is low in protein, which is essential for our immune system. It’s also low in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B12, vitamin D, zinc and iron, all of which play important roles in our body.
In addition, conditions such as osteopenia and osteoporosis are common and can majorly reduce someone’s quality of life. Healthy strong bones are built in our youth and are maintained as we age. This is why it’s really important to be consuming a healthy diet full of nutrients which promote healthy bones. A diet such as the alkaline diet can put someone at increased risk of developing a bone disease due to its restrictive nature.
Save your money and don’t drink alkaline water or pee on pH sticks.