While your knowledge of the subject may be limited to those acid rain experiments (remember how the paper changed color when it was exposed to either acids or bases?), learning why pH is important when it comes to your health is a topic worth exploring.
You may have heard about the alkaline/acid relationship as it relates to diet, but what does it all mean? Can eating or eliminating certain foods help balance your pH level? And why is that even important?
Why Alkaline Gets an “A”
Simply put, some foods are acidifying when introduced to the body, and others are alkalizing. So what you consume on a daily basis will change the pH levels of your blood, saliva and urine. The pH scale goes from 0-14 (with acidic substances falling below 7 and basic substances falling above 7). Normal levels for body fluid pH hover right in the middle of that range. Foods can either raise or lower your pH level, and this is based on the mineral content of the food – not the actual pH of the food itself. Lemon juice, for example, has a low pH, but has an alkalizing effect on the body when consumed.
Still with me? Good.
Now, let’s talk about why your pH level matters. A growing body of research suggests that having lower, or acidic, pH levels is associated with greater risk for conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Higher, or alkaline, pH levels, accordingly are linked to improvements in memory and cognition, reduced pain and lower risk of hypertension and stroke.
Another area that has been researched quite extensively is how pH levels affect bone health. Many studies have shown that low-acid diets can help improve bone density. One particular study published in The Journal of Nutrition also found that alkaline mineral waters can decrease bone resorption and even lower parathyroid hormone levels, which regulate the release of calcium from bone.
If you’re already someone who eats fairly clean, I have good news for you – you probably have a higher than average pH level. Yet you may be surprised to find that some of your favorite foods are actually acid-producing, and the ones you think are acidic really aren’t. Additionally, your pH will vary depending on the time of day, what you ate or drank the day before and even your stress levels.
If you want to boost your alkalinity, however, there are easy dietary adjustments you can make.
1. Pump up your produce intake.
This one isn’t rocket science, but many fruits and most vegetables are alkaline in nature. For fruits, avoid pomegranates, pineapples and raspberries, however. For vegetables, almost all are alkaline unless they are pickled or frozen.
2. Ban bread.
Unless you’re opting for a minimal amount of sprouted grains, get rid of tortillas, sourdough, white bread, whole grains and brown rice. On the acid-alkaline scale, most grains fall into the acidic range.
3. Chuck the condiments.
Most condiments, like ketchup, miso, mayonnaise or mustard are highly acidic. Also steer clear of canned vegetables, canned tuna and peanut butter (yes, even the organic kind).
4. Boost your beans and seeds.
Soy, navy and lima beans are all highly alkaline, while caraway, cumin, fennel and sesame seeds are good for raising pH, too.
5. Get rid of artificial sweeteners, but keep your stevia.
Popular sugar alternatives like honey, xylitol and beet sugar are all acidic, but stevia is alkaline. Who knew?
6. Reduce alcohol, dairy and coffee.
Your wine and cheese habit isn’t doing your pH any favors, so minimize these foods. And if you can swing it, give up your daily cup of joe, too.