Acid Wars: 13 Acidic Foods to Avoid vs 7 Alkaline Foods to Indulge In
The Alkaline Diet. I am sure many of you have heard about this before. Alkaline food is gaining a lot of importance these days. Perhaps, you have seen it on the news and on many health-related websites. Let’s have a look at what an Alkaline Diet is all about.
Research suggests that following an alkaline diet can preserve muscle mass for older men and women, improve hormone growth levels, lower risks of renal problems and improve chronic back pain.
An alkaline diet means that we focus on consuming unprocessed and whole foods and eschew acidic foods. Adopting a whole-foods, plant-based diet can be a major step towards the best version of your health!
The food we eat becomes calories and nutrients for our bodies. When they are metabolized they leave behind an ash residue with varying pH levels. Some foods fall under the acidic category, while others fall under the alkaline category. The determinant is not whether the food itself is acidic or alkaline, but what kind of ash it transforms into after metabolization.
The pH level is regulated by our bodies. This measurement of alkaline and acid in the tissues and fluids in the body ranges from 0 to 14. The lower the number, the more acidic; the higher the number, the more alkaline. Seven is neutral, but between 7.35-7.45 is ideal, a slightly alkaline pH level.
Balance is key. Too much pH may lead to alkalosis and cause muscle twitching, nausea, confusion. The opposite, acidosis can cause headaches, fatigue and shallow breathing.
As usual, the kidneys are the heroes of the story. They regulate electrolytes and works to excrete and reabsorb acidic and alkaline ions through the urine. Eating an alkaline diet serves as a dependable sidekick.
But first, let’s look at the “bad guys”. These are the acid-forming foods that should be limited or avoided completely:
13 Acidic Foods
- fish and shellfish
- most dairy products
- most grains
- fast foods and processed foods
- soft drinks
Effects of Acidic Foods
- Bone Density Decrease
A study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research found that there was lower bone density in men with lower intake of calcium and whose diet comprised mostly of acidic foods. 1
Another study in Osteoporosis International found that an acidic diet caused a much larger amount of calcium excreted through the urine.2
- Kidney Stones
The correlation of acidic foods and stones is undeniable. According to the study in the Journal of Nephrology, Urinary pH and Stone Formation:
“An alkaline pH favors the crystallization of calcium- and phosphate-containing stones, whereas and acidic urine pH promotes uric acid or cystine stones.”3
- Worsen Acid Reflux
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition wherein acid from the stomach flows back up to the esophagus. This causes heartburn and chest pain.
Acidic foods can lead to GERD. These include alcohol, coffee, traditional teas, and high-fat foods.
- Altered Hormones
Human growth hormone (HGH) is responsible for stimulating cellular regeneration and cellular growth. Acidosis, which is caused by an overproduction of acid in the blood can decrease HGH levels.4
- Chronic Back Pain
Inflammation is caused by certain acidic foods. This can lead to chronic back pain. A research published in the Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology noted positive results from supplementing participants with alkaline minerals.5 Moreover, another study concluded that a plant-based diet can reduce the effects of osteoarthritis.6
Not All Acidic Foods Are Not All Bad
You don’t have to eliminate acidic foods entirely. They still provide nutrition and can be integrated with an alkaline-, whole foods-based diet.
While walnuts fall under the category of acidic foods, they are great sources of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids that can address inflammation. Fruits are the most acidic foods, but also provide antioxidants and other vitamins. Along with vegetables and whole grains, they are the best sources of fiber. These include brown rice, wild rice, wheat-based cereals, whole wheat bread, beans, carrots, cabbage, spinach and squash.
If you do not have problems like acid reflux, you should include these in your diet. As always, a balanced plant-based diet can provide you all the nutrition you need.
Foods You Should Try
Thankfully, we live a world of many choices. You can easily replace unhealthy acidic food and drinks with better alternatives:
- Start your day right by switching your morning coffee, with a refreshing green smoothie.
- Contrary to the prevailing theory that plants don’t have protein, you can go for plant-based proteins, like beans and legumes instead of meat.
- Got a sweet tooth? Why not try maple syrup, instead of artificial sweeteners.
- Processed foods have to go. This includes fast food. Instead go for unprocessed whole foods.
- Ditch soft drinks for alkaline water.
7 Alkaline Foods
The following are excellent alkaline foods that we’ve recommended time and time again:
- most fruits
- ORGANIC soybeans
- most nuts
- herbs and herbal teas
Who Shouldn’t Eat Acidic Foods?
People prone to kidney stones should definitely avoid acidic foods, especially animal proteins and soft drinks. You can do more by cutting down on your salt and drinking more water.
Also, people suffering from acid reflux should limit their intake. Some fruits like lemons, limes and tomatoes can trigger the symptoms. Alkaline foods, such as vegetables and non-citrus fruits can help reduce symptoms. Don’t trigger the symptoms by eating smaller meals. Other lifestyle changes can also address acid reflux. If you need to, lose body weight by exercising. However, do not eat right before exercise as that may aggravate your acid reflux.
Low bone density is another problem that can worsened by acidic foods. Milk is slightly acidic, but there are alternative calcium sources for bone health. Broccoli, spinach and kale are great non-dairy, high calcium foods.
If you don’t have these problems but experience adverse symptoms, you should limit acidic food from your diet and find out why.
Acidic foods could decrease the pH level of the urine. This can lead to acid reflux, chronic back pain, imbalanced hormones, lower bone density and renal problems. However, some acidic foods are still healthy and can be part of your healthy diet.
If you do not have the aforementioned symptoms, an alkaline diet is still better. While some acidic foods have benefits, as listed earlier, certain acidic foods are absolute no-nos. These are cold cuts, processed foods (including canned and fast food) and artificial sweeteners.
The verdict is virtually unanimous, regardless if its alkaline or not, the majority of your diet should be unprocessed foods—fruits and vegetables and plant-based proteins. You are free to add some acidic foods that provide important nutrients but as mentioned earlier, balance is key.