The alkaline diet, also called the alkaline acid diet or the alkaline ash diet is a diet regimen that encourages eating according to foods pH. It has been theorized that the pH of foods following digestion can alter the natural pH of various liquids in our body, more importantly that of our blood. And since our blood has a mildly alkaline pH of 7.35 to 7.45, it would make sense to eat more alkaline-forming foods than acidic ones, but not exclude acid-forming foods from our diet completely because they too help maintain a fragile balance in the body and good health.
There is great debate over what the health benefits of the alkaline diet are, with claims ranging from it helping with weight loss to offering protection against cancer and chronic disease in general. But how many of these supposed benefits are true? And which should we believe? The answer is those we can explain logically, based on mechanisms of action we have a full understanding of. This being said, here are 9 real health benefits of the alkaline diet and the reasons it works:
1) More energy. There is a simple explanation to why the alkaline diet contributes to higher energy levels and this is because it encourages one to eat real food and avoid foods devoid of any nutritional value. As can be seen from some of the most accurate alkaline acid charts, the alkaline diet recommends mostly fresh fruits, vegetables and even nuts, but also moderate amounts of dairy, grains and meat (for balance) and forbids processed foods with little to no nutritional value. And it is vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that ensure we enjoy good energy levels. More energy is a sign of good health and means we are eating well and meeting our nutritional demands.
2) Constipation relief. You can’t really be constipated on a predominantly vegetarian diet like the alkaline diet. Firstly because you get more than enough fiber in your diet by eating 75% to 80% plant sources of food, and secondly because you don’t get to eat too much of foods that take longer to be digested such as dairy, refined grains or animal protein. Dietary fiber in general improves intestinal transit time which helps increase the frequency, bulk and effortlessness of bowel movements and prevent and relieve constipation.
3) Great for hemorrhoids. The alkaline diet is good for anyone with hemorrhoids because it encourages a higher intake of dietary fiber from plant sources, but also because vegetables and fruits which are a big part of the diet have a high water content. Dietary fiber absorbs water to add bulk to stools, encouraging their passing through the digestive tract and easy, regular bowel movements, hence the reason the diet helps with hemorrhoids. However, it’s good to remember that some spicy foods are listed as alkaline too, but they are not necessarily good for hemorrhoids, causing flareups and pain. These particular foods (spicy ones such as horseradish or hot chili peppers) are best avoided by hemorrhoids sufferers.
4) Prebiotic benefits. Many alkaline foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, artichoke, bananas and many others contribute to an overall better digestion and improved digestive health due to their prebiotic effects. For example, bananas, garlic, onions, artichoke, jicama and other alkaline foods contain inulin, a polysaccharide and dietary fiber with strong prebiotic effects. Inulin feeds the gut bacteria in our digestive tract, helping grow populations of healthy gut flora. Prebiotic is different from probiotic, the latter referring to actual beneficial bacteria found in certain foods such as yogurt.
At the same time, an alkaline diet can potentially worsen certain digestive conditions. For example, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, peppers and other alkaline foods can cause bloating and burping, increasing the chances for gastric juices to escape from the stomach along with air and rise into the esophagus, potentially worsening acid reflux in predisposed individuals. Similarly, they can worsen gastritis by irritating the already sensitive stomach lining or upset irritable bowel syndrome sufferers.
5) Weight loss. One aspect that is true about the alkaline diet is that it can help you lose weight. The diet plan promotes an intake as high as 75% or 80% of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, all foods rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, elements which regulate metabolism through their action. For example, dietary fiber binds to fats, partially preventing their absorption at the intestinal level, indirectly contributing to weight loss. This explains why people who eat nuts and seeds (which are rich in dietary fiber) daily manage to successfully lose excess weight or maintain a steady weight, despite the fact the nuts and seeds are often rich in calories.
Moreover, fruits and vegetables are often very low in calories, some even requiring more energy to be digested than they are worth. This means that even if we fill up on vegetables, for example, we are very likely to lose weight instead of gaining simply because they have a low calorie content. Vitamins and minerals, which we get plenty of from alkaline foods, regulate metabolism, improving our body’s synthesis of fats, proteins and carbohydrates and use of energy, further helping us maintain a healthy weight. Lastly, the diet encourages a low intake of animal products, meaning it makes us eat less of the foods rich in fats, cholesterol and calories, contributing to weight loss.
6) Reduce the risk for high blood pressure. This alkaline way of eating both limits our intake of sodium and fats, two major contributors to high blood pressure, and increases our intake of potassium and magnesium, two dietary minerals needed to keep blood pressure under control. We get too much sodium and too many fats primarily from animal products, but by reducing our intake, we lower our risks of high blood pressure. Moreover, by eating more plant sources of food, we stand a higher chance of increasing our intake of potassium and magnesium, nutrients that regulate fluid levels in the body, including blood, and heart contractions, hence the cardiovascular benefits.
7) Offers antioxidant protection. It has been theorized that an alkaline environment can neutralize free radicals, dangerous molecules that damage cells and cause inflammation. However, because this is still debatable information according to some specialists, know that we can enjoy a high intake of antioxidants simply by eating more fruits, vegetables, even nuts and seeds. Not surprisingly, many of the foods we know at present to be the healthiest and richest in antioxidants also fall into the category of alkaline foods, hence the reason we can enjoy a generous intake of antioxidants from an alkaline diet.
8) Improved mood. We get the highest intake of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients principally from fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts which also happen to be, for the most part, alkaline foods. And it’s vitamins and minerals that contribute a great deal to synthesizing neurotransmitters that regulate mood, hence the reason why an alkaline diet could contribute to better disposition. At the same time, it is also true that B vitamins, which have one of the biggest contributions to mental health, are found in generous amounts in meat, fish, dairy and milk. Fortunately, an alkaline diet does not exclude animal products and even a moderately low intake can supply us with much needed B vitamins for good disposition.
9) Teaches balance. Eating right is never easy so there are surely disadvantages to an alkaline diet like there are to any diet. However, one of its benefits is that it teaches us balance when it comes to eating. It has us cutting out processed and junk food, but also coffee and alcohol, two very unhealthy choices. It tells us to limit our intake of animal products, which is good because eating mostly dairy and meat can prove problematic for a number of reasons (it can cause high cholesterol, hypertension, pancreas and liver problems, constipation, acid reflux, obesity and so on).
At the same time, an alkaline diet calls for a higher intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, all foods with high nutritional value that actively contribute to our good health. Not to mention that it does not revolutionize our traditional views on healthy eating, the alkaline acid charts coinciding for the most part with what we currently know are healthy foods. And this form of eating offers balance and encourages good health, even when looked at from the point of view of more traditional nutritional standards.