The alkaline diet has become increasingly popular over the last decade. As the world of healthy eating has taken off, more and more people are looking to find a diet that helps them lose weight and avoid disease.
The premise of the alkaline diet is that it raises the body's pH to make it less acidic, and thus more alkaline. People who follow the diet, report that it promotes weight loss, and also helps to lower the risk of different diseases. However, there is no actual scientific evidence that specifically proves this. While the alkaline diet as a whole is a healthy approach, it does not achieve this by simply changing our blood pH.
Instead, the reason the alkaline diet is successful, is that it helps people to focus on eating more fruits and vegetables. The alkaline diet also promotes eating of fewer processed meats, and high-fat dairy. While meat and dairy can be helpful, by removing the worst offenders – processed foods – the alkaline diet can definitely help improve our health. There are also a number of scientific studies which show that eating foods with little-to-no acid can lead to better health outcomes. In this piece, we will cover all the claims surrounding the alkaline diet, and separate fact from fiction. We will also cover how the foods featured in the alkaline diet can improve our health, and why they actually do, from a scientific perspective.
What Is The Alkaline Diet?
The alkaline diet is sometimes also referred to as the acid-alkaline diet. Another name is the alkaline ash diet. The basic premise behind the diet is that the foods you eat can alter the pH balance in your body. In this premise, acidic is inherently bad, and alkaline would be better. Our metabolism is sometimes referred to as a furnace, in that it converts whatever you put into it, into fire (or more accurately – energy). But our metabolism is actually a series of many different chemical reactions, each of which breaks down food into elements our body can use. As you might guess, these reactions are fairly complex, and very tightly regulated. They also happen slowly. There are also byproducts and waste left behind. This is technically known as “metabolic waste”.
This is where the diet starts to veer from the established science a bit. Since metabolic waste can be acidic or alkaline, the diet’s biggest followers then claim that this waste can impact your body’s overall level of acidity. The inherent premise is that being in a more acidic overall state is bad, and that eating more alkaline foods, will lead to your body being in an overall more alkaline state. They then go as far to say that your blood will become more acidic, if you eat foods which are more acidic. This has not been scientifically proven, and in fact, seems to have been disproven. On a more specific level though, there are foods which have been proven to leave behind either alkaline (or acidic) metabolic waste. Specifically: protein, sulfur, and phosphate are likely to leave behind acidic ash - while potassium, magnesium, and calcium leave behind more alkaline metabolic waste. However, this does not really seem to relate to the acidity of your blood, which instead must stay in a very narrow range, or big problems may arise.
Why Is Being Alkaline Important?
The Alkaline diet is not that far off base - it is absolutely crucial that the pH level of your blood stays consistent. If the pH of your blood starts to get outside of the normal, healthy range – a huge number of problems start to occur. Essentially, your cells would quickly stop working, and you may even die very soon after, if you do not get the pH of your blood back to a stable level. As such, your body has developed many different (and effective) ways to keep your blood at a specific pH level. This balance is sometimes referred to as acid-base homeostasis. While the alkaline diet indeed is likely to make you healthier (because you’ll be eliminating processed foods and eating more vegetables) – it is practically impossible for your diet to really alter the pH of your blood. Sure, you might see some small fluctuations of pH in your blood, but it’s nothing that will make any real difference in your health.
The part about the alkaline diet that is true, is that our diet can alter the pH value of our urine. However, this is not only irrelevant (urine gets rid of waste, so the pH value fluctuates) – it has no real impact on your actual health. For example, eating meat will change the pH of your urine differently than eating a salad will – but this only lasts for a few hours, while your body excretes the waste. In essence, the pH of your urine has no real impact on anything tangible. It can also be influenced by other element besides what you eat. That being said, because it eliminates processed foods and recommends eating more vegetables – the alkaline diet is still great for your health.
What Foods Should You Eat On The Alkaline Diet?
As you might guess, foods recommended on an alkaline diet are less acidic, and instead are more alkaline. The best choices are fruits, vegetables, seeds, legumes (like lentils), and tofu. One of the key things to look for, is getting enough high-quality protein. Since you have removed dairy and meat, it is important to find good sources of protein, to replace them.
Another interesting aspect of the alkaline diet is that it does seem to have roots in our agricultural and evolutionary development. By this, we mean that before agriculture, an estimated 90% of human diets, were largely alkaline. Other studies have shown that a more accurate number may be a 50/50 split, between alkaline-based diets, and acid-based ones. This also seems to have been impacted by exactly where our ancestors were living. Interestingly though, diseases that are commonplace today, barely existed back then. This was the case, even though half of our ancestors were eating acid-based diets.
What Foods Should I Avoid On The Alkaline Diet?
People interested in trying an alkaline diet should avoid high-acid foods. This includes: dairy products (like cheese and milk), processed foods, fish, coffee, alcohol, and soda. This will base your diet around foods which have a very low acid-load, and remove some of the most unhealthy choices. There is also some research which shows that cancer may grow more quickly in an acidic environment. That said, you should pursue an alkaline diet only with the expectation that your general health and weight are likely to improve – nothing beyond that.
Our Bars Are Alkaline-Friendly!
Yes! That’s it. makes an entire line of products that are alkaline friendly. Some of our bars also contain probiotics, leading to improved gut health, with regular consumption. Additionally, our products are non-GMO, vegan, paleo, and Whole30 compliant. Since all of our bars are made with real fruits, there are also additional nutrients and micronutrients, in each. While you may love the portability of our products - they are exactly like eating real, unprocessed foods. While some companies claim they only make products with real ingredients - we actually do!
Ströhle A, Hahn A, Sebastian A. Estimation of the diet-dependent net acid load in 229 worldwide historically studied hunter-gatherer societies. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010;91(2):406–412.
Sebastian A, Frassetto LA, Sellmeyer DE, Merriam RL, Morris RC., Jr. Estimation of the net acid load of the diet of ancestral preagricultural Homo sapiens and their hominid ancestors. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2002;76(6):1308–1316.
Frassetto L, Morris, Jr. R.C. RC, Jr., Sellmeyer DE, Todd K, Sebastian A. Diet, evolution and aging—the pathophysiologic effects of the post-agricultural inversion of the potassium-to-sodium and base-to-chloride ratios in the human diet. European Journal of Nutrition. 2001;40(5):200–213.
Konner M, Boyd Eaton S. Paleolithic nutrition: twenty-five years later. Nutrition in Clinical Practice. 2010;25(6):594–602.
Lindeman RD, Goldman R. Anatomic and physiologic age changes in the kidney. Experimental Gerontology. 1986;21(4-5):379–406.
Reddy ST, Wang CY, Sakhaee K, Brinkley L, Pak CY. Effect of low-carbohydrate high-protein diets on acid-base balance, stone-forming propensity, and calcium metabolism. American Journal of Kidney Diseases. 2002;40(2):265–274.
Malov YS, Kulikov AN. Bicarbonate deficiency and duodenal ulcer. Terapevticheskii Arkhiv. 1998;70(2):28–32.
Ohman H, Vahlquist A. In vivo studies concerning a pH gradient in human stratum corneum and upper epidermis. Acta Dermato-Venereologica. 1994;74(5):375–379.
Ferris DG, Francis SL, Dickman ED, Miler-Miles K, Waller JL, McClendon N. Variability of vaginal pH determination by patients and clinicians. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. 2006;19(4):368–373.
Remer T, Manz F. Estimation of the renal net acid excretion by adults consuming diets containing variable amounts of protein. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1994;59(6):1356–1361.
Remer T. Influence of diet on acid-base balance. Seminars in Dialysis. 2000;13(4):221–226.
Fenton TR, Eliasziw M, Tough SC, Lyon AW, Brown JP, Hanley DA. Low urine pH and acid excretion do not predict bone fractures or the loss of bone mineral density: a prospective cohort study. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 2010;11, article 88
Boelsma E, van de Vijver LPL, Goldbohm RA, Klöpping-Ketelaars IAA, Hendriks HFJ, Roza L. Human skin condition and its associations with nutrient concentrations in serum and diet. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003;77(2):348–355.
Ince BA, Anderson EJ, Neer RM. Lowering dietary protein to U.S. recommended dietary allowance levels reduces urinary calcium excretion and bone resorption in young women. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2004;89(8):3801–3807.
Boron WF. Regulation of intracellular pH. Advances in Physiology Education. 2004;28:160–179.
Remer T, Manz F. Potential renal acid load of foods and its influence on urine pH. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 1995;95(7):791–797.
Fenton TR, Eliasziw M, Lyon AW, Tough SC, Hanley DA. Meta-analysis of the quantity of calcium excretion associated with the net acid excretion of the modern diet under the acid-ash diet hypothesis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008;88(4):1159–1166.
Sebastian A, Morris RC., Jr. Improved mineral balance and skeletal metabolism in postmenopausal women treated with potassium bicarbonate. The New England Journal of Medicine. 1994;331(4):p. 279.
Dawson-Hughes B, Harris SS, Palermo NJ, Castaneda-Sceppa C, Rasmussen HM, Dallal GE. Treatment with potassium bicarbonate lowers calcium excretion and bone resorption in older men and women. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2009;94(1):96–102.
Heaney RP, Dowell MS, Hale CA, Bendich A. Calcium absorption varies within the reference range for serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2003;22(2):142–146.
Schwalfenberg GK, Genuis SJ, Hiltz MN. Addressing vitamin D deficiency in Canada: a public health innovation whose time has come. Public Health. 2010;124(6):350–359.
Lu KC, Lin SH, Yu FC, Chyr SH, Shieh SD. Influence of metabolic acidosis on serum 1,25(OH)2D3 levels in chronic renal failure. Mineral and Electrolyte Metabolism. 1995;21(6):398–402.
Fenton TR, Lyon AW, Eliasziw M, Tough SC, Hanley DA. Phosphate decreases urine calcium and increases calcium balance: a meta-analysis of the osteoporosis acid-ash diet hypothesis. Nutrition Journal. 2009;8, article 41
Hulley SB, Vogel JM, Donaldson CL, Bayers JH, Friedman RJ, Rosen SN. The effect of supplemental oral phosphate on the bone mineral changes during prolonged bed rest. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 1971;50(12):2506–2518.
Fenton TR, Lyon AW, Eliasziw M, Tough SC, Hanley DA. Meta-analysis of the effect of the acid-ash hypothesis of osteoporosis on calcium balance. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. 2009;24(11):1835–1840.
Supplee JD, Duncan GE, Bruemmer B, Goldberg J, Wen Y, Henderson JA. Soda intake and osteoporosis risk in postmenopausal American-Indian women. Public Health Nutrition. 2011:1–7.
Fenton TR, Tough SC, Lyon AW, Eliasziw M, Hanley DA. Causal assessment of dietary acid load and bone disease: a systematic review & meta-analysis applying Hill's epidemiologic criteria for causality. Nutrition Journal. 2011;10(1, article 41)
Frassetto LA, Morris RC, Jr., Sebastian A. Dietary sodium chloride intake independently predicts the degree of hyperchloremic metabolic acidosis in healthy humans consuming a net acid-producing diet. American Journal of Physiology—Renal Physiology. 2007;293(2):F521–F525.
Frings-Meuthen P, Buehlmeier J, Baecker N, et al. High sodium chloride intake exacerbates immobilization-induced bone resorption and protein losses. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2011;111(2):537–542.
Cappuccio FP, Meilahn E, Zmuda JM, Cauley JA. High blood pressure and bone-mineral loss in elderly white women: a prospective study. Lancet. 1999;354(9183):971–975.
Devine A, Criddle RA, Dick IM, Kerr DA, Prince RL. A longitudinal study of the effect of sodium and calcium intakes on regional bone density in postmenopausal women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1995;62(4):740–745.
Morris RC, Jr., Schmidlin O, Frassetto LA, Sebastian A. Relationship and interaction between sodium and potassium. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2006;25(3):262S–270S.
Barzel US, Massey LK. Excess dietary protein can adversely affect bone. Journal of Nutrition. 1998;128(6):1051–1053.
Heaney RP, Layman DK. Amount and type of protein influences bone health. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008;87(5):156S–157S.
Dawson-Hughes B, Harris SS, Ceglia L. Alkaline diets favor lean tissue mass in older adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008;87(3):662–665.
Garibotto G, Russo R, Sofia A, et al. Muscle protein turnover in chronic renal failure patients with metabolic acidosis or normal acid-base balance. Mineral and Electrolyte Metabolism. 1996;22(1–3):58–61.
Caso G, Garlick PJ. Control of muscle protein kinetics by acid-base balance. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. 2005;8(1):73–76.
Webster MJ, Webster MN, Crawford RE, Gladden LB. Effect of sodium bicarbonate ingestion on exhaustive resistance exercise performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 1993;25(8):960–965.
McSherry E, Morris RC., Jr. Attainment and maintenance of normal stature with alkali therapy in infants and children with classic renal tubular acidosis. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 1978;61(2):509–527.
Frassetto L, Morris RC, Jr., Sebastian A. Potassium bicarbonate reduces urinary nitrogen excretion in postmenopausal women. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 1997;82(1):254–259.
Wass JAH, Reddy R. Growth hormone and memory. Journal of Endocrinology. 2010;207(2):125–126.
Frassetto L, Morris RC, Jr., Sebastian A. Long-term persistence of the urine calcium-lowering effect of potassium bicarbonate in postmenopausal women. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2005;90(2):831–834.
Vormann J, Worlitschek M, Goedecke T, Silver B. Supplementation with alkaline minerals reduces symptoms in patients with chronic low back pain. Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology. 2001;15(2-3):179–183.
Zofková I, Kancheva RL. The relationship between magnesium and calciotropic hormones. Magnesium Research. 1995;8(1):77–84.
Schwalfenberg G. Improvement of chronic back pain or failed back surgery with vitamin D repletion: a case series. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. 2009;22(1):69–74.
Groos E, Walker L, Masters JR. Intravesical chemotherapy. Studies on the relationship between pH and cytotoxicity. Cancer. 1986;58(6):1199–1203.
Smith SR, Martin PA, Edwards RHT. Tumour pH and response to chemotherapy: an in vivo 31P magnetic resonance spectroscopy study in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. British Journal of Radiology. 1991;64(766):923–928.
Raghunand N, Gillies RJ. pH and chemotherapy. Novartis Foundation Symposium. 2001;240:199–211.
Raghunand N, He X, Van Sluis R, et al. Enhancement of chemotherapy by manipulation of tumour pH. British Journal of Cancer. 1999;80(7):1005–1011.