Lately I have been seeing a lot of ads for “alkaline” foods and beverages. Companies are marketing everything from “alkaline water” to specially packaged convenience foods to improve the pH of your body. Companies promote these foods to decrease your risk of cancer and heart disease, arthritis and kidney stones.
Do they work?
In a word, no. The pH of a food itself has little to no impact on the pH of your body. The stomach is extremely acidic and easily overwhelms the intrinsic pH of the food itself. So “alkaline water” is water that has had its pH adjusted above 7 through artificial means.
However, there is evidence that a diet rich in ALKALINIZING foods is quite healthy for you. This change in acid is accomplished because of how the foods are processed in the body, NOT based on the pH of the food itself.
There was a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that reported the amount of acid produced by the digestion of certain foods can be estimated almost entirely based on two nutrients.
Protein, especially animal protein, produces acid when it is processed in the body, which must be buffered by the cells and eliminated in the kidneys. Buffering the acid tends to leach minerals from the bones. This can promote osteoporosis and the formation of kidney stones in the acidic urine.
Potassium salts tend to neutralize acid and decrease the amount of acid excreted in the urine. In fact, potassium citrate is a medication prescribed for patients with certain types of kidney stones. It also has been shown to protect bone density in patients at risk for osteoporosis.
If you want to properly balance the acidity and alkalinity in your body, which may be a marker of health and risk for disease, you should do three things.
- Limit or eliminate animal protein (meat, dairy and eggs) from your diet. Your body creates a lot of acid when processing this type of protein. Replace animal protein with healthy plant proteins like soy, quinoa and beans.
- Get plenty of potassium in your diet. You can estimate the amount of potassium in your diet using a calorie tracker like MyFitnessPal. Examples of high potassium foods are oranges, bananas, potatoes with the skins, broccoli and spinach. You can see more options here.
- Eat fresh whole plant foods at every meal. Include plenty of fruit, fresh veggies, whole unprocessed grains, beans, nuts and seeds.
Don’t bother with “alkaline” foods or beverages like high-pH water. There is little evidence they impact acid production in the body, or any other marker of health, at all.
QUESTION: Have you seen marketing for “alkaline” foods and beverages?