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    Ask the Chef: What is the purpose of an alkaline diet?

    By Julie Morris, Superfood Chef | June 6, 2016


    What is the purpose of an alkaline diet?

    Perhaps you've heard the term “alkaline†thrown around in the context of a food's attributes. Often voiced by nutritionists and dietitians, alkaline has deep origins in both the study of medicine and science. As you may remember from your high school chemistry class, all water-based substances register somewhere on the pH scale, which measure how acid or alkaline they are. In a literal sense, while the scale measures “potential hydrogen,†the bigger purpose of pH is to predict the reaction the substance will have with other substances.

    All foods measure somewhere on the pH scale. Now, you may be thinking that many foods - corn chips for example - are not a water-based substance. While this is true, every food becomes a solution through the process of digestion within the human body. Therefore, when we talk about an alkaline diet, what we're really talking about is not alkaline foods themselves, but how these foods react within the context of your internal digestion.

    A large portion of daily life is acidic. Most of the modern diet registers as acidic (like processed foods), while a much smaller selection of foods register as alkaline (like vegetables). Additionally, many of your daily bodily functions create slightly acidic reactions within the body… even breathing! Not to stress you out though, because stress is acidic too. Nevertheless, despite all this acid talk, the human body has a pH of around 7.4 - slightly alkaline - which is measured in the blood. And though I certainly don't need to tell you that your inner eco-system is highly sophisticated, what may surprise you is that regardless of what you eat, your body is able to adjust and recalculate its pH to bring it back to that essential alkaline state of 7.4 homeostasis. But that doesn't mean this equalizing process comes without a price.

    While eating a acid or alkaline foods won't shift your blood pH very much, what you eat does have a direct effect on how much work and stress is inflicted on your body to maintain a balanced state. There is a reason why acidic foods are so strongly connected with diseases like digestive disorders, chronic fatigue, inflammation, and chronic illness: the body is being unnecessarily taxed and worn down. It's like choosing to driving your car on a rough gravel road everyday instead of a freshly-paved street - sure, the car will still drive, but which route will wear down the tires, the suspension, and the engine more quickly over time? Eating a so-called alkaline diet is like driving on that smooth road, making it much easier for the body to maintain its optimal state, and allows all that saved energy to be redirected elsewhere (in other words, you feel better!).

    If you'd like to treat your body with more care, the alkaline diet may be for you. Start by adding in more alkaline foods, which include copious vegetables and low sugar fruits like avocados, lemons and limes. The most alkaline-forming foods on the planet will be the green ones, so try and get in as many green foods as possible (wheatgrass is one of the very best alkaline foods you can get your hands on - a wonderfully easy way to efficiently alkalize). From there, you can start to remove the extremely acidic foods as much as possible - things like refined sugar, candy, soda, dairy, meat, alcohol, and coffee top the list of acid-producing. While there is no need to make every food that passes your lips an alkaline one, it is a smart practice to make your acidic food choices the ones that are closer to neutral (have a higher number) to minimize stress on the body, such as getting your protein from plant-based sources like hemp, instead of animals.

    Most experts agree that aiming toward about 80% alkaline foods in the diet is optimal, but the truth is there's no exact science (there are a lot of factors at play, including food source and your personal health). Rather, I suggest simply focusing on adding in alkaline foods whenever possible, and being conscious of your positive choices that can help both energize and heal.