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Ask an Expert: Alkaline Diet – Best Practices

“The alkaline diet is a great way to improve cell metabolism, help yourself detox, improve your kidneys’ ability to kick out extra waste products, and just overall, a great way to improve your health. The question is, What does an alkaline diet mean and how do you get there?” That’s what Functional and Integrative Medicine Doctor Aaron Hartman MD started telling us.

What is Alkaline Diet?

“The alkaline diet promotes the consumption of foods based on their pH value. Foods that have acidic pH (0-7) are avoided in this diet. Some less-strict variations of this diet do allow foods that have a little acidic pH because of their nutritional benefits.” Isaac Robertson, a certified sports nutritionist and Chief Editor of Total Shape tells us.

He continues, “Don’t exclude healthy foods like nuts, lentils, and grains from your diet, even if they are slightly high in pH. These foods have great nutritional value so ditching them can not be healthy. Especially if your diet is already lacking in nutrients. As this diet has not been researched very well, don’t follow it like your life is dependent on it.”

“We know that most Americans do not consume the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, and fiber that is recommended, so this approach can certainly help bridge that gap.”

We can certainly agree with Kristian Morey, RD, LDN, who is a Clinical Dietitian with the Nutrition and Diabetes Education program at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.

Recommended intake of fruits and vegetables

He continues, “however, this diet does discourage eating animal products and grains (as these foods tend to be acid-ash producers), which contain many beneficial nutrients such as protein, fiber, calcium, B-vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E), and trace minerals.

Therefore, a more flexible version of the alkaline diet may be more beneficial than a strict interpretation.

For individuals considering this, a consultation with a dietitian is a good idea to ensure adequate nourishment, and/or consideration of similar (but less extreme) approaches such as plant-based or Mediterranean diets.”

Alkaline Diet Best Practices

“If you are serious about the alkaline diet and you want to get the best results, you need to follow some very basic alkaline diet rules.” That’s what Janet Coleman from TheConsumerMag and a Registered Dietician based in Colorado points out.

The alkaline diet is a dietary program that advocates eating foods that are rich in alkaline elements, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains, while avoiding those that are high in acids, such as meat, eggs, poultry, fish, and dairy products. Proponents of the alkaline diet assert that by reducing your acid intake you can improve your health.”

Drink 8 glasses of water a day
Drink 8 glasses of water a day

Here are Janet’s top tips for an alkaline diet.

TIP 1: Drink 8 glasses of water a day (64 ounces). This is absolutely critical for cleansing.

TIP 2: Do not use any products that contain aluminum, such as baking powder and baking soda, processed cheese, etc. Avoid all processed foods and eat as many raw fruits and vegetables as you can.

TIP 3: Limit your consumption of meat and chicken to three times per week or less. Choose fish instead of meat or chicken whenever possible.

TIP 4: Try to have fresh fruits for breakfast every morning and eat fresh fruit in moderation between meals throughout the day.

TIP 5: Keep a food journal and track every bite of food that passes your lips – right down to the ketchup on your french fries! Just knowing what you are eating will make a big difference in how well you do on this diet.

Eat More Alkaline Foods and Less Acidic Foods

Elliana Rose is a practicing medical doctor specializing in gynecology, pharmacology, internal medicine, and surgery.

She is telling us that “an alkaline diet is an eating plan that emphasizes fruits and vegetables with the aim of obtaining an optimal pH in the body.

She continues, “It encourages people to think of continuum and strive for a balanced diet rather than foods to eat or to avoid.

Alkaline Diet Best Practices
Alkaline Diet Best Practices

Eat fruits and vegetables, 64 ounces (2L) of mineral water a day, grains, lean meat, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, dairy products, healthy fats, and alkaline broths.”

“Bottom line; eat fresh whole fruits and vegetables, limiting or eliminating processed foods. Certain amounts of grains, legumes, animal protein, and dairy have quite a number of acidic foods, so they should be taken in small moderate amounts.”

Alkaline Diet’s Potential Benefits

Dr. Madhankumar MV, a surgical gastroenterologist and a member of iCliniq told us that the “Alkaline diet is believed to maintain a constant blood pH, helps to absorb alkaline minerals from the body like calcium from the bones, and buffers the acids from the acid-forming foods you eat.

It can change the body’s pH balance and blood through the food that a person eats. The diet recommended in an alkaline diet is eating more vegetables and fruits, drinking lots of water, and cutting back on sugar, alcohol, meat, and processed foods. It helps to lose weight and even helps lower the risk of cancer.”

“It reinforces good, old-fashioned healthy eating by containing plenty of healthy foods on the acid-forming list high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals essential to overall health, including grains, beans, and nuts.”

Cut back on sugar
Cut back on sugar

Reduce Acidity in the Blood

“The alkaline diet is an excellent way to reduce acidity in the blood and reduce unwanted symptoms that range from serious diseases (like cancer) to bad breath.” That’s what Heather Hanks, MS CAM from Medical Solutions BCN told us.

She continues that “It’s all about pairing certain foods that balance each other. So, if you’re eating a lean protein like chicken or beef (an acidic food), then pair it with a low-carb vegetable like steamed broccoli to bring down the acidity.

The majority of your foods will come from alkaline sources, but don’t be afraid to eat acidic foods (clean meats) as long as you pair them with vegetables.”

We also need to “remember that you need both acidic and alkaline foods – but most people get too many acidic foods in their diet, which is why it’s a good idea to flood your diet with alkaline foods at first until you learn how to properly
balance your meals.”

It’s the Minerals

Let’s circle back now to Dr. Aaron Hartman MD to hear what else he’s got to say about the alkaline diet. He starts out by telling us that “One of the misnomers of this diet is that if you just eat enough greens, smoothies, etc, you can actually affect your urine and saliva pH which is typically how you measure if an alkaline diet is appropriate.”

“Typically, minerals are the best way to get your urine and saliva pH up into the alkaline range (which is blue when
a pHydrion test strip and a pH of over 6.8). Minerals are the main way to work on alkalinity. Most of us have deficiencies in magnesium, potassium, and other trace minerals.”

Dr. Hartman continues, “Using a citric form like magnesium citrate, potassium citrate, and the likes is actually the best way to alkalize urine. Even kidney specialists and nephrologists will use potassium citrate to help maintain renal function in patients who have it decreasing are on the decline.”

The biggest pitfall of an alkaline diet is you can actually induce kidney stones the way most people do it. Lots of green powders, green smoothies, blended-up kale, and even spinach are really high in oxalates which can lead to kidney stones. That’s probably the single biggest thing to look out for when doing the alkaline diet.

But again, most of our gut backgrounds and our dietary habits – like eating meat, high protein diets, dairy, carbs, greens, etc. – make it really hard to attain physiologic alkalinity without minerals like potassium and magnesium, which are easy to obtain and use appropriately. Doses should be 300-500 milligrams of magnesium potassium once or twice a day, depending on the patient’s physiology and health status.”

Jury’s Still Out?

Dr. Tabitha Cranie, MD, an experienced family physician reminds us that “there is not a lot of scientific research to support the claims of this diet alkalizing your body as the body has its own strict way of maintaining the acidic levels in the body.”

She does continue to say that “the benefits of this diet are that it will aid in weight loss, promote better health, and glowing skin.”