In this series, “The Down Low on Nutrition”, we answer questions from clients about the best nutritional support to help achieve fitness goals. We’ll turn to our trainers who are qualified Holistic Lifestyle Nutrition Coaches for insight and their best tips. Every couple of years or so, there is a popular diet (often just a fad) that spreads like wildfire through the fitness and weight-watching crowds. Thanks to celebrity endorsements from beautiful people like Elle Macpherson and Kelly Ripa, and health proponents like Dr. Oz, an Alkaline Diet has stuck around and become a ‘big thing’ in North America. Is it a trend or is there some scientific proof to why it works?
What Does Alkaline Mean?
If you take your memory back to high school chemistry class, you may recall that the “pH” referred to the level of acidity or alkalinity in a substance. A balance between the two needs to exist for certain metabolic processes to take place in our body. That balance can shift with stress, immune reactions, diet and more.
What is an Alkaline Diet?
Your typical North American diet is rich in meat, dairy and processed foods, which create an acidic environment in the body. The theory is that certain types of foods, which are alkaline-based, can help neutralize toxic dietary acids, and help detox the body. Nutrition coach Craig Boyd says, “The majority of people tend to eat too many acidic foods and then tend to be trending in an acidic pH overall. Your body does naturally correct your blood pH by taking calcium form your bones and re-balancing the body’s pH. If you can balance this process yourself through the consumption of more alkaline foods such as vegetables and alkaline water, your body will be naturally alkaline and it will not have use its resources to re-balance its pH.” An alkaline diet can help stabilize lactic acid build-up in the body after intense exercise such as a training session or a long run. A higher level of acidity in the body has been connected with muscle pain and fatigue; and can decrease your body’s metabolic rate. Some people also point to research that shows a link between alkaline foods and an increase in muscle mass – which in turn helps boost metabolism, leading to a leaner body.
What Foods Are Alkaline?
- Fruits: cherries, tomato, lemon, lime, white grapefruit, banana, apple, pear, mango, papaya, melon
- Veg: celery, carrots, potatoes, cauliflower, radishes, green beans, broccoli, onion
- Greens: spinach, kelp, lettuce, parsley, coriander
- Grains: oats, quinoa, millet, buckwheat and brown rice
- Almond and brown rice milk
- Dried fruit: raisins, dates, figs, apricots
- Spices: paprika, chili, ginger
This type of diet limits the amount of legumes, shellfish, fish, meats and dairy products consumed. While some food may intuitively seem acidic (lemon comes to mind), the pH is about what happens once the food as been ingested and processed. Craig adds, “Both alcohol and coffee are very acidic so watching liquid intake as well as food is important part of balancing the pH.”
Is it Worth It?
In short form, yes – if you are currently consuming a highly acidic diet, choosing to eat foods from a list similar to this (i.e. nutrient-based foods) will be a positive and healthy change. It’s a cleaner way of eating. However, according to many health groups (such as the Canadian Cancer Society) ‘eating Alkaline’ is a trend diet as there is not enough evidence to support the claims that it will help you lose weight – or fight disease such as cancer. Getting caught up in eating too much alkaline food can lead to a nutritional deficit. “All foods have some nutritional value (some more than others) and completely eliminating some foods may not be possible, so this is more about balancing it out. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, drink alkaline water (either through a filter system like we have at the gym, or add lemon or cucumber to your water at home) – and cut down on processed foods and grains.”