Being “basic” is a bad thing unless you’re talking about your diet. No one wants their body to be too acidic, and that’s where the Alkaline Diet has caught on like wildfire. Celebrities are peddling this old concept and breathing new life into it. But does the Alkaline Diet really help prevent cancer and fight cancer? Here’s an Alkaline Diet review to help you answer the question: “Does the Alkaline Diet work?” Plus, find out what the benefits are, whether there’s any evidence for them, and some recipes if you do want to be… basic.
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What is the Alkaline Diet?
The Alkaline Diet (also called the Acid-Alkaline Diet) recommends that for optimum health, everyone should be consuming at least 80% “alkaline”, or non-acidic foods, and no more than 20% “acidic” foods (and no, this isn’t what I mean by 80 Twenty Nutrition). The ultimate goal of the Alkaline Diet is to lower the acidity of your blood, urine, “body” or all of the above, which is supposed to make you healthier and less prone to disease.
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Which Foods are Alkaline?
So which foods are considered to be alkaline? Depending on where you look, there can be some discrepancy between the lists (always a bit of a red flag when there isn’t a standard, right)? There are some plans that will separate foods out into mildly alkaline or acidic (basically neutral), moderately alkaline or acidic and highly alkaline or acidic.
For the most part, these foods are considered to be alkaline:
Alkaline Food List
- Most vegetables (preferably raw, juiced or steamed)
- Some fruit (preferably raw)
- Beans, lentils and chickpeas
- Soybeans and soy foods such as tempeh, tofu and miso
- Hemp seeds
- Buckwheat and spelt
- Alkaline water (a whole other discussion that I will be writing about soon!)
Organic foods are considered to be more alkaline because they are thought to be grown in soil that is richer in minerals.
Which Foods are Acidic?
Most Alkaline Diet plans agree that these foods are acidic and should be either avoided or limited:
Acidic Food List
- Dairy products
- Grains (especially wheat)
- Most nuts and seeds including peanuts and walnuts
- Tropical fruit
- High-protein supplements
- Sugary drinks (such as soda)
- Artificial sweetners
- Processed foods
- High sodium foods
Alkaline Diet Benefits
Alkaline Diet fans claim it does all of this:
- Boosts energy levels
- Improves memory
- Prevents heart disease
- Fights bloating
- Prevents headaches
- Improves muscle pain
- Prevents and fights cancer
- Promotes bone health
- Causes weight loss
- Lowers inflammation
Does the Alkaline Diet Work?
Unfortunately, there is no evidence that following an Alkaline Diet has any of the benefits listed above. Essentially, it hasn’t been well studied.
We do know that pH (the measure of acidity/alkalinity) in your body varies depending on where you’re looking. So trying to make your “body” more alkaline doesn’t really make sense.
Your stomach needs to be acidic (hello, stomach acid) to break down/digest your food. The pH of your stomach is between 2 and 3.5 for good reason.
Your blood is slightly basic, with a pH that is tightly regulated between 7.35 and 7.45. If your blood pH is out of this range, it’s due to a serious disease (not what’s on your plate).
Some Alkaline Diet proponents recommend using urine test strips to find out how acidic your urine is. Your “pee-H” (haha) does vary based on what you eat. However, urine pH doesn’t indicate your overall body pH and isn’t linked to your health at all. If your urine pH is on the acidic side, not to worry… that means your body is getting rid of some acid. Good body! Smart body.
Not only can you not change your body pH with your diet, but claims about health benefits of avoiding “acidic” foods don’t check out.
Alkaline Diet Benefits
The Alkaline Diet does suggest you eat more vegetables and plant-based proteins. It also encourages you to limit meat, processed foods, sugar and salt in your diet. These guidelines are in line with nutrition recommendations for cancer prevention and for cancer survivors. They are also common sense diet changes that will help you feel better overall.
We do know that eating lots of meat can make your urine more acidic, increasing the risk of kidney stones. That’s one of the reasons why choosing vegetarian protein sources more often is a healthy step. Cutting down on red meat also reduces your risk of developing colon cancer.
Alkaline Diet Cons
1) It’s based on bogus science
The main issue with the Alkaline Diet is the science is seriously flawed. You can’t control the pH level in your blood with diet, and changing the pH of your urine with food is inconsistent at best. Your lungs, stomach, gallbladder, liver, pancreas and kidneys all work together to keep your blood pH within a narrow range. The benefits of eating more fresh produce has nothing to do with acidity or the pH of your blood.
2) It limits healthy foods (for no good reason)
Cutting fish, poultry, eggs, dairy and most grains, nuts and seeds out of your diet can make it tough to get the nutrients you need.
Why is it necessary to limit foods with proven nutrition and health benefits? We know that nuts and seeds provide protein, fiber and healthy fats and enjoying them as part of a healthy diet can help with weight management and reduce type 2 diabetes and heart disease risk.
We know that mushrooms have potential cancer-fighting power, berries have plenty of fiber and antioxidants that help fight chronic diseases. And should apples, bananas, oranges, mango, and pineapple be foods you rarely eat again? Give me a break. The average person already isn’t eating enough fruit and fiber. We don’t need to bring those servings down… especially when there’s no good reason to!
You know I’m a huge fan of fermented foods such as yogurt and kefir. Yes, they’re dairy products, but they are part of a healthy diet in my books.
And why are buckwheat and spelt (a type of wheat) considered to be alkaline? And how bored would you be only having these two grains day in and day out? One of the key principles of nutrition: variety is key. Choose a variety of whole, nutritious foods and you’ll be a healthier person.
3) It can lack nutrients
You may not get enough calcium, iron or zinc on the Alkaline Diet thanks to all of the foods that are limited.
4) Every alkaline food list/acidic food list is different
If you want an exercise in frustration, follow this diet. Every list of alkaline foods and acidic foods is different.
Don’t believe me? Google it and put a bunch of the lists side by side. Which one is right? Spoiler alert: none of them.
The Bottom Line on the Alkaline Diet
- Fill at least two-thirds of your plate with vegetarian foods like vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts and seeds and whole grains.
- Get enough protein and zinc every day. Include beans, nuts and seeds with your meals, or a palm-sized serving of fish, turkey or chicken breast without the skin.
Follow a diet based on whole foods that are minimally processed… or as close to nature as possible. Eating more plant-based foods and limiting added sugars and salt is a great idea all around.
I am also a huge proponent of including small amounts of less healthy foods into your diet. Life is short and I want you to enjoy eating and lead your most fulfilling and fun life. It’s the 80 Twenty way! Stress is acidic, after all, right?!Stress is acidic. So if you're stressed on the Alkaline Diet, it won't work 😉 Click To Tweet
If you want to learn more about how to eat to lose weight and keep it off, prevent and manage chronic diseases or to get more energy, check out my post on The Best Diet Ever. If you’re interested in one-on-one nutrition counseling, I’d love to chat.
Alkaline Diet Recipes
If you’re still hell-bent on trying the Alkaline Diet, or you know someone who’s following it and you’re looking for recipes, here are some 80 Twenty Nutrition recipes that are “alkaline”.
(They’re not healthy because they’re “alkaline”, they’re healthy because they’re loaded with vegetables!)
Mains (Lunch or Dinner)
Do you buy into the Alkaline Diet? Would love to hear your thoughts!