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Understanding Alkaline and Acid-Forming Foods

The pH is the measure of acidity or alkalinity and is measured on a scale of 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral and alkaline substances on the higher end of the scale. The body requires certain pH values to function optimally. For instance, the blood needs to be in the range of 7.36 to 7.44, while the urine is usually between 4.5-8.0 and is a reflection of the toxins and other byproducts our body has to flush from its systems. The body tightly regulates pH balance through the kidneys and lung. Why is this important? Because when we speak about pH or hear people saying “how can I be alkaline” or “I am too acidic” that isn’t actually correct. Your focus should be on digestion and how to maintain better pH balance throughout your digestive tract.


To be Alkaline is actually not your goal.

At different points throughout the digestive tract, your body pH should be different. For example, the stomach should be more acidic to breakdown proteins and other nutrients. Then as digested food moves through to the small intestine it should become alkaline (with the help of sodium bicarbonate and other ingredients in its digestive juices). The lower digestive tract needs to be more alkaline to allow for better absorption of key nutrients such as magnesium and other minerals, as well as the survival of many good bacteria (probiotics). When our systems are too acidic, we often experience slower digestion, bloating and increase risk of infection, hormone imbalances and more.


Which foods and beverage are alkaline forming?

The list includes watery green vegetables (cucumbers, celery, green beans, broccoli), dark leafy greens (kale, collard greens, spinach), green fruits (kiwi, limes, avocado, olives), and sea vegetables (algae, seaweed). Green is the color of alkalinity! But also topping the list are lemons, mushrooms, beets, watermelon, coconut, radishes, grapefruit, herbs and many herbal teas. Other alkaline formers include plant protein sources like nuts and seeds, beans especially almonds, hemp, sesame seeds, navy and lima beans.


The number one alkaline-former is a beverage:

Water! Your body uses water to flush out toxins and deliver nutrients to your cells but also to restore and maintain healthy pH throughout your digestive tract. You do not need alkaline water for it to have those benefits, but filtered water is a win. Be cautious of alkaline waters not just for your wallet but for the additives some companies use to change the pH as they can add extra burden to the kidneys.


What are acid-forming foods and beverages:

Added sugar, coffee, alcohol, high sodium foods, refined flour products (most cereals, breads, crackers, pastas) and animal products like dairy milk, eggs, butter and animal meats tend to be more acid-forming in your digestive tract.


How to put alkalinity into practice

The key to alkaline forming foods is to understand that it is about balance. It is not necessary to cut out all acidic foods. Alkaline-formers should build the foundation of your daily intake and be used to offset when you enjoy acid-forming foods and beverages. For example:

  • In the AM, have water with lemon or water before your coffee!

  • For breakfast enjoy a blend of nuts and seeds with a non-dairy unsweetened milk or yogurt and some dark berries OR a half avocado with some hemp seeds and a pinch of sea salt OR overnight oats with nuts and seeds.

  • Mid-morning enjoy a kiwi and 2 dates with some almond butter or have a mostly greens smoothie.

  • At lunch enjoy a mixed green salad with salmon and chickpeas, use lemon and olive oil as your dressing and incorporate as much greenery as possible!

  • For dinner try making zucchini noodles to toss with hemp pesto and avocado! Yum.


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