In some previous posts, I have mentioned a link between your health and the acid / alkaline balance of your body. As athletes, this is even more important as the high training loads we sometimes have can influence this balance. Acidic environments can effect so many part of our body, it’s not funny. It can disrupt the energy production of the body, has been linked to osteoporosis (calcium is leached from our bones when we are acidic), heart disease (acidic blood causes inflammation in the arteries, read more here), arthritic conditions and I have even heard from a few reputable sources that cancer loves acidic environments, yet fails to thrive in alkaline environments.
You probably remember playing with those test strips in school that you dip into a liquid and it gives a reading somewhere between 0 and 14. Where 7 is neutral, or base, above 7 is alkaline and below 7 is acid. Now in the case of our body, 7 is actually considered acid, as the base for us is more 7.35-7.45. If you can keep it in that range, you will be well on your way to great health.
So what causes this issue. Quite simply, the Western diet is a big factor. When dietary recommendations tell you to eat more grains (acidic) than fresh, raw seasonal vegetables (alkaline), it’s a recipe for disaster. Add on top of that, a society that is addicted to sugary drinks like colas and sports drinks (outside of competition), we are really are doing quite poorly.
Its not actually the acidity or alkalinity of the food that is the issue. The way Naturopaths describe it is that all foods after digestion, leave an “ash” or residue in the body. Different foods leave an ash of different PH. Lemons, even though quite acidic in themselves, are actually very alkalising.
Now excluding those sugary drinks I just mentioned, most grains are a huge factor in the acidity of our bodies. They are quite acidic, being mostly in the region of 5 on the PH scale, and make up the majority of the modern diet. Wheat (whole grain and white) products are the worst with white rice not far behind along with oats and corn. Less acid, but still acidic nonetheless, grains are sprouted wheat (read blog about sprouted grains), spelt and brown rice. The more acidic ones should be avoided, with the ones less acidic used minimally.
But it’s not all bad for the grain, as there are a few options that sneak into the alkaline range being quinoa, millet, wild rice and amaranth. These are slightly alkaline, so a great option for you, yet still should not be used in place of fresh vegetables. maybe a bit on the side making up no more than 20% of the whole plate on the odd occaision.
All meats are on the acidic side of the scale, unfortunately, but if you are going to eat one food that is acidic, this is the one to choose. I tried going vegetarian many years ago, and just found it did not work for me, so I am not going to tell you not to eat a food that I eat routinely. The thing is, it’s great for your energy and health to eat an alkaline diet, but it is very limiting. What is most important is the balance of acid to alkaline foods. Just keep in mind, it takes roughly 4 parts alkaline to counteract 1 part acid. This is one of the many reasons I recommend that people eat a diet of at least 50% raw foods, like salad or a breakfast smoothie.
The most alkaline foods, are the leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, kelp etc. But just keep in mind, foods like this actually become slightly acidic when cooked. Lemons, as described earlier, along with limes are some of the most alkalizing foods. A great way to start the day off alkaline, is to squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice into a glass of water. For the record, store bought fruit juices are very acidic.
You can use a PH strip to test your saliva first thing each morning to get an idea of your body’s PH, which should read 7.0-7.5 in a healthy person. If it reads 6.0 which is not uncommon, this actually means you are 10 times as acidic as someone at 7.0 due to the way the PH scale works. A reading of 5.0 means 100 times more acidic than 7.0. I am not saying you should do this kind of thing religiously, but on the odd occasion, it is a good idea to check to get an idea of how you are going.
To get an idea of the most acid and alkaline foods, here is a link to a page with a nice, easy to read graph. It obviously does not incluse all foods, but it’s a good reference to what kinds of food fit into which category and how to balance the foods out. If you want great energy levels, trying to lose weight, tired of getting sick every time the flu season comes around, you could do a lot worse than follow this guide.