In 1863, Ludwig Feuerbach wrote, “Man is what he eats.” In my work in healthcare and wellness, I frequently find many people have some misunderstanding when it comes to acidic foods and alkaline foods and effects these have on overall health. Thinking back to your high school science class, you may have tested various substances with Litmus paper to see if the paper turned red or blue. pH as you may recall is a 0-14 scale that measures how acidic or basic a substance is. Zero being most acidic, neutral being 7 and 14 being most alkaline. A common description of an acidic substance would be something that tastes sour and thus turns the blue paper red. Of course lemon and grapefruit juice taste sour and are acidic substances, but many people often forget that tomato juice, coffee, tea and sour milk are acidic as well. On the other hand, alkaline substances turn red litmus paper blue. When mixed together, acids and alkalines typically neutralize each other and create water and salt.
So what does this mean to you and your health? Generally speaking, the metabolic breakdown of foods from the vegetable/fruit category will turn an acidic substance to alkaline, and foods from the animal category change from alkaline to acidic during metabolism. All foods have a combination of both elements within them, but how the pH is effected during metabolism depends on which elements are dominant.
Remember, food is organic matter taken into the body. This matter is broken down into compounds like lipids, amino acids, monosaccharides and such. After metabolism takes place these compounds contain sulphur, phosphorus, chlorine, potassium, sodium, potassium, iron, magnesium, and calcium, each of which leave either an acidic or alkaline residue. This determines the acidity or alkalinity of the body. The first three noted above are acid forming and the rest are alkaline.
Most proteins contain sulphur and phosphorus. During metabolism, these substances are broken down into toxic sulphuric acid and phosphoric acid. In addition, uric acid is another by-product. Uric acid has been proven to have a major influence on the development of arthritis, particularly gout. Meats along with most grains and dairy products are high in protein and thus are acid-forming.
When looking at fruits and vegetables, the organic acids found are metabolized to carbon dioxide and water. This leaves potassium, calcium, magnesium and sodium behind. Therefore, although many fruits are acidic in nature, when broken down, the acids are rendered neutral and the alkaline elements noted above remain.
Why is this information so important? Since we consume various food that are alkaline and acidic, its imperative to consider the balance between the two. If we consume excessive amounts of acidic foods, the body has to tap into its alkaline reserves. This leaves many organs in the body, such as the kidneys, overworked and malfunctioning over time. Organ malfunction is more commonly referred to as “disease” in many forms and the underlying cause, acidosis, largely caused by faulty eating habits, is often never addressed.
So what let’s put aside all the physiology and technical jargon and get down to a blueprint for reducing “disease” and improving health and wellness.
Foods to eat: unroasted nuts and seeds, fresh fruits, uncooked vegetables.
Foods to avoid: animal foods, dairy products, vinegar/condiments, drugs (acidic and alkaline), refined and processed foods, fats in meat and dairy products, teas, coffee, cocoa and chocolate.
By following the guidelines and being more aware of your food choices, you will have a diet rich in essential proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Your body will not deplete alkaline reserves and overwork the organs of the body. It’s a simple formula that your body can benefit from and maintain balance in health and well-being.
Here’s to your best health yet!
Traci Vincent, PT