Reader Question: "I've been hearing a lot lately about the health benefits of eating an alkaline-based diet, but I really don't understand what it means. Could you explain it in simple terms for me?" - Darlene, Virginia Beach
By Adam Camara - The alkaline health movement is a fast growing one and a whole book could be used to explain it, but I'll keep it simple. First off, alkaline is a measure of pH. pH is defined as the measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. A neutral pH level is 7 (like pure water) and anything above 7 is considered alkaline. Anything below 7 is considered acidic.
The important thing to know in this context is that just as our body temperature must be maintained at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, our blood is ideally maintained at 7.365 pH (slightly alkaline). The human body allows for a very small window with this where if the pH level of blood were to deviate out of the 7.35-7.45 range then serious health effects would take place, even death. Fortunately for us though, the human body is a wonderful machine that will go to great lengths to maintain the optimal blood pH for us automatically.
So here's the ultimate answer to your question: The idea behind the alkaline movement is that since our blood is naturally alkaline we should make it as easy as possible on our bodies to maintain that state. Every food or drink we ingest has either an acidic or alkaline effect on the body. For example, sugar has a highly acidic effect on our bodies and most vegetables have a highly alkaline effect on our bodies. Dr. Robert Young is widely credited with starting this movement with his book, The pH Miracle. He believes that our highly acidic diets are the root cause of all disease and negative health effects in our society:
"Forget cholesterol counts. Forget calories and fat grams. Forget blood pressure, blood sugar, hormone levels, or any of the other markers of health you're used to at the doctor's office. It turns out that the single measurement most important to your health is the pH of your blood and tissues. The body will go to great lengths to preserve that, including wreaking havoc on other tissues or systems."
In other words, when we eat foods that have an acidic effect on our bodies, we make the body work harder to regulate the blood to its natural, alkaline state. When the body has to work harder, it opens us up to illness, inflammation, disease etc. Dr. Young recommends the 80-20 rule, where 80% of your diet is made up of alkaline foods and the other 20% acidic foods.
So the next logical question is what foods are alkaline and what foods are acidic? For a detailed guide click here.