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Alkaline for Life®

Natural bone health with the Alkaline for Life® diet

Susan E. Brown, PhDBy Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD

When it comes to improving bone health, very little you do matters more than improving your acid-alkaline balance. You can get many of the needed nutrients, and you can exercise and limit toxins, but if your acid-alkaline balance is off-kilter, you’ll still have unnecessary bone loss in the long run. An alkaline diet is an essential part of natural bone health.

Most of the food we eat has the potential to alter our pH. When digested, some foods leave acidic by-products in the body (acid-forming foods); others leave alkaline by-products (alkaline-forming foods). Acid-forming foods include most high-protein foods, such as meat, fish, eggs, and most legumes (beans and peas, except lentils, which are alkaline-forming). Sugar, coffee, alcohol, and most grains are also acid-forming. Alkaline-forming foods include nearly all vegetables and fruits, many nuts and seeds, and spices (see our charts of acid-forming foods and alkaline-forming foods).

For millennia, our Stone Age ancestors ate hundreds of different types of natural whole foods. Seeds, nuts, vegetables, fruits, and roots were supplemented with game animals and fish, providing on average a pH-balanced diet. Our organs and body systems evolved in adaptation to this diet. It’s as if Nature said, “You can eat acid-forming meat, beans, and other high-protein foods, but you must balance these with an abundance of the alkaline-forming vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and spices.” And for thousands of years, that’s exactly what we did.

Unfortunately, we’ve strayed from the acid-alkaline balanced diet that our ancestors achieved. We favor meat, sugars, grains, low-mineral processed foods, and other acid-forming foods and get far too few alkaline-forming vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. The net result is that our eating patterns create a condition known as “chronic low-grade metabolic acidosis.” While our bodies can easily handle an occasional acid load, long-term acid build-up can exhaust our available alkalizing reserves. Unless we take steps to neutralize these acids, they can damage our health in many ways — and this is the underlying cause of many of our modern health problems, including osteoporosis.

The obvious solution to this problem is to do what countless nutritionists and doctors are always telling us: eat more fruits and vegetables, and cut back on processed foods, meats, and sweets. But how much is “more” when it comes to vegetables — and which ones are best? And how much of those acid-forming meats and sweets should we “cut back on?”

  • weight gain
  • nonspecific aches and pains, especially in the bones and joints
  • acid reflux or heartburn
  • poor digestion, irritable bowel, intestinal cramping
  • fatigue, feeling of being “run down”
  • muscle weakness and loss of muscle
  • urinary tract problems
  • receding gums
  • kidney stones
  • bone loss
  • skin problems

That really depends on how far your internal pH has shifted toward acidity. Elsewhere, we talk about how to assess your pH balance, but here’s our quick rule of thumb. There are certain symptoms of acid imbalance that we’ve listed in the box. If you have three or more of these symptoms, we suggest that you eat 80% of your foods from the alkaline-forming group. The other 20% should be high protein items and other acid-forming foods. Later, when your pH balance has improved (which you can tell either by urine or saliva testing or by the fact that your symptoms have resolved), you can lower the alkaline-forming part of your diet to around 65%.

The general guidelines for an alkaline diet emphasize whole foods, particularly vegetables, root crops, and to a lesser degree, fruits, nuts, seeds, spices, whole grains, and beans (especially lentils). It also includes alkalizing beverages such as spring water and ginger root or green tea, and smaller amounts of essential fats, meat, fish, eggs, and dairy (if tolerated). Processed and artificial foods, caffeine, white sugar, and white flour are eliminated, when possible, but don’t be afraid to use real butter and full-fat milk (if you use dairy), and you may dress salads or cook with high-quality fats such as cold-pressed virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil.

We’ve put together a sample menu from our Alkaline for Life® meal plan to give you a sense of what you might eat if you’re trying to achieve an 80% alkaline diet. This is not a “diet” in the sense of restrictions on calories or elimination of certain foods altogether (although it’s true that you’ll have greater success if you avoid sugary foods and limit how much meat you eat). Calorie-counting isn’t part of this — you can indulge in as many alkalizing fruits and vegetables as you want, but you should limit things like meat, dairy, and grains to avoid boosting your acidity.

Sample One Day Alkaline Diet Plan

Breakfast:

Veggie scramble: 1–2 eggs per person, scrambled with green onions, tomatoes, chopped bok choy or other leafy green, and bell peppers.
Cup of ginger tea.

Snack:

1 pear
Handful (1 oz.) toasted pumpkin seeds.

Lunch:

Lentil soup served with 2 cups of steamed vegetables (broccoli, kale, carrots, onions). Drizzle olive oil salad dressing on lightly steamed vegetables.

or

4 oz. cold or hot salmon (or chicken, tuna, or tofu), served over 2–3 cups mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, broccoli, or other fresh vegetables.
Lemon-dill vinaigrette.

Snack:

Hard-boiled egg, sliced and sprinkled with sea salt and chopped flat-leaf parsley.
Red bell pepper strips, celery or carrot sticks. A handful of almonds is also a snack option.

Dinner:

4 oz. serving of fish, chicken, turkey or other meat served with a baked yam or sweet potato and a mixed garden salad.

or

Pasta (made from buckwheat, rice, amaranth, or quinoa rather than wheat) topped with bitter greens — such as broccoli rabe or arugula—plus chopped zucchini, pine nuts or slivered almonds, garlic, lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper. Side dish of steamed zucchini with dash of garlic and olive oil.
Add a grating of pecorino Romano or fresh Parmesan, if desired.

Seasonal fruits: In summer, try nectarines and cherries, or grapes and melon; in winter, try roasted pears or baked apples.

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Original Publication Date: 01/01/2009
Last Modified: 07/11/2014
Principal Author: Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD