When it comes to improving bone health, very little you do matters more than improving your acid-alkaline balance with an alkaline eating plan. Even if you exercise and limit toxins, 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.
Is your diet acid-forming or alkaline-forming?
Eating “alkaline” means that you’re trying to keep your body’s acid base (pH) between 6.5 (slightly acidic) and 7.5 (slightly alkaline). 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. See a chart of acid-forming foods.
- Alkaline-forming foods include nearly all vegetables and fruits, many nuts and seeds, and spices. See our chart of alkaline-forming foods.
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.
What are problems with an acid-forming diet?
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.
Do you have signs of an “acidic” diet?
- 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/loss of muscle
- Urinary tract problems
- Receding gums
- Kidney stones
- Bone loss
- Skin problems
How to start an alkaline diet plan
If you have three or more symptoms of acid imbalance (see box above), eat 80% of your foods from the alkaline-forming group. The other 20% can be high protein items and other acid-forming foods.
Later, when your pH balance has improved (which you can tell by urine testing or by the fact that your symptoms have resolved), you can lower the alkaline-forming part of your diet to around 65%.
Here are some general guidelines for eating alkaline:
- Focus on eating whole foods, like vegetables, root crops, fruits, nuts, seeds, spices, whole grains and beans (especially lentils).
- Drink alkalizing beverages such as spring water and ginger root or green tea, water with the juice of a whole lemon or lime.
- Eat smaller amounts of essential fats, meat, fish, pasta and other grains.
- Eliminate processed and artificial foods, caffeine, white sugar, and white flour.
- Don’t be afraid to use real butter and full-fat milk (if you use dairy).
- Dress salads or cook with high-quality fats such as cold-pressed virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil.
Sample day: Alkaline diet plan
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 “diet” doesn’t restrict calories or eliminate certain foods altogether (although you’ll have greater success if you avoid sugary foods and limit how much processed foods you eat). Calorie-counting isn’t part of this — you can eat as many alkalizing fruits and vegetables as you want, but you should limit things like meat, grains and highly processed foods to avoid boosting your acidity.
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.
Handful (1 oz.) toasted pumpkin seeds.
Lentil soup served with 2 cups of steamed vegetables (broccoli, kale, carrots, onions). Drizzle olive oil salad dressing on lightly steamed vegetables.
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.
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.
4 oz. serving of fish, chicken, turkey or other meat served with a baked yam or sweet potato and a mixed garden salad.
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.
Read more about alkalizing with Dr. Brown’s blog:
- Warm your bones with alkaline foods (includes recipe)
- Is my favorite sauce alkalizing?
- Tips to eat alkaline