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.
What is the Alkaline for Life® diet?
The Alkaline for Life® Diet refers to an eating plan that supports bone and whole-body health by creating an ideal pH balance within the body. The alkalizing precursors it contains allow the bones to fulfill their metabolic functions without depleting themselves. In reality, the Alkaline for Life® Diet is the same eating pattern that supports prevention of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and degenerative diseases. It is a diet rich in alkalizing minerals and health-supporting plant compounds.
Alkaline for Life® eating focuses on the consumption of the following food groups, along with adequate protein and essential fats. The diet is centered on:
- Nuts and seeds
- Spices and pulses (turmeric, ginger, mustard seed, cloves, etc.)
Any diet can be an Alkaline for Life® diet!
No matter which types of foods you prefer, your diet can become an Alkaline for Life® Diet simply by balancing your intake of alkaline and acid-forming foods as a path to alkalizing your body chemistry. Whether you’re enjoying a Mediterranean, Keto, Atkins, vegetarian, vegan, or Low FODMAP diet, all you have to do is to incorporate more of the alkaline-forming vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds that are allowed in your eating program. Also, the use of alkalizing mineral supplements can be helpful to make any diet an Alkaline for Life® Diet!
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.
What Is Your Acid Load? Find Out with this Easy Test.
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 the 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 test your acid load with pH paper
You can quantify your metabolic acid load with a simple pH test of your first-morning urine. As you begin your pH testing, know that the only test we recommend is the first-morning urine. We do not recommend testing any other urine sample or saliva. What we are looking for is the “equilibrated pH” of the urine after a night’s sleep. If you get up to urinate at night that’s fine. You can still measure your first-morning urine when you get up to stay. But be sure not to eat or get active when you get up to urinate in the night. While it is recommended to test the urine after six hours of uninterrupted sleep, that’s not possible for many people, so don’t worry. Just measure your first urine pH when you get up in the morning.
Obtain a role of Alkaline for Life® pH Hydrion pH paper, which measures pH from of 5.5 to 8. Tear off 2 inches or so of this paper strip and quickly dip it into a sample of your first-morning urine (or expose the paper strip quickly to your urine flow). Place this wet strip on a tissue to absorb excess urine and read it immediately using the color code given. The ideal pH range we are looking for is 6.5 to 7.5 for the first-morning urine. Readings below 6.5 suggest an undesirable level of metabolic acids, and any reading between 6.5 and 7.5 is fine. The goal is not to get a higher reading, but just to be in this range.
To make alkalizing easy, we offer our Alkaline Diet Starter Kit, which contains Dr. Brown’s book, The Acid Alkaline Food Guide; a supply of pH paper; recipes; and other materials you will need to develop your own Alkaline for Life® diet and to test your pH.
Common myths about the Alkaline Diet
Myth #1: Diet does not impact systemic pH balance.
It is true that the body produces a substantial amount of acid through everyday metabolic processes. The majority of these acids we produce are automatically buffered, neutralized, and excreted. This is because we cannot sustain life with a high accumulation of acid in the body. Because of the body’s essential ability to buffer the acids it produces, physicians often say something along the lines of “Don’t worry about pH balance. The body deals with excess acids effortlessly. If this weren’t true, you’d already be dead.”
On a larger scale, this is true — big changes in pH are serious problems and can be fatal. But we’re not talking about those big changes! What your doctor is overlooking is the fact that a small amount of acid accumulation can occur from dietary imbalance. This acid is called “metabolic acid” as it results from the body’s metabolism, and particularly the metabolism of food. Over a long period of time, this results in chronic, low-grade metabolic acidosis, which is damaging to health.
Myth #2: The acid- or alkaline-forming nature of a food can be determined by its taste.
Taste has little correlation with the acid-forming nature of a food. The critical variable in pH balance is not how the food tastes, but its impact once it has been metabolized. A food is alkalizing if it ultimately adds bicarbonate, an alkalizing compound, to the system, as opposed to adding free hydrogen to the system, which is acid.
For example, citrus fruits taste very acidic due to their citric acid content; however, once metabolized, this citric acid is converted into bicarbonate and water. Thus, lemons and limes are alkalizing, despite the fact that they taste acidic. On the other hand, cranberries (containing hippuric acid) and rhubarb (containing oxalic acid) also taste acidic — and they remain acidic after being metabolized because both hippuric acid and oxalic acid, once broken down, contribute free hydrogen into the system and are thus acid-forming.
Myth #3: You should avoid all acid-forming foods.
Developing an alkaline diet does not mean that your diet will be devoid of all acid-forming foods. The key issue is balance. Both alkaline-forming foods and acid-forming foods are necessary for good health. While we might not need some acid-forming foods, like refined sugars or processed grains, we certainly need adequate protein, and all proteins are acid-forming, whether from plant or animal sources. As well, certain nuts (such as Brazil nuts or pecans) are acid-forming, yet they are nutritious foods. And, while most vegetables alkalize, some are acid-forming, such as chard or peas—yet these foods are also nutritious.
The most important factor in the alkaline diet is balance. In healthy individuals, a diet of 65% (by weight) alkaline-forming foods and 35% acid-forming works well. As an example, if you were to have an 8-ounce steak for dinner, you’d need to eat about 23 ounces of alkaline-forming foods during the day to maintain the 65-35 ratio. In those with health challenges, an 80-20 ratio of alkaline-forming to acid-forming foods is suggested, simply because it reduces the amount of effort your body needs to put into reducing its acid load. (This translates to 40 ounces of alkaline-forming foods as compensation for your 8-ounce steak — or you could simply cut your steak back to 4 ounces instead.)
Myth #4: Urine pH doesn’t change throughout the day.
Although blood pH must stay stable in a narrow range of 7.35–7.45 for survival, the same is not true for the pH of other fluids such as urine and saliva, as these will vary throughout the day. The pH of the urine goes up and down according to the foods we eat, exercise, stress, and other variables. The kidney is the primary organ responsible for buffering and excreting metabolic acids, but the kidney cannot excrete urine that is more acidic than a pH of 4.5, as urine this acid would burn the delicate tissues of the kidney. Interestingly, if you eat a highly acid-forming meal, your urine will often show an alkaline pH a few hours later. You may think this is an indication of good systemic pH balance; however, this is the effect of the pancreas producing high amounts of alkalizing digestive compounds in response to the acid-forming foods ingested.
If you are interested in measuring acid load through a urine pH reading, the most accurate measure is with the first-morning urine after 6 hours of sleep. If you cannot go six hours without getting up to urinate, just measure your first-morning urine when you get up for the day, but do not eat or work when you get up to urinate in the night.
Myth #5: Meat, fish, and poultry are acid forming and thus not good for you.
All protein is acid forming, whether it’s from fish, beef, turkey, or any other animal food, or even from beans. However, protein consumption is essential for human life. In the United States, the recommended daily protein intake for adult females is 46 g/day and 56 g/day for adult males. In fact, protein is only acid forming when taken in higher amounts than about 50-60 g per day.
If you habitually consume a diet that is higher than 60 grams of protein a day, be sure to consume enough alkalizing foods to compensate for this additional acid load. Test the pH of your first-morning urine to assess your acid load and adjust your intake of alkalizing foods and alkalizing mineral supplements as necessary.
How to start an alkaline diet plan
If you have three or more symptoms of acid imbalance (see 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%.
If you have real problems alkalizing you can add in alkalizing minerals.
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, ghee, 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 many 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