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Should I try the alkaline diet?

By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D., June 4, 2014 - 9:20am

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Following the alkaline diet means eating mostly plants, limiting meat, skipping dairy, sweets, alcohol and caffeine and banishing processed food. Sounds like a healthy move, right?

Not so fast. Most of the touted health benefits of the alkaline diet aren’t research-backed. The theory behind it is that our Western diet (rich with saturated fat, simple sugars and sodium and lacking in potassium, magnesium and fiber) produces acid, driving our body’s pH down slightly, making it more acidic. So the thinking goes that having an acidic pH fuels chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease and obesity and promotes ailments like bloating and chronic fatigue. Eating a diet that makes your body more alkaline staves off those health problems. Nice theory. The reality is that your body, especially your kidneys and lungs, maintains a steady pH regardless of what you eat.

Another rub: the alkaline diet isn’t intuitive. For one, some acidic foods—lemons, apple-cider vinegar—are actually considered alkaline-forming because of the way they’re metabolized. And, as with many fad diets, some healthy foods are discouraged—in this case, navy beans, peanuts and whole eggs—because of their “acidic” properties.

However, the main tenet of eating the alkaline way—to fill your diet with plants—is great. Loads of research supports a plant-focused diet for a healthy weight and better health. Plus, some alkaline diet claims like preventing muscle loss and quelling chronic lower back pain have preliminary research supporting them. The diet may also help prevent kidney stones (your diet can affect the pH of your urine and more-acidic urine can increase your risk).

Bottom line: The foods of the alkaline diet are healthy, but the diet’s purported benefits still lack scientific support.

TAGS: Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D., Diet Blog, Diet, Eating green, Food & health news, Health, Nutrition, Wellness

Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.
Brierley's interest in nutrition and food come together in her position as nutrition editor at EatingWell. Brierley holds a master’s degree in Nutrition Communication from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. A Registered Dietitian, she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont.

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