Myth Debunked: The Alkaline Diet


When I was 5 years old, I walked into class and told everyone that Santa Claus wasn’t real. Yep, I’ve been a buzzkill from the start. I remember some kids getting upset, some in outright denial, and some were also onto the same thing.

Now as an adult, I sometimes feel like I’m doing the same thing to people when I tell them that “the alkaline diet isn’t real”. Some people reading this will get upset if they’ve been a proponent of the alkaline diet for a while, some will be in denial, and some will hopefully research the facts and come to the same conclusion. Santa Claus and the alkaline diet both bring us joy, but they simply aren’t real.

What Is The Alkaline Diet?

The Alkaline Diet places food along a sliding scale, between alkaline (pH=14) and acidic (pH = 0), and recommends that people eat more alkaline foods in order to balance their pH and bring it closer to the body’s ideal pH level (7.35-7.45). The diet promises that eating alkaline foods will make people feel more energized, lose weight, get clear skin and more.

Foods that fall into the “alkaline” category are most vegetables, fruits and a handful of nuts, seeds, legumes and grains. Foods that fall into the “acidic” category are meat, dairy, most grains, sweets and some good fats like butter and cashews.

People on the alkaline diet are encouraged to check their pH by peeing on pH test strips. If it is higher than 7, they are led to believe they are in an alkaline state. (Spoiler alert: this just means their urine is alkaline, not their entire body!)

Alkaline Diet

Why The Alkaline Diet Works

Here’s the reason in short: if you tell people to eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, and avoid all processed food and sugar, people will feel healthier. This is not because they are eating alkalizing foods, it’s because they are fresh, whole foods that are high in nutrients, fibre, low in calories and added sugar.

Is it any wonder that people love this diet, rave about dropping pounds and feeling amazing?

…But Here’s Why It Doesn’t Make Sense:

1. The pH value varies throughout your body

Did you know that your stomach has a pH value of 2-3.5? That’s because you need an acidic environment to digest food. The pH value of your saliva also ranges between 5.6-7.9.

Urine has a pH value that fluctuates between 4-9, depending on the health of your kidneys and if more acids need to be excreted. So yes, you can manipulate the pH of your urine with food but this is not a reflection of overall health. It is simply an indicator that you ate foods with a lower or higher acidic content.

And lastly, the pH value of your blood is always between 7.35-7.45. No matter what you eat, this will always remain the same.

2. Food cannot affect the pH of your blood

Our internal organs work really hard to maintain homeostasis at all times and keep blood in the 7.35-7.45 pH value range. If your pH ever fell below or above this, you would be dead. Not only can food not affect the pH of your blood, the pH of food doesn’t matter in the first place. It all ends up in the same place.

Allow me to explain: all food must pass through the stomach which has a pH value of 2-3.5, and that it must then be neutralized by digestive juices in the small intestine. This means all digested food will eventually end up with the exact same pH by the time it reaches your large intestine.

3. “Acidic” foods are good for you

If I were to follow the alkaline diet, I would be avoiding excellent sources of nutrition. For example, grass-fed butter, eggs, chicken, fish, red meat, walnuts, cashews and sweet fruits. There is nothing wrong with these foods; as always, it’s simply about ensuring that plant-based foods and vegetables make up the majority of the diet. No matter if you’re vegan, vegetarian, paleo, macrobiotic…just eat lots of vegetables.

So there you have it, in an (acidic) nutshell! If you’ve been following this diet, allow yourself to add back some healthy ‘acidic’ foods and continue to eat plenty of vegetables. However, do not be under the misconception that you are “alkalizing” your body!

About Alina

I'm a Holistic Nutritionist based in Toronto, Canada and my official title is Certified Nutritional Practitioner (CNP). I received my diploma in Applied Holistic Nutrition from the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. I'm a coach and an educator. Follow Alina on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for all of the latest updates.
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