Not all foods are created equal. While some are acidifying, others have basic potential. What the acid-base diet proposes is to regain balance by favoring basic substances and reducing acidic substances. Halfway between detox diet and slimming, this method therefore proposes to fight against the acidification of the body in order to help you both regain shape and refine your figure. More concretely, by favoring alkaline foods to the detriment of acidic foods, the acid-base diet promises a healthy weight that is part of the well-being. Explanations, advantages and disadvantages.
All about the acid-base diet
The acid-base diet is based on a theory that certain foods are acidifying and cause your body to produce acid, which is harmful. Its promise is that by consuming certain foods or drinking certain types of beverages, you will be able to change the acidity level of the body. This is called pH, an index to measure how acidic or basic a substance is, on a scale of 0 to 14: an alkaline food is at the base end of the scale, or greater than 7.
There is a school of thought that changing the body's pH can improve your health and help you lose weight. The principle of the acid-base diet is that your diet can change the pH value by promoting the formation of alkaline metabolic waste. Indeed, proponents of the acid-base diet claim that metabolic waste can directly affect the acidity of the body.
In other words, if you eat foods that leave acidic ash, it will make your blood more acidic. On the contrary, if you eat foods that leave alkaline ash, it will make your blood more alkaline. According to this hypothesis, it is believed that acid ash makes you vulnerable to diseases and disorders, while alkaline ash is considered an ally against pathologies. By choosing more alkaline foods, you should be able to "alkalize" your body and improve your health.
Food components that leave acidic ash include protein, phosphate, and sulfur, while alkaline components include calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
In fact, not all foods are created equal because some are considered acidic, while others are alkaline or neutral:
- acidifying foods: meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, cereals, alcohol, bread, butter, cheese, cold cuts, salt, coffee;
- neutral foods: natural fats, starches and sugars;
- basic foods: fruits, vegetables, soy, green tea, nuts, legumes, oleaginous fruits (almonds, sesame, sunflower seeds), dried fruits, vegetable oils, spices…
Thus, according to the premise behind the famous acid-base diet, eating specific foods that make your body more alkaline can protect you from different pathologies and can help you lose weight. It should also be noted that across the Channel, the regime made headlines when Victoria Beckham tweeted about a cookbook on an acid-base diet in January 2013.
Acid-base diet: links with cancer?
Some studies have shown that cancer cells grow more in a highly acidic environment (i.e. in a low pH environment). The promoters of the acid-base diet therefore believe that if you adopt a diet rich in alkaline foods (high pH) and limit acidifying foods, you can increase the pH of your body and reduce the risk of contracting cancer.
However, the scope of studies that suggest this thesis is very limited. These do not represent the complex nature of tumor behavior in the human body. Most importantly, the foods you eat can't change the pH of your blood in any way. The body's pH is tightly regulated: if you change your eating behavior, you may notice changes in the pH of your saliva or urine because they are waste, but you will never be able to eat enough alkaline foods to impact your blood.
The acid-base diet in practice
The principle of the acid-base diet consists, on a daily basis, in:
- a 70/30 plate (70% of meals consist of basic foods, for 30% of acidic foods);
- and 10 to 12 glasses of beverages (preferably water, but also fruit or vegetable juices, herbal tea or tea).
We then focus on fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, vegetable proteins (soy and legumes) as well as oleaginous fruits which, as we have said, are alkaline foods.
In practice, the acid-base food program is divided into three phases:
- The first phase (in average 15 days) is alkaline: it consists of consuming fruits and vegetables accompanied by small amounts of vegetable protein.
- The second phase of the program is remineralizing: it gradually gives way to meats, lean fish and essential fatty acids.
- Finally, a third phase, for life, consists of adding meats, cereals and cheeses in moderation, in order to respect the principle of 70/30.
What foods to eat?
Of course, it is the basic or alkaline foods that must be prioritized. These must be rich in mineral salts: fruits, fresh vegetables, nuts, seeds… Then add the sparkling waters rich in bicarbonates that contribute to the restoration of the acid-base balance. In addition to spices, we also rely on aromatic herbs that reduce the PRAL index of meat and fish ( Potential Renal Acid Load, which indicates the potential renal acid load of a food).
Foods to avoid?
Unlike drastic diets, no food is prohibited as part of the acid-base method. Indeed, the consumption of foods with high PRAL potential is compensated by the consumption of basic foods.
Foods to moderate
To help restore the acid-base balance, certain acidic foods, rich in chlorine, sulfur and phosphorus should be consumed in moderation:
- red meat,
- Cold cuts
- dairy products,
- processed foods,
- refined vegetable oil
Meat and fish should be limited to one serving per day, as should cheese and dairy products. Similarly, it is better to limit starchy foods and refined grains, such as pasta, rice and white bread, which are acidifying and caloric foods. They can be replaced by whole grains, such as brown rice, bread and pasta made from wholemeal flour.
Is the acid-base diet easy to follow?
Like many other methods, the acid-base diet involves making a profound change in one's diet. Thus, people who are not familiar with vegetables may find it difficult to change their habits. The same goes for people who can't imagine a meal without meat or dairy.
How much does the acid-base diet cost?
Despite a more or less profound change in diet, the acid-base diet does not necessarily have an impact on the budget. Indeed, reducing the high cost of acidic foods (such as meats) can offset the additional cost of buying fresh fruits and vegetables.
Acid-base diet: what about caloric intake?
The acid-base diet is a balanced diet because it does not limit caloric intake and does not exclude any food. However, it aims to moderate the intake of meats and cheeses and increase the portions of fruits and vegetables. Nevertheless, it is better to maintain sufficient protein intake in order to avoid deficiencies that would lead to muscle wasting.
The benefits of the acid-base diet
The acid-base diet is distinguished above all by the fact that it meets public health recommendations, namely: limit the consumption of meats and cold cuts, as well as increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables. In addition, this diet has the advantage of not causing any weariness since it does not prohibit any group of foods but rather promotes acid-base balance. Nevertheless, the acid-base diet aims to limit fats and favor essential nutrients such as fiber, mineral salts, vitamins and antioxidant polyphenols. In addition to a preventive action against osteoporosis, it reduces cardiovascular risks as well as the risk of cancer and obesity.
The disadvantages of the acid-base diet
As part of the acid-base diet, it can be tedious to systematically refer to the PRAL table to know the acidifying or alkaline potential of each food and thus ensure the acid-base balance of its meals. In addition, if it is often praised for its slimming benefits, let's not forget that the primary goal of the acid-base diet is not weight loss.
Finally, the acid-base diet involves adopting a diet richer in fruits and vegetables, if you are not used to eating them, a sudden increase in fiber intake could disrupt your body. That's why we recommend gradually introducing fruits, vegetables and other fiber-rich foods to your plate.
Is the acid-base diet harmful in the long run?
In reality, the alkaline diet basically reinforces a good, healthy old-fashioned diet. As part of this diet, it is recommended to eat more vegetables, fruits and drink plenty of water while reducing consumption of sugar, alcohol, meat and processed foods. All these measures are obviously aimed at improving your overall health, losing weight and even reducing your risk of cancer.
Far from being harmful, the acid-base diet can also reduce inflammation. We know that inflammation is a natural response to injuries and infections, but too much inflammation can damage DNA and lead to cancer. Thus, consuming foods that reduce inflammation is essential to minimize the risk of cancer.
Is the acid-base diet really effective?
Perhaps this plan is effective, but not for the reasons its sponsors claim. First of all, a little chemistry reminder: pH measures how acidic or alkaline a substance is. A pH of 0 is totally acidic, while a pH of 14 is totally alkaline, and a pH of 7 is neutral. Indeed, each individual does not have the same pH throughout his body. The blood is slightly alkaline, with a pH that ranges from 7.35 to 7.45. The stomach is very acidic, with a pH of 3.5 or less, hence its ability to break down food. Finally, the pH of urine changes from one moment to the next, depending on what you eat, and this is how the body stabilizes the pH of the blood.
The acid-base diet promises to help our body maintain its blood pH. In fact, nothing you eat will significantly change the pH of your blood. It is your organization that works to keep this level constant.
But these are the foods you're supposed to consume as part of an acid-base diet that promote better health and healthy weight loss. In addition to the consumption of fruits and vegetables, you will avoid sugar, limit alcohol as well as prepared foods.
Some rules to follow your acid-base diet
We know that the acid-base balance of the body is an essential factor for good health. It is an alkaline diet that will therefore be essential to keep this balance. This is why it is necessary to respect a few simple rules:
- Your meal should never consist of acidic foods only, but should always contain alkaline foods. Refer to the 70/30 principle to compose your meals of the day. For example, a meal of meat and pasta or rice with cake and coffee is too acidic and is not recommended. It is always better to add vegetables in large quantities, which you can prepare in the form of salads, raw vegetables or cooked vegetables. This will allow you to provide bases that will partially compensate for acidic foods.
- During the same meal, the amount of alkaline foods should always be greater than that of acidifying foods. Refer once again to the 70/30 rule (70% of the meal consists of basic foods, for 30% of acidifying foods).
- You can prepare a meal consisting exclusively of alkaline foods (vegetables, banana, potato, almond), but be careful not to prolong the consumption (limit to 1 week) in order to avoid any protein deficiency. Such a diet is useful only when the disorders due to acidification are very important.
- Do not consume acidic foods too frequently.
- Acidic foods will ideally be consumed after 5 p.m. or in hot drinks to limit the consequences on the body.
Acid-base diet: pay attention to food incompatibilities
We have seen that the acid-base diet allows the mixing of acidifying foods with other alkaline foods. However, a wrong combination of foods can be a vector of acidity, which can lead to digestive disorders and fermentations in the body. This is the reason why it is not recommended to mix fast or slow sugars with animal proteins and acidic foods (dairy products, acidic vegetables or vinegar). Similarly, some major incompatibilities should be avoided in French eating habits:
- cereals and pasta mixed with meat;
- dairy products mixed with bread;
- fruits and desserts mixed with cereals;
- or bread and jam mixed during breakfast.
Although they are essential, fruits can become dangerous consumed in bad combination. This is why they should always be consumed well before or after meals, but never during a meal.
Acid-base diet: some menu ideas to compose your meals
Gluttony is not necessarily incompatible with the acid-base diet, but you still have to know how to compose your menus. Here are some well-balanced proposals to meet your temptations while monitoring your acid-base balance:
- Breakfast: a fresh fruit with a glass of soy milk, or cottage cheese with a bowl of oatmeal.
- Lunch: 150 g of chicken or lean fish with vegetables, green tea and a square of dark chocolate.
- Dinner: a vegetable soup, 150 g of fatty fish to be composed with vegetables and to finish with a soy yogurt and an herbal tea.
- Snacks: a fresh fruit juice and an oilseed.
To ensure the acid-base balance in your body, always opt for fresh and natural foods because the most acidic foods are found in processed products. In addition, it is better to limit salt and drink glasses of mineral water all day. Do not hesitate to bet on the fruits, accompanied by a cup of green tea and some almonds. And to meet your cravings, always have fruit on hand. Finally, avoid doing too much sport during your acid-base diet because physical activity is also acid-producing.
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