Why Is Everyone Talking About Acidic Foods, Should I Be Worried?

There is plenty of chat being thrown around the interwebs about acidic foods & the Alkaline Diet.

The diet itself is what you call a “part-time vegetarian diet”

You probably have friends or colleagues like this…

  • Eat mostly vegetarian
  • Spend heaps of time telling EVERYONE they are vegetarian
  • Only eat meat on special occasions (Free beef burritos day at Guzman y Gomez)

Plenty of folks (including Doctors) are claiming all sorts of benefits from this type of diet ranging from weight loss, muscle retention, life extension & disease prevention.

Source: Extract from Alkalize or Die by Dr. Theodore Baroody

Seems legit to me…

Want to get to 140 like Dr Theodore suggests? you should probably read the rest of this article.

WTF is the Alkaline Diet?

The Alkaline diet is based on the premise that foods leave either an acidic, neutral or alkaline ash after eating them (this is true).

According to the theory you need to eat more alkaline than acidic foods, because a diet high in acid load causes all sorts health problems.

Theory Says:

Acidic Foods = Bad
Alkalising Foods = Good

Acidic foods:

  • Beef, Chicken, Fish
  • Eggs
  • Processed meats
  • Grains / Cereals
  • Dairy
  • Coffee & Alcohol

^A Turducken is definitely not allowed on the Alkaline Diet

Alkalizing foods:

  • Raw foods
  • Fruit & Vegetables
  • Alkalising water
  • Green drinks

You will often hear people say things like. I am having my water with lemon because it’s alkalising my body.

STOP before you embarrass yourself. This is like saying doing 5 star jumps a day will give you a 6 pack.

If you think one drink can dramatically change your entire body you have completely underestimated how complex your body is.

You can’t change the pH of your entire body with a single drink (or a single food for that matter), it’s actually a really (really) tightly controlled process.

Your body is way smarter than you. Stop thinking you can “hack” it.

My friend said he can change his pH with one meal

You can absolutely change the pH of your urine with a single green drink.

It would be nice if it was that simple, but urine pH does not give a reflection of blood pH (the important measure).

So that uncomfortable couple of minutes while your friend stood there and pissed on that pH tester was probably a waste of dignity, time & money.

So why would you do the Alkaline Diet?

Plenty of people are talking up the benefits of avoiding Acidic foods.

Dr Daryl Gioffre says: “If you’re overweight, having joint problems, or low in energy, it’s an acid problem”

Dr Theodore Baroody says: “You can live up to 140 if you follow this diet”

Dr Josh Axe says: “There is probably no better diet for longevity and fighting off disease”

Dr Simone Laubscher: “If you’re getting aching joints, gaining weight, craving carbs or sugar, or you have brain fog, then you’re running too acidic,”

Celebrities are also lapping it up Posh Spice, Jennifer Aniston & Elle Macpherson all reporting the benefits.

Elle Macpherson said “Increasing her vegetable intake (& increasing her sleep) was the reason she got her body back on track”

What does the research actually say?

This section needs a caveat.

There’s a lot about the body we don’t know.

Just because something has not been proven by a study yet, does not mean they won’t find something in the future.

However, I do have a huge issue with people talking in absolutes and using scare tactics to sell products.

Examples:

  • Carbs make you fat
  • Raw food diets are best
  • No one should eat grains / cereals
  • Acidic foods give you cancer

These statements just aren’t true.

What you need to know is…

Nothing in nutrition (or exercise) is “black or white” most things sit in the “grey” area.

Most clients I have spoken with, interpret the Alkaline Diet as:

“A very low protein, mostly raw vegetable diet” which is apparently the cure for weight loss, disease, joint pain & life extension…

On weight loss.

In response to Dr. Gioffre & Dr. Laubscher’s weight loss claims.

Sorry guys, the research is very clear on weight loss.

Successful diets have two elements:

  • An energy deficit (use up more energy than you consume) &
  • Adherence (can the person actually do the diet)

You can read about the studies here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

It’s important to note NONE of the studies mention “how alkaline the diet was” or “how many celebrities promote it”

Anybody who talks about weight loss with no mention of energy balance should be laughed at.

People who lose weight on an alkaline diet don’t lose it because of the pH level, it’s because the majority of the allowed foods are very low in calories.

Mostly raw vegetables = very filling & low calories (big positive for the alkaline diet)

Compared to their normal diet = high in calories, low satiety (if mostly sugar)

The result = weight loss.

It’s not magic.

On life extension.

In response to Dr Baroody — on living to 140

You’re off your head.

In response to Dr. Axe

It’s pretty simple,
if you don’t eat protein, you die.

The research is also very clear. Retaining muscle (& strength) = living longer.

Therefore it’s pretty safe to say higher protein intakes are actually better for longevity than low protein.

You can read the studies here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,

This is especially important for women who typically have low protein intakes to begin with.

On curing disease.

The research just isn’t there.

Sure there “may” potentially be something in this (more on this in the summary).

Mostly due to the increased green vegetable intake & decreased refined carbohydrate intake.

But running around with your alkalising water and raw salad claiming you can cure cancer just isn’t cool.

On celebrities.

The claims made by Elle Macpherson about it being the reason for getting her body on track.

“I ate more vegetables & slept more, now I feel better”

This is not the alkaline diet
This is common sense

If you think eating raw acid free foods is going to make you look like Elle Macpherson you’re dreaming.

It’s fair to say Elle has some fantastic genetics + the fact she probably works really (really) hard at her physique.

On raw foods.

Become a raw vegan and see how healthy you look & feel.

^ a photo of a real life raw vegan

Most raw vegans have terrible nutrition (from food diaries I have seen), you really need to know what you’re doing before you attempt this.

Sure some foods are better raw, but others are significantly better when cooked.

Cooking:

  • Increases nutrient absorption of some vegetables
  • Decreases stress on digestive system
  • Increases nutrient density (you don’t need to eat 100 buckets of spinach to get your daily intake)

On joint pain.

I agree food choices can affect inflammation and therefore joint pain.

HOWEVER

It’s an absolute cop out to say the ONLY reason overweight people have joint pain is because of acidic food (which is what a lot of these people are claiming)

Could it potentially be because they are overweight?

These so called Doctors need to have the hard conversations… if you are “over-weight” your joints have to work significantly harder.

There is really strong evidence to suggest that reducing body weight is extremely effective at reducing joint pain, the studies are here 1, 2, 3, 4

Instead of lying to people and selling them some “miracle” weight loss cure. Why don’t we give them proper nutrition & lifestyle advice to help them get back into a healthier weight range.

Takeaways and recommendations.

From a general health perspective, I am not writing it off completely (even though the studies aren’t conclusive).

As a functional medicine practitioner recently explained to me, you can’t alter your pH, your body is very good at maintaining the balance (otherwise you die).

However your diet & lifestyle choices have a very big role to play in how hard your body has to work to keep it there.

If you’re constantly making your body work hard to maintain it, it’s going to steal nutrients from somewhere, which is going to catch up with you later down the track. Like I said the evidence isn’t there yet, but I feel like this statement has some substance.

How to interpret that:

  • Benefit of eating more vegetables & less junk: Probably high
  • Benefit of consuming mostly pop tarts & soft drink: Low to none

From a weight loss perspective:

While you might get some weight loss benefits following the Alkaline Diet, it’s mostly due to increased vegetable intake and reduced intake of refined carbohydrates.

As a general rule for people looking to achieve fat loss (for most people)

Have a bit more protein

Because: It increases satiety & energy lost in digestion, it also optimises muscle protein synthesis (people with a higher % of fat free mass are better fat burners 1).

Increase fruits & vegetable intake

Because: They are full of nutrients & are low in calories, so you stay fuller for longer, making it easier to create an energy deficit.

Eat based on activity level

Because total energy intake matters. No one has ever eaten themselves to a 6 pack, whether you like it or not.

If you want to decrease body fat there needs to be some level of restriction to achieve fat loss — regardless of how many people try and tell you otherwise.

Don’t cut out whole food groups

Because: It’s completely unnecessary and makes it way harder to stick to your diet.

Don’t listen to celebrities or people with vested interests

Do yourself a favour. Stop listening to celebrities about diet & exercise. The majority of them have no idea.

On vested interests, regardless of the product / industry if somebody can benefit financially from the information they are giving you… there is a fairly good chance they are biased, so don’t take everything as gospel, do your own research.


Originally published at nutritiondonebetter.com on November 15, 2016.

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