It’s funny how some nutrition myths persist, even when, scientifically, they don’t make any sense.
The alkaline diet fits neatly into this category. Honestly, I can’t understand why it’s still around after all this time—not to mention why ‘alkalizing’ powders, juices, waters, etc., are everywhere. The promise of the alkaline diet? That “alkalizing” your body—a.k.a. making it less acidic—can make you healthier and help you drop pounds.
But let’s talk about the legitimacy of that for a minute…
First, what exactly is an alkaline diet?
An alkaline diet is one that’s based on the premise that certain foods leave an acidic “ash” in our bodies, that allegedly causes tissues to become “acidified,” leading to health issues like osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancer. The diet also claims to help people lose weight
This comes from the diet’s founder Robert Young, who wrote the book The pH Miracle: Balance Your Diet, Reclaim Your Health. But, heads up, Young is not a licensed doctor—he was actually arrested for practicing medicine without a license, according to a news release from the Medical Board of California. You was also ordered to pay $105 million to a female cancer patient whom he counseled to forego traditional cancer treatment, according to the The San Diego Union-Tribune, but court records indicate the case is still ongoing.
His “diet” urges people to avoid “acidic” foods, which, according to the alkaline diet can include meat, dairy, eggs, grains, chickpeas, and many legumes. Fats, on the other hand, are “neutral” foods, while “alkaline” foods are most fruits and vegetables, white rice, and some nuts and seeds. (FYI: Alkaline water, which isn’t necessarily helpful either.)
So, will the alkaline diet make me healthier—or help me lose weight?
I’m just going to put it right out there: You can’t “alkalize” your body with food. The acidity of your blood is held tightly between 7.35 and 7.45; and your kidneys and lungs work hard 24/7 to maintain a homeostasis in your body. Some extra kale isn’t going to change that.
Nor would you want it to, tbh: Losing control of your acid-base balance occurs only when a person is extremely ill (think: kidney failure, lung failure, or diabetic ketoacidosis). Those conditions cause a very serious and immediate threat to your life.
Some alkaline dieters even measure the pH of their urine to try and assess whether they’re properly “alkalized,” but not only is this futile, it’s completely inaccurate—that’s because the pH balance of your urine goes up and down depending on the foods you eat (and urine acidity does not impact your health, as it’s what the body is flushing out).
And as far as weight loss goes, sure, you might lose weight on the diet—but it has absolutely nothing to do with your body’s pH levels. The only reason you’d actually lose weight on the alkaline diet would be because you’re improving the quality of your diet (less refined carbs, more fruits and vegetables), and/or decreasing calories overall—two things that happen independent of food acidity or alkalinity.
Should I try an alkaline diet?
Basically, the alkaline diet’s reported benefits aren’t supported by science, but it does have one single benefit: It can help you eat better, if you typically have a diet that’s highly processed without many whole foods. The alkaline diet cuts out sugars and ultra-processed foods, so following it will force you to eat whole and minimally processed foods like fruits and vegetables.
But as far as alkalizing your body goes, the diet won’t do it for you—because, again, your body keeps track of its own pH levels pretty damn well on its own.
The bottom line: Sure, the alkaline diet might improve your health or help you lose weight—but it won’t have anything to do with your pH levels.
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