The newest diet trend isn’t about your lowering your weight, but your pH.
Elle Macpherson, who looks amazing at 50, says she feels her best ever because of her alkaline diet. Most of us are probably too acidic for our own good and could take a cue from the model and mother. The regimen (Gwyneth Paltrow and Victoria Beckham are also followers) is about limiting acidic foods and changing your body chemistry for the better.
As Stephan Domening, MD, author of The Alkaline Cure, explains it, a body in an alkaline state can best defend itself against inflammation and illness. Ideally, you want to be 70 to 80 percent alkaline, 20 percent acid—equivalent to striking a neutral pH of 7 (the pH of your body’s fluids affects every cell in the body). An acidic diet, on the other hand, is apparently to blame for all sorts of ailments, from fatigue to joint pain to sluggish digestion. “The way a Western diet has evolved in recent decades means most of us eat too much of the wrong kinds of foods that just clog up our systems and weigh us down,” claims Sang Whang, author of The Cancer Riddle. He goes further, claiming, “It is the excess acid in our body that cultivates cancer.”
The tricky part is knowing which foods are which. What you think is acidic is likely the opposite. Apples and oranges, for example, taste acidic but are alkaline-forming in the body. So are lemon and cider vinegar. While there are variations from food chart to food chart, it’s safe to say that you can tip the balance toward alkaline by eating a lot of fruits and vegetables. Virtually all vegetables, including root varieties and onion and garlic, are alkaline. Ditto fruits, with a few exceptions, such as cranberries, strawberries, and blueberries. You don’t want to load up on legumes; peas and many beans, including navy and kidney, fall into the acidic category. When it comes to grains, the ledger is split pretty evenly. On the acid side: brown rice, oats, rye, wheat; on the alkaline side: millet, and corn, and quinoa. Nuts don’t fare so well, with only almonds and brazil nuts coming up in the alkaline category. And seeds? Only sprouted make the cut.
Of the worst acidic offenders, sugar tops every list. So does dairy: yogurt, cheese, butter, whole milk (low fat, however, is alkaline). Vinegar, alcohol and coffee are acidic too (drat), as is most protein: meat, chicken, fish, eggs. Sounds restrictive, but you don’t have to become a teetotalling vegetarian. You still get twenty to thirty percent to play with in the acidic category, and you don’t want to drive yourself crazy.
You can always boost your alkaline intake with a supplement. McPherson’s nutritional doctor, Simone Laubscher, has created Super Elixir (5.3 oz. for $45)—a powder mix of super greens, enzymes, and herbs to mix in almond milk or coconut water. And if you want to make sure your chemistry is on track, you can buy a pack of home-use pH strips (80 for about $11) and test your saliva twice a day.
Then again, you could just eat your greens.