Here’s an excerpt from my Vegan Nutrition Boot Camp Series about acid-forming and alkaline-forming foods and why it’s important to know the difference.
Our bodies have a natural pH, which stands for “power of hydrogen” or “potential of hydrogen,” that denotes the level of acidity and alkalinity of our bodily fluids.
We want our bodies to be alkaline, not acidic. Why is this important? It’s important because if our bodily fluids become too acidic, we will be at increased risk for disease. The pH of our fluids affects every cell in our bodies. When our bodies remain in a constant state of acidosis or are overly-acidic, this can result in prolonged stress to our bodies, and can impair our immune system, which can lead to disease.
An acidic bodily system can also result in an increase in harmful free radicals, the development of kidney stones, and an environment that prolongs the life of harmful viruses and bacteria. On the other hand, these conditions do not arise in an alkaline environment.
What we eat is the biggest factor in our pH level. It’s our diet that determines how acidic or alkaline our bodily fluids are. The over-consumption of foods that are acid-forming leads to an overly acidic body.
So what foods should we eat to maintain the neutral pH level of our body?
First, the most important foods are those that contain chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the green pigment in plants that allows the plant to absorb light from the sun, and that light is synthesized into energy or glucose. This process of photosynthesis is responsible for life on earth.
Chlorophyll not only nourishes our body, but it’s instrumental in the constant production of red blood cells—cell regeneration—and it rids our body of excess dietary and environmental toxins.
So, chlorophyll-rich foods like dark green leafy vegetables are the first foods of choice to keep our bodies alkaline. Some whole grains are more alkaline than others, as well, and these include amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, and wild rice.
Alkaline-forming fruits include grapefruit, lemons, limes, mangos, papayas, cranberries, plums, prunes, and sour cherries. Now you may be wondering why citrus fruits are considered alkaline instead of acidic. Well, although citrus fruits, as well as apple cider vinegar, are naturally acidic foods, they actually have an alkaline effect on the body once they are digested and metabolized. And that’s the key.
Now let me give you some examples of foods that are acid-forming in the body that you want to avoid: white rice, white pasta, white flour, and white sugar, as well as meat, poultry, fish, butter, margarine, cheese, milk, and whey.
Now the difference here, besides the obvious difference of plant-based versus meat-based, is that the more acidic foods are those that have been refined and processed.
When we eat those acid-forming foods, our bodies use calcium and other minerals from our muscle and other tissues in an effort to restore our pH level to alkaline. Our kidneys work overtime excreting this calcium and other minerals through the urine. In time, this can eventually lead to loss of muscle mass—or muscle wasting—and depletion of bone mineral content.
Also, as part of this process, kidney stones can develop from the high amounts of calcium salt acids deposited in the kidneys as they excrete calcium from the body.
So the key takeaway here is that a whole foods vegan diet is more alkaline producing and that diets of processed foods and meat and dairy are more acid-producing, which can lead to chronic disease.