Although it’s often overlooked, the foods you eat – and how they affect your body’s pH – can impact a variety of health issues, from sleep to bone health to body composition. If you want to thrive, your body’s pH level matters. By adding more alkaline-forming foods, primarily from minimally processed plant-based foods, you can combat inflammation, reduce stress and protect bone health.
Benefits of alkaline-forming foods for everyone
As a general rule, you can classify foods as either acid-forming or alkaline forming. The standard American diet is completely acid-forming, rich in acid-forming meat, dairy and highly processed foods. Your body’s pH is 7.35, or slightly alkaline. Your body constantly seeks balance and works hard to maintain the healthy neutral alkaline zone. While the foods you eat cannot change this zone, your body must compensate for a high intake of acid-forming foods by leaching calcium (an alkalizing mineral) from your bones. Over time this may lead to bone mineral loss and potentially osteoporosis. It is also a stressor that leads to inflammation and increased cortisol levels, which has damaging effects on long-term health.
In contrast, alkaline-forming plant-based foods are nutrient dense and rich in antioxidants. Adding more alkaline-forming foods will help slow down the leech of calcium from your bones, helping maintain your bone health for years to come. They also help fight free-radical damage and inflammation while supporting healthy cellular regeneration within your body, so you can thrive.
Benefits of alkaline-forming foods for athletes
The advantage to an athlete of eating alkaline-forming foods is significant. When you eat acid-forming foods, you reduce your muscles’ efficiency and have to spend more energy for every muscle contraction. If you add up the muscle contractions during a 10K race, a half marathon or marathon, that means a lot of extra work. Because alkaline-forming foods help reduce inflammation, your muscles are able to work more functionally, and they require less force to move. As an endurance athlete, this will allow you to push harder for longer. If you are a strength athlete, this allows you to lift heavier weights. All athletes will benefit from recovering faster when eating more plant-based foods.
Alkaline-forming foods to add to your plate
The best indicator of whether a food is alkaline-forming is the presence of chlorophyll – the greener the food, the better. Look for dark green leafy greens, as well as sea vegetables and algae such as chlorella and spirulina.
Beyond green foods, choose minimally processed foods to enjoy more benefits of plant-based nutrition. Note that the actual pH of a food before you eat it doesn’t matter. Lemons, for example, are acidic but are alkaline-forming once digested.
Many people ask me if their diet has to be completely alkaline-forming. If you’re transitioning to a plant-based diet you may still be phasing out acid-forming staple foods such as meat, dairy or processed snacks. Remember that this is about inclusion, not exclusion. Rather than worrying about what you should avoid, focus on getting at least one alkaline-forming meal or snack a day. An easy way to add this in is with a smoothie made of fresh fruit, hemp seeds and non-dairy milk. Another great addition is starting your day with alkaline-forming fresh lemon and warm water.
For a complete list of acid- and alkaline-forming foods, as well as an alkaline-forming meal plan, sign up for Thrive Forward – my free online wellness program.