If you’ve been a part of the natural health community for some time now, you’ve likely heard a lot about the importance of eating an alkaline diet. It’s something that’s frowned on in traditional medical circles, with many doctors saying there’s no science to show the validity of this diet.
I want to plant my foot down and state my position on this.
Dismissing the alkaline diet as rubbish is quite a big statement, as it means you’re essentially saying there’s no scientific research showing that eating more vegetables and fruits is good for you.
Doesn’t that sound ridiculous?
The truth is that following an alkaline diet simply means you’re eating more plant-based foods. It’s not about becoming a vegan—which it must be stated, is totally fine—but about making sure your diet favors plants over animal products. This is because plant-based foods provide the highest source of alkaline minerals, which determine how alkaline or acidic your food is.
Just to give you a quick little rundown, food is regarded as acidic if, when metabolized by the body, it gives off more protein and phosphorous than it does potassium, calcium, and magnesium, three big and powerful alkaline minerals. Meat, eggs and dairy are all very acidic because they contain more protein and phosphorous than those minerals. Mind you, dairy does have a lot of calcium, but it also has huge amounts of phosphorous and protein that skew it towards the acid end of the pH scale. Conversely, vegetables offer very low protein, very low phosphorous, but are very high in those alkaline minerals.
5 Reasons An Alkaline Diet is Good For You
When you think about what eating an alkaline diet really means, it’s hard to make a sound argument against it. Here, I want to give you five reasons to consider greening up your diet. Whether or not you choose to specifically call it an “alkaline diet” is entirely up to you, but as I put forth in my book The All-Day Energy Diet, eating in this manner is hugely important when it comes to maintaining consistent energy and overall health. Let’s explore why this is the case.
1. Bone health
The reason alkalinity is really important for bone health is because your body gradually builds or breaks down your bones throughout the day. A big factor in this process is the pH in and around the bone area. When it becomes more acidic, there’s a higher rate of activity of cells called osteoclasts, which break down bone.
When the pH is higher or more alkaline, studies have shown there’s more activity of the osteoblasts, which are bone builders. Of course, this also means there’s less activity from the bone destroyers. (1) This is all pretty important. The other thing to consider is that your body has alkaline buffers like bicarbonate to regulate this process, but if you’re too acidic, they can very easily become overwhelmed.
When this happens, your body then draws on calcium from your bones and teeth to mitigate all that extra acidity.(2) If your diet is high in animal products, grains and sugars and not enough vegetables, this can become an issue, especially if you’re not doing any kind of weight-bearing exercise or exposing yourself to sunlight on a regular basis.
2. Acidity promotes cancer (3)
In 1931, noted physiologist and doctor Otto Warburg won a Nobel Prize for showing that cancer only grows in acidic environments that do not have oxygen.(4) Basically, the relationship is this: where there is acid, there is no oxygen; and where there is alkalinity, there is oxygen.
He showed, in petri dishes, that when you want to grow a cancer cell, you have to put it into an acidic environment where it thrives on sugar as its main fuel source. In an alkaline environment that is much more pristine and actually uses oxygen as its predominant fuel source, you cannot grow cancer.
Eating and living in accordance with these findings has proved to be very controversial, and if you mention this to your doctor, they’ll say it’s complete nonsense. The interesting thing is this: you often see terminal cancer patients turning to alternative therapies like cleansing or green-juice therapy; there’s a good reason for that.(5)
When you naturally infuse your body with alkaline foods, nutrients and lots of oxygen, you can help prevent or lessen the onslaught of disease. Now I’m not saying that green juice prevents cancer, but it’s certainly going to help a lot more than milkshakes or Coca-Cola.
By eating an alkaline diet, you’re ensuring that you’re filling up with micronutrients that are harder to get on a diet that leans more heavily on meat. These micronutrients are simply vitamins and minerals your body needs.
I’m a big proponent of green juice as it doesn’t contain any fiber to get in the way of you absorbing micronutrients from the ingredients in your juice, be that kale, cucumber, apple or whatever else.
For example, kale contains huge amounts of organosulfides, which are specific compounds proven to prevent diseases like cancer.(6) You don’t get these nutrients unless you’re drinking and eating greens and lots and lots of veggies. Sure, you can find them in multivitamins, but I prefer to get my nutrition from real plants, not processing plants.
Obviously, it’s not as easy to eat a lot of vegetables, so that’s why I like to juice a lot. If I can have a liter of micronutrient-packed green juice in one day, that’s a huge win. I know it’s not always easy to juice, which is why I developed Energy Greens, an easy and efficient way to get the nutrition you need.
This is tremendously helpful because if you’re getting these nutrients into your body, you’re building stronger bones, staving off disease and generally contributing to looking younger and feeling amazing.
This one is like a lightning bolt inside your body. That’s right, Red Bull doesn’t give you wings, alkalinity does. If you’ve followed my energy diet, you’ll know that within five or seven days you feel like an entirely new person. That’s because when you alkalize your body, you naturally improve your internal environment so your body is able to function as it should.
Falling asleep at your desk after lunch is not normal, nor is feeling tired all of the time. If that’s going on regularly, it’s likely because your body is struggling with all the junk you’ve been filling it with. When you replace that junk with micronutrients and oxygen through these really high-quality foods, you feel a thousand times better.
I wish I had known this stuff when I was playing pro soccer because it would have made a tremendous difference in how I played. Even as a young teenager growing up in the ranks, I was eating breads, pastas, cereals all the time, and feeling like crap because of it. I was tired, my body was broken down, and I was always stiff and sore.
Only seven years later did I learn about this stuff. I don’t play anymore, but I still train pretty heavily. Honestly, I just feel so much better. I recover faster, and it almost feels like my body has more oxygen to use in my workouts. I’m not saying you should go run a marathon after just drinking green juice, but when you provide your body with alkalinity, it helps to buffer out the acidity that’s created through exercise.
When you move your body, you create acidosis. The burn you feel in your muscles when you do strenuous exercise is actually a flood of lactic acid. If you add more acidity into that cocktail as a result of eating acidic foods (meat, grains, lots of sugar) that’s only adding gas to the fire.
By getting more alkalinity in—more greens, green juices, green smoothies, vegetables, fruit—you start to fight away a lot of that acidosis. Also, we know that acidosis is not just related to this stuff, but also to gout, joint issues, and all sorts of things.
Even though there’s no single “scientific study” to show the alkaline diet shows is better for you, just look for research that shows how eating more fruits and vegetables reduces your risk of heart disease, mortality, cancer, etc. That’s all you have to remember. I’m not saying you have to become a vegan or even a raw foodist, I’m just asking you to eat more plant foods.
Credits: Bone image courtesy University of Liverpool. Cancer cells image courtesy Penn State. Micronutrients image courtesy Pawel Pacholec. Energy image courtesy Max Boschini. Performance image courtesy U.S. Army.
Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.