Acidifying, Alkalizing, and Acid Foods
Monday, October 19, 2009
by Christopher Vasey, N.D
Diet is the principal source of the acid and alkaline substances that determine the pH balance or imbalance of the body. It is therefore indispensable to have full knowledge of the properties of the foods you eat and to know precisely whether a given food has an alkalizing or acidifying effect on you personally.
All the foods we eat can be divided into three basic groups: acidifying foods, alkalizing foods, and acid foods. The definitions of the first two groups are based on the effects these foods have on the body - either acidifying or alkalizing - whereas the criterion for the third group is based on a basic property of the food - specifically its acid flavor - and does not consider its effect on the body. What is the reason for this difference?
As much as possible the characteristics of foods should always be defined based on their effects on the body rather than their intrinsic qualities, as it is the effects that concern people who are concerned about their health. In fact, a food can display alkaline characteristics yet have an acidifying effect on the body. This is the case with white sugar, which is used to moderate the acid in the highly acidic tastes of certain fruits such as rhubarb or black currant. While this neutralization is very real on the level of taste, it vanishes when it comes to the body. When metabolized, white sugar produces numerous acids and is therefore strongly acidifying. In matters of therapeutic treatment it is very important to recognize the decisive nature of this effect.
A great mistake made by some dietitians is to consider only chemical analyses of foods and to assume that the body greatly benefits from the nutritive qualities revealed by these analyses.
The great French nutritionist and naturopath P. V. Marchesseau once said that "food has no intrinsic value. The only value it possesses comes from the digestive tract that receives it." How should we define the quality of a food such as grass, for example, when it is good or bad depending on whether it enters the digestive tract of a cow or a human being? The same holds true for foods appropriate for people: raw vegetables are good for someone in good health, but not for a patient with enteritis or colitis. For the latter, the coarse nature of the vegetable fiber causes even greater irritation to an already inflamed digestive tract. Dairy products are beneficial for most people, but not for those who are lactose intolerant, and so forth.
Knowing the effects a food has on the body is of fundamental importance. The foods in the first two groups, acidifying and alkalizing, have been classified according to their observed effects on human beings.
The effect of foods in the third group, that of acid foods, cannot be clearly defined in a definitive manner, unlike the first two groups. It varies according to the individual body's ability to metabolize acids. These foods, primarily fruits, whey, and vinegar, have an alkalizing effect on those whose bodies properly metabolize weak acids, but are acidifying for those whose bodies metabolize acids poorly if at all. As these foods cannot be classified according to their effects, they are defined by their intrinsic characteristic of acid taste.
Generally speaking, the foods from this group are associated with foods that have alkalizing qualities, because that is their effect on the majority of people who eat them. But it would be a serious error to adopt that as the sole classification, because, on the one hand, it does not entirely correspond to the reality, and on the other, most people who are concerned about their acid-alkaline balance have a metabolic weakness toward acids. For them, knowledge of this third group is crucial.
Understanding these three groups permits you to select without risk of error the foods that are necessary to add to your diet to restore the ideal acid-alkaline balance. You should choose foods according to these two rules of thumb:
- If your body metabolizes acids properly, the quantity of alkalizing and acid foods should be higher than the quantity of acidifying foods.
- If you have a metabolic inability to handle acids, the quantity of alkalizing foods should be higher than the quantity of acidifying and acid foods.
Two points need to be emphasized. First, the more a person is afflicted by acidification or a metabolic inability to handle acids, the higher should be the proportion of alkalizing foods in the diet in proportion to the others. In fact, while a person with a healthy acid-alkaline balance can eat acidifying and alkaline foods in equal amounts, people with an imbalance should make alkalizing foods 60 to 80 percent of their diet.
Reducing acidifying foods drastically or eliminating them completely would not be wise, because foods rich in proteins (eggs, dairy products, meat, fish) are among the acidifying group. An adequate intake of proteins is a prerequisite for alkaline minerals to establish themselves properly in the tissues. Tissues require proteins to produce a good framework to contain the minerals. Otherwise, a portion of the alkaline minerals ingested will leave the body and will therefore be unavailable when the body needs them to neutralize acids.
Second, the more you suffer from problems caused by acidification or a metabolic inability to handle acids, the greater the necessity to consume a more significant amount of alkaline foods at every meal. If you include those foods in every meal of the day, neutralization of food acids or acids produced in the digestive process is handled directly by the alkaline elements contributed by the food just eaten.
This intake represents a valuable aid to the body, for without it food acids leave the intestinal tract and enter the internal environment, forcing the body to draw from its tissue reserves the alkaline elements it requires to neutralize them. This results in a depletion of the body's mineral content and prompts the appearance of health conditions caused by acidification.
People who can metabolize acids properly are less subject to the necessity of eating more alkaline foods than acid foods. They have good reserves of alkaline elements that can be drawn on when needed to neutralize the acids from a meal that consists exclusively or almost exclusively of acidifying foods.