The alkaline diet is a trend that has become increasingly popular over the past few years. But don’t let the celebrity endorsements and internet buzz fool you—it isn’t a fad diet. Numerous research studies support the health benefits of choosing alkalinizing over acidifying foods.
The conventional American diet is far too acidic, and is contributing to the high incidence of chronic disease in the population. Studies have shown that switching to an alkalinizing diet may benefit bone health; reduce muscle wasting; improve cardiovascular health, memory, and cognition; and enhance Vitamin D activation in the body. All of these mechanisms work in tandem to keep your body functioning as it should. Alkalinizing foods also happen to have tremendous benefits for oral health, protecting the mouth from gum disease, tooth decay, and even bad breath!
It’s all about pH
The premise of the alkaline diet involves simple monitoring of the pH of your food. The pH scale ranges from 1-14, with 1 being the most acidic, 14 being the most basic (or alkaline), and 7 being neutral. When the pH of the body is too low, acid is able to accumulate, leaving the body susceptible to disease states. A higher pH, on the other hand, protects the body from disease. In theory, the more alkalinizing our diets are, the more alkaline our bodies become, and the healthier we will be. Additionally, alkaline foods are easier to digest, so vitamins and minerals are absorbed into our systems more efficiently.
Alkalinizing vs. Acidifying foods
Alkalizing foods include vegetables, most fruits, legumes, fresh herbs, sprouts, and wheat grass. Acidifying foods include meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, bread, processed foods, sugars, and alcohol. However, note that pomegranates, pineapples, raspberries, and frozen vegetables are also acidifying. Whether a food is alkalinizing or acidifying depends not on the pH of the food itself, but how it affects the body once it is metabolized. For example, lemons and apple cider vinegar have a low pH, but both have alkalinizing effects on the body. As with everything, balance is key. A diet of 75% alkalinizing foods and 25% acidifying foods is ideal, since some acidifying foods--such as dairy products and protein--promote strong bones and good overall health.
Alkalinity & oral health
Most healthy habits are not only good for your body but for your mouth as well, and the alkaline diet is no exception. An excess of acidifying foods is a nightmare for your oral health. Acidifying foods eat away at the enamel on your teeth, the hard, mineral layer that covers them. Once the enamel is damaged or destroyed, it doesn’t grow back, leaving teeth unprotected from acids and plaque. Alkalinizing foods do just the opposite, neutralizing acids in the mouth and protecting teeth.
An alkalinizing diet can also protect your mouth from the harmful effects of periodontal disease, a chronic inflammatory disease that affects nearly half of all Americans. It just so happens that the Gram-negative bacteria that cause periodontal disease prefer a more acidic environment, while the Gram-positive, “good” oral bacteria thrive in a more alkaline environment. Maintaining a diet with the right amount of alkalinizing vs. acidifying foods causes the pH of the oral environment to shift toward alkalinity, which provides a healthier homeostatic balance of good vs. bad bacteria. The combination of eating alkalinizing foods, drinking plenty of water (about 8 glasses per day), and practicing proper home care through brushing and flossing prevents an excess of harmful pathogens and leads to a healthier mouth. Maintaining an alkaline oral environment also freshens breath, since the same bad bacteria that cause disease are also responsible for bad breath.
Being conscious about the kinds of foods we consume is an easy way to live a healthier lifestyle. You’ll be amazed at the difference a few dietary adjustments in the right direction can make.