In the vast amount of health and diet information on the market, the importance of pH balance is often under-emphasized. While the public is informed about the role vitamins and minerals play in the healthy functioning of a human body, there is generally much less discussion about what foods are the most alkaline or the most acidic.
According to a growing number of doctors, nutritionists and medical researchers such as Dr. Susan E. Brown, Michelle Schoffro Cook and Robert O. Young, a diet containing less acidic foods and more alkaline foods is an important aspect of maintaining a healthy body, and can help heal and prevent an astonishing number of ailments and diseases ranging from low energy and acne to diabetes and osteoporosis. A diet emphasizing pH balance will closely resemble the traditionally recommended diets (such as being high in fruits and vegetables), but understanding the chemistry behind the recommendations can allow a person to make small changes to their food choices for a significant effect on overall bodily health.
A healthy human body has blood with a pH of 7.35-7.45; deviations beyond this range are usually a sign of serious disease. The body must maintain its balanced pH just as it must maintain the correct temperature, and there are many mechanisms through which pH regulation takes place. These include using electrolyte buffers of sodium, calcium and potassium to bind acids that become subsequently removed in urine, using protein buffers within cells, using (alkaline) bicarbonate ions from the pancreas, using (and depleting) stored magnesium and calcium from bones and teeth, and using other methods of filtering and eliminating acids through respiration, the urinary tract and the skin.
When the body’s acid neutralization systems have been overloaded by a diet too high in acidic foods and low in alkaline foods, its ability to eliminate the acids is weakened, and it must store them by relocating them within the body’s connective tissue cells and extra-cellular fluids. Thus a person’s internal chemical environment can become polluted by what we eat and drink similar to how our external environment can become polluted because of what we put into rivers. This has very serious consequences because biological functions including athletic performance and resistance to disease depend on a delicately balanced pH.
For example, a placebo-controlled, double-blind study conducted by Dan Heil, Ph.D., of Montana State University, noted that an alkalized human body had reduced blood lactate levels, increased upper body power output, and reduced cardio respiratory stress with a lower heart rate, respiratory rate and energy expenditure.
Various nutritionists such as Christopher Vasey, Felicia Drury and Susan E. Brown have written books about how various foods affect the body’s pH after consumption and provide detailed instructions on how to eat an alkaline diet.
While anyone serious about eating healthy would do well to become familiar with this information and discuss their plans with a nutrition expert or their doctor, there are some general rules that the average college student can follow without too much inconvenience.
The easiest step is to drink less pop; carbonated drinks are acidifying to the body, in addition to being loaded with sugar and empty calories. Substituting diet soda is not a particularly healthy alternative, because the drink is still acidic, and many nutritionists and doctors consider aspartame to be unhealthy for many reasons. Instead, substitute fruit juice for pop when you want something sweet and drink more water. Drinking water further assists the body in eliminating toxins and undesirable chemicals.
Another easy change is to base minor dietary choices on the trend of foods that are green to be more alkaline. The darker green, the more the food will alkalize the body, so consider opting for broccoli instead of corn at the buffet line, green peppers instead of pickled cucumbers on your sandwich, and fresh spinach instead of iceberg lettuce at the salad bar.
Iceberg lettuce has about the same dietary impact as a small glass of water; an alkalizing salad must begin with a base of some plant that is dark green.
Although everyone is busy and few of us have the time to eat as healthy as we’d like to, understanding the pH of foods and the associated effects on our bodies can help us make more beneficial food choices and be healthier.