What is an alkaline diet?
Imagine that you burn a food until there are only ashes left. You then test to find whether the minerals in these ashes are acid-forming or alkaline-forming minerals.
These elements are acid-forming:
The above elements react with alkaline mineral reserves in your body, and make your blood, saliva and urine more acid. Foods and other substances that contain a high proportion of these minerals have an acid-forming effect on your body.
These elements are alkaline-forming:
Foods, drinks and water that contain a high portion of these minerals are alkaline-forming; they make your blood, saliva and urine more alkaline.
Unfortunately, our digestive systems do not burn food as completely as a fire would. Partly burned waste products that remain are acidic. The less healthy and efficient your digestive system, the more acid are the wastes. Your body elimination systems are concerned with getting them out - hence sweat and urine are usually acidic. Acid by-products from your metabolism include acetic acid, lactic acid, uric acid and carbonic acid.
Hydrochloric acid in your stomach is central to the digestive process. After food has been through your stomach, this powerful acid must be neutralised, and sufficient alkaline salts are required to do this. Good health and digestion are dependent upon having strong acids in your stomach, and sufficient alkaline salts (particularly carbonates of calcium, potassium, magnesium and sodium) to raise the pH as food exits your stomach.
For detailed advice on an alkaline diet see my book Grow Youthful.
Calcium is essential for healthy bones, teeth, nerves, muscles, cardiovascular and kidney functions. Your body contains nearly a kilogram of calcium, of which about 99% is in your bones.
Calcium is one of the major elements used in maintaining your blood's pH, and consequently the acid / alkaline balance of your entire body. Calcium works in concert with the other acid-neutralisers, sodium, potassium, iron, manganese and magnesium. Your body monitors your blood's pH and calcium levels, and if either of them falls, it quickly draws on the reserves of calcium bicarbonate in your blood plasma. If your plasma reserves are insufficient, calcium is taken from wherever it is available, primarily your bones.
Calcium and other alkaline minerals are essential for the health of your teeth and to prevent tooth decay. They are present in your saliva, providing for the remineralisation of your teeth.
Under long-term acid conditions, your bone density will decrease and you will suffer from osteoporosis. When you have no reserves left and calcium has to be taken from your bone structure, your spine and pelvic bones are usually the first to suffer. As much as 10 - 40% of the calcium may be leached from mature bones before the loss can be seen on an X-ray.
Calcium intakes vary widely around the world, from a low of around 300 mg / day in India, to 400 in Hong Kong, 1000 in the USA and Australia, and 1400 in some Scandinavian countries. Interestingly, hip fractures are higher, not lower, in those countries where people consume the most calcium.
These statistics show that a high-calcium diet does not prevent osteoporosis and bone loss or weakening. Advertisements encouraging us to drink milk and eat dairy products are sponsored by the dairy industry, and are misleading. Milk today is pasteurised and homogenised, and the calcium in this unnatural form is difficult to digest. These processed dairy products are highly acid-forming, and although a cup of milk contains nearly 300 mg of calcium, the little you are able to absorb is lost in combating the acidity it forms.
Wheat products may cause hypocalcemia (calcium deficiency) and the recommended treatment is a wheat-free diet.
The best sources of calcium are leafy green vegetables, legumes, onions, seaweeds, nuts, seeds (especially sesame seeds), sardines (with bones) and eggs. The calcium in these foods is easily digested and available to your body.
Potassium is needed by your muscles, heart, glandular and nervous systems. Potassium assists in maintaining the pH balance in your blood, in concert with sodium. The sodium / potassium ratio is a long-term determinant of heart and kidney health. A diet with lots of animal products and processed foods is high in sodium, whereas a diet high in fruits and vegetables is high in potassium. Simply eat more fruits and vegetables (especially bananas) to improve the ratio.
The best sources of potassium are fruits and vegetables, molasses, nuts and seeds, wheat germ and brown rice. Sugar, refined salt, coffee and alcohol all leach potassium from your body.
Sodium occurs in your body mainly as salt - sodium chloride. Your blood sodium level is maintained in a narrow range, and deviations from it can have a catastrophic effect. Salt is lost through sweat and urine, and is replaced from your diet. Most people consume too much (refined) salt - the only people who need to replenish it are those who sweat a lot, exercising in hot environments.
Refined table salt is a poor source of sodium. If you buy salt ensure that it is un-refined sea salt, not processed and denatured supermarket salt. The best sources of sodium include celery, okra and goat's milk. Salty meats such as bacon, ham and corned beef are poor (acid-forming) foods, high in refined sodium chloride. White meats such as chicken, duck, lamb and pork contain more potassium than sodium.
Magnesium is a key mineral for health and longevity. Most people today are severely deficient, getting less than half of what their ancestors did a century ago. In a Palaeolithic diet the calcium to magnesium ratio used to be about 1 to 1. On the Standard American diet, it is more like 15 to 1.
Even a mild deficiency in magnesium is a risk factor for osteoporosis. Magnesium deficiency is involved with many other degenerative diseases, including anxiety, asthma, blood clots, constipation, cystitis, depression, diabetes, chronic fatigue, heart disease, hypertension, insomnia, kidney disease, migraines, muscular skeletal problems (fibrositis, fibromyalgia cramps, pains), nervous problems and muscle twitches, menstrual problems, obstetrical problems, osteoporosis, panic attacks and tooth decay.
Magnesium is essential for your energy, cell growth, nerves, muscles and heart and arterial system. It helps you to relax physically and mentally.
Magnesium dissolves excess calcium in the body. It is antagonistic toward aluminium, cadmium, lead, mercury and nickel, so is essential to get sufficient magnesium if you live in a polluted environment.