Health

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Why the alkaline diet is here to stay

SINGAPORE - MAY 12:  Victoria Beckham poses for a photo at On Pedder at Scotts Square on May 12, 2014 in Singapore. Victoria Beckham is in Singapore for the first time to showcase her ready-to-wear pieces from her eponymous fashion label in Singapore  (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)
The designer is a fan of the veg based eating plan

It has attracted fans as famous as Victoria Beckham, so move over Mr Atkins and the 'five-two' diet, the alkaline is back. but is there anything to it?

Diet crazes come and go. Many become stalwarts of the dieting masses, while others tend to be a flash-in-the-pan (the non-stick, no-fat necessary pan, of course). High-protein, low-carbohydrate plans have been doing the rounds for many years now, while the 'five-two' plan is relatively new, where you fast for two days and eat whatever you like for five.

The Alkaline diet, however, has been around for an age. It raises its head and becomes trendy every now and then. Is it one worth noting?

Could this be a lifestyle choice (there are websites dedicated to it as a way of life)? Is it sustainable? Could my entire family eat this way?

Is there solid science behind it, backing up its claims?

Will I be doing it 10 years from now, or when I'm 80? (which is my definition of a successful diet).

Read on to help make your own mind up on the matter.

Is Alkaline Always the Answer?

Our blood is slightly alkaline, by which I mean it has a pH of just above 7.

If you can remember the litmus test from school science class, you might remember that, depending on the colour litmus paper turned on dipping, a liquid was deemed acidic or alkaline.

Acidic is zero and above, alkaline is 14 and below; neutral is seven.

Our blood generally reads between 7.35 and 7.45. Our urine changes according to what we consume, as it is the job of the kidneys to regulate our blood's acidity, through excretion of urine.

The theory of the alkaline diet seems straightforward enough; that if we eat acid-producing foods our urine is acidic and when we eat more alkaline-producing foods it corrects such acidity.

And yes, acid-forming foods do leave an acid 'ash' behind (minerals such as sulphur) as alkaline-forming foods leave an alkaline 'ash' (calcium, magnesium, potassium).

Testing our urine does not tell us that our body is acidic or alkaline, however. Oh if it were that simple! It's not.

The body has an evolved system already proficient at keeping our blood at the correct pH; our renal system.

If it did not, we would have developed acidosis and died! It is supposed that if we test our urine and it reads acidic then we can adjust our acidic blood by eating more alkaline foods.

In actual fact, the kidneys are fine-tuning our blood pH constantly through excretion of urine, so that our blood pH stays constant.

What we read in urine (and let's be honest, that's half the fun; testing it with litmus paper) does not reflect what is happening in our blood.

An Alkaline Lifestyle. Can I live it?

While I object (strongly) to the pursuit of a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet, on health grounds, I have nothing but good things to say about an Alkaline-lifestyle!

While the science might be shaky, at best, the pursuit of whole, unprocessed, largely vegetarian foods and meal-plans can only be good for one.

It has been well documented over many decades that a vegetarian lifestyle is one that promotes health and longevity and protects against many of the ills that we suffer from, including heart disease, diabetes and many cancers.

This, in my opinion, is why people (from the Victoria Beckhams of this world, to internet blogging nutritionists) love the results of adhering to such a plan.

When you have a look at the list of foods recommended and those to be avoided, you will instantly understand that these are, by definition, healthful foods and habits being followed on the plan.

While the reason they work might be as much to do with their superior nutritional quality and reduced calorie load as their alkaline 'ash' forming tendency, any plan prioritising these foods will be good for the body.

Foods to include

* Greens, such as kale, kelp, rocket, coriander, parsley, spinach, watercress, fennel

* Citrus fruit, such as lemons, limes, grapefruit

* Fruit such as tomatoes, pear, apple, avocado, mango

* Garlic, ginger, onions

* Cauliflower, asparagus, artichoke, broccoli, beetroot

* Dried fruit, such as dates and figs

* Raw nuts like walnuts and almonds

* Seeds and seed oils

* Brown rice, oats, quinoa, buckwheat

* Almond milk, coconut water

Foods to avoid

* All stimulants such as caffeine (coffee, cola, sports drinks)

* Meat, wheat, refined sugar

* All processed foods

* Artificial sweeteners, additives, colours

Where will it take you?

The promise of adopting such a diet is that of weight-loss, high energy, better health and longevity.

 

But other promises also abound; from avoiding arthritis to cancer to heart disease to diabetes.

The foods you get to eat while on an alkaline diet are good for you, of course, but results regarding benefits on health have not been adequately proven, as yet.

Will my Family Eat Alkaline or Animal?

I love the idea of my entire family waking up, refreshed, every morning to the sound of a juicer, juicing their daily kale.

Will it happen? Will my seven-year-old knock back an avocado, kale, cucumber and mint smoothie on a school morning; packing a raw, oil-dressed salad in his lunch-box to take with him to school?

Will my 13-year-old banish all processed foods in favour of fresh only?

Will artichoke, asparagus and a great big glass of almond milk be her afternoon snack of choice?

I would love to think that the answer to this question would be a resounding 'Yes', but I tend to inhabit the real world!

Will you find me still juicing at 80? Perhaps! I doubt it though. Will I most likely have mellowed and resumed my porridge habit? I think so.

Will I still add seeds, frozen berries and a dollop of good quality yoghurt to it? I would hope so!

As such, I would expect to be nothing less than fit, fast and fabulous.

(The Herald)

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