What the Heck Is the Alkaline Diet (and Does It Actually Work)?

Paleo. Keto. DASH. Plant-based. Intermittent fasting. Whole30. With so many different trends to choose from, it’s tricky to figure out which eating plan is the right choice for you, and which should be written off as an ineffective (and possibly dangerous) fad. Here’s everything you need to know about the alkaline diet. 

Wait, what’s the alkaline diet? The general gist is that dieters replace more acidic foods with ingredients that have an alkaline pH of 7 or higher. (High school science flashback: a pH of 7 is neutral. Anything lower is acidic. Anything higher is basic.) Proponents of the diet believe that eating mostly alkaline foods will help keep your blood pH level as alkaline as possible. In turn, the diet is thought to reduce your risk of developing a number of diseases, including cancer and arthritis, as well as increase energy levels, reduce inflammation and a host of other health benefits. (More about those claims later.)

And what can I eat? Any food with an alkaline (or basic) pH level is permitted on this diet, including most fruits and veggies, tofu, soybeans and some nuts (like almonds), beans (like pinto beans) and seeds (like flaxseeds). 

So what can’t I eat? Dieters eat anything that creates an acidic pH in the body sparingly, including meat, eggs, most dairy (goat milk is allowed), most grains and processed foods (bye, Doritos). Caffeine and alcohol are no-no’s, too.

And does it actually work? After polling our nutritionist friends, the consensus is no, it doesn’t. Although the foods on the alkaline diet are all healthy choices (bonus points for that), there’s just no scientific evidence that eating alkaline foods actually changes the pH of your blood. “Overall, the body tightly regulates blood pH levels and it is not possible to affect it via diet,” Melissa Kelly, MS, RD, CDN tells us. “While the alkaline diet encourages fruits and veggies through a plant-based plan and restricts highly processed foods, the research is lacking.” Welp, we’ve got our answer. 

Will trying the alkaline diet do any harm, though? The foods the alkaline diet involves aren’t unhealthy. But unnecessarily restricting your diet to only a few food groups (even if they’re good ones) is never recommended, especially if the diet isn’t scientifically proven to be effective. Oh, and some news—Robert Young, the creator of the alkaline diet, is currently serving jail time for practicing medicine without a license. Yikes. A much safer bet? Try the Mediterranean Diet, which is widely recommended by doctors and nutritionists.

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