Uh-oh! You’re out to dinner, and your gut starts rumbling. You look at your plate and wonder “What could be causing this reaction?”
Well, think about this: How much of the food that you consume every day is more acidic than alkaline?
In our fast-paced, get-it-done-yesterday culture, a lot of the readily-available food is highly-processed and tends to be quite acidic. Even foods that we consider to be healthy (such as tomatoes and oranges) are fairly acid.
But what about that coffee you enjoy every morning or the soda pops you drink to give yourself a bit of an energy boost? How much is too much?
The fact of the matter is what foods high in acid can cause major gastrointestinal problems over time. That’s why it is crucial to include some alkaline foods in your diet.
Before we find out which alkaline foods you should eat, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty details on why acidic foods cause problems and what alkaline foods can do to help heal your gut.
Why Acidic Foods Cause Chaos In the Gut
While you should not quit eating acidic foods cold turkey, cutting down on them might help improve your overall health. Although sugar is not the only food additive that can potentially cause chronic illnesses, it has been scientifically shown to have a neurological effect similar to drugs and alcohol.
Also, sugar is known to mimic whatever nutrients your body is lacking, especially magnesium.
Over time, all of the processed and highly-acidic foods you consume can potentially lead to increased intestinal permeability, often referred to as “leaky gut syndrome”. When the intestinal wall is eroded and inflammation is able to overpower your system, more toxins can infiltrate without getting neutralized.
This also means that your body does not as easily absorb nutrients from food, thereby leading to deficiencies.
As naturopathic doctor Corey Resnick writes, a massive amount of pancreatic enzymes (up to 65% of pancreatic trypsin and 90% of pancreatic lipase) can be destroyed by gastric acid, which can be triggered by eating a lot of processed, acidic foods.
Leaky gut has been linked to many chronic conditions, including a long list of autoimmune diseases (such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and both types of Diabetes), autism, skin issues (like acne and eczema), and Candida (a fungus that causes yeast infections).
It is also strongly linked to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other gastrointestinal (GI) issues.
If you have leaky gut, you will likely feel:
- Anxious and/or depressed
- More frequently confused
- Joint pain/aches
- Bodily weakness
- Frequently ill and that even the common cold is difficult to fend off
Sounds horrible, right? It is horrible. But there is something that you can do about it!
The Benefits of Eating Alkaline Foods
One of the biggest benefits of eating alkaline foods is that they tend to be more freshly-grown and, therefore, are less-processed.
If you are struggling with symptoms of leaky gut, doing a detox diet that increasingly includes alkaline foods as you go can promote healing in your digestive system.
The most obvious benefits of incorporating alkaline foods into your diet include:
- Feeling more energized
- Feeling more alert and able to think clearly
- Fewer bodily aches and pains
- Improved digestion
While your focus should be on including more alkaline foods into your diet, it is crucial that you also introduce healthy gut bacteria in the form of probiotics and dietary fiber.
This can help clear out the bad bacteria from your gut and allow alkaline foods to help you heal.
What is a PRAL Score?
Now, you might be wondering, “But how can I know which foods are the most alkaline?” That’s where the PRAL (which is short for Potential Renal Acid Load) score comes in handy. PRAL provides the measure to which a metabolized food is acidic or alkaline.
All foods on the PRAL is scored with a negative, positive, or neutral value. The more acidic a food is, the higher its value will be. For example, lean beef ranks at +7.8, indicating that it is highly acidic.
The lower a food scores in the negative range, the more alkaline it is. Dried figs rank at -18.1, making them extremely alkaline.
Most fruits and veggies (with a few exceptions) will rank somewhere in the negatives.
15 Alkaline Foods You Should Try
Now that you have an idea of why alkaline foods are helpful, here are 15 alkaline foods that you should consider adding to your diet.
1. Beet Greens
Beets have a PRAL score of -16.7, making them one of the more alkaline foods out there. They can easily be baked into soups or added to salads.
Not only do beets give you energy, but they stimulate liver function, elevate your libido, and give your immune system a boost.
Spinach is another leafy green that can be added to many soups and salads. It is rich in magnesium, calcium, iron, and other essential nutrients. It works well at stabilizing blood pressure and boosts your metabolism, making it a great choice for those who are trying to lose weight.
Kale is a fun alkaline food to experiment with. As a member of the cabbage family, kale is extremely low in fat, calories, and acid.
The one fat it does have is alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that your body needs. It is also a powerful antioxidant that can help keep free radicals from doing cellular damage.
If you struggle with dehydration, try eating some cucumbers! These members of the gourd family are known to be excellent at managing symptoms of diabetes, providing renal support, and keeping you from getting constipated as you change to an alkaline diet.
Apples are one of the most easy-to-digest foods out there and have natural sugar that can satisfy a craving. They’re extremely alkaline, are packed with enzymes, and provide a good amount of fiber.
An apple (or two) a day might just help keep the doctor away!
6. Swiss Chard
Swiss chard is a popular feature in many Mediterranean dishes and for a good reason. It has numerous health benefits, including being a major source of antioxidants.
It is also able to help relieve inflammation and detoxifier. It also tastes great with kale and feta in a salad.
Carrots are probably a no-brainer here. They’ve been hailed as one of the world’s healthiest foods for a long time. They register low on the GI index, are low in calories, and are jammed full of vitamin A, biotin, and many other vitamins and nutrients.
Cooked or raw, you can reap the benefits of this alkaline veggie. Just be mindful of what you decide to dip them in!
Were you ever forced to eat celery as a kid? If so, the adult who told you to eat it was probably doing you a favor. Celery is a marshland plant that offers an impressive amount of vitamin K and folate.
Since it is rich in polysaccharides and antioxidants, it is able to fight off gut inflammation. It is also known to prevent kidney infections.
9. Sweet Potatoes
Did you know that one cup of regular white potatoes has the same effect as a can of soda on your blood glucose level? Yikes!
Their far-more-alkaline alternative, sweet potatoes, are rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C. They act as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent and might even benefit blood sugar regulation.
Coming in with a -4.0 PRAL score, cauliflower is another excellent source of vitamins and nutrients, and it is a source rich in choline, a chemical your brain needs for cognitive tasks.
Cauliflower can also regulate estrogen levels, thereby reducing GI issues and aiding weight loss efforts.
Forget oranges! Kiwi is an alkaline fruit rich in vitamin C. It that can be made into a delicious parfait or even into quick bread. Since it’s loaded with fiber, it can help regulate digestion.
Pears contain a high amount of vitamin C and are also loaded with fiber. They’re low in sugar but have a sweet taste to help satisfy sugar cravings.
Eggplant is an alkaline plant packed with chlorogenic acid, which actually isn’t acidic! Instead, chlorogenic acid (which is commonly found in coffee beans) can boost metabolism and promote better digestion.
Unlike many other nuts, hazelnuts are not acidic. In fact, they score at -2.8 on the PRAL. Hazelnuts are a great alternative to peanuts. They’re high in magnesium and have cardiovascular and digestive health benefits.
You can add freshly-squeezed lemon juice and a small amount of natural sugar or sweetener to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Now you know the dangers of eating a highly acidic diet and have a working knowledge of how alkaline foods can heal your gut. Your next step is making the commitment to detoxifying your body from the years of damage caused by acidic foods.
While you don’t have to eat all of the alkaline foods listed above or cut out every acidic food from your diet, you can pick several alkaline foods to start with and find some delicious recipes for them.