When presented with a pH scale I am reminded of a Chemistry lesson at school, where I dipped a piece of paper into liquid and watched it turn blue. Little did I know, this experiment demonstrates exactly what happens in our body every time we digest our food.
After being digested, almost all of the food we eat releases an acid or an alkaline base into the bloodstream. Our blood is slightly alkaline and is balanced around 7.35 to 7.45 on the pH scale. When there is higher levels of acidity in the body our kidneys are forced to work overtime to protect it from failing and to try to restore its alkaline balance. In order to do this, minerals within our body such as magnesium, calcium, potassium and iodine are used. An acid diet essentially forces us to use up vital alkaline resources, depleting the body of these important minerals. Without these essential minerals our body has to fight much harder to protect itself from illness.
Our hunter gatherer ancestors lived on a plant based diet and minimally processed animal product. As refined grains, non-organic dairy, processed meat and refined sugar have become not only present but mass consumed, the Western diet has become acidic and we have become more prone to illness. In a national health and nutrition examination survey it has been discovered that too much animal protein can aid the development of cancer and sugar is known as the white poison.
An example of the modern Western diet would be the consumption of diet drinks. Diet drinks are marketed as ‘healthy’ with ‘zero calories’ but actually contain a nasty ingredient called phosphoric acid, this is close to battery acid on the pH scale. In defence, the body uses iodine, one of its alkaline mineral sources. Iodine helps support the thyroid, which in turn helps metabolise the body and maintains a healthy weight. In the U.S the average person consumes over forty-six gallons of soft drinks per year, and it has lead to record highs of diabetes, obesity and cancer.
So how can the alkaline diet help? The acid/alkaline level is monitored from 1.0 to 9, with 1.0 being the most acid and 9.0 the most alkaline. In foods, the closest to zero would be artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, also coffee and processed meats, whereas the closest to 14 would be fruits and vegetables such as raw spinach, broccoli, beetroot, dates and lemons. A mainly vegetarian diet with good fats from nuts and avocados, protein from legumes, whole grains such as buckwheat, oats or brown rice, will increase energy levels, improve digestion. This change in diet and attitude to food will help maintain a healthy weight and most importantly a healthy mind.
Organic chef Natasha Corrett is the founder of Honestly Healthy, which promotes the alkaline diet. She has just released her third cookbook full of delicious alkaline recipes and speaks to us about how living the alkaline way can lead to an ultimately healthier and happier lifestyle.
How did you discover the alkaline diet?
I had a busy work schedule and damaged my back really badly. My mum advised I go and see a specialist called Dr Joshi who told me that my body was very acidic and that this was contributing to other issues that I had as well as my back pain. I started on a two week alkaline plan and never looked back as the results were so amazing!
How do you feel it benefits over other popular diets at the moment like the Paleo diet?
At the core of the alkaline way is ultimately really good nutritious food and a balanced diet. We need to incorporate all of the food groups into our diet, each of which are covered in the alkaline way. Any diet that promotes any one ingredient in excess is not great in my eyes as it tips the balance out, while grains are so important to include as they provide vital energy, fibre and protein.
What are your staple foods?
I eat a lot of nuts, seeds and sprouts as they are rich in magnesium, omega 3 and essential fatty acids. We should all be eating nuts, seeds and sprouts every day. I love tahini dressing as it can transform any salad and a day never goes by when I don’t eat spinach, kale and other dark leafy greens.
Other than eating the right foods what other things can help us lead an alkaline lifestyle?
Sleep and exercise are paramount in maintaining a healthy alkaline lifestyle. Lack of either of these activities are very acidic forming. It is really important to get this balance right and look after yourself over and above food as well.
For people who lead a busy lifestyle do you have any advice in maintaining an alkaline lifestyle and diet?
Prepare ahead! If I know I have a busy start, I’ll prepare my smoothie ingredients in the blender the night before so that all I have to do early in the morning is give them a quick whizz and be out the door. I always pack healthy snacks for the office too, such as a handful of nuts, for when I notice my blood sugar levels dipping.
You talk about a 70:30 balance. What are the foods to completely avoid and are there a few that are ok in moderation?
The Honestly Healthy alkaline way is a lifestyle rather than a diet and we know you need to have a treat and let your hair down every now and again. Where possible always try to avoid refined sugar, it’s honestly easy to find alternatives – try our Almond Berry Cake recipe for example. If you are going to eat meat, try and do this as part of your 30% and always choose organic and grass fed. Any processed foods should be completely avoided. Cow’s dairy, alcohol, caffeine and gluten are others to have in moderation.
What is your favourite recipe from your new cookbook?
I’ve got a really sweet tooth so I love the Melt-In-The-Mouth Doughnuts. One dish I also always come back to is the Chestnut Tart which is lovely with a fresh salad.
Words by Helen Carr