pH is a measure of the level of acidic content of any given object. The values range from 0-14, whereas most food is between 3-10. Seven is considered “neutral,” anything less than 7 is considered “acidic”, and anything greater than 7 is “alkaline.” Each value change of “1,” is actually a multiple of ten in change. For instance, a change from 6 to 5 means that item with pH of 5 is ten times more acidic than the one with a pH of 6. Likewise, a jump from 8 to 9 means that the item of pH 9 is ten times more alkaline than the item with pH of 8.
You might be wondering about now, “why the science lesson?” –because pH plays a critical role in the health of our bodies. We are happiest and healthiest when our blood hovers around a slightly alkaline level of 7.365. To achieve this value, it is important to nourish ourselves with alkalizing foods. This is not to say that acidic foods are out of the question, but to emphasize a diet of primarily alkaline foods. Limiting environmental toxins and stress will also positively affect pH levels.
It takes 20 times alkalinity to neutralize an acid in the body. For instance, flooding your body with coffee (pH around 4) day in and day out is setting you up for toxic, acidic blood. No amount of vegetables in a day is going to make up for the 5 cups of coffee you’ve guzzled. One small cup? That is much more manageable.
As well, when your body is overloaded with acids, it does everything it can to try to get back to an alkaline state on its own. It does this by raiding your mineral reserves, stealing alkaline minerals (calcium, magnesium, potassium) from your bones, tissues, and organs, putting you at an increased risk for things like osteoporosis.
The Standard American Diet (SAD) is one that is highly acidic. With most of the country consuming coffee, soda, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, meat, cheese, sugar, and white refined carbs on a daily basis, you can see how many people are sick.
Here are two charts that illustrate alkaline/acidic foods.
You can see that many healthy foods are just slightly acidic. This isn’t a problem because our hard-working kidneys (where everything is processed through) can remove an unlimited amount of weak acids from our body. They only get bogged down by an overload of strong acids.
In this delicate balance, moderation is key. You can eat items from the acidic side of the scale, just do so sparingly. As the chart from Crazy Sexy Diet says, aim to limit consuming acidic foods to 20-40% of the time.
How do you know what your pH is? You can easily test the pH of your urine with litmus paper strips. The best time to test is before meals or two hours after eating, but don’t test your first pee of the day (it can give you a false reading). You’re fine in the range of 6.8-7.5. Personally, I don’t bother. I just make a conscious effort to put the right things in and trust that I’m on track.
The simple take home message is this: by leading a primarily plant-based lifestyle with moderate exercise and stress reduction, you can easily keep your pH in a happy range.
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