Another contributor to the symptoms and imbalances related to chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity that you may have started to read about is chronic, low-level diet-induced metabolic acidosis.
Foods that Could Create an Acidic Environment
Low-grade metabolic acidosis may arise from different factors, but for many people, diet plays a role. In general, it arises due to an imbalance in pH by consuming more foods that have a higher acidic load, which could lead to an alteration of your body’s pH balance.
The following typically contribute to an imbalance in pH that may lead to low-grade, chronic metabolic acidosis, increasing the risk of developing associated chronic diseases.
- Diets low in fiber, potassium, and magnesium
- Diets high in saturated fat, simple sugars, sodium and chloride
- Low-carb, high-protein diets may also increase acid load, which may not affect blood chemistry but could impact urinary chemistry by decreasing magnesium levels, urinary citrate, and pH while increasing urinary calcium, undissociated uric acid, and phosphate levels.
- Grain products, dairy foods, fish, and meats can have a high acid load
- High acidic load beverages include cocoa, certain beers, and soda
Below is a table with PRAL (potential renal acid load) level per portion size for commonly consumed foods, in order from greatest to least. PRAL is often used to determine the acid load of food (the higher the PRAL load, the more acidic):
|Food||PRAL per Portion|
|Grilled wild salmon||15.3|
|Roasted chicken thigh||13.5|
|Low-fat cow’s milk||9.4|
|Whole cow’s milk||8.7|
|Cooked sweet potato||-1.2|
As you can see, plant-based foods have a naturally lower PRAL number, meaning they are more basic, compared to animal-based foods. Protein foods, even those of plant origin, are also naturally more acidic.
Thus, when you follow an alkaline diet, you want to focus on the following:
- Plant-based foods, especially fruits and vegetables
- Potassium- and magnesium-rich foods
It is key to find a balance between the potentially high PRAL foods, which may be more acidic, and those that are more basic. This can easily be done by focusing on consuming more vegetables and fruits and limiting your animal-based foods, although you can still enjoy them!
Foods that Reduce pH Imbalance
Working with your doctor, nutritionist, and/or another health professional is essential to finding the right way to help you. There are a few dietary methods that tend to overlap and help with many different contributors, such as inflammation, oxidative stress, and pH balance. Consuming a plant-based diet is one of them. Study after study continually points to the benefits provided by diets rich in vegetables and fruits, preferably 9 to 13 servings, which is why they tend to show up in dietary guidelines around the world.
If you are looking to reduce the negative impact of acid load, here is a short recap of what I discussed above:
|Animal Protein||Contributes when out of balance with alkaline foods|
|Dairy Foods||May increase|
|Grain Products||May increase|
In conclusion, focus your diet on whole foods, especially those from a plant origin. That does not mean you have to forgo your meat products or dairy foods, unless you have another reason based on discussions with your doctor. However, it does mean you simply find healthier ways to prepare the potentially risky foods and then balance them with healthier options in sufficient quantities to counteract the potential negative effects of pH imbalance, AGEs, and other risk factors. As always, discuss with your doctor or healthcare practitioner before implementing!