Eating an excessive amount of foods that have an acidic effect on the body after digestion can cause health problems and disease. Foods either have an acidic or alkalizing effect. Acidic foods add hydrogen ions to your body, and alkaline foods remove them. The amount of hydrogen ions contributes to the pH level of your blood, which ideally should be alkaline (7.35 to 7.45 on the pH scale). Your diet must contain more alkaline than acidic foods for you to stay healthy. Although acidic foods are not entirely unhealthy, you should eat them in moderation.
Many people believe all fruits are acidic, which is not the case. You can't discern a food's acidity by taste. For example, citrus fruits taste sour, which leads many to think they're acidic. In reality, however, citrus fruits decrease acidity. Fresh fruit has an alkalizing effect on your body, including apples, apricots, avocados, melons, grapes, cherries, coconut, citrus fruits, tropical fruits, figs, tomatoes, pears, nectarines and tangerines. Avoid blueberries, cranberries and canned fruits, as they will increase acidity.
Most vegetables have an alkalizing effect on your body, so make fresh vegetables a large part of your diet. Vegetables that reduce acidity include beets, broccoli, celery, green beans, peas, any type of leafy greens, onions, garlic, eggplant, sweet potatoes, peppers, carrots and cucumbers. Eat the following acid-producing vegetables in moderation: olives, lentils, corn and winter squash.
Most animal protein has an acidic effect on the body. While protein is important for your health, remember to eat proper portion sizes. To find out portion sizes right for your age, gender and level of physical activity, visit mypyramid.gov (see Resources). Fish, poultry and lamb are acidic, but less so than beef, pork and shellfish. Alkaline proteins include almonds, hazelnuts, chestnuts, tofu, whey protein and tempeh.
Many grains are acidic, however, there are some grains that provide a low level of alkalinity, making them a better choice than grains with high acidity. Buckwheat, sweetcorn, millet, wild rice and quinoa are low alkaline foods. Acidic grains or forms of grain include brown and white rice, rye and whole grain bread, wheat pasta and pastries.
Dairy and Diary Substitutes
Most dairy products range from low to high levels of acidity. A few are alkaline, including goat milk and cheese. Acidifying dairy products include milk and cheese from cows, ice cream and butter. Buttermilk and yogurt can be extremely acidic if they contain certain live cultures. Alkaline dairy substitutes are soy milk and soy cheese. Acidifying dairy substitutes are rice milk and almond milk.
Oils, Sugars and Sweeteners
Oils, sugars and sweeteners should be eaten in moderation as part of a healthy diet. Olive, flax seed and canola oil are alkaline, while margarine and lard are acidic. Maple syrup, raw honey, raw sugar, and Stevia--an herb used as a sweetener--are alkaline. All artificial sweeteners are very acidic. Processed, sugary foods such as cakes, candies and canned fruits are highly acidic and should be avoided.