Dialogue about humans and diet will never reach stagnancy. Diets are always evolving and changing, with bizarre fad diets pulling some people away from diets that have stood the test of time. There will always be people saying that their mode of eating is more effective for weight-loss than yours, and a food that’s the miracle cure today may be considered rubbish tomorrow. Thus, when we heard of one of the newest trending diets, the alkaline diet, we were intrigued to see whether its nuances and tenants seemed, well, tenable.
Dr. Daryl Gioffre, DC, is a chiropractor, alkaline lifestyle expert, health coach, certified raw food chef, triathlete, ultra-marathoner, author, and lecturer who uses innovative technology and cutting-edge nutrition to achieve and maintain an optimal level of health and energy. We asked him a few questions about the alkaline diet. You can decide whether this lifestyle is for you after reading his responses below.
The Daily Meal: What is the alkaline diet?
Dr. Daryl Gioffre: I really started looking at my patients collectively and noticed a trend. It didn’t matter what the condition or symptom was, people who were overweight, stressed, feeling tired even after a good night’s sleep, bad skin, reflux, bad digestion — the common denominator was acid!
The alkaline diet is about balance, and it’s based on the premise that certain foods affect the pH balance of your body. Your body is designed to be alkaline at a pH of 7.365 (scale goes from 0-14, where zero is burning a hole through metal, 14 is pure alkaline, seven is neutral). If it’s acidic, its pH is less than seven and that’s bad, and if it’s alkaline it’s greater than seven and that’s good.
Foods that are alkaline are organic greens, healthy fats, whole grains, salads, green smoothies and juices, and raw nuts and seeds. Foods that are acidic are sugar, processed foods, gluten, dairy, meat, carbonated water and caffeine, alcohol, and high-sugar fruits.
The alkaline diet is not about deprivation, but moderation. Your goal should be a nice balance of 80 percent alkaline-forming foods and no more than 20 percent acid-forming foods.
Fueling your body with alkaline-rich foods and decreasing your acid intake will naturally balance and regulate your pH levels so your body doesn't have to do all the work in regulating it on its own. When you are pumping damaging acids into your body all day long, your body has to work so much harder to maintain its delicate pH, and this drains your energy and affects your body’s ability to heal itself.
Why does this work?
Your body will naturally maintain its blood pH of 7.365, regardless of what you eat or drink. The purpose of eating alkaline is not to raise your pH like so many are led to believe. The purpose is to give it these alkaline foods so that your body doesn’t have to work so hard to maintain this delicate pH on its own. If your diet is primarily acidic like the typical standard American diet, your body will begin to rob and drain its own mineral resources to regulate its pH. It will pull sodium bicarbonate from your mouth, magnesium from your muscles, and calcium from your bones, as these crucial minerals are the fastest way to regulate your blood pH.
What foods are acidic and what foods are alkaline?
Examples of alkaline foods are organic leafy greens and other organic vegetables, salads, low-sugar fruits, omega-3-6-9 fatty acids like chia, hemp, olive, flax, avocado, raw nuts and seeds, green drinks and smoothies, and healthy whole grains.
Acidic foods are all the rest — sugar, processed foods, caffeinated and carbonated drinks, dairy, meat, alcohol, fermented foods, gluten (pasta and breads), and artificial sweeteners.
Does this mean I need to give up all acid foods?
No, the theme about my alkaline program truly is balance and I believe in the 80/20 rule. By that I mean your daily diet should consist of 80 percent alkaline foods and 20 percent acidic foods. Strive to make vegetables, healthy fats and whole grains, legumes, salads, green juices and smoothies, raw nuts and seeds, and low-sugar fruits the main part of your daily meal plan and try to limit your consumption of sugar, coffee, alcohol, dairy, meat, and processed foods, which are all highly acidic foods.
Also, take into account pairing foods together can help to naturally neutralize some acidic food. For example, if you eat a moderately acidic banana (yes, a banana is a carbohydrate and is 25 percent sugar aka acid!), you can pair it with a healthy fat, spice, or herb such as a raw nut butter, cinnamon, or turmeric to make it alkaline-forming once consumed. Doing this neutralizes the acid, and will help you beat the sugar high by slowing down the metabolization and fermentation of the sugars in the banana.
Also, citric acid fruits like lemons, limes, and grapefruits, while acidic outside of the body, become highly alkaline-forming once consumed because of their high mineral and low sugar content.
Alkaline-sensitive supplements such as AlkaMind’s Daily Minerals and Daily Greens are packed with nutrient-dense, alkaline superfoods to help neutralize the acids in your body. Take these on a daily basis so that you can maintain the alkaline design of your body by neutralizing the acids in some of your favorite foods!
Who is the alkaline lifestyle good for?
The alkaline lifestyle is good for everyone! Cutting down on acidic and processed foods is beneficial to all no matter gender, age, [or] dietary restrictions, as you can modify it to fit your specific needs.
How does it compare to other modes of eating such as paleo and vegan diets?
There are similarities between certain elements of other diets out there and the alkaline lifestyle. The reason why so many people eating paleo do so well is 80 percent of it is, in fact, the alkaline diet — incorporating vegetables, healthy fats and oils, seeds, nuts, and spices. The other 20 percent of paleo does incorporate acid-forming foods like meat and eggs and high sugar fruits, which will cause your body to drain its energy and resources trying to neutralize all that acid. When you eat paleo, you are actually following the 80/20 principle of the alkaline diet, and that is why you get great results.
Same thing with vegan diets. Just because you don’t eat meat doesn’t mean you’re healthy, nor does it mean that you are following an alkaline diet (and for many, it’s far from it!). In fact, so many vegetarians I come across are some of the unhealthiest people around because they replace meat with carbohydrates. They are pastatarians, or carbohydratetarians, and the end product of that way of eating is sugar (sugar equals acid!). When you are eating alkaline, you need to focus on two simple things: foods that are high in minerals and low in sugar (that is why lemons, limes, and grapefruits are alkaline-forming once consumed, and oranges, on the contrary, are acid-forming).
Are celebrities turning to an alkaline lifestyle? Why?
You’ve probably been hearing a lot about many celebrities flocking to the alkaline diet such as Kate Hudson, Giselle Bündchen, and Tom Brady, because it works! I’ve personally worked with wonderful clients such as Kelly Ripa who have seen incredible results following the alkaline diet. When you get off your acid, your energy returns, sleep improves, digestion and reflux gets better, your skin begins to glow, and any fat literally melts off your body — this is appealing to anyone!
Is the alkaline diet intended as a weight-loss program?
The sole focus of the alkaline lifestyle is not weight-loss, but overall health. However, one of the great results can be weight-loss as excess weight is an acid problem. When you are acidic, your body will hold onto fat to protect the toxins from harming the vital organs in your body. Your fat is literally saving your life and protecting you in the short run. When you get off your acid, you flush these damaging toxins and acids out of your body, and the fat that’s attached to it sheds away.
What are the top pieces of advice you give your clients about the alkaline lifestyle?
Something I tell everyone when going alkaline is that getting healthy is not about trying to be perfect out of the gates or depriving yourself of the foods you really love. Success in sustaining this lifestyle is about moderation and you shouldn't feel like you have to strictly cut any one thing out of your diet. Taking away the foods you love is the quickest way to sabotage your health. Deprivation is the cause for most "diet" failures, which is why I suggested sticking to an 80/20 alkaline/acid ratio. Again, life is all about balance. Add slowly the foods and supplements that will have the most powerful impact, and before you know it, the good will outweigh the bad and your health and energy will go to the next level.