Balancing pH & Nutrition

Dr. Sonal Parr is back with a piece on the key to good nutrition: pH balance and an easy to follow break down on acidic vs alkaline foods!

Patients always ask me what they should be eating and I never know exactly what to say.   I love food and I love to eat good food so I believe dietary recommendations need to fit in with our lifestyle and taste.  Do we have to give everything up to be healthy and beautiful?  Absolutely not!  As long as we understand how to balance our intake of “acidic” and “alkaline” foods we can still eat everything delicious and maintain our health.

Our body is designed to maintain a neutral pH (around 7.4) and we have evolved intricate and sophisticated systems to ensure that this is the case.  When there is excess acid in our bodies, we can get rid of it by breathing it away in the form of carbon dioxide or our kidneys can help us by getting rid of that acid in the urine.  But when we overload our system with acid the kidney and lungs can’t always keep up and we end up putting strain on our system which can create problems.

The typical western diet can push our bodies over its natural limits.  The easiest way to understand this is to realize that animal products and processed foods (including foods made from refined sugar or flour) put a lot of acid in our bodies.  Plant-based foods help neutralize that acid and are thus considered “alkaline”.    There is good data that shows that the acidic load of the typical western diet causes calcium loss and bone breakdown (more on the topic of bone density later!).  There are also theories that state that acidity creates a favorable environment for cancer and inflammation.  What I can tell you from my own personal experiments with friends, family and patients is that balancing your acid/alkaline intake will make you sleep better at night, improve you immunity and most importantly will make you look and feel great when you wake up in the morning.

Now that you know what’s what, just follow the 2:1 rule: in every meal you should have twice as much alkaline-forming food as acid-forming food.  In doing so you will neutralize the acidic elements (meat, processed food, refined carbs) with the alkaline elements (fruits and veggies) and give your body a break.  What this usually means for us is that we need to switch our main course with our side dish.  Example?  When I want to eat a steak, I have 3-4 oz of meat with a 5oz box of spinach sauteed and a side salad.   If I’m having pizza I’ll enjoy one slice topped with vegetables and roast a head of broccoli or cauliflower as a side dish.  It takes a little getting used to “flip-flopping” our plates like this but once you start feeling the difference in your energy and seeing the glow in your skin you will be hooked!

Health Tip:   As long as you don’t have kidney stones, sauteed spinich is one of the easiest and most efficient alkalanizing foods.  Most restaurants offer steamed or sauteed spinich as a side.  At home always keep a box of organic pre-washed baby spinach.  You can saute the greens in olive oil (and a bit of garlic if you like).  Then top it with a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of sea salt.  It cooks in under 5 minutes and works as a powerful side dish to anything you bring home, order-in or cook.