There are enough diets out there to make our heads spin – and they all seem to claim to be best for us. Only to be exposed as too restrictive or maybe even dangerous in the long run! And food that is readily available, convenient and cheap may not be that healthy. So what to do?
We don’t believe in going on diets from time to time to try and lose x number of kg, while not really paying attention to what we eat the rest of the time. ‘Diet’ should be ongoing: a few simple principles that help keep a stable weight, but also a stable level of energy, good sleep and clear skin. A little bit of effort will go a long way, and our clever bodies reward us with health and vitality when we put the right things in.
ACID/ALKALINE: GOOD CHEMISTRY
To stay healthy, the bloodstream should be slightly alkaline. Yet most of the foods we eat are acid-forming when they are digested (highly-refined and pre-prepared foods especially).
By balancing the acid in our diet with alkaline foods, we can ensure our bloodstream stays healthy, well oxygenated and assists our bodies in keeping well.
Let’s take a closer look at the different foods we eat.
All are alkaline forming: how convenient!
Don’t forget to eat as many different vegetables as possible – including sea vegetables (like dulse or wakame, which you can add to soup while it cooks and remove just prior to serving if you are concerned about the taste).
You may also consider supplementing your veggie intake with a green cereal grass such as Barley or Wheat: they both contain many nutrients including chlorophyl, folate and B vitamins.
Tip: instead of using corn flour as a thickener in soups or other dishes, you can use kudzu (also spelt kuzu) instead. Kudzu is a tuberous root from Japan and Southeast China, and also contains anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agents: bonus!
Remember: vegetables lose their nutrients and alkaline value over time. The longer between picking and eating, the less nutrients veggies will contain. If possible, try to source your vegetables from a farmers market where the produce tends to be fresher.
Potatoes, pumpkin and onions keep for longer so not to worry about the length of time between picking and eating for these.
Generally, the greener the fruit, the more alkaline it is (and the less fructose it contains). We also suggest eating as many varied fruit as possible to benefit from their wide array of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Tip: Umeboshi plums (from Japan) are highly alkaline and beneficial for digestion.
Remember: don’t eat too much fruit in one sitting, as this would cause a spike of fructose in the body and could damage the liver in the long run. People also suffering from arthritis and gout can be affected by ingesting too much fructose in one go, so exercise caution.
Most grains are acid, and it follows foods made from those grains are acid as well: wheat (and bread and pasta), rice, barley, corn meal and oats.
Alkaline grains include the less popular (but no less delicious!) millet, amaranth and quinoa (worth noting: they all contain larger amounts of protein than other grains, making them very popular amongst vegetarians and vegans).
Tip: you can sprout acid-forming grains to make them alkaline, and eat them in soups, salads, or raw. The Sprout Kitchen is a thorough resource to get you started if you want to sprout grains (including detailed nutritional information and step by step instructions).
Remember: Essene bread is an exception to the rule, and unlike other breads is not acid-forming. It is made of sprouted grains and actually not cooked. Try it: it’s delicious, nutritious and filling!
Green beans and fresh peas are alkaline.
Most other legumes are acid but can also be sprouted. We would refer you again to the Sprout Kitchen for more information about sprouting legumes and their nutritional information.
Do we really need to say that nuts should be eaten unsalted? Salted nuts contain an outrageous amount of sodium – you can simply roast nuts in a dry frying pan to achieve wonderful taste (and no added salt).
Almonds and chestnuts are alkaline, while the delicious brazil, macadamia, peanut, pecan, walnut and pistachio are acid.
Soaking nuts is a common practice, especially recommended if you intend to make nut milk from them (our Hurom Slow Juicer can also make nut milk – smart!). However, soaking nuts has not shown any real documented benefit to human consumption and digestion. Soaking is necessary if you intend to sprout nuts (see Sprout Kitchen again), as they contain an enzyme inhibitor which is released during soaking.
Tip: use distilled or purified water to soak nuts overnight, and discard any that float to the surface, as they are likely to be rancid.
Chia, radish and sesame are alkaline.
Pumpkin and sunflower are acid, but also become alkaline when they are soaked and sprouted (see Sprout Kitchen again).
All animal protein is acid (red and white meat, eggs, fish and game), and most people eat an alarming amount of it.
If you eat meat try to limit your intake to a couple of times a week, the serving size to the size of the palm of your hand, and pile your plate high with vegetables.
Remember: animal protein takes longer for our bodies to process than plant protein (found in legumes and grains). Try and experiment with a vegetarian meal or two each week to give your digestive system a rest.
All animal products are acid: milk, yoghurt, butter, cheese, cream,… One notable exception is raw goat’s milk which tends towards alkaline.
If you drink a lot of cow’s milk, try making kefir and drinking the kefir instead (kefir is a fermented probiotic drink, very beneficial to the digestive system and generally well tolerated by those with lactose intolerance).
Tip: aside from cow’s milk, you can make kefir with goat’s milk, soy or even coconut milk. Read ‘Kefir …. more than just beneficial bacteria’ to learn more.
You could also try making clarified butter (or ghee), by following the instructions we have written in ‘The Benefits of Ghee’. Ghee is thought to have better nutritional value than butter, and contains good fatty acids that are beneficial and much easier to digest.
Buy cold-pressed oils, organic if possible. The cold-pressing ensures nutrients aren’t lost to heat during extraction.
Almond, avocado, sesame, sunflower, coconut and olive all tend towards alkaline – use any of them in cooking for different types of flavour (almond and sesame taste nutty, coconut has a wonderful sweetness that goes well in curries, and olive cannot be beat on salads and tomatoes).
Keep in mind ghee (clarified butter): it is sometimes classified as an oil and has a wonderful mellow taste (and its high content of butyric acid makes it highly beneficial to the digestive system).
Most herbal teas are alkaline – peppermint (reach for it when you have a tummy upset), thyme (helps with digestion after a heavy meal), sage, dandelion, chamomile, rosemary, marjoram etc.
All alcoholic drinks are acid – our liver has to put in extra effort to process alcohol. However in moderation we can enjoy a glass of wine here and there, since it does contain antioxidants that have proven benefits for the heart and help lower bad cholesterol.
Coffee and tea? Acid, and even more so if you add milk and sugar. Try drinking organic freshly ground coffee and organic brewed tea (ideally in unbleached bags).
If you are hopelessly addicted to coffee and tea, drink no more than one or two cups a day: keep in mind that caffeine interferes with the absorption of vital minerals in our diet, including iron and magnesium.
Eating acid/alkaline foods in balance is not an outlandish idea: it encourages us to look more closely at what we eat, and recognise that cheap convenience does not equal good health in the long term.
It can take more effort to cook from scratch, but it is well worth the investment of time – which in the end is an investment in your health: well worth it!
Remember: we encourage you to consult an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) to get personalised advice regarding your diet. If you suspect you have certain food allergies or sensitivities, it is best not to self-diagnose and to work in tandem with an accredited professional. You should exercise special caution if pregnant, ill or elderly. You can find an APD by visitant the Dietitians Association of Australia’s website.