- May 17, 2023
- by Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
- 0 Comments
What is an Alkaline Vegan Diet? Is it Safe?
The alkaline vegan diet is all over the media lately—but is it healthy for your body? Learn more about what this diet entails and whether it’s safe.
Nearly 80 million people around the world are vegan, according to The Guardian. With more people trading in meat, dairy, and other animal-based products for plants, new types of veganism are developing.
Take the alkaline vegan diet, reportedly endorsed by celebrities such as Victoria Beckham. But what is this trending diet, and is it right for you?
What is an alkaline vegan diet?
The alkaline vegan diet is based on the acid-ash hypothesis. This theory suggests that having an excessively acidic diet causes several health issues, such as an increased risk of osteoporosis.
Supporters of the alkaline vegan diet believe that eating certain foods can affect the pH levels of the body. Therefore, the diet recommends eating more alkaline foods instead of acidic or neutral foods.
However, based on the research currently available, the benefits of an alkaline diet remain unproven.
What we do know: Whatever benefits this diet offers are due to the elimination of highly processed foods and added sugars, as the diet focuses on healthy foods that are rich in nutrients.
By the way, if you’re new to the vegan world, here are the best foods for vegans.
When you eat food, your digestive system breaks it down into nutrients that can be used to fuel your body.
In the alkaline vegan diet, the theory is that the leftover metabolic waste from digested food can be alkaline, neutral, or acidic. The thought is that this then affects your body’s pH levels.
People who follow an alkaline diet believe that acidic food increases the risk of inflammatory diseases, like heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis. Alkaline foods are believed to protect against these conditions.
So, what’s all this about pH? Well, pH levels start at 0 and go all the way up to 14. Humans require a tightly controlled pH level in the blood, ranging from 7.34 to 7.45.
People who follow the alkaline diet say that the pH of a specific food influences the pH of the body.
However, the actual pH of food has nothing to do with whether your blood is more acidic or alkaline.
For example, lemons are acidic but after you digest them, the end products are alkaline—therefore, lemons are allowed for alkaline vegans.
Confused? Worry not! Based on this concept, let’s take a look at the alkaline vegan food list on what you should or should not eat if you try this diet!
Although an alkaline diet doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be vegan, the foods that are recommended on the diet are all already mostly plant based.
Here’s a general guideline on the best foods to eat on the alkaline vegan food list:
Foods to eat
- Alkaline water
- Beans: chickpeas, lima beans, pinto beans, navy beans
- Fruit: apples, bananas, berries (no cranberries), cantaloupe, coconut, dates, figs, mango, oranges, pears
- Grains: amaranth, fonio, kamut, rye, teff, quinoa, wild rice
- Green drinks: made from grasses, green vegetables, chlorophyll, and other alkaline foods
- Herbs and spices: basil, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, dill, habanero, onion powder, oregano, pure sea salt, sage, thyme
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds
- Oils: avocado oil, grapeseed oil, hemp seed oil, sesame seed oil
- Tofu and tempeh
- Vegetables: amaranth greens, cucumber, bell peppers, chayote, dandelion greens, lettuce, sea vegetables, tomatoes, zucchini
Besides opting for foods in the categories above, it’s generally recommended that alkaline vegans eat most produce raw, as the cooking process is thought to deplete alkalizing minerals.
Foods to avoid
Foods to avoid on the alkaline vegan food list include ones that have acidic properties or can cause acidity in your body. These include:
- Caffeine and alcohol
- High-sodium foods (e.g. potato chips, snack foods)
- Highly processed foods (e.g. fast food, frozen pizza)
- Meat and seafood
- Oats and wheat (e.g. breakfast cereals, bread, cakes, , pasta, pastries, rice)
Potential benefits of an alkaline vegan diet
According to the American Heart Association, most plant-based diets are e a good option to help reduce the risk of issues such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and more.
However, the health benefits of the alkaline vegan diet remain unproven, as the idea that an alkaline diet can affect blood pH has been refuted by the American Institute for Cancer Research as well as many other medical experts.
If you’re still interested in trying the alkaline vegan diet, here are some of the possible benefits:
Protects bone density
While you can find a lot of information online and in books about the benefits of an alkaline vegan diet for bone health, a systematic review has found no protective role to support an alkaline diet for bone health.
Instead, avoiding dairy foods such as milk and cheese—along with animal protein—could cause alkaline vegans to miss out on sources of calcium and other nutrients beneficial to bone health.
May protect against cancer
Some supporters of the alkaline vegan diet suggest that the acidic load of your diet can contribute to cancer development.
However, the American institute for Cancer Research (AICR) says that there’s a lack of evidence that following an alkaline diet can prevent cancer.
The AICR recommends eating more fruits and vegetables—one tenant of a vegan alkaline diet—but suggests eating these alongside other plant-based foods such as beans and whole grains.
The AICR also suggests eating animal-based proteins, such as seafood, poultry, and dairy.
May support kidney health
People who have chronic kidney issues may benefit from eating more alkaline foods—but not for the reasons fans of the alkaline diet believe.
Eating too much protein can be hard on the kidneys. Since the alkaline vegan diet emphasizes plant-based foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, it may help support kidney function in people who have chronic kidney disease, per research.
An alkaline vegan diet may help with weight loss
Since following an alkaline vegan diet means eating healthy foods and cutting out processed and sugary foods, it may help with weight loss if your dietary changes result in eating fewer calories.
Supports the immune system
Eating foods packed with vitamins and minerals—such as vitamin C, zinc, and selenium—can help support immune system function. These nutrients can be found in plant-based foods.
Lowers risk of hypertension and stroke
Supporters of the alkaline vegan diet believe that creating a more alkaline environment in the body helps lower risk of chronic diseases such as hypertension and stroke.
Although there’s a lack of scientific evidence to prove this theory, eating healthy foods and eliminating unhealthy foods such as ones with trans fats promotes heart health.
While the alkaline vegan diet can yield some of these benefits, the main reason is due to the diet promoting foods that are healthy because they’re rich in nutrients—and cutting back on ultra-processed foods high in sodium, fat, and/or added sugar.
Risks of an alkaline vegan diet
While an alkaline vegan diet is generally safe for most people who don’t have any preexisting health conditions, a vegan alkaline diet may leave you feeling hungry.
Because the diet also limits certain healthy affordable foods—especially ones that provide protein and calcium—you may be at risk for developing nutritional deficiencies. Following the diet may also promote disordered eating habits.
If you’re interested in following the alkaline vegan diet, you need to plan out what you’re eating to ensure you meet your body’s needs for protein, calcium, and other nutrients.
Be sure to talk to your doctor, registered dietitian, or other healthcare provider to see what nutritional supplements you may need to take.
Final thoughts on an alkaline vegan diet
Although many of the benefits of the alkaline vegan diet remain unproven, the foundations of the diet can be healthy as it restricts many highly processed foods in favor of plant-based foods.
If you’re still interested in trying out the alkaline vegan diet, going for a more relaxed version that doesn’t eliminate healthy foods such as nuts, grains, eggs, dairy products, may be more beneficial for overall health.
However, before starting on the alkaline vegan diet or any other restrictive diet, be sure to speak to your healthcare provider to ensure that it’s a good and safe option for you.
- The Guardian
- A study in Acta Alimentaria
- The American Heart Association
- The American Institute for Cancer Research
- A study in the Journal of Clinical Densitometry
- A study in the Frontiers in Nutrition
- A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
- A study in Mineral and Electrolyte Metabolism
- A study in Novartis Foundation Symposia
- A study in the Journal of Environment and Public Health
- The American Institute for Cancer Research
- A study in the Iranian Journal of Kidney Diseases
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