Sunday, September 12, 2010

Good Food = The Basics

Every solution is either acidic or alkaline. (Alkaline is often called "base.") These solutions can be anything from body fluids, such as stomach acid and blood, to beverages, such as wine or coffee, to sea water. Acidity and alkalinity are measured in pH (potential of hydrogen). The pH scale goes from 0 to 14, with 0 the most acidic, and 14 the most alkaline. The pH of stomach acid is 1, wine is 3.5, water is 7 (neutral), venous blood is 7.35, arterial blood is 7.4, sea water is 8.5, and baking soda is 12. Ideally, our pH should stay on the alkaline side: between 7.35 and 7.45.

Keeping our acidity and alkalinity balanced means regulating the hydrogen ion concentration in our body fluids. An acid is a molecule or ion (an ion is an atom that carries a positive or negative electric charge) that can contribute a hydrogen ion to a solution. An alkalizing substance is one that contains a molecule or ion that combines with hydrogen ions to remove them from a solution_it neutralizes acids and acts as a buffer.

The Misconceptions

Foods are classified as acid-forming or alkalizing depending on the effect they have on the body. An acid-forming food contributes hydrogen ions to the body, making it more acidic. An alkalizing food removes hydrogen ions from the body, making it more alkaline. It is important to note that this classification is based on the effect foods have on the body after digestion, not on their own intrinsic acidity or alkalinity (or how they taste to us). A common misconception is that if a food tastes acidic, it has an acid-forming effect on the body. This is not necessarily true. Very often, an acidic-tasting food is alkalizing. Citric fruits are a good example. People say that lemons, for example, are "too acidic"; however, they are actually alkalizing because the minerals they leave behind after digestion help remove hydrogen ions, decreasing the acidity of the body. (Many people use the term "residue" or "ash" to explain the effect of a food on the body. A food with an acid ash after digestion contributes hydrogen ions, making the body more acidic; a food with an alkaline ash after digestion removes hydrogen ions, making the body more alkaline.)

Another misconception is that acid-forming foods are "bad." This is not correct; acidity and alkalinity are opposites and one is not intrinsically better than the other. This misconception has developed because the North American diet is excessively acidic, which does result in health problems.

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