Although some parts of your body are meant to be acidic, most notably your stomach, the vast majority of your tissues and body fluids function best when they are slightly alkaline. For example, your body puts a high priority on keeping your blood alkaline because oxygen, nutrients and waste products are exchanged more efficiently in an alkaline medium. Alkalinity is also very important for deterring the proliferation of most infections and disease processes. Almost all fresh fruit and vegetables increase alkalinity, but many processed and refined foods make your body more acidic.
Health Consequences of Acidity
Over-acidity is a common health issue in North America. Although it’s rarely directly acknowledged by mainstream medicine, it’s an underlying and precipitating factor for many disease processes and symptoms, according to the “Textbook of Functional Medicine.” When your tissues and body fluids become too acidic due to dietary choices, alkaline minerals such as calcium and magnesium are quickly leached from your bones to counteract and buffer the acidity, which can eventually lead to osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and calcification of blood vessels, among other complications. In addition, pathogenic microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites tend to thrive in high acidity and many types of cancer grow and spread quicker in acidic environments.
Highly Refined Food
Highly refined and processed food is very acidic because it contains lots of concentrated forms of sugar such as high fructose corn syrup. Highly refined sugars are some of the most acidic compounds that exist in the typical American diet, according to “Human Biochemistry.” Foods especially high in refined sugars include candy, cookies, muffins, donuts, ice cream, cakes, pies, many canned and prepared foods and most salad dressings, sauces and condiments. Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame may be calorie-free, but they are highly acidic.
Protein is essential for tissue growth and repair, immunity and enzyme production, but consuming excessive amounts creates acidic conditions in your body and stresses your kidneys, according to “Contemporary Nutrition: Functional Approach.” High-protein foods include beef, poultry, pork, fish, dairy products, eggs and protein powders based on soybeans, hemp seeds or whey.
Trans fats are not only detrimental for cardiovascular health, but they increase acidity in your body. Foods containing high amounts of trans fats include margarine, shortening, salad dressings, cake mixes, canned soups, frozen meals, most store-bought baked goods, most fast-food items and many brands of chips, crackers and biscuits.
- Textbook of Functional Medicine; David S. Jones
- Human Biochemistry; Charles Dreiling
- Contemporary Nutrition: Functional Approach; Gordon M. Wardlaw et al.
Sirah Dubois is currently a PhD student in food science after having completed her master's degree in nutrition at the University of Alberta. She has worked in private practice as a dietitian in Edmonton, Canada and her nutrition-related articles have appeared in The Edmonton Journal newspaper.