Does your diet pass the acid test? Forget Dukan and Atkins — these days, the A-list way to a flat tummy is ‘eating alkaline’
Avoid acidic foods such as red meat, cheese and cream. but do eat plenty of mushrooms, oily fish and garlic
When it comes to diets, whatever Hollywood’s healthiest are doing, the rest of us tend to follow suit. First came the Atkins, which was popular with A-listers everywhere in the late Nineties and subsequently became a bestselling book, then South Beach and more recently Dukan.
Now, it seems, the hottest new healthy food fad is ‘eating alkaline’. Actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Kirsten Dunst have recently revealed they ‘eat alkaline’, Jennifer Aniston drinks an alkaline smoothie every day and supermodel Miranda Kerr recently revealed that instead of drinking normal pH neutral water, she drinks only water alkalised by a special filter.
Our bodies are naturally alkaline, but its functions produce acid. This stresses out your digestive system, causing you to gain weight and feel lethargic. In short, health fanatics claim ‘going alkaline’ is the fastest route to having more energy, a flat stomach and glowing skin.
‘I’ve been a fan of eating alkaline for years,’ says nutritionist Vicki Edgson. ‘It’s basically about getting the balance right between alkaline and acidic foods. We can eat both types, but we need to ensure we eat more alkaline foods than acidic ones.
‘Acidic foods are, as the name suggests, acid-forming in the body,’ explains Vicki. ‘They can cause weight gain, a bloated stomach, tiredness and other health problems. Whereas alkaline foods help you stay in shape and feel and look younger.
‘The other good thing about this way of eating is that it’s entirely un-faddy: it doesn’t cut out food groups or involve counting calories.’ So, could you be acidic? Signs include weight gain, poor digestion, bloating, tiredness and skin problems (dryness or spots). If so, it may be time to give alkaline eating a go.
The alkaline diet first came to prominence in America when Robert Young wrote the New York Times bestselling The pH Miracle. In it, he explains how he discovered that the pH of foods (i.e. whether they’re alkaline or acidic) affects our weight and health.
‘Eating alkaline foods acts as a buffer for the stresses and strains of life, which are acid-forming,’ says Robert. He goes on to explain how the more alkaline you are, the healthier you’ll feel. You’ll be able to lose excess weight more quickly, you won’t feel bloated or tired and your skin will look better. In other words, your body will function more efficiently, he claims.
ALKALINE CHOCOLATE BROWNIES
Ingredients (makes eight)
- 125g (4oz) rice flour
- 75g (3oz) raw cacao powder
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- 175g (6oz) sweet potato, cooked and mashed to a puree
- 250g (8oz) date syrup
- 175g (6oz) goat’s butter, melted
- 1 egg
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4.
Sift the rice flour, cacao powder and baking powder into a bowl.
Place the sweet potato puree, date syrup, melted butter, egg and vanilla extract in another bowl and mix together well.
Then stir in the dry ingredients. Pour mixture into a rectangular cake tin lined with baking parchment and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until set on top but gooey in the middle. Cut into eight pieces.
A typical diet of coffee, processed food, too much meat, alcohol, sugar, salt and stress can quickly cause us to become acidic — and poor health, weight gain and tiredness will follow. So stress causes us to become acidic too? ‘Yes,’ says Vicki who has recently co-written a book on alkaline eating.
‘Our long-hours culture is causing many of us to become acidic. Tiredness and stress are very acid-forming. However, what is even more so is anger and bitterness.
‘It’s one thing to get a little stressed about daily chores, but if you hold on to feelings of anger and resentment for many months or years, you run the risk of becoming incredibly acidic, which can be detrimental to your health.’
The good news is, Vicki says, if you manage your stress and include plenty of alkalising foods in your diet, you can tip yourself back into an alkaline state.
Organic chef, Natasha Corrett, who with Vicki co-wrote Honestly Healthy: Eat With Your Body In Mind, The Alkaline Way, discovered the benefits of this diet first-hand. ‘My weight yo-yo’d for years and I tried lots of different diets,’ she explains.
‘Then, in 2009, I hurt my back. So my mum sent me to an ayurvedic acupuncturist who took one look at me and said: “You’re completely acidic.” He then asked me if I struggled to lose weight, felt bloated, stressed, heavy, tired and struggled to wake up in the mornings and concentrate during the day. He basically described how I felt most of the time.
‘He put me on a three-week alkaline diet and within days I felt amazing. I’d never really heard of alkaline eating before but it seemed incredibly simple and I never felt hungry so it didn’t feel like a diet. My energy levels improved, my skin glowed, the weight fell off — and, crucially, it’s stayed off — and my sugar cravings vanished.’
Follow Vicki's recipe for this non-acidic chocolate brownie
Natasha continued on the alkaline diet after the 21 days were up and lost 2st in a few months, taking her from a size 12 to a size 8. ‘I love food and I hate to deprive myself, so I created alkaline recipes of my favourite foods. I love really succulent chocolate brownies so I made them without sugar, salt, wheat or gluten.’
All the alkaline recipes are in her new book. Vicki says that acidic foods aren’t necessarily a bad thing — if you look at the list of foods (above), you’ll see plenty of acidic ones that can be part of a healthy diet. It’s the ratio you need to get right.
She recommends 70 per cent of what you eat should be alkaline and 30 per cent acidic to help tip your body into an alkaline state. She also advises having plenty of fibre from fruit and vegetables, plus wholegrains, to help sweep out your digestive tract and reduce your acidity, as well as lots of water and sleep.
The way you cook your vegetables also has an impact. For example, raw spinach is alkaline, but when you cook it, it becomes acidic. For this reason you should try to eat your vegetables raw or just lightly steam them.
Honestly Healthy: Eat With Your Body In Mind, The Alkaline Way, by Natasha Corrett and Vicki Edgson is out now (£20).
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