My Alkaline Mediterranean Diet is based on alkaline foods that are the foods our ancestors ate when they were primitive hunters and gatherers. Our bodies like these foods. Before humans learned to farm, they ate fresh foods they could find or hunt. Today, processed food and animal-based foods are so easy to come by. They are tasty, but I don't think that they are foods we should eat as the foundation of our diet. They are 'treats'. Alkaline forming foods are the healthy foods we know that we 'should' eat. Make them the foundation of your diet and watch your vitality and health issues improve.
Dr. Cynthia Bailey Explains an Alkaline Mediterranean Diet
Acid-forming foods, which make up much of our modern diet, can compromise our health and produce a myriad of symptoms. The Alkaline Diet works to balance and restore the body’s systems thereby mitigating a wide variety of serious health issues. Following this plan is a natural and healthy way to improve your physical health and appearance.
I first encountered the concept of acid/alkaline foods when I was searching for solutions to a variety of health issues that I could not shake. As a medical doctor I was skeptical and yet my profession had no good solutions for my health problems. The alkaline foods were healthy and I gave the dietary concept a try. To my relief, I experienced a much-welcomed resolution of the health problems that where troubling me (including almost disabling musculoskeletal aches and pains, digestive misadventures, Raynaud’s Phenomenon, and sleep issues). Is it the subtle metabolic pH shift towards alkalinity, or simply the removal of unhealthy (acid) foods that did the trick? I don't know. I do know the 'diet' worked.
Finding consistent and credible lists of alkaline and acid forming foods is difficult. There are a number of acid/alkaline food lists, but I’ve found those lists are complex, and often contradictory. After much study I have developed some practical guidelines for my own diet, and I’m happy to share those with you. I have been using the guidelines for over 10 years now and my 'diet' continues to keep me free from the health issues that started this journey. The result is what I call an Alkaline Food Pyramid. It’s inspired by the Mediterranean Food Pyramid, and so I’ve termed the combination The Alkaline Mediterranean Diet.
If you are interested in trying an Alkaline Diet, look over my general guidelines, then refer to the food charts to find the alkaline foods you like best. Make these 'alkaline' favorites the base of your regular diet. Make 60-70% of your daily food intake these foods. Your favorite high acid foods, in smaller amounts, can still be enjoyed regularly as treats but your overall daily diet is composed of about 60-70% alkaline foods.
Explaining the Relative Acid/Alkaline Values to Foods
The hardest part about trying to eat mostly alkaline foods is in knowing which foods are acid or alkaline in the first place. There is inconsistency among food charts and alternative medicine experts regarding the acid and alkaline values of specific foods. Plus, the values often don’t make intuitive sense.
Alkaline Forming Foods Include:
- Most Fruits
- Some Beans
- Some Grains
- Herbs & Seasonings
- Some Nuts
Acid Forming Foods Include:
- Most Grains
- Some Beans
- Refined/Processed Foods
Some alkaline foods are more alkaline than others. Likewise, some acid foods are only slightly acid and others are very acid forming. Ideally, about 60-80% of what we eat should be alkaline foods or only slightly acid forming (60% for maintenance, 80% for restoring health). From my studies of the alkaline and acid food values, I’ve found three fairly good reference charts for acid/alkaline food values:
- A simple list of acid/alkaline foods (PDF) from Thebestofrawfood.com
- The best list of relative acid/alkaline values within a food category (PDF) (e.g. comparing which grains are best) from Perque.com
- This comprehensive chart from Rense.com
- Susan Brown’s Website devoted to bone health (a big acid/alkaline issue)
The Alkaline Food Pyramid
- The base of your dietary Alkaline Food Pyramid should be vegetables.
- Fruits come next, eaten liberally, but to a lesser extent than veggies.
- Whole grains are above fruits.
- Oils, nuts, and lean sources of protein (fish and chicken) come next.
- Acid forming treats like sugar, wine, steak, fried foods, refined ‘junk’ food etc. are thrown in sporadically at the top.
12 Steps to Jump Start the Alkaline Diet
- Eat mostly veggies, either cooked or raw.
- Eat fruits, but eat more veggies than fruits. Within the fruit category, emphasize avocados and citrus. The other most alkaline fruits are apples, bananas (especially not overripe), nectarines, blackberries, dates and raisins.
- Eat whole grains, but emphasize those that are more alkaline (eat more veggies than whole grains). Emphasize millet, spelt, buckwheat, and quinoa over wheat and rice. I use millet and quinoa like rice and will post recipes over time. Wheat and wheat bread are more acid, and thus should be a treat -- not a staple.
- Eat legumes (beans), but they can be a little acidifying. They’re certainly less acidifying than other sources of protein such as meats. They’re extremely healthy and a great source of non-animal protein. Try to eat the most alkaline legumes like soy bean, including tofu. Other more alkaline legumes are lentils, lima beans, and white beans. Again, like whole grains, the idea is to eat more veggies than legumes.
- Nuts and seeds are generally slightly acid, so moderation is important. They’re packed with nutrition and belong in a healthy diet. Almonds and sesame seeds are alkaline and the best choice. Also eat raw nuts, because raw nuts are less acidic than roasted nuts.
- Goat and soy are your best dairy choices. Dairy is generally acid forming. Again, moderation is important here. Goat dairy is preferable to cow or sheep dairy, because it is less acid forming. It is possibly even alkaline forming. There are a lot of great goat cheeses and goat yogurt is delicious so substituting goat dairy products for cow dairy isn’t impossible. Substituting soy milk for cow's milk is also easy.
- Chicken and fish are your best meat protein sources. All animal-based protein is acid forming. Lean fish and chicken are much less so and thus the animal protein of choice. Consider the other animal proteins a treat and not staples in your diet.
- Olive and flax oils are your best oil foods. Oils are acidifying. But olive oil and flax oil are the least, and so should be your main oil sources. They’re packed with other great nutritional riches as well. I’ll cover oils in a future post, because they are a complex and really important part of a healthy diet.
- Most popular beverages are acid forming, so consider what you drink during the day. Beverages have a really big impact on your body’s acid/alkaline balance. Acid forming popular beverages including coffee, wine, beer, liquor, soda and sports drinks. From what I can tell, green tea is more alkaline, and thus better than black tea. Herb teas of course are best. Plain mineral water is alkaline, and a great way to recover from an acid food binge.
- Miscellaneous foods that are acidifying include eggs, chocolate, artificial sweeteners and condiments like ketchup, soy sauce, salt, mayonnaise, and mustard.
- Sprouts of all kinds are alkaline, so it’s good to include them in your diet.
- Finally, Green Drinks (a powder added to water) are very alkaline and many holistic practitioners recommend using them to gain and maintain an alkaline body pH. My favorite is Barlean’s Greens.
I am updating this post in 2020 and have built my diet based on these principles for over 10 years. It has worked beautifully to control my health problems. I get my 'treats' but they are on top of a diet packed with veggies, fruit, beans, nuts and gluten-free whole grains. Yes, gluten-free - I've been diagnosed with celiac too!
The even simpler guidelines that I use for my own alkaline diet are:
- 70% of the foods I eat should be alkaline.
- Eat more veggies than anything else.
- Stock my kitchen with lower sugar fruits with an emphasis on apples, citrus, and bananas.
- Use more quinoa and millet than brown rice or gluten-free oats.
- Substitute goat cheese and yogurt for cow milk cheese and yogurt. I use soy milk in place of cow milk.
- Eat a lot of soy beans and tofu, and I try to use white beans and lentils more than other beans.
- Use olive oil as my main cooking and salad dressing oil (see my Olive Harvest Post). Flax oil is also good for salads, but I never cook with it because it loses its rich nutritional value when heated.
- Use almonds as my main nut. I also eat a lot of flax seeds and some sesame seeds.
- Green tea is my primary caffeinated beverage.
- I use acid foods sparingly as treats. I’m a foodie and I regularly enjoy my acid forming treats, but they’re not the main foundation of my diet. If I do go on an acid food binge, I use an alkalinizing green drink per the package instructions, natural mineral water, plus a week of focused alkaline dietary choices to get back on track.
My aches, pains and other health issues are so much better since I’ve been living on The Alkaline Mediterranean Diet. It also helps me maintain my weight in my middle age+ years. The occasional ‘treat’ doesn’t raise havoc with my health now, because the foundation of my diet is alkaline.
Over the years I have written many articles on my perspective on diet and natural health for our complexion and well-being. You can find them here:
The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, Michael T. Murry, Joseph Pizzorno. (Note: I use this book as a reference for nutritional health ideas. I don’t use their acid/alkaline food values list, because it’s not consistent with most of the other lists I’ve found).(This post was originally published Jan 25, 2010. Updated Feb 24, 2017 and Feb 14, 2020)