The term ‘pH’ is thrown around a lot in the health world, yet knowing exactly what it is referring to can be confusing. Well, let’s clear that up: pH refers to how acidic (0), or alkaline (14), or neutral (7) we are. “The pH of the body generally refers to the pH of blood, which is always slightly alkaline – falling in the number range of about 7.35-7.45,” says Marjorie Nolan Cohn, R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Thankfully, you don’t really have to do anything to get a stellar and healthy blood pH, other than eat a healthy diet. Although, yes, sometimes that’s easier said than done. “When your body is functioning at its best, your cells are able to maintain a healthy blood pH easily,” explains Cohn. “But when your body has to work harder to filter the foods you eat to maintain blood pH, then you could be more susceptible to illness or disease.”
So, the million dollar question, and the source of a lot of skepticism for both sides of this argument is: Can certain foods help maintain a stellar blood and overall body pH? There’s no clear verdict on that one, because there just have not been enough studies done on the subject. What experts do agree on is that “the more acidic foods you eat, the more your body has to filter the food to maintain proper pH,” says Cohn. The main acid-producing foods are meat, poultry, cheese (and dairy in general), and pretty much all of those foods that we know aren’t doing our health any favors: baked goods (including white flour), caffeine, and highly processed foods. Basically, if there are ingredients you don’t recognize and can’t pronounce, it’s going to challenge your body’s pH filtering system. Eating too much of the aforementioned food groups could kick your kidneys into overdrive to, as Cohn says, “try and pull minerals from your body like potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium to counteract the acid and keep your body pH in check.”
What is majorly up for debate is the concept that if you eat foods that are more alkaline (fresh vegetables and some fresh fruits, non-GMO soy products, legumes, nuts, and whole grains) then your body doesn’t have to work so damn hard to get nutrients or maintain blood pH. The science to prove that isn’t entirely there, but hey, eating more fresh fruits and veggies and less crap is clearly going to show your body nothing but love, so why not? If your body’s pH benefits, too, we say, bring it on.
Not sure where your pH falls on the scale? Try one of the at-home pH litmus test strips that measure alkalinity and acidity levels in saliva or urine. And, although there are a slew of alkaline-boosting powders on the market that say they help balance it all out, Cohn says the scientific proof doesn’t totally back those up, so it’s better to just load up on greens to get back to non-acidic – or at least neutral – pH territory.