Nutrition & Food Myths: The Acid-Alkaline Diet

Written By Christy Brissette

Image of vegetables and legumesThere are many diet trends that claim to help fight cancer, but do they work? Are they safe for cancer survivors on treatment and after treatment? Last time we talked about juicing, and today we put the acid-alkaline diet to the test!

What is the Alkaline Diet?

The alkaline diet (also known as the acid-alkaline diet) suggests followers eat and drink 80% “alkaline”, or non-acidic foods, and 20% “acidic” foods. The goal of the alkaline diet is to lower the acidity of your blood, which some people claim will improve your health.

Does the Alkaline Diet work?

It is not likely that the alkaline diet helps to fight cancer, since there is no science or research proving this. But, there are some good things about the diet.

What’s good about the Alkaline Diet?

The alkaline diet suggests you eat more vegetables and most fruits. It also suggests you limit meat, sugar and salt in your diet. These are in line with nutrition suggestions for cancer survivors.

Diets high in meat increase the acidity of your urine and increase your risk of kidney stones, so choosing vegetarian options more often is a healthy choice. Cutting down on red meat also reduces the risk of getting colon cancer.

What’s not good about the Alkaline Diet?

The main issue with this diet is that it claims to control your blood pH (acid level), but there is no science to support this claim. Our stomach acid, kidneys, liver and gallbladder work together to control our blood pH within a narrow range, and this is not affected by food. The benefits of eating more vegetables and most fruit for cancer prevention and survivorship have nothing to do with blood acidity.

Cutting out poultry, eggs, fish, dairy, and most grains from your diet can make it hard to get the energy and protein you need, especially during cancer treatment. You may also not get enough calcium, iron or zinc on the alkaline diet because of the foods you are limited to. This diet also limits other healthy foods, like:

  • most nuts and seeds other than almonds,
  • mushrooms,
  • tropical fruit and berries,
  • most grains, and
  • yogurt and fermented foods, which have digestive health benefits.

Another problem with the alkaline diet is it’s sometimes used as a way to sell expensive “water alkalizers”. City tap water is already alkalized and it’s free!

Know how to improve your diet

Choosing vegetarian meals more often, as suggested by the alkaline diet, can help lower cancer risk. But, cutting out too many foods can make it hard to get the energy and nutrients you need. Choosing a mix of foods is the healthiest choice because it makes it easier to get a mix of nutrients.

If you are on cancer treatment right now:

  • You may be feeling side effects that limit what you can eat.
  • Ask to see a dietitian to help you choose the right foods and drinks to help manage side effects and meet your nutrient needs.

If you are done cancer treatment and aren’t feeling ongoing side effects:

  • The healthiest diet includes lots of foods that come from plants.
  • Fill at least two-thirds of your plate with vegetarian foods like vegetables, fruit and whole grains.
  • Be sure to get enough protein.
  • Get enough protein and zinc in your diet. Include nuts, seeds and beans with your meals, or a palm-sized serving of fish or chicken or turkey breast without the skin.

To add more calcium to your diet, include yogurt (or a non-dairy option fortified with calcium), tofu made with calcium salts and leafy greens to your diet.

If you are a vegetarian, include food and drinks with iron in your meals along with vitamin C. The vitamin C will help your body absorb the iron. For example, or leafy greens with strawberries or bell peppers add some calcium, iron and vitamin C to your meal.

For a healthy recipe that has a better balance of nutrients, check out our ELLICSR Kitchen recipe for Braised Chickpeas with Kale and Porcini Mushrooms.


Do you have a question or concern about diet and nutrition? Send me a tweet or an email.