What Is the Alkaline Diet?

Alkaline diet

Verywell / Debbie Burkhoff

At Verywell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and sustainable, taking the whole person and their lifestyle into consideration. Prior to starting a new diet plan, consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

What is the Alkaline Diet

The alkaline diet is based on the theory that the foods you eat change your pH level to either acidic or alkaline. The belief is that consuming a high amount of acidic foods will cause your body harm, whereas eating alkaline or neutral foods can improve your health.

The diet focuses on eating fresh fruits and vegetables (that are considered alkaline) to keep your body at an optimal pH level, which is a measure of acids and alkalis throughout the body using a scale ranging from 0 to 14.

Acidic substances range from 0 to 7; alkaline foods range from 7 to 14. Seven is considered neutral—neither acidic or alkaline. This concept started centuries ago, in the mid-1800s, with the “dietary ash hypothesis”—a theory that once food metabolizes in the body, the particles leave either an acid or alkaline ash.

The 2022 U.S. News and World Report Best Diets ranks the alkaline diet number 30 in Best Diets Overall and gives the diet an overall score of 2.4/5. Its ranking is based on the lack of quality research to support the diet, the many rules that make it difficult to follow, and its ineffectiveness for weight loss. The Alkaline Diet performed the worst in fast weight loss, overall weight loss, diabetes, and easiness to follow.

What Experts Say

"There’s little to no evidence supporting the premise of the alkaline diet. Our bodies do a good enough job on their own keeping our pH in check. There are a lot of rules and many foods that are 'hands-off' are actually healthy, like eggs and whole grains."

Kelly Plowe, MS, RD

The 7-Day Diet Plan

The alkaline diet categorizes food groups as either alkaline, neutral, or acidic. People following the diet are instructed to focus on eating lots of alkaline foods and fewer acidic foods. While there are many different versions of the diet, here is one example.

  • Day 1: Unlimited fruits and vegetables; kale with pesto and avocado; spiralized zuchinni with roasted vegetables
  • Day 2: Fresh raw, or cooked vegetables; salad with vegetables and olive oil; large sweet potato with steamed broccoli for dinner
  • Day 3: Unlimited fruit and vegetables; glass of red wine and spinach salad; fruit salad with fresh squeezed lime juice
  • Day 4: Unlimited fruits and vegetables; spiralized zucchini and marinara sauce; sweet potato with small pat of butter
  • Day 5: Unlimited fruits and vegetables; vegetable broth soup and spinach salad; spiralized carrots with marinara sauce
  • Day 6: Unlimited fruits and vegetables; finely chopped cauliflower with grilled vegetables and olive oil; green smoothie and roasted vegetables
  • Day 7: Unlimited fruits and vegetables; unsweetened fruit juice, fruit smoothie; chopped cucumbers and tomatoes with olive oil


What Can You Eat

The basic premise of the alkaline diet is to eat foods ranking high on the pH list and fall within the acceptable ranges for protein, fat, and carbs. You don’t need to follow any specific foods or eat a certain times; you simply need to eat foods that tip your pH balance into alkaline levels.

Fruits

Not all fruits are on the approved list, however, you may eat:

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Black currants
  • Lemon juice
  • Oranges
  • Peaches
  • Pears

Vegetables

Not all vegetables are on the approved list, however, you may eat:

  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Green beans

Beverages

You can drink alcohol and coffee in moderation on this diet:

  • Coffee, which is slightly acid
  • Red and white wine

What You Cannot Eat

The alkaline diet promotes an increased intake of fruits and vegetables while discouraging heavily processed foods that are high in sodium and saturated fat, and even some healthy foods.

Proteins

  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish

Carbohydrates

  • Muffins
  • Doughnuts
  • Cereal
  • Crackers
  • Grains   
  • Potatoes                        

How to Prepare the Alkaline Diet & Tips

The alkaline diet allows consumption of certain foods recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and recommends limiting legumes, any red meat, eggs, and dairy. The diet can fall within accepted ranges for the amount of protein, carbs, fat, and other nutrients, but is not backed by any science.

Because of the amount of fresh produce you can eat, you do not need to cook any special entrees or meals. But, the alkaline diet restrictive and advises you to stay away from hard alcohol, soda, sweetened juice, artificial sweeteners, nuts, legumes, dairy, eggs, grains, and beans.

Sample Shopping List

The alkaline diet does not require fasting. The idea behind the alkaline diet is to eat more alkaline foods and fewer acidic foods. This is not a definitive shopping list and if following the diet, you may find other foods that work best for you.

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fruits (apples, berries and melon)
  • Vegetables (spinach, broccoli, etc)
  • Coffee
  • Dark Leafy Greens (kale, Swiss chard, etc)
  • Avocado oil

Sample Meal Plan

The alkaline diet allows all of the foods recommended by the USDA to be consumed, although it restricts certain amounts of grains, legumes, animal protein, and dairy, and therefore is not necessarily considered healthy as it may lack varied nutrients and balance. This is not an all-inclusive meal plan and if following the diet, you may find other meals that work best for you.

Day 1

  • Breakfast: Apples and cinnamon
  • Lunch: Garden salad with roasted vegetables, topped with a squeeze of lemon
  • Dinner: Sweet potato and sautéed spinach

Day 2

  • Breakfast: Fruit smoothie
  • Lunch: Steamed asparagus and spinach salad
  • Dinner: Spiralized carrots with marinara sauce with sauteed mushrooms

Day 3

  • Breakfast: Pears, peaches, and coffee
  • Lunch: Vegetable hummus with carrots, celery, and grape tomatoes
  • Dinner: Grilled mushrooms, peppers, and onions with mild salsaan

Pros of Alkaline Diet

A diet rich in fresh produce, this particular diet type does not require much meal planning or an ability to cook complex recipes. You can simply fill up on fruits and vegetables, adding in a few starches and natural oils. However, no scientific supports claims that the alkaline diet can promote weight loss and fight disease. However, some research suggests that aspects of the diet could offer health benefits.

  • Preserves Muscle Mass: Following an alkaline diet might preserve muscle mass as you grow older. In a three-year clinical trial of 384 men and women aged 65 and older, researchers found that a high intake of potassium-rich foods, such as the fruits and vegetables in an alkaline diet, might help older adults maintain muscle mass as they age.
  • Might Help Prevent Diabetes: Eating non-acidic foods could help you stave off diabetes. In a study published in Diabetologia, researchers followed 66,485 women throughout 14 years. During that time, medical professionals diagnosed 1,372 new cases of diabetes. In an analysis of the women’s food intake, researchers found that those with the most acid-forming diets had a significantly higher risk of developing diabetes. The study's authors suggest that a high intake of acidic foods could link to insulin resistance.

Cons of the Alkaline Diet

The alkaline diet’s premise is that it can improve your health by eating certain foods that change the pH of the body. However, no scientific evidence supports that following a diet low in acidic foods provides any significant benefits. Here are a few cons of the alkaline diet.

  • Lack of Dairy Products: Dairy products include a number essential nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, that can be difficult to replace when eating a dairy-free diet. In fact, scientists indicate that some people find it nearly impossible to achieve recommended daily calcium—which is needed for bone health—when removing dairy from their diet. Plus it's hard to get enough calcium from vegetables exclusively. Even though some vegetables like spinach contain large amounts of calcium, only a small amount is absorbed due to its high concentration of oxalates and phytates, which bind calcium.
  • Lack of Protein: Achieving adequate protein intake from the alkaline diet is difficult due to the lack of high-quality, bioavailable protein sources permitted in the diet. Current guidelines recommend that adults get between 10% and 35% of daily calories from protein. While fruits and vegetables may contain small amounts of protein, it is challenging to consume enough to meet the daily recommended amounts. The lack of protein may contribute to a number of issues such as reduced muscle mass and malnutrition.

Is the Alkaline Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

Requiring little meal planning and easy grocery shopping, the alkaline diet emphasizes loads of fruits and vegetables with limited to no amounts of processed foods, starches, and red meat.

If you prefer a variety of foods in your diet and cannot remove meat, the alkaline diet could be challenging. In addition, a number of foods that are considered high in acid, such as whole grains, beans, and nuts, are actually nutritious and should be included in a balanced diet, according to the USDA.

The alkaline diet has plenty of nutritious foods on the acid-forming list that are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals and are essential to overall health including grains, beans, and nuts. Meanwhile, the base list includes coffee and wine, which should only be consumed in moderation.

A Word From Verywell

Science does not back the alkaline diet. Foods we consume cannot alter our body’s pH, which remains tightly regulated on its own. For the average healthy person, your body already monitors its pH levels. What you put into your body will not drastically change this.

Certain health conditions, such as kidney disease and diabetes, can change your pH regulation. However, eating heavy amounts of alkaline foods will not improve your health, and eating acidic foods will not make you more susceptible to disease.

Remember, following a long-term or short-term diet may not be necessary for you and many diets out there simply don’t work, especially long-term. While we do not endorse fad diet trends or unsustainable weight loss methods, we present the facts so you can make an informed decision that works best for your nutritional needs, genetic blueprint, budget, and goals.

If your goal is weight loss, remember that losing weight isn’t necessarily the same as being your healthiest self, and there are many other ways to pursue health. Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors also play a major role in your overall health. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.

10 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. U.S. News and World Report. Best Diets Overall 2022

  3. USDA. Back to Basics: All About MyPlate Food Groups.

  4. Dawson-Hughes B, Harris SS, Ceglia L. Alkaline diets favor lean tissue mass in older adultsAm J Clin Nutr. 2008;87(3):662-5. doi:10.1093/ajcn/87.3.662

  5. Fagherazzi G, Vilier A, Bonnet F, et al. Dietary acid load and risk of type 2 diabetes: the E3N-EPIC cohort studyDiabetologia. 2014;57(2):313-20. doi:10.1007/s00125-013-3100-0

  6. U.S. News and World Report. Best Diets Overall 2022

  7. Rozenberg S, Body JJ, Bruyère O, et al. Effects of dairy products consumption on health: benefits and beliefs—a commentary from the Belgian bone club and the European society for clinical and economic aspects of osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal diseasesCalcif Tissue Int. 2016;98(1):1-17. doi:10.1007/s00223-015-0062-x

  8. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Ninth Edition.

  9. Ha YC, Choi C, Kim KH, et al. Malnutrition and chronic inflammation as risk factors for sarcopenia in elderly patients with hip fractureAsia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2018;27(3):527-32. doi:10.6133/apjcn.082017.02

  10. USDA. Go Nuts!

By Jennifer Purdie, M.Ed
Jennifer Purdie, M.Ed, is a certified personal trainer, freelance writer, and author of "Growth Mindset for Athletes, Coaches and Trainers."