Did you know your body is pre-programmed to continuously strive for ultimate health, no matter what you do? The process that the body uses to maintain the optimum state of health is called homeostasis. The better your nutrition, the easier it is to maintain this favorable balance, which leads to a longer life, full of good health and vigor.

The body is on a nonstop mission to remain in balance. One of the most important balancing processes is maintenance of an optimal blood pH. In the human body—on a scale from 0 (acid) to 14 (alkaline)—about 7.4 is normal. When the pH is too high or too low, we often don’t feel well, may experience fatigue, gain weight, have poor digestion and suffer from aches and pains.

On the flip side, evidence that suggests a diet low in acid-producing foods and high in fruits and veggies could help prevent kidney stones, keep bones and muscles strong, improve heart health and brain function, reduce low back pain, and lower risk for colon cancer and type 2 diabetes. Plus, alkalizing foods tend to be lower in calories.

How it all works

Our dietary choices greatly impact our blood pH levels, but it is not the foods themselves that raise or lower the pH. It is the body that makes the adjustment in response to what we consume. A healthier diet—typically meaning more alkaline foods—makes it easier to achieve a normal pH range, providing a “feel good” environment. If you are eating highly processed foods, which contribute to an acidic imbalance, the body will work extra hard to reach a balanced pH range. This can result in a state of exhaustion. When you are out of the optimal range consistently, there is an increased chance of disease.

What are alkaline foods?

An alkaline diet emphasizes foods such as whole fruits, vegetables and certain whole grains, which are naturally low in caloric density. Dairy, eggs, meat, most grains, and processed foods—like canned or packaged snacks and convenience foods—fall on the acid side on the continuum. Here’s a brief look at some good-for-you alkalizing foods.

Vegetables  Beets,  broccoli,  cauliflower,  celery,  cucumber,  kale, lettuce,  onions,  peas, spinach

Fruits  Apples, bananas, berries, cantaloupe, grapes, melon, lemons, oranges, peaches, pears

Protein  Almonds, chestnuts, tofu

Spices  Cinnamon, curry, ginger, mustard, sea salt

You can purchase alkaline-infused water, food, supplements and drinks, but you do not need to buy these things to get your pH to a good level; simply eating mindfully will get you there in no time. Diuretic herbs, such as dandelion leaf, can help remove acids already seated in the tissues.

Of course what you don’t consume is as important as what you do. Avoid sugar, processed foods, coffee, drugs, alcohol, tobacco and—believe it or not—stress, to help keep your pH in check. Moderate exercise helps to control the acid-alkaline balance, but excessive exercise actually contributes to an imbalance.

It’s incredibly easy to find out what your alkalinity is. You simply buy some pH test strips (also called litmus paper) at a health store and urinate on it. The paper will tell you instantly how alkaline or acidic you are.

You may remember from chemistry class that pH—which stands for potential hydrogen—is the measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a substance. The pH scale runs from 0 to 14. A solution is considered neutral, neither acid nor alkaline, when it has a pH of seven. A lower number indicates high acidity (and generally less oxygen), and a higher number indicates more alkalinity.