Naini Setalvad educates us on how to include certain foods in our diet to maintain the body’s acid-alkali balance
Post the New Year celebrations, my phone has been buzzing with numerous inquiries on juice flushes, meal replacers, and superfood diets. I always reply with the mantra I live by Health is not a matter of intensity but of balance, harmony, and rhythm. The human body is all about balance too. It is sustained by a balance of the elements and, most importantly, a balance of the pH levels (a measure of acidity or alkalinity). Our bodies are sophisticatedly monitored by strict pH levels that ensure we are functioning at our best.
The pH is measured on a scale of 0 to 14. Seven is neutral. Below seven is acidic, above seven, alkaline. The digestive system has an affinity for a certain pH. Think of the digestive process as a raging fire where the ash left behind depends on the type of wood used. Similarly, the type of food you eat leaves behind either an acidic by-product of an alkaline one. The modern diet is more acidic in nature, and its acidic waste increases the acidity of the blood, which affects our health.
“But Naini, my diet is very healthy without any junk food” is what most people tell me, and you probably believe the same too. But I’ve got news for you: Not all ‘healthy foods’ account for the desired acid-alkaline balance. Take a look at these foods to know how to pile your plate henceforth.
Fresh Fruits: Lemon is my go-to alkaliser. I squeeze it over all my meals as it is acidic to the tongue but alkaline to the body. Add seasonal fruits like Indian gooseberry (amla), guava, oranges, strawberry, papaya, and fresh figs to give yourself an alkaline dose.
Vegetables: I’m elated that winter veggies are here. Vegetables like fresh red carrots are neutral. Tomatoes and greens like spinach and lettuce are alkalising in nature and so are peppers, pumpkin, and the entire gourd family.
Grains and millets: Amaranth (rajgirah), pearl millet (jowar), finger millet (nachni), and unpolished rice are alkalising. Other grain flours like wheat when soaked, sprouted, and ground, reduce their acidic nature. No wonder they were originally used in hospital feeds.
Root Vegetables: This weather is perfect for purple yam bake or roasted sweet potato chaat. Not only are these delicious but full of anti-inflammatory vitamins and alkalising properties.
Nuts and seeds: I love adding fresh, grated coconut to my veggies and munching on flaxseed after meals. I get my dose of good fats and some alkalis as well.
Spices and Herbs: My mornings do not start without ginger tea. Ginger neutralises the metabolic acid and cumin, which is a part of most of our traditional preparations, also has an alkalising effect. Fun fact: Green chillies are more alkaline than red chillies.
Pulses: They are considered acidic owing to their high protein content but soaking them for over 12 hours makes them digestion-friendly. A generous squeeze of lemon on your pulses will further alkalise them.
Highly acidic foods include animal products like red meat, fish, poultry, and eggs; dairy products like milk and cheese; processed white flour products and refined sugar; alcohol, fruit juices, aerated drinks, and beverages containing excess caffeine. Condiments like soy sauce, chilli sauce, vinegar, and jams are acidic in nature as well.
Still, sitting on the fence regarding how including these foods in your diet make a difference?
Well, alkalising foods truly do wonders to your body as they are high in fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Studies show that they prevent bone loss caused due to leaching—a very common occurrence in renal diseases.
A three-year study of a diet reduced in acid load resulted in the preservation of muscle mass in seniors, especially for diseases like renal failure, wherein metabolic acidosis causes a reduction in skeletal muscles. Correction of acidosis may preserve muscle mass in conditions where muscle wasting is common such as diabetic ketosis, trauma, sepsis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Alkaline diets help balance the potassium-sodium ratio, thus preventing and treating hypertension. They have shown improvements in the growth rates of children with poor growth hormone levels. Increased effectiveness of chemotherapy and reduced back pain are some other benefits. Adopting an alkaline diet clearly has numerous advantages with many more yet to be explored.
Correct your body’s acid-base balance (acid-alkali balance) and harmonise your body to reach its optimum potential.
1. GREEN POWER
1/4th cup coriander, chopped
1/4th cup mint leaves, chopped
½ inch ginger
½ tsp roasted cumin powder
Lemon juice to taste
Rock salt to taste
200 ml water
Green chilli, optional
1. Blend all the ingredients.
2. Serve at room temperature or slightly cool.
2. DOODHI SOUP
250 gm bottle gourd (doodhi)
¼ tsp grated ginger
1 tbsp coconut grated
1 tsp cow’s ghee
1 tsp roasted cumin powder
Lemon juice to taste
Rock salt to taste
1. Sauté the onions and ginger in ghee.
2. Add doodhi and coconut, and sauté it for 10 minutes.
3. Blend the sautéed vegetables.
4. Add lemon juice, rock salt, and roasted cumin powder to the mixture.
5. Heat before serving.
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