Photo of lemons
Lemons and other citrus fruits may seem acidic but they actually have an alkalysing effect in the body

Q&A: Acid versus alkali foods

10 March, 2015

— I have seen many different lists of foods that are acid and alkali. Can you provide a definitive list with some thoughts on eating more alkalising foods – can it really make a difference?


— There are indeed many lists and even nutritionists don’t always agree on which foods are acidic and which are alkali or even the extent to which this is true. Foods like nuts for instance are sometimes listed and acid and sometimes listed as alkali. However as most of us don’t eat nuts in vast quantities it may be a moot point. It’s the foods that make up the larger proportion of your diet that you may need to focus on.

When we talk about pH we are referring to how acidic or alkaline something is.

A food’s acid-or alkaline-forming tendency in the body has nothing to do with the actual pH of the food itself. For example, lemons are very acidic but the end products they produce after digestion and assimilation are very alkaline so, lemons have an alkalising effect in the system.

Meat on the other will test alkaline before digestion, but it leaves very acidic residue in the body so, like nearly all animal products, meat is very acid forming.

Scientists can determine foods will react inside the body by incinerating the food and analysing the mineral content of the ash. If the mineral content is highly alkaline, then the food will likely have an alkalising effect on the body, and vice versa.

The type of soil used to grow fruits and vegetables can influence their mineral content, which is why test results can vary. As a result, acid/alkali food charts can vary slightly depending on the source of the original information.

Human blood is naturally slightly alkaline and when we eat acid-forming foods, the body has to work harder to bring the pH of the blood back into balance by releasing alkaline-rich minerals into our bloodstream including calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.

If we are not eating enough alkaline-forming foods, then our body has to pull these minerals from our bones, teeth and organs. This can compromise our immune system, cause fatigue and make us vulnerable to viruses and disease.

If you are interested in trying to orient your diet this way remember, you don’t need to only eat alkaline foods, just make sure a good percentage of the foods you eat come from that side.

Nutritionists advise that a balanced diet, from the acid/alkali perspective, is one that includes 60-80% alkaline-forming foods and 20-40% acid-forming foods.

Remember also that pesticides tend to be acid-forming, so also choose organic whenever possible.

We have put together a chart to help guide you in your choices.