With alkaline diets on the rise and the prevalence of acid reflux, many people avoid acidic foods.
However, there’s a difference between acid-forming foods and foods with an acidic pH. Acid-forming foods are those that promote acidity in your body. Conversely, not all foods with a low (or acidic) pH promote an acidic environment in your body.
If this sounds confusing, don’t worry. This article outlines the differences between acid-forming foods and those with an acidic pH, as well as the reasons why some people avoid these foods.
Here are 6 acidic foods, explained.
1–4. Acid-forming foods You’ve probably heard of alkaline diets, which are said to promote a non-acidic environment in your body. Although these diets aren’t typically based on sound science, you may still wish to reduce your intake of acid-forming foods.
Your body has a tightly controlled blood pH level of about 7.4, which is slightly alkaline or basic. This pH is maintained through mechanisms like breathing and urination.
However, the pH of different body parts varies significantly. For example, your stomach has a very acidic pH of 1.35–3.5 to break down the foods you eat.
Although blood pH is tightly regulated, the pH of your urine changes depending on the need to balance your body’s pH and is altered by what you eat.
Notably, foods have different potential renal acid loads (PRALs), which are measured by acid excretion in the urine or the acid load that the kidneys must excrete to maintain your body.
Dietary acid loads In general, foods that carry a high dietary acid load include meat, cheese, soft drinks, and processed grains. Conversely, fruits and vegetables have a low dietary acid load and tend to be alkaline or basic in nature.
Western diets tend to be high in animal protein and other foods with high PRALs while low in fruits and vegetables.
On the one hand, diets that carry a low acid load, such as plant-based diets rich in vegetables and fruits, may help promote kidney and heart health. On the other, diets with a high acid load may have the opposite effect.
What’s more, high dietary acid loads have been associated with increased blood sugar levels, obesity rates, and levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP).
For this reason, it’s a good idea to limit foods with high PRALs and increase foods with low PRALs — especially vegetables and fruits.
The following items are some of the most popular foods with high dietary acid loads.
1. Soft drinks Soft drinks are loaded with phosphoric acid, which is a major contributor to the acid load of Western diets.
Excess phosphorus, especially in the form of highly absorbable phosphoric acid, has been linked to adverse health effects.
What’s more, soda intake is tied to kidney issues, decreased bone mineral density, and pre-diabetes, which may be partly due to soda’s dietary acid load.
2. Red meat and other animal proteins Red meat and processed meat are among the most prevalent acid-producing foods in the Western diet. Red meat is high in protein and phosphorus, and thus increases dietary acid load.
Other animal proteins like chicken and eggs further contribute to a high dietary acid load.
3. Processed grains Western diets are typically high in refined grain products like baked goods, fast food, and white bread, which have a high dietary acid load.
Replacing refined grains with fruits, vegetables, and other alkaline foods may help reduce dietary acid load.
4. Cheese and dairy products Cheese, milk, and ice cream are high in phosphorus and contribute to a high dietary acid load.
Although dairy products like cheese and unsweetened yogurt are nutritious, a diet high in these products and low in plant foods may contribute to a high dietary acid load.
Dairy is a concentrated source of potentially acid-forming compounds, including sulfur-containing amino acids, chloride, and phosphorus.
Western diets tend to be high in foods like meat, cheese, refined grains, and soda but low in vegetables and fruits. These factors contribute to a high dietary acid load, which is associated with several negative health outcomes.
5–6. Foods with an acidic pH Some foods have an acidic PH but don’t form acid in your body.