Balancing the food in your diet to keep acidity in check

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Most diseases, especially those of the digestive, urinary and circulatory systems, originate from an unbalance between alkaline and acidic matter in our body.

Human blood is predominantly alkaline; 80 per cent of it is made up of alkalies while the remaining 20 per cent is acidic. Therefore, to maintain this balance, our diet should consist of foods which are mostly alkaline in nature. Just like our blood, no food is completely alkaline or acidic.

All kinds of fruits, vegetables, sprouted cereals and some of the dry fruits are alkaline in nature, while all kinds of unsprouted grains, proteinous foods and some of the dry fruits are mostly acidic; hence the latter should not form more than 20-25 per cent of our diet.

Here, it is important to note that contrary to popular belief, sour fruits like oranges, mausambis, pineapples and green guavas are not acidic but alkaline in their action upon the digestive system. In fact, the alkalinity and acidity of any food item is determined by its final action upon the digestive system or the kind of residue it leaves in the stomach after the process of digestion is complete.

Many food items may appear to be acidic in nature but may be alkaline in their final action while other types of food may appear to be alkaline but may produce acidic residues upon digestion. Therefore the classification of food into acidic and alkaline groups should be done according to the kind of residues they leave behind.

In ancient times, human beings were close to nature in that they were dependent upon the fruits of nature for their food. Their food consisted of fruits, roots, vegetables, and herbs.

No organised cultivation was carried out and whatever grew in the wild was their food. Essentially, people ate what nature had really “intended” them to eat; these kinds of food were predominantly alkaline as per the need of the human body.

But as civilisation advanced, mankind’s food habits changed drastically and acidic foods like cereals, non-vegetarian items like meat, chicken, fish and eggs became its main food while fruits, vegetables and herbs were relegated to a secondary role.

All non-vegetarian food items produce the most acidic residue in the stomach and therefore are not an ideal diet for human beings. While cooking non-vegetarian items, lot of spices and oil are used which further increases their acidity. One should cut down the consumption of such items drastically, or better, eschew them completely.

Among vegetarian items, most grains are acidic. Among the grains also, the dicot family of grains, which includes all kinds of pulses, grams, peas and peanuts, are more acidic than the monocot family of grains which includes rice, wheat, millet, corn, maize and barley. Again, among monocot family of grains, coarse grains like millet, corn, barley, etc. are less acidic than wheat and rice.

The alkaline elements of the grains lie on their outer coverings or the skin just below it. It is, therefore, advisable that one should consume cereals and pulses without discarding this useful cover. Because of this reason, unpolished parboiled rice, wheat flour made from whole grain wheat and whole pulses and grains should be preferred.

In maida, polished rice, branless flour, white sugar and washed pulses, the alkaline elements get lost in the processing. When grains are soaked in the water and allowed to sprout, the alkaline elements in them are enhanced. Such sprouts can be used both in the raw form as well as in the cooked form.

Refined, tinned, bottled and preserved foods contain artificial flavouring and colouring agents as well as preservatives which are nothing but inorganic chemicals. Even if the food items are alkaline in nature, during processing and when they come into contact with these inorganic chemicals, they become acidic.

Further, the alkaline elements in the food are highly sensitive to high temperatures and because of this reason overcooked food looses all its alkaline properties and becomes acidic. In order to get the maximum alkaline elements, one should include large proportions of fruits and vegetables in one’s diet. Vegetables which can be eaten raw should be eaten as salads.

Among dry fruits, nuts like almond, cashew, walnut and pistachios are acidic in nature, while coconut, raisins, figs and dates are alkaline in nature. If they are used, their quantity should not be very large and one should mix items of both groups and take.

Milk and non-concentrated milk products like curd, butter milk, and whey may be acidic or alkaline depending upon the kind of gastric juice present in one’s stomach. If someone is suffering from acidity, milk and its products will produce acidic residues, otherwise not. Again, the alkaline elements deteriorate if boiled too often and used after a long time.

Concentrated milk products like khoya, sweets, ice-creams, butter, cheese and ghee produce acidic residues. In sweets and ice-creams, white sugar is also used and in others including ice-creams, preservatives and colouring agents are used which make them still more acidic.

It may not be possible to change our food habits over night. Nevertheless, the knowledge of alkaline and acidic food is imperative for even a slow switch over.

 

Published in The Pioneer (newspaper) on May 28, 1994.

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