If you have paid close attention to your chemistry lessons during school, you will be familiar with the concept of acid and alkali. If not, then here's a quick brush up: Acids are basically aqueous solutions that have a pH level of less than 7.0 whereas alkalis have a pH level of more than 7.0, water being the neutral component with a pH of 7.0. In simpler terms, acids are sour in taste and corrosive in nature, whereas alkalis are elements that neutralise acids.
During the process of digestion, our stomach secretes gastric acids, which help in breaking down food. The stomach has a pH balance which ranges from 2.0 to 3.5, which is highly acidic but necessary for the process of digestion. However, sometimes, due to unhealthy lifestyle and food habits, the acidic level in the body goes haywire, leading to acidity, acid refluxes and other gastric ailments. If you review the daily diet of most urban dwellers, it contains large amounts of acidic foods such as burger, samosa, pizza, rolls, cheese sandwiches, sausages, bacon, kebabs, colas, doughnuts, pastries, etc - which in the long run can hamper the acidic balance in the stomach. These foods when broken down leaves behind residues that are referred to as acid ash, the main cause of your tummy troubles.
Ingredients that are acidic in nature when digested by the body are meats, dairy products, eggs, certain whole grains, refined sugars and processed food items. It is important to note that an ingredient's acid or alkaline forming tendency in the body has nothing to do with the actual pH of the food itself. Citrus fruits are acidic in nature, but citric acid actually has an alkalising effect in our body.
Alkaline foods are important so as to bring about a balance. Like all experts and doctors have been saying for years, we should have a balanced meal with a good mix of everything, rather than restraining ourselves to have only a certain category of food items. Alkaline foods therefore help in countering the risks of acidity and acid refluxes, bringing some sort of relief. Most traditional Indian meals contain alkaline food items to create a balanced diet. If you have ever tried a typical Assamese lunch, it always starts with a dish called Khar. Khar also refers to the main ingredient in the dish, which is an alkali extracted from the peels of a banana varietal known as Bhim Kol. The peels are dry roasted and preserved, and before preparing the dish, are soaked in warm water to obtain a brownish filtrate which is then used in cooking. The dish can be made with different ingredients, but the one made with raw papaya is most cherished, known as Amitar Khar. If raw papaya isn't available then cabbage or squash is used as well. Sometimes, a fried fish head is scrambled into the dish during the later stages of the cooking process. Khar is believed to be good for the stomach, easing digestion.
Alkaline Foods for Your Daily Diet
If you have been indulging in excessive red meat, processed and junk food, it's about time you included some alkaline food in your diet. Here's a list to get you started -
1. Green Leafy Vegetables
Most green leafy vegetables are said to have an alkaline effect in our system. It is not without reason that our elders and health experts always advise us to include greens in our daily diet. They contain essential minerals which are necessary for the body to carry out various functions. Try including spinach, lettuce, kale, celery, parsley, argula and mustard greens in your meals.
2. Cauliflower and Broccoli
If you love sautéed broccoli in Asian spices or gobi matar, they are both good for you. They contain several phytochemicals that are essential for your body. Toss it up with other veggies like capsicum, beans and green peas and you have your health dose right there.
3. Citrus Fruits
Contrary to the belief that citrus fruits are highly acidic and would have an acidic effect on the body, they are the best source of alkaline foods. Lemon, lime and oranges are loaded with Vitamin C and are known to help in detoxifying the system, including providing relief from acidity and heart burn.
4. Seaweed and Sea Salt
Did you know that seaweed or sea vegetables have 10-12 times more mineral content than those grown on land? They are also considered to be highly alkaline food sources and are known to bring about various benefits to the body system. You can tip in nori or kelp into your bowl of soup or stir-fries or make sushi at home. Or just sprinkle some sea salt into your salads, soups, omelette, etc.
5. Root Vegetables
Root vegetables like sweet potato, taro root, lotus root, beets and carrots are great sources of alkali. They taste best when roasted with a little sprinkling of spices and other seasonings. Most often, they are overcooked which makes them lose out all their goodness. Pay attention while cooking and you will fall in love with root veggies as you learn to include them in soups, stir-fries, salads and more.
6. Seasonal Fruits
Every nutritionist and health expert will tell you that adding seasonal fruits in your daily diet can prove to be beneficial to your health. They come packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that take care of various functions in the body. They are good alkaline food sources too, especially kiwi, pineapple, persimmon, nectarine, watermelon, grapefruit, apricots and apples.
Love to munch on nuts when hunger pangs kick in? Besides being sources of good fats, they also produce an alkaline effect in the body. However, since they are high in calories, it is important to have limited quantities of nuts. Include cashews, chestnuts and almonds in your daily meal plan.
8. Onion, Garlic and Ginger
Among the most important ingredients in Indian cooking, onion, garlic and ginger are great flavour enhancers too. You can use them in numerous other ways - garlic to spruce up your morning toast, grated ginger in your soup or tea, freshly sliced onions in salads, etc.
Now that you have this list of alkaline food sources, try and include them in your diet to make the most of their incredible benefits. Make sure you do not make any major alterations to your diet without expert advice. If anything, for any reason is not suiting you, maybe you should skip it.