Acidic Food List: Should You Avoid Them?

    Acidic Food List: Should You Avoid Them?

    Did someone ever caution you from eating extra servings of pineapples saying that they are too acidic? Or perhaps, you have witnessed someone throwing up because they consumed foods with high acidity. Do foods really affect our body’s pH level? More importantly, should we avoid eating items on the acidic food list? Find out here.

    Acidity, Simplified

    The pH level, with values ranging from 0 to 14, determines whether something is alkaline (basic), acidic, or neutral, which means it’s neither acidic nor basic.

    A pH level of 7 means the food or substance is neutral. Higher than 7 points to alkalinity and lower than 7 indicates acidity.

    For instance, baking soda generally has a pH of 8.3; hence, when you mix it with water (neutral), you’ll have an alkaline solution. Vinegar, on the other hand, is acidic, with a pH level of around 2.5.

    Note that there’s a tenfold difference between each value. Case in point: corn syrup has a pH of 5.0; flour has a pH of 6.0. This means corn syrup is 10x more acidic than flour.

    Also, please keep in mind that different parts of the body have different pH levels. Blood, for instance, is a little alkaline, while the stomach is highly acidic.

    Acidic Food List: The Acid-Ash Hypothesis

    Before we give you the acidic food list, let’s first try to answer this question: do acidic foods affect the body?

    The idea that acidic foods are bad for our health probably came from the acid-ash hypothesis, which explains that as our body metabolizes food, they leave residues (called ash) that can either form acid or base.

    Now, having excessive acid-forming residues (typical for the Western diet) might erode the bones. This is because when the body becomes acidic, the bones compensate by releasing alkaline minerals, particularly calcium² ³.

    Of course, this is still a hypothesis.

    The fact is, our body has multiple ways of regulating the pH balance (primarily through our kidneys and lungs). Furthermore, there’s little evidence that diet influences our blood pH level. Come to think of it, even an alkaline diet doesn’t appear to protect the bones from erosion⁴.

    Why You Might Want To Avoid Acidic Foods

    If diet doesn’t significantly affect our blood pH level, is there any reason for us to avoid items on the acidic food list?

    There might be.

    First, acidic foods are known to worsen the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Secondly, we want to avoid diet-induced low-grade metabolic acidosis.

    Low-grade metabolic acidosis occurs when there’s a slight increase in our blood pH. It’s usually not a big concern if it only happens from time to time. But chronic low-grade metabolic acidosis can result in kidney stones, loss of muscle mass, and reduced bone mineral density; it might even lead to diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension⁵.

    Here’s the thing: nutrition is one of the main contributing factors, hence the term, diet-induced.

    Acidic Food List

    If you want to avoid consuming acidic foods that may trigger GERD symptoms or acid-forming foods that may increase the risk of low-grade metabolic acidosis, consider this list of foods with a pH of less than 4¹:

    • Apples and products with apples
    • Blueberries
    • Grapes
    • Lemon and limes (and products containing them)
    • Oranges
    • Pineapple
    • Plums
    • Vinegar

    Of course, let’s not forget that some foods may also form acids in the body:

    • Some dairy products
    • Processed foods and meat
    • Fish and seafood
    • High-protein foods
    • Carbonated beverages

    Additional Reminders

    If you’ll notice, many of the items in the acidic food list are healthy in the sense that they are fruits or good sources of protein. For this reason, it might not be wise to avoid them altogether unless you are instructed to do so by your doctor.

    In case you have concerns about your acid levels, please seek medical advice. This is because problems with acidity may point to issues concerning the organs regulating it, particularly the lungs and kidneys.

    Learn more about Healthy Eating here.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Sources

    1) pH Values of Common Foods and Ingredients , https://www.clemson.edu/extension/food/food2market/documents/ph_of_common_foods.pdf, Accessed November 3, 2021

    2) The acid-ash hypothesis revisited: a reassessment of the impact of dietary acidity on bone, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24557632/, Accessed November 3, 2021

    3) Meta-analysis of the quantity of calcium excretion associated with the net acid excretion of the modern diet under the acid-ash diet hypothesis, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18842807/, Accessed November 3, 2021

    4) The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline pH Diet Benefits Health?, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3195546/, Accessed November 3, 2021

    5) Diet-Induced Low-Grade Metabolic Acidosis and Clinical Outcomes: A Review, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5490517/, Accessed November 3, 2021

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    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Mar 09
    Expertly reviewed by Chris Icamen