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pH balance and how foods affect or do not affect it

For many years alkaline vegetables and acidic meat, dairy and processed foods have been key words in magazine articles and advertisements. The question remains: is there enough scientific evidence to back up certain claims for a alkaline dietary approach for a better health and stronger bones?


When we look at our body, there is the pH value of our blood. This value is strictly maintained at about 7.4. In order to keep the value between 7.35-7.45 our lungs and kidneys work hard to keep it within that range because a pH outside that range would be life-threatening. We have some regulators in the body, the blood does have one and the bone matrix contains calcium and magnesium which support our pH balance. If those systems can’t manage our pH balance anymore (e.g. acidic nutrition over a longer period), the kidneys jump in and help. With that said, even if we eat a high protein meal it does not result in a change in blood chemistry or pH. Our kidneys function as buffers, mobilize buffers (calcium phosphate for example) to keep the pH within a safe range.


If we follow an acidic dietary pattern for too long and we use up all our mineral buffers from the bone matrix, this will affect our bone mineral density.

To indicate the effect of individual foods on the body, the potential renal acid load (PRAL) was introduced in 1995 by the American Dietetic Association. It’s a value that measures acid excretion in the urine, and it helps to place every food on the acid-alkaline balance.


Food can be acidic or alkaline – and it can have a potential effect on the body. A good example is a lemon. It is acidic but when we consume a lemon, it promotes alkalinity in the body. The same is true for tomatoes. Fruits and vegetables are mainly alkaline (negative acid load). Grains, meats, fish, dairy, eggs, soda, beer are acidic (positiv acid load).


When we eat proteins, carbohydrates and vegetables, a piece of fish or meat does not necessarily turn our meal into a bad meal. Vegetables as alkaline part can make the net effect neutral or alkaline. As long as we consume enough vegetables and fruits we can always manage to consume a neutral/alkaline meal. (Now we know, why it’s good to combine our carbs and meats with some vegetables or salads!).

Although many proteins are acidic we need protein (for bones, growth, healing, recovery, DNR/RNA etc.). Hence, the best way to get the pH balance right is to make sure to consume enough protein and combine it with fruits and vegetables. Let’s call it a balanced, healthy diet.