It’s no secret that Kelly Ripa is serious about her healthy lifestyle, but now the Live! With Kelly and Michael host is sharing a well, interesting, method that she says changed her life. On a recent episode of the show, the 44-year-old credited a high-alkaline cleanse with alleviating post-injury problems she’s been in physical therapy to treat. It’s “responsible for me not being in pain,” she said.
Ripa isn’t the only alkaline supporter. Celebs like Victoria Beckham, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jennifer Aniston have all admitted that they are fans. The theory behind high-alkaline eating is that it can optimize your body’s pH balance by swapping out foods that metabolize into compounds that promote acidity—like meat, dairy, sweets, caffeine, alcohol, and artificial and processed products—for a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, which form alkaline substances.
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But is it just another crazy Hollywood fad—or could it actually improve your health and well-being? Here are four facts you should know before trying it.
The research is limited
Despite the celeb support, many doctors are skeptical of this diet’s restorative powers. “Many health professionals dismiss an alkaline diet as completely unnecessary, because our bodies are inherently designed to maintain pH balance,” Health‘s contributing nutrition editor Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD notes in a previous post for Health. “And the key benefits of this approach seem to stem from guidelines you’ve already heard a million times: eat more fruits, veggies, and plants; cut back or cut out sugar and processed foods; and slash your sodium intake.”
In other words, eating more “alkaline” foods can’t hurt, but the benefits of the diet may not solely be due to your body’s pH.
There is no one specific alkaline regime
The “alkaline diet” is more of a theory rather than a specific plan, which can make it a little confusing to follow. It can refer to anything from a short-term, highly-restrictive juicing cleanse to simply adding more foods with higher alkaline content to your long-term eating plan, Sass writes. Advocates also disagree on what the exact ratio of alkaline foods to acidic ones in your diet should be. Generally, 80/20 is the most popular.
Acidic foods aren’t necessarily bad
Making things more difficult is the fact that proponents of the plan disagree over which foods are considered alkaline and which are acidic. And many foods that tend to fall under the acid-forming category, like cranberries, pomegranates, chickpeas, walnuts, and tea, actually offer great health benefits. “While these foods aren’t entirely off limits [in alkaline diets], I question the need to ration them,” Sass writes.
Watch your protein intake if you partake
Because a high-alkaline diet reduces your intake of meat and dairy products, it is really important to sub in protein-rich foods that are generally considered to be alkaline, like nuts and seeds. As Sass told Health in an interview this week: “It all comes back to balancing.”