Your serum pH, which is the measure of your blood’s acidity or alkalinity, is a vital indicator of your health, and it is affected by diet. Certain foods alkalize your pH (mostly fruits and vegetables) and other foods acidify it (animal proteins and grains). This should not be confused with acidic foods, like citrus fruits, which are alkalizing once digested.
Today we’ll review the negative impact of serum acidification on your bones and the 12 foods that alkalize your serum pH thanks to their high potassium content.
Chronic Acidosis Is The True Cause Of Osteoporosis
When your body’s serum pH becomes acidic for an extended period of time, natural buffers are depleted, so the excess acid is neutralized with alkalizing minerals, such as calcium, found in bone. While this corrects a potentially dangerous acidic state, it also leads to a decrease in bone density. In fact, a chronically acid pH is the true underlying cause of osteoporosis.
Scientific research confirms the relationship between acidosis, maintaining an alkaline pH and fracture incidence. Take for example the study published in the European Journal of Nutrition that examined the inversion of the potassium-to-sodium and base-to-chloride ratios in the contemporary human diet.
In the researchers own words:
“We know that clinically-recognized chronic metabolic acidosis has deleterious effects on the body, including growth retardation in children, decreased muscle and bone mass in adults, and kidney stone formation, and that correction of acidosis can ameliorate those conditions.”1
The study authors found that acidosis can be reversed and prevented with dietary modifications. Study participants who switched from a net-acid producing diet to a net-base producing diet (acidifying to alkalizing) had an alkaline serum pH. That shift translated to a lower incidence of fracture.
Quoting the study authors:
“We found that plant food intake tended to be protective against hip fracture, and that hip fracture incidence among countries correlated inversely with the ratio of plant-to animal food intake. These findings were confirmed in a more homogeneous population of white elderly women residents of the U. S.”1
An acidic serum pH leads to mineral depletion from bone, resulting in osteoporosis. Alkalizing your serum pH by making dietary modifications prevents this deleterious process.
Potassium Alkalizes Your pH And Counteracts Sodium Chloride
Contemporary Western diets consist of far more sodium-chloride (NaCl, also known as table salt) than potassium. Thousands of years ago, before humans practiced agriculture, this wasn’t true. This particular shift in our diets has resulted in many health problems related to high blood pressure, such as cardiovascular and renal disease.2,3
This inversion also contributes to acidosis. An increase in NaCl in the diet increases urinary excretion of calcium– evidence that the body is pulling minerals from bone into the bloodstream to balance the serum pH.4
Potassium counteracts the effects of NaCl. The average Western diet contains far less potassium than early human diets contained, meaning that we could be providing a line of defense against the acidosis caused by NaCl by merely consuming more potassium.
Potassium alkalizes your pH and protects the body from the loss of calcium caused by sodium chloride.
Top 12 Sources Of Potassium
It’s easy to reap the alkalizing benefits of potassium from a wide variety of food sources. Below are 12 potassium-rich foods to help alkalize your serum pH and protect your bones and your health. Please note that all of the foods listed are alkalizing except for black beans.
1. Sweet Potato*
Also rich in Vitamins A and C, this tasty tuber can be baked, mashed, fried and incorporated into all manner of dishes. A medium-sized sweet potato contains 542mg of potassium, about 12% DV.
Plain unsweetened yogurt contains 573mg of potassium per cup- plus a good amount of calcium and protein. Avoid flavored and sweetened yogurts. Instead, dress it up yourself with fresh fruits and a light drizzle of honey. Yogurt is also a versatile ingredient in all kinds of dishes.
3. Swiss Chard*
A single cup of swiss chard contains 20% of the recommended daily value of potassium at 961mg. This leafy green is also a rich source of calcium, iron, and Vitamins A, C, and K.
4. White Potato
This one surprises a lot of people, but potatoes contain many valuable nutrients, including Foundation Supplements magnesium and Vitamin C. A medium baked potato has 941 mg of potassium, and make sure you eat the skin since it contains a lot more potassium than the rest of the potato. Also, the skin is what makes it an alkalizing food.
5. Tomato Sauce
One cup of tomato sauce contains 728 mg of potassium. Tomatoes also contain lycopene, which has been shown to inhibit postmenopausal bone loss.5
6. Butternut Squash
Just in time for fall, a cup of butternut squash contains 582 mg of potassium, along with a healthy measure of Vitamin A, plus calcium, folate, magnesium and Vitamin C.
Watermelon is a refreshing source of potassium at 641 mg per serving, and is another great source of lycopene, the same carotenoid pigment contained in tomatoes. It’s also one of the most hydrating foods you can eat.
8. White Beans
You can get a full quarter of your daily potassium requirement from a serving of white beans. That’s 1,189 mg. White beans also contain 20 g of protein and 13 grams of fiber, making them an excellent choice if you’re trying to cut down on acidifying animal protein.
9. Black Beans*
This fiber-rich favorite packs 739 mg of potassium per cup, in addition to containing calcium, magnesium, and folate. Even though they’re acidifying, the minerals and antioxidants in black beans make a bean-based burrito a bone-building meal.
10. Frozen Spinach*
A single cup of frozen spinach contains 540 mg of potassium. The reason frozen spinach is on this list, but not fresh spinach, is because this delicate green rapidly loses its nutritional value after harvest, but flash-freezing locks it in. Fresh spinach is still a healthy choice though, and if you’re more likely to eat fresh spinach than frozen, then that’s what you should buy.
This root vegetable is great in salads, soups, juices and veggie roasts. A cup of cooked, sliced beets contains 518 mg of potassium, and a 1-ounce serving of beet chips has 90 mg.
And finally the most iconic potassium source of them all, bananas. But here’s a surprise: of all the foods on this list, bananas contain the least potassium! At 422 mg they’re still a strong source and a delicious treat. Plus bananas make a convenient snack and a great ingredient in smoothies.
*Denotes a Foundation Food
Add a banana, frozen spinach, and yogurt in your breakfast smoothie to start your day with a boost of NaCl-balancing potassium. What other potassium-packed combinations could you cook up with these 12 ingredients? The possibilities are endless!
From white beans to bananas- there are plenty of potassium-rich foods you can enjoy every day.
Balance Your pH, Heal Your Bones And Your Body
Embrace the power you have to improve your health with delicious foods. So embark on a bone-strengthening, health-promoting journey fueled by a pH-balanced, alkalizing diet.
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1 L. Frassetto, et al. “Diet, evolution and aging.” Eur J Nutr 40 : 200–213 (2001). Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11842945
2 Yamori Y, Nara Y, Mizushima S, Sawamura M, Horie R. “Nutritional factors for stroke and major cardiovascular diseases: international epidemiological comparison of dietary prevention” Health Rep 6: 22–27. 1994. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7919085
3 Peterson JC, Adler S, Burkart JM, Greene T, Hebert LA, Hunsicker LG, King AJ, Klahr S, Massry SG, Seifter JL “Blood pressure control, proteinuria, and the progression of renal disease. The Modification of Diet in Renal Disease Study.” Ann Intern Med 123: 754–762. 1995. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7574193
4 Burtis WJ, Gay L, Insogna KL, Ellison A, Broadus AE “Dietary hypercalciuria in patients with calcium oxalate kidney stones.” Am J Clin Nutr 60: 424–429. 1994. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8074077
5 Ardawi MM, et al. “Lycopene treatment against loss of bone mass, microarchitecture and strength in relation to regulatory mechanisms in a postmenopausal osteoporosis model.” Bone. 2016 Feb;83:127-140. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26549245