What is an acidic food? The answer is more complicated than one would initially think. Some people want to avoid acidic foods because they are following the alkaline diet. Others avoid these foods because they suffer from heartburn or acid reflux (GERD).
But whatever their motivation, people often become hopelessly confused because they fail to distinguish between foods that are acidic, and foods that are acidifying or acid-forming.
An Acidic Food Is Acidic Before It Has Been Eaten
When we say that a food is acidic, we mean that the food has a low pH outside the human body, before it has been eaten and digested. If you took the juice from a lemon or a pear, for example, and applied it to a strip of pH test paper, the paper would change color to indicate a PH of less than 7.0.
The following foods are on the acid side of the pH spectrum:
- Lemon juice
- Lime juice
As I mentioned earlier, people who suffer from heartburn or GERD often avoid acidic foods because they believe that these foods will make their symptoms worse.
Both heartburn and GERD can indeed be caused by the overproduction of stomach acid, in which case eating an acidic food can make these problems worse. But what most people don't know is that the underproduction of stomach acid can also lead to heartburn and other digestive symptoms.
This is why some people actually find it helpful to drink a small quantity of apple cider vinegar mixed with water before each meal. The following dietary changes can also make a difference:
- Avoiding foods to which you are allergic
- Avoiding fried and fatty foods
- Emphasizing warm cooked meals instead of cold raw ones
An Acidifying Food Causes the Body to Become More Acidic After It Has Been Eaten
This fairly simple picture is complicated by the fact that some acidic foods do not have the same effect after they have been digested and assimilated.
To make sense of this confusing situation, alkaline diet experts use the terms acidifying and acid-forming to describe foods that cause the body to become more acidic.
For example, most types of vinegar are both acidic and acidifying. But there is one surprising exception: Apple cider vinegar is actually an alkalizing food because it it relatively rich in potassium and other minerals.
Lemon, lime, and other citrus fruits are also acidic outside the body, yet they have an alkalizing effect once they are consumed. Again, this is because they have a relatively high ratio of alkalizing minerals—especially potassium—to the acidifying minerals phosphorus and sulfur.
On the other hand, you wouldn't think of bread, cream, or sugar as an acidic food. Yet all three have an acidifying effect on the body.
The following foods may or may not be acidic, but they are strongly acidifying:
- Brazil nuts
- Chick peas (garbanzos)
- Corn (maize)
- Hazelnuts (filberts)
- Ice cream
- New cheese
- Palm kernel oil
- Pistachio nuts
- Soy milk
- Table salt
- White vinegar