Investigating the pH of food in the wake of COVID-19 - Acidic or Basic, what to eat?

It is May 2020, and the world has come to an unexpected standstill. It started in January in Wuhan, and now it has spread all over the world. It almost feels like someone is playing a devious game, and we have nothing to do but wait. Wait for a vaccine to make us immune to this deadly virus. But while researchers and doctors are doing their best to protect us from COVID-19, who will protect us from the virus that plagues our WhatsApp chats? There have been numerous messages that are being forwarded about the kind of food to eat and apparently the best kind of food to consume is that above pH 8! But do you know a product whose pH is actually 8? SOAPS! So, in this article, I will be breaking down pH and investigating it intricately to raise awareness about how misleading these WhatsApp messages truly are.

What is pH?

  • To explain it in simpler terms, I would say pH is the scale that quantitatively measures the acidity, neutrality or the alkalinity of a product.
  • Most compounds are made up of a combination of certain elements, and the primary ones are Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen. Apart from these are also many others that make up a compound, but when we talk about pH, our focus stays on Hydrogen and Oxygen.
  • Hydrogen, in its ionic form, wherein it is devoid of an electron, has a positive charge, i.e. H+.
  • The opposite of this is a hydroxide ion, where there is an excess electron provided by the oxygen, is negatively charged, i.e. OH-. Apart from OH-, there’s also the carbonate ion which too has an oxygen atom with an excess electron.
  • It’s the hydrogen and oxygen which drive the pH tide.
  • An acidic solution has more H+ and thus a low pH value and basic/alkaline solutions have more OH- and high pH value. A neutral solution, on the other hand, is devoid of any excess charge. It is balanced.
  • Simply put, pH 7 is neutral, and anything below that is acidic. And anything beyond 7 is basic.

What is the pH of our body?

  • The human body maintains a healthy balance between acidity and alkalinity. It does not have a single pH value as such, but different parts of your body do tend to function well in certain pH environments.
  • For example, your stomach releases gastric acids which help you digest food. The pH of this is around 1.5-3.5.
  • While certain parts of your intestine are slightly alkaline with a pH of around 7.35, this is so that the enzymes which assist in absorbing the necessary nutrients, work best in an alkaline environment.
  • But then our saliva is slightly alkaline with a pH of 6.2-7.6.
  • So, a closer look at your digestive tract tells that as you move from mouth to stomach to small intestine, the pH shifts from an alkaline to acidic to a basic environment.
  • But that is primarily because of the enzymes that are present in each part. Each enzyme works the best at a certain pH value; thus, each section has a pH value regulated as per the enzymes present.

What type of food to eat? Acidic or Basic?

Now that you have a better idea about the pH of your digestive tract, you might be confused about what type of pH to consume. Whether its alkaline or acidic. While the WhatsApp messages dictate that you consume foods that are of pH 8 and above, did you know that most of the foods that we consume are inherently acidic? Let’s break down the common type of foods and their pH values.
Common Acidic Foods
  • Lemon – Lemon juice which is the commonly consumed product of lemons, is rich in citric acid, thus, acidic in nature. It’s pH ranges around 2
  • Apple – Juice of apple is rich in malic acid, and the pH of it is around 3.5 to 4
  • Orange – Another popular citrus fruit, rich in citric acid has a pH close to 3
  • Fish – Depending on the variety, the pH can range from 5-6.5
  • Spinach – Popeye’s favourite food, this green leafy vegetable has a pH of 5.1-5.7
  • Milk – A prime component of a healthy diet and a great source of Calcium, milk has lactic acid which makes the pH stand around 6.5-6.7
Common Basic Foods
The reality is that most foods that we consume are acidic in nature. There are only a few in the list of foods that we consume that are alkaline.
  • Boiled Egg – Fresh eggs have a pH of around 7.5-8, and it may rise further as it becomes older. This unique occurrence is due to the fact that the egg loses carbon dioxide as it matures, which eventually raises the pH
  • Nuts – The pH of nuts can range from slightly acidic to alkaline with a pH range of 6.5-8.

Final Verdict

In conclusion, what you truly need is a balanced diet. Eat your carbohydrates for energy, your proteins for development, vitamins and minerals for proper functioning and water to maintain all of it. Consume pulses to get the macronutrients and include vegetables and fruits in your diet as they are a good source of nutrients as well as anti-oxidants. Remember, the best food plate you can serve yourself should contain your greens, reds, yellow and white. And this will help you build immunity, giving you the strength to fight off viruses, bacteria and many others.

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