Acidic pH levels in your body lead to weight gain and disease. The "power of hydrogen," or pH level should be between 7 and 7.25, but eating too much processed sugar, meat, dairy, saturated fats, alcohol and caffeine lowers that level -- the lower the number, the higher the acidity level. A study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" found that acidic diets promote muscle wasting in older adults. Eating an alkalizing diet preserves lean muscle mass and reduces the risk of falls and fractures.
Learn about acid-forming vs alkalizing foods. You can't judge a food's effect on your pH level by taste -- citrus fruits, bitter greens and fermented foods that taste sour or acidic actually alkalize your body and raise your pH level. Lemons and watermelon are the most alkalizing foods, with a pH level of 9, according to Jeffery Warber, M.D.
Limit acidic foods to no more than 20 to 35 percent of your diet. Animal proteins are acidic, especially beef, pork, veal and shellfish. Oysters, liver and other organ meats are low-acid foods. Peanuts, walnuts and cashews are acidic, while most seeds, such as pumpkin, sesame and sunflower are neutral. Almonds and hazelnuts are alkaline. Artificial sweeteners are highly acidic, but stevia, maple syrup and raw honey are alkaline. The majority of your diet should be made up of vegetables, fruits and gluten-free grains. Olive and coconut oils should be used instead of butter.
Don't drink bottled or distilled water. According to Warber, the type of water you drink greatly impacts your pH balance. Bottled water has had its minerals removed. Warber recommends adding minerals to your drinking water, either coral calcium supplements or unrefined gray sea salt, because "natural sea salt can reduce excess acidity and provides a steady boost in cellular energy."
Test your pH balance using a urine sample. It's important to test urine immediately; Medline Plus notes that "urine pH can be affected by various factors after collection such as leaving the urine standing in an uncovered container. Bacteria usually increase the pH as they break down urea in the urine to ammonia."
Eating fruits and vegetables raw, rather than cooked, may increase their alkalizing properties.
Certain medications can affect your pH balance. "Drugs that increase urine pH include acetazolamide, potassium citrate, and sodium bicarbonate. Drugs that can decrease urine pH include ammonium chloride, thiazide diuretics, and methenamine mandelate," states Medline Plus.