Acid/Base Balance

In the U.S., calcium intake is one of the highest in the world, yet paradoxically we also have one of the highest rates of bone demineralization (osteoporosis). Bone mineral content is dependent not just upon calcium intake, but upon net calcium balance (calcium intake minus calcium excretion). Most nutritionists focus upon the calcium intake side of the calcium balance equation; however, few realize that the calcium excretion side of the equation is just as important.

Bone health is substantially dependent on dietary acid/base balance. All foods upon digestion ultimately must report to the kidneys as either acid or base. When the diet yields a net acid load (such as low-carb fad diets that restrict consumption of fruits and vegetables), the acid must be buffered by the alkaline stores of base in the body. Calcium salts in the bones represent the largest store of alkaline base in the body and are depleted and eliminated in the urine when the diet produces a net acid load. The highest acid-producing foods are hard cheeses, cereal grains, salted foods, meats, and legumes, whereas the only alkaline, base-producing foods are fruits and vegetables. Because the average American diet is overloaded with grains, cheeses, salted processed foods, and fatty meats at the expense of fruits and vegetables, it produces a net acid load and promotes bone demineralization. By replacing hard cheeses, cereal grains, and processed foods with plenty of green vegetables and fruits, the body comes back into acid/base balance which brings us also back into calcium balance. The goal is to avoid a net acid load on your kidneys.

The Paleo Diet recommends an appropriate balance of acidic and basic (alkaline) foods (i.e., grass produced or free ranging meats, fish and seafood, fruits, and vegetables) and will not cause osteoporosis in otherwise healthy individuals. Indeed, The Paleo Diet supports bone health.

In addition to promoting bone demineralization, a net acid-producing diet also contributes to the following maladies and illnesses: calcium kidney stones, age-related muscle wasting, hypertension, stroke, asthma and exercise-induced asthma.

Acid/Base Values for 114 Foods

The following table lists the acid, base values for 114 common foods. Base-producing foods are fruits and vegetables, whereas grains, meats, fish, cheese and salted processed foods are acid-producing.

PRAL (Potential Renal Acid Load per 100 grams)

(Negative numbers indicate base or alkaline-producing foods and positive numbers are acid-producing foods)

Beer, draft -2,00
Beer, pale 9,00
Beer, stout bottled -1,00
Coca-cola 4,00
Cocoa, made with semi-skimmed milk -4,00
Coffee, infusion 5 minutes -14,00
Mineral water (Apollinaris) -18,00
Mineral water (Volvic) -1,00
Red wine -24,00
Tea, Indian infusion -3,00
White wine, dry -12,00
Fats and Oils
Butter 6,00
Margarine -5,00
Olive oil 0,00
Sunflower seed oil 0,00
Cod fillets 71,00
Haddock 68,00
Herring 7,00
Trout, brown steamed 108,00
Fruits and Fruit Juices
Apple Juice, unfiltered -22,00
Apples, 15 varieties flesh & skin, average -22,00
Apricots -48,00
Bananas -55,00
Black currants -65,00
Cherries -36,00
Grape juice, unsweetened -1,00
Kiwi fruit -41,00
Lemon juice -25,00
Orange juice, unsweetened -29,00
Oranges -27,00
Peaches -24,00
Pears, 3 varieties flesh and skin, average -29,00
Pineapple -27,00
Raisins -21,00
Strawberries -22,00
Watermelon -19,00
Hazelnuts -28,00
Walnuts 68,00
Grain Products
Bread, rye flour mixed 4,00
Bread, rye flour 41,00
Bread, wheat flour mixed 38,00
Bread, wheat flour whole meal 18,00
Bread, white bread 37,00
Cornflakes 6,00
Crispbread, rye 33,00
Noodles, egg 64,00
Oat flakes, rolled oats 107,00
Rice, brown 125,00
Rice, white, easy cook 46,00
Rice, white, easy cook, boiled 17,00
Rye flour, whole 59,00
Spaghetti, white 65,00
Spaghetti, whole meal 73,00
Wheat flour, white plain 69,00
Wheat flour, whole meal 82,00
Beans, green/French beans -31,00
Lentils, green and brown, whole, dried 35,00
Peas 12,00
Peanuts, plain 83,00
Meat and Meat Products
Beef, lean only 78,00
Chicken, meat only 87,00
Corned beef, canned 132,00
Frankfurters 67,00
Liver sausage 106,00
Luncheon meat, canned 102,00
Pork, lean only 79,00
Rump steak, lean and fat 88,00
Salami 118,00
Turkey, meat only 99,00
Veal, fillet 9,00
Milk, Dairy Products
Buttermilk 5,00
Camembert cheese 146,00
Cheddar cheese, reduced fat 264,00
Cheese, Gouda 186,00
Cottage Cheese, Plain 87,00
Creams, fresh, sour 12,00
Fresh Cheese (Quark) 111,00
Full fat, soft cheese 43,00
Hard cheese, average 4 types 192,00
Ice Cream, dairy, vanilla 6,00
Whole milk, evaporated 11,00
Whole milk, pasteurized 7,00
Parmesan cheese 342,00
Processed cheese, plain 287,00
Yogurt, whole milk, fruit 12,00
Yogurt, whole milk, plain 15,00
Eggs, chicken, whole 82,00
Egg white 11,00
Egg yolk 234,00
Sugar, Preserves, and Sweets
Chocolates, milk 24,00
Honey -3,00
Madeira cake 37,00
Marmalade -15,00
Sugar, white -1,00
Asparagus -4,00
Broccoli, green -12,00
Carrots, young -49,00
Cauliflower -4,00
Celery -52,00
Chicory -2,00
Cucumber -8,00
Eggplant -34,00
Leeks -18,00
Lettuce, average 4 varieties -25,00
Lettuce, iceberg -16,00
Mushrooms, common -14,00
Onions -15,00
Peppers, green -14,00
Potatoes, gold -4,00
Radish, red -37,00
Spinach -14,00
Tomato juice -28,00
Tomatoes -31,00
Zucchini -46,00
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This table adapted from: Remer T, Manz F. Potential renal acid load of foods and its influence on urine pH. J Am Diet Assoc 1995;95:791-797.

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