A big missing link in mainstream approaches to weight loss and health is the study of the acid/alkaline balance, says Penni Shelton.

If you’ve consumed a typical Western diet for any significant length of time, you are most likely dealing with an acid issue. One of the main goals of a raw food diet is to move your body out of its acidic state and into a more alkaline environment. Studies show that cancer and other degenerative diseases can’t survive in an alkaline environment. Here are five alkaline-forming superfoods I recommend:

1. Young coconuts

One of the most powerful superfoods to help with hydration and alkalinity, the liquid in a young coconut is one of the richest known sources of electrolytes. Forget commercial sports drinks! This amazing water, or milk, is nearly identical to blood plasma. When we drink it, it’s like giving ourselves an instant blood transfusion. The flesh contains lauric acid, known for its antimicrobial effects. Most of the saturated fat in coconut oil consists of medium-chain fatty acids that are easily digested and assimilated, less likely to be stored in body fat, and can actually help you burn more fat. Natural coconut fat also helps normalise body lipids, protects against liver damage, and improves the immune system’s anti-inflammatory response. Plus, according to the Garvan Institute, coconut oil helps to protect against insulin resistance, which is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

2. Chia seeds

Nothing compares to the chia seed when it comes to hydration and endurance. Once soaked, these tiny seeds absorb nine times their volume in water and form a gel that is phenomenal at keeping your body hydrated. This gel is 90 percent soluble fibre, which is beneficial for your digestion and helps to lower cholesterol even better than oats. And talk about an impressive nutritional profile: the seeds have twice the protein of any other seed or grain, five times the calcium of milk, and copious amounts of omega-3 and omega-6, essential oils for the body. Savvy dieters love the seeds because the gel can be added to foods without changing their flavour, and it provides a feeling of fullness.

3. Bee pollen

The San Francisco Medical Research Foundation says pollen has more than 5,000 different enzymes and co-enzymes – more than any other food in existence. The high amount of enzymes makes pollen an aid to digestion. Pollen is a vegetarian source of human-active B12, B vitamins, vitamins A, C, D and E, rutin, lecithin, and all the essential amino acids. According to European research, pollen is the richest source of protein in nature. Gram for gram, pollen contains an estimated five to seven times more protein than meat, eggs or cheese. The protein in pollen is in a pre-digested form and therefore easy to assimilate.

4. Hemp seeds

No other single plant source has the essential amino acids in such an easily digestible form, or the essential fatty acids in such a perfect ratio to meet human nutritional needs. Hemp is rich in naturally balanced omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, magnesium, iron, potassium, fibre and phytonutrients, plus natural antioxidants like vitamin E. To my knowledge, these seeds are the highest vegan source of simple protein, which is required for proper immune system function. Hemp is the perfect alternative protein, less likely to cause allergic reactions and much less mucus-forming than dairy and soy sources. Many vegan super-athletes supplement their daily dietary regimen with hemp and spirulina.

5. Spirulina

is both a food from the past and a food for the future. Some scientists speculate that the manna of the wandering Israelites, which appeared miraculously on rocks following a dry spell and was described as tasting like wafers made with honey, may in fact have been dried, dormant spirulina. Spirulina is an incredible source of concentrated, absorbable nutrients. Because it is 65 to 70 percent complete protein with all essential amino acids in perfect balance, it’s a beneficial substitute for protein powders. In addition, this amazing algae provides vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, E and K, minerals, trace minerals, cell salts, phytonutrients, and an abundance of chlorophyll. Beef is only 22 percent protein and is difficult for most individuals to digest and assimilate. Even soybeans are only 34 percent protein. This makes spirulina one of the world’s highest known sources of usable protein. I believe that vegan sources of protein are superior because proteins from animals form relatively large amounts of uric acid, which can contribute to osteoporosis, gout, arthritis, lack of energy, acidic body chemistry, and ageing.

Dehydration + acid = fat

High acid levels and poor hydration have something in common. Check this out: Your body retains fat as a protection against acids produced by lifestyle (see “Are you too acidic?”) Some acids are eliminated through the bowels, urinary tract and skin, but whatever is left behind has to be buffered and neutralised. In the same way your body sustains an ideal body temperature of around 37ºC, it also intrinsically knows to maintain a precise pH balance. Your ingenious system goes to impressive lengths to keep your body in balance by storing fat, building cholesterol plaque, draining calcium from bones, and leaching magnesium out of your heart or muscles, all as part of its battle against acid damage.

Are you too acidic?

The following foods and lifestyle choices may lead to an acid problem:
* Meat, including chicken, pork, turkey and fish
* Dairy products, including eggs
* Bread, pasta, potatoes, and baked goods
* Cigarettes and other forms of tobacco
* Alcohol, prescription and recreational drugs
* Coffee and most commercial teas
* Processed or fast foods
* Sugar
* Artificial sweeteners
* Soft drinks and sports drinks
* No exercise
* Stress, negative emotions and spiritual emptiness

Penni Shelton healed herself from IBS through a raw food diet. She runs an international community website,, and is the author of Raw Food Cleanse (Ulysses Press/Scribo), from which this extract is reproduced with permission, which is available at all good bookstores.