Shannon Burman, RD
Clinical Registered Dietitian
Does the Alkaline Diet Prevent Cancer?
The alkaline diet is based on the unsubstantiated claim that cancer cells cannot thrive or grow in an alkaline environment (high pH) but favor more acidic conditions (low pH). Its claim-to-fame is that if you eat alkaline foods and avoid acidic foods (like grains, meats, dairy, eggs and processed foods), you can change the pH of your body which will in turn prevent cancer cells from multiplying or spreading.
According the American Institute of Cancer Research, the basis of this is not untrue—cancer cells thrive in more acidic environments. However, this evidence was found only in isolated laboratory settings. It would be impossible to create a less-acidic, less-cancer friendly environment in the human body, regardless of dietary intake.
Our bodies have several mechanisms that ensure our pH does not vary from a very specific level. Kidney and respiratory functions tightly regulate blood pH so it remains within the desired range of 7.35- 7.45. Even minimal changes to our blood pH can result in life-threatening emergencies. In short, the food we consume has does not affect the pH of our blood.
While what you eat matters significantly in regards to cancer risk, it is not acidity or alkalinity that is of utmost importance. Rather, focusing on a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and getting enough exercise have been proven to be the best prevention when it comes to cancer.
A healthy, balanced diet can help prevent cancer from occurring and even help you feel well throughout treatment. Here are a few proven suggestions for improving your diet.
Whole grains: Try new grains like couscous, quinoa, barley. Or try the whole-grain version of foods you already love such as 100% whole wheat bread, bagels, tortillas, pasta or crackers. Choose breads that say “100% whole wheat” on the front label as they will have whole wheat flour as the first ingredient.
Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Choose fruits and vegetables more often. Include whole fruits in your diet and avoid fruit juices. Try seasonal vegetables and new recipes to get the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
Choose lean meats or plant proteins. Limit consumption of red and processed meats (like bacon, sausage, luncheon meats) and choose fish, beans, peas, unsalted nuts and seeds most often. Go meat-less at least once a week to incorporate more of these fiber-filled plant proteins on a regular basis.
Avoid added sodium (salt), saturated fat and sugar in your diet. These three are often added to foods to improve their flavor, increase their shelf-life and keep you coming back for more. However, they can also be associated with excess weight which in turn has been shown to increase risk of many types of cancer.
— Choose “no salt added” canned beans and vegetables
— Opt for low-fat or nonfat dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt)
— Pick canned fruits packed in 100% juice rather than heavy syrup. Cookies, cakes and candies should be viewed as treats and consumed in moderation.
Enjoy alcohol in moderation if at all. One drink per day for women and no more than two per day for men. Ask your doctor before consuming alcohol while undergoing cancer treatment. You do have the power to make wise choices to improve your health. If you need more guidance in choosing appropriate foods, our nutrition classes offer helpful information or you can make an appointment with the dietitian by calling 805.219.HOPE (4673).
What’s Coming Up?
Fighting Cancer with Your Fork Nutrition Classes:
Sept. 12 • 10:00 a.m.
Debunking Fad Diet Myths
Oct. 10 • 10:00 a.m.
Mission Hope Cancer Center