Your body works constantly to keep a healthy balance. This includes balancing acidity and alkalinity, also known as pH levels.
Your body carefully controls the pH level of fluids such as blood and digestive juices.
Blood has a pH range of 7.35 to 7.45. This makes it slightly alkaline or basic.
Stomach acid has a low pH of about 3 to 5.5. This helps the stomach digest food and protects you from invading germs.
The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14:
- 7: neutral (pure water has a pH of 7)
- below 7: acidic
- higher than 7: alkaline
The range may seem small. However, each pH level is 10 times greater than the next. This means that a pH of 5 is 10 times more acidic than a pH of 6 and 100 times more acidic than 7. Similarly, a pH of 9 is 10 times more alkaline than a reading of 8.
Your body is effective at keeping pH levels stable. Diet can temporarily shift your body’s overall pH level. Some foods may make it slightly more acidic. Other foods may help keep it alkaline.
But eating a balanced diet will not significantly impact pH levels if you’re otherwise healthy.
Milk is a popular beverage that is hotly debated in terms of pros and cons for your health. Alternative milks, such as nut milks or soy milk, are often touted for their health benefits over traditional dairy.
Read on to learn where these drinks fall on the pH scale and what you should know about how they affect your body’s balance.
A food doesn’t have to taste acidic or have a low pH to be acid-forming in the body. This is a popular misconception.
The nutrients, minerals, and vitamins in a food are what make it acid or alkaline forming. Too many acids in the body can cause health problems, especially if you have an underlying condition.
Eating low-acid foods may help conditions such as acid reflux or heartburn. A medical study from Japan found that eating more alkaline-forming foods appeared to be removing acids from the blood, which might have a beneficial effect on gout.
Eating more alkaline-forming foods such as fruits and vegetables may also help improve and maintain muscle mass. A study found that women who ate more alkaline-forming foods had less natural muscle loss due to aging.
This may be because these foods are high in minerals such as potassium that are important for muscle and bone health.
As a general rule, dairy (such as cow’s milk), meat, poultry, fish, and most grains are acid-forming foods. Most fruits and vegetables are alkaline-forming. A balanced diet should have more alkaline-forming foods.
This can be a little complicated, as a pH level below 7 doesn’t necessarily translate to an acid-forming substance. A prime example is lemons, which are acidic before digestion but contain alkaline-forming byproducts once broken down in the body.
Milk — pasteurized, canned, or dry — is an acid-forming food. Its pH level is below neutral at about 6.7 to 6.9. This is because it contains lactic acid. Remember, though, that the exact pH level is less important than whether it’s acid-forming or alkaline-forming.
Other dairy products like butter, hard cheeses, cottage cheese, and ice cream are also acid-forming. Yogurt and buttermilk are alkaline-forming foods despite having low pH levels between 4.4 and 4.8.
The American College of Healthcare Sciences notes that raw milk is also an exception; it may be alkaline-forming. However, it may not be safe to drink untreated milk.
Milk doesn’t taste acidic. It’s even thought to be a remedy for acid reflux or heartburn. Milk may temporarily help soothe symptoms. This is because the fat in milk helps to coat the esophagus (food pipe) and stomach.
However, drinking milk may cause more heartburn symptoms. Milk makes the stomach produce more acid, which may worsen stomach ulcers or interfere with healing.
Like cow’s milk, the pH of goat milk depends on how it’s treated. Raw goat milk is alkaline-forming in the body. However, most goat milk available in stores is pasteurized and acidic-forming.
Soy milk is made from soy beans, which are legumes. While most legumes are acid-forming foods, soy beans are neutral or alkaline. Usually, soy milk is alkaline forming in the body.
The American College of Healthcare Science’s food chart notes that almonds are an alkaline-forming food. Almond milk is also alkaline-forming. This beverage has many other benefits as well.
Coconut milk’s effect on your body’s pH depends on how it’s made. Fresh coconut is alkaline-forming, while dried coconut is acid-forming.
Oat milk is made from oats and is acidic. Grains such as oats and oatmeal are acid-forming foods, even though they do have other benefits.
Your body needs both acid-forming and alkaline-forming foods. Eating a balanced diet helps you get all the nutrients you need for good health.
Choose healthy acid-forming foods such as fish, whole grains, lean meats, and dairy. Balance your diet with plenty of alkaline-forming vegetables and fruits.
Talk to your dietitian or nutritionist about the best balanced diet for you. If you have a health condition that can shift pH levels to be more acidic, such as diabetes, you may need more alkaline-forming foods.
This may include limiting milk and dairy products or switching to an alkaline-forming plant-based milk, such as soy milk or almond milk.
You can test your body’s acidity with pH or litmus paper. This test uses saliva or urine to give an approximate reading. The blue part of the paper will turn red if your body is acidic. The red part of the test will turn blue if your body is more alkaline.
Your pH level may change throughout the day. See your doctor to get an accurate pH test. This can determine whether your pH levels fall in normal ranges.