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The Acid-Alkaline Balance Diet (Part I)

Chiu-Nan Lai, Ph.D., Compiled by Rachel Tsang

Cell tissues in the body need pH 6.5 to 7.5 to operate normally. The average pH should be a slightly alkaline 7.4. An environment which is too acidic or too alkaline can cause death of cells. Whatever we eat, breathe, drink and the invisible electromagnetic waves, radio waves and radiation can directly affect the body’s pH balance.

Concentrated high-protein food such as beef, seafood, eggs, coffee and chocolate are the most acidic. Second to these are hard dairy products (cheese), beer, wine, rice, noodles, and bread. The least acidic forming foods are whole-grain bread, nuts, soft dairy products (butter, cream). Milk, goat’s milk, whey (residue from cheese making) are pH neutral.

Among the grains, millet, amaranth, quinoa and sprouted grains are slightly alkaline. Sprouted nuts and seeds are also slightly alkaline. Fresh vegetables, fruits, sea vegetables, some beans (such as lentils, white beans, kidney beans, French beans) are also alkaline forming foods.

The most alkaline forming foods are cucumber, radishes, melons, ginger, spinach, soy lecithin, figs (dried), mushrooms, beets, celery, carrots, tomatoes, dandelion, olives, oranges and bananas. The least alkaline forming foods are the potato varieties, lentils, onions and garlic.

To maintain an acid-alkaline balance in the body, 80% of the intake of food should be alkaline-based and 20% acid-based. This means the intake of food each day should consist of six parts of fruits and vegetables, one part of concentrated protein and one part of grain or carbohydrates.

Other than the influence of diet, fresh air (oxygen) in the forest is alkaline forming. Take a deep breath, exhale carbon dioxide, inhale oxygen to alkaline the blood. Air pollution has the opposite effect, making the blood acidic. Radio waves and electromagnetic waves produce an acidic reaction in the body. Emotions, tension and pressure also make the blood acidic.

The easiest way to test the body pH is to use the pH test strips to test the urine. Usually the normal pH reading in early morning is pH6.5 and pH7.5 in the night. If it is higher than 7.5 or less than 6.5, it means it is that either too alkaline or too acidic and needs to be balanced. The early morning pH is generally the lowest, slowly increases during the day and begins to decrease in the evening.

Generally, most people have an acidic body, which is the cause of almost all degenerative diseases and ageing. This includes obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, kidney stones, incontinence, rheumatism, osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes and a variety of infectious diseases. Minerals are alkaline, and the main minerals required for different parts of the body are listed in the following table for reference.

The Main Minerals of a pH Balance Body

Sodium Gastrointestinal Celery, seaweed, spinach, carrots, whey.
Calcium Bones Orange, lemon, dark green vegetables, cabbage, seaweed.
Magnesium Nervous system Polenta, apricots, stone fruits, vegetables.
Manganese Brain California walnuts, raw egg yolk, red algae, seeds of stone fruits.
Potassium Muscles and Urinary System Fruit, melons, grains.
Silicon Skin, hair, nails Oats, barley, lettuce, seeds of stone fruits, rice bran, kelp.
Iodine Catalyst for metabolism Seaweed, red seaweed, agar, asparagus, beans, blueberries

There are many human factors to cause the body to be acidic. That is why in the diet, it is necessary to add alkaline forming foods, especially for breakfast. This is because the body is more acidic in the early morning. Here are some recommendations for breakfast and other meals.


Rice and Porridge Varieties

Grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, millet, rice, amaranth, oats increase in nutritional value after sprouting. Sprouting also makes it easier to digest. Soak buckwheat for 15 to 30 minutes, drain and cover with a transparent lid. In 1–2 days, sprouting can be seen. Quinoa only needs to be soaked for 4–6 hours. Other grains need to be soaked overnight and then drain the water. Cover with lid and leave to germinate for 2 days.

Porridge — 1 part grain to 5 parts water

Rice — 1 part grains to 2 parts water

(Eg: 1 cup of dried buckwheat becomes 2 cups after sprouting. Add 5 parts water to cook into porridge)

For salty flavour: Add a little sea vegetable, or do not add anything and eat it as a side dish.

As a sweet: Add figs and raisins (soaked overnight) to pot 1 – 2 minutes before the dish is cooked. Appropriate amount of orange peel and ginger can also be added. Soak flaxseed overnight, 1 part flaxseed to 3 parts water and add both the flaxseed and water to the pot 3 minutes before removing from heat. The proportion of the porridge is 4 parts grain to 1 part flaxseed.


Cooked Porridge, Gruel, Rice

Thermos (or stew pot) Porridge

Grains, sprouted (2-3 days): buckwheat, wheat, barley, oats, quinoa, amaranth seeds.

Soak ½ – 1 cup of sprouted grains for each person the night before in a wide-mouth thermos flask or thermos pot. Add equal amount of boiling water and close tightly. Boil again the next morning and it is ready for eating.

If the insulation of the thermos flask is ineffective, then the water will be cool the next day. It would be better to change to a better insulated pot. According to personal preference, add a little sea vegetable, ginger, fennel, cilantro (coriander), raisins, dried figs, wolfberry, red dates, etc at the same time when adding water.


Rice Cooker Porridge, Congee, Rice

Millet and brown rice takes a longer time to cook. So if the rice cooker has a timer, add sprouted rice or other grains into the electric rice cooker the night before.

In cooking porridge, it depends on personal preference. When using dry grains, use about 5 parts of water (when using sprouted grains, use 2–3 parts water). When cooking rice, add 2 parts water for dry grains. For sprouted grains, use equal amount of water.

Rice can only be combined with grains of the same consistency: millet, amaranth seeds, quinoa and buckwheat (but not wheat).

If you have forgotten to prepare the night before, use the stove to cook over low heat. Millet and brown rice needs 20 minutes, whereas quinoa and buckwheat needs only 10 minutes.

A friend of mine has three school children. She would soak the buckwheat overnight and only need to quick boil it the next day and it is ready. Depending on personal preference, add different miso (some are made from red beans, some from chickpeas and some from barley – each has its individual taste). Miso contains enzymes, once it is mixed in, the buckwheat begins to break down, making it easy to digest and be absorbed by the body.

If the climate and physical constitution are suitable, you can make raw porridge. Only a blender is needed and no other equipment. Just blend the ingredients and it is ready to be eaten. Here are some methods for making raw porridge such as blended banana and flaxseed.


Traditional Porridge Cooking Method

To cook porridge the traditional way: Boil water over high heat. Add sprouted grains, beans and other ingredients. This makes it easier to soften and the taste is better. When water is boiling, lower the heat. Let it simmer and remove scum. Or put porridge into an electric pot and continue to cook till it is ready.

Put a little cooking oil into the water and the porridge will not overflow from the pot.

Traditionally, baking soda is added to soften the porridge faster. But baking soda can destroy the vitamin B group, so it is better not to add it. Pre-soaked sprouts can accelerate the process of cooking.

Traditionally, porridge has the unique characteristics of different regions, seasons and herbs (that tone the body). Northern Chinese eat herbal porridge in spring, mung bean porridge in summer, lotus root porridge and chrysanthemum porridge in autumn and eight-treasure porridge, raw ginger porridge and spring onion (white part) and others in winter. In summer, there are also some “cooling” porridge like lotus leaves porridge, winter melon porridge, water chestnut porridge, pear porridge, hawthorn porridge. Porridge suitable for those with weak stomach are millet porridge, raw ginger porridge. Walnut porridge complements the ‘yang’ deficiency. Fennel porridge balances ‘cold’ stomach, and for spleen and stomach deficiency, wild yam porridge, lotus seed porridge and ginseng porridge.


The “Lai’s Family Breakfast”

Millet Porridge

Millet, quinoa, oatmeal, black dates, red dates, wolfberry, barley, semen euryales (Qiànshí), almonds and raisins. Millet is the main component, so add a small amount of the other ingredients. Add black sesame powder, moss, kelp, pumpkin seed oil, flaxseed oil, miso and so on into the cooked porridge according to personal preference.


5-Flavours Porridge – 1 person portion (Not cooked)

Soak overnight 2 tablespoons of oats, a few cashews, almond and raisins with filtered water. In the morning, add 1 lemon juice, a little cayenne pepper and a little bit of brine (saturated salt water made from Himalayan Crystal Salt or other mineral rock salt).


Quick Breakfast

Amaranth and Flaxseed Gruel – 1 person portion (Not cooked)

2 tablespoons of sprouted amaranth

1 tablespoon flaxseed

2 dried figs (soak overnight in 3 tablespoons of water and do not drain water)

1 cup of water

  1. Add amaranth in boiling water. Simmer for two minutes.
  2. Pour into blender and blend with flax seed and fig. Optionally, you can add 2 tablespoons of sprouted buckwheat and ginger.


Ginger Banana Flaxseed Gruel – 1 portion (Not cooked)

1 banana

2 slices of ginger

1 tablespoon of flaxseed and 2 figs (soak in 3 tablespoons of water overnight)

¼ cup of hot water

Blend hot water and flaxseed, figs and ginger together. Pour over the diced banana.


Coconut Milk Rice Pudding (Gruel)

1 cup of rice (fragrant rice or mixed with other type of rice), sprout for 2-3 days

  1. Add a cup of water and blend.
  2. Add two cups of coconut milk (squeezed from 1 coconut).
  3. 3 tablespoons of brown sugar or other natural sugar or stevia.
  4. Put into rice cooker and put half a cup of water in the outer pot.

(Note: Rice cookers with inner and outer pots are used in Taiwan. For readers in Singapore, you may want to adapt this step by steaming the mixture directly.)


Variety of Dishes (to go with porridge, congee or cakes)


Basic ingredients:

1 red or green cabbage, cut into strips

1 teaspoon of natural sea salt or rock salt

1 teaspoon of pepper

  1. Mix all the ingredients, allow juice to come out.
  2. Pack tightly in a glass jar; let the juice cover the vegetables.
  3. Cover with lid and leave at room temperature for about 3 days (if the weather is hot, maybe 1–2 days).

It can keep for about 3 months if refrigerated.

Other ingredients: coriander, ginger, pepper, chili, cucumber, turnip, radish. Add according to your preference.


Pickled Lime

8 thin-skinned yellow limes (yellow when ripe)

½ cup natural sun-dried sea salt or rock salt

  1. Wash limes. When completely dried, add salt.
  2. Put in a glass bottle and leave bottle under the sun (or on the windowsill where there is sunlight) to sit in sun for 30 days.
  3. Stir twice a day to let the lime and salt mix thoroughly. Lime skin will shrink and turn brown.
  4. It is ready for consumption in 30 days.

Refrigeration is not needed. Ensure that clean chopsticks are used when removing from the bottle. In this way, the lime can be stored for a long time. Each lime can be cut into 4 portions, each portion for 1 person. This dish came from India and is a breakfast condiment. If eaten with other meals, it can help digestion.


Lemon Pickled Ginger

200g fresh ginger (80 oz. or 1 large piece)

½ teaspoon of natural sea salt

Pinch of black pepper

3–4 lemons

  1. Wash ginger, remove skin.
  2. Cut into thin slices and add lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  3. Leave at room temperature for 30 minutes before bottling and refrigeration. It can be kept for a week.

The best time to eat ginger is during breakfast. It warms the stomach and promotes digestion.


Salted Cucumber and Others

Cut off both ends of cucumber and then cut into long strips. Sprinkle a little brine (saturated salt water).

Other ingredients: Cut green flowering vegetable stalks, green papaya, turnip and cauliflower into thin slices. Leave at room temperature. Ready to be eaten after a day. Store in the refrigerator. Umeboshi vinegar can be added as seasoning.


Miso Cucumber (or Vegetables)

The above ingredients can be marinated in miso sauce for more than a day before it can be consumed. The longer it is marinated, the saltier it will be.

To be continued

The original Chinese article is published in the Feb 2009 issue of Lapis magazine and is accessible online at: