The Alkaline Diet Aka Glowy Skin Kit!
When I read about Gwyneth Paltrow, Naomi Watts and Miranda Kerr drinking green smoothies for sparkling skin earlier this year the alkaline story caught my attention. Their pre red carpet diets featured spinach, kale, celery and parsley, and it didn’t take long for blogs, Instagram and Twitter to be filled with everyday people blending green. So why should we be embracing greens? In simple terms an alkaline diet is one that’s plant-based with less or no cow’s dairy, cereals, high fat meats, alcohol, processed foods, fizzy drinks and sugary snacks. Over time, an accumulation of these sugary, acid-forming foods leads the body to suck up essential minerals from elsewhere in the body so that it can break down the excess acid. To make matters worse, it often then dumps the excess acid into body tissue to be stored as fat. Eating dark, leafy greens and other vegetables like beetroot, aubergine, sweet potatoes, kale and avocado along with barley, quinoa and lentils is what the alkaline diet experts say will transform your health and wellbeing. Forget a pot of promises costing hundreds of pounds – these foods are apparently the fast track to glowing skin, stronger nails, a flatter tummy, more energy and a calmer mind. ‘This is a lifestyle not a fad diet and it’s all about upgrades,’ says Natasha Corrett, co-author of Honestly Healthy a book of recipes and passion for alkaline living (she’s also just launched a nationwide food delivery service, Fridge Fill). ‘Diets that work on abstinence and will power are unsustainable. Making small, gradual changes or what I call upgrades is the best way of undoing bad habits,’ she says. Luckily it doesn’t have to be 100 per cent strict either. Natasha says eating alkaline-rich 70 per cent of the week and letting your hair down the 30 per cent of the time is the best way of doing it. Now, I’m no unhealthy eater. I’ve been a vegetarian nearly all of my life (since I was nine) and dropped most dairy about four years ago. Plus, my cupboards are stacked with the latest green powder or super-food thanks to my job as a health and beauty writer in the national press. But there’s always room for improvement, right? Despite my seemingly healthy diet, my digestion has always been a weak point such as constant bloating and gassiness (never an attractive thing) and I occasionally have random, spotty breakouts. The more I investigated the health implications of an overly acidic diet – tiredness, headaches, PMS, bloating, flatulence, weight gain – the more I scrutinised my own dinner plate. Maybe I can nip my tummy troubles in the bud and sort my skin out with a few alkaline diet tweaks? Natasha described how the body detoxes during the night and wakes up in an acidic state so drinking lemon water tips the tummy back to alkaline. So now I have a hot water lemon every morning without fail. While lemon is acidic in its natural state, once digested it turns alkaline and can curb sugar cravings and rid the body of excess water retention. Within just a few weeks of starting the day with lemon water my digestion showed signs of improvement – less bloating and gassiness in general. Now I drink it throughout the day too to maintain the good benefits. I zeroed in on sugar too. It’s a known no-no for skin with experts such as A-list dermatologist Dr Perricone who’s warned about the perils of sugar on premature skin ageing for years. So I gradually trimmed my sugar intake – I no longer eat cereal bars and have completely cut out fruit juice which has helped cut down sugar cravings. Now I can enjoy sweet things when I want them as treats but not because my body is craving them. Next I looked at alcohol. Every time I’ve had a hydrotherapy colonic or detox cleanse over the years, the gassiness and bloating returns as soon as I re-introduce alcohol. Not only is it highly acidic but high in sugar too. So this year I dropped my glass or two of red wine with dinner every night (saving it for dinners out or weekends) and I honestly don’t miss it. The improvement to my little belchy belly has been significant – it’s more settled and seems healthier, looks flatter, and feels lighter. If I’ve had an indulgent week then a green smoothie is on the menu for breakfast at the weekend. I simply pile into the blender any organic greens I can get my hands on – spinach, mint, cucumber, lettuce, kale plus a whole organic lemon (yes, juice, pith and rind) and an apple, pear or honey to balance the taste. Water or coconut water will dilute the consistency and practice makes perfect when it comes to getting it to taste good. My breakfast is usually avocado on toast and at the weekends I’ll grill tomatoes with salt, pepper, chilli flakes and olive oil. Lunches consist of mineral-rich bean dips, lentil or quinoa salad, dhal or butternut squash soup. Dinners are often full of greens and vegetables so I may have steamed greens sautéed with garlic and chilli or tofu and miso paste or roasted beetroot, red onions and squash. Eating alkaline-rich not only feels clean without the meat, dairy and processed foods, experts say it’s also great for maintaining a balanced mood. I also feel more in tune with my body so I know when to reach for a lentil lunch – when I’m feeling anxious – or seek out some vegetable sushi if I feel the need for salt. I love this idea of lifestyle upgrades too – choosing a delicious sourdough or rye bread over a cheap white loaf or a little bit of dark chocolate over a whole bar of Toblerone. As a result of these small changes – sorry, upgrades – I’m happier, lighter and have more energy (apart from Monday morning slump when I reach for coffee!). Recently I stopped worrying about my weight too, as this way of eating seems to naturally keep weight in balance. I rarely feel bloated or have excessive sweet cravings – so liberating -and my skin is also better behaved with no unpredictable break outs, but a healthy clearness I haven’t seen in years. This way of eating also doesn’t impose any obscure rules or a fear of food, just abundance of natural, fresh and delicious foods and a little bit of something extra when you want it. Read: wine and chocolate. On the menu Lemons – squeezed in salads and sauces, as substitute for balsamic vinegar and squeezed into water or herbal tea throughout the day Watercress, rockets, spinach, lettuce – for making into soups, smoothies and salads Root vegetables, courgettes, aubergine, peppers – to form the basis of curries, bakes, stir-fries, steaming, soups and stews Coconut oil, almond butter, sesame seed paste – as a spread on toast Quinoa, wild rice, barley and lentils – for making into salads and stews Butter beans, cannellini beans and chick peas – for easy dips Avocado – to eat on toast for breakfast or lunch (finish with a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper) Goat’s dairy (optional) – remains alkaline when digested so this is on Natasha’s go-to list Off the menu Meat, fish, poultry Cheese and milk – in alkaline terms, cow’s dairy turns acidic once digested Sugary snacks – beware of hidden sugars in fruit yoghurts, cereal bars, dried fruit, fruit juice Condiments – balsamic vinegar, Caesar salad dressing, soy sauce (use miso paste diluted with water instead) Alcohol – a little a few times a week is fine Sourced From Healthista