The facts behind some Hollywood food fads have as much substance as celery stick. But the new Alkaline A-lister diet passes the acid test. Here's why...
Our body is naturally alkaline, but produces acid. Add to this our predominantly acidic western diet and your digestive system could end up wholly off-balance. Acid built-up can lead to bloating, indigestion, IBS, bad breath, kidney and gall-stones, troubled skin and lank hair. Having a sluggish digestive system can also cause weight gain and loss of energy.
But by reassessing our cultural food habits and eating a balanced alkaline and acid diet we can restore the chemical harmony in our body and beat tummy troubles for good. Nutritionist and co-author of Honestly Healthy alkaline cookery book Vicki Edgson says, ‘It’s about getting the balance right. We can eat both types, but we need to ensure we eat more alkaline foods than acidic ones.’
Vicki recommends eating 70% alkaline foods which include grains, green vegetables, avocados, apples, garlic, mushrooms, green tea, oily fish, berries, lemon (which become alkaline when digested), tomatoes, beetroot and watermelon. Nuts are also alkaline except cashews, pistachios and peanuts, which are acid forming.
Only 30% of our intake should then be acidic. These foods include red meat, cheese, cream, coffee, alcohol, seafood (other than oily fish), eggs and sugary foods such as sweets, cakes, biscuits, and sweet fruit juice.
Celebrities Gwyneth Paltrow and Kirsten Dunst both 'eat alkaline', while Jennifer Aniston drinks an alkaline smoothie every morning and Miranda Kerr drinks only specially filtered alkalised water.
It’s easy to introduce more alkaline foods into your diet - without sacrificing taste or substance. ‘This way of eating is entirely non-fatty and doesn’t involve counting calories,’ says Vicki. Click through to try some recipes from her Honestly Healthy cookbook to get you started.
Honestly Healthy: Eat with your body in mind, the alkaline way by Natasha Corrett and Vicki Edgson, photography by Lisa Linder, published by Jacqui Small, £20.
Vicki says, 'My mother could never eat pizza because of a wheat intolerance, so it’s been my mission to put pizza on her plate. And here it is! (The pizza toppings recipes are per mini pizza, so double or quadruple up, as necessary.)'
For the bases
½ tsp active dry yeast
170ml (6fl oz/²/³ cup) lukewarm water
285g (9¼oz/2¼ cups) white spelt flour
½ tsp Himalayan pink salt (which is mineral rich, balancing sodium with other vital nutrients)
For the sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove
2 tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
300g (10oz) tomatoes, deseeded and diced
1 tbsp fresh or
1 tsp dried oregano
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Mix the yeast with the water, cover and set aside in a warm room for about 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, make the pizza sauce by heating the oil in a pan and sautéing the onion and garlic gently until the onions start to go soft, then add a splash of water to cool and add the remaining ingredients. Simmer for 15 minutes until the right consistency.
3. Whisk the yeast and water mixture and leave for another 5 minutes.
4. Place the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture. Turn out onto a work surface and knead for 5–10 minutes until smooth and silky to the touch, adding a little more flour if necessary.
5. Divide the bread dough into pieces, roll each piece into a ball, place on a baking tray (cookie sheet) lined with baking parchment and flatten into a circle. Smear on some tomato sauce followed by your choice of toppings (see below), then bake for 5 minutes, rotate and bake for a further 5 minutes, or until ready.
1. Artichoke and Basil with Mozzarella:
2 canned artichoke hearts, thinly sliced
2 basil leaves, shredded
20g (¾oz) buffalo mozzarella, torn into small pieces
2. Courgette and Lemon with Feta:
15g (½oz) courgette (zucchini), thinly sliced
3 strips of lemon rind, finely sliced
15g (½oz) feta, crumbled
3. Fennel and Sweet Potato with Goat’s Cheese:
10g (½oz) fennel, thinly sliced
15g (½oz) sweet potato, thinly sliced
6g (¼oz) hard goat’s cheese, grated
4. Roasted Garlic, Beetroot and Feta:
3 garlic cloves, roasted and squeezed out of the skins
7g (¼oz) beetroot (beet), thinly sliced
10g (½oz) feta, crumbled
Layered vegetable bake
Vicki says, 'This knocks the socks off any traditional lasagne I’ve ever tasted! Instead of the usual pasta layers I have used colourful vegetables, so it leaves you feeling much, much lighter but totally satisfied.'
80g (3oz/scant ½ cup) Puy lentils
4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing
1 beef tomato, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 beetroot (beet), cut into small dice
½ tsp tamari
1 tsp dried, chopped chives
Pinch of ground cumin
2 tbsp water
400g (13oz) butternut squash, thinly sliced lengthways
300g (10oz) courgettes (zucchini), thinly sliced lengthways
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/340°F/gas mark 3½.
2. Place the lentils in a small pan, cover with water, bring to the boil, then simmer for 10–15 minutes, until al dente. Drain and set aside.
3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan and squash the tomato into the oil to make a base for the sauce. Add the garlic and beetroot (beet) with the tamari, chives and a pinch of cumin. Add the water and cook over a medium heat for 15 minutes, or until reduced to a thick sauce. Add the lentils to the pan with a splash more water and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
4. Layer half the butternut squash and a third of the courgettes (zucchini) in an ovenproof dish and spread over half the lentil sauce. Repeat the layers, finishing with the remaining courgettes (zucchini). Brush the courgettes (zucchini) generously with olive oil, then bake for 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are just tender.
Quinoa and cranberry burgers
Vicki says, 'These sweet yet savoury mini burgers could be your main dish, or even make them bite-size for canapés. If you don't have nutritional yeast flakes, don’t worry, but they do add extra vitamin B12 and a slight cheesy taste.'
100g (3½oz) sweet potato, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
100g (3½oz/½ cup) quinoa
2 tsp bouillon powder
40g (1½oz/¹/³ cup) dried cranberries, soaked in water for 4 hours and drained
7g (¼oz) parsley, chopped
2 heaped tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
15g (½oz) arrowroot flour
Pinch of Himalayan pink salt
1 egg white
Olive oil, for sautéing
For the sauce
50g (2oz/¹/³ cup) macadamia nuts
2 tsp tahini
1 tsp grated fresh root ginger
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp water
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of ground cumin
1. To make the sauce, place all the sauce ingredients in a blender, whizz until smooth and set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 170°C/340°F/gas mark 3½.
3. Place the chopped sweet potato on a baking tray, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and bake for 30 minutes, until tender. Transfer to a mini food processor (or use a hand-held blender) with the remaining olive oil and blend to a purée. Increase the oven temperature to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
4. Meanwhile, measure the volume of the quinoa and bring twice the volume of water to the boil in a pan. Add the quinoa and bouillon powder, bring back to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes, or until the ‘germ’ separates. Drain and set aside.
5. Place the sweet potato purée in a bowl with the quinoa and the remaining ingredients and mix to a sticky consistency. Form the mixture into 8 burgers.
6. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and, working in batches if necessary, cook the burgers for about 2 minutes on each side, until golden. Transfer to a baking tray (cookie sheet) lined with baking parchment and bake for 10 minutes.
7. Serve the burgers at once, with the sauce.
Tomato and mushroom dhal
Vicki says, 'When travelling in India I was living off dhal and when I returned home I wanted to make sure I could still get my fix! This weekday staple is such a rich source of protein and is also very comforting.'
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, diced
½ tsp dried parsley
¼ tsp dried coriander (cilantro)
¼ tsp cumin seeds
200g (7oz) baby vine tomatoes
2 portobello mushrooms, sliced
900ml (1½ pints/3²/³ cups) water
400g (13oz/2 cups) split red lentils
5cm (2in) piece of red chilli, finely diced
100g (3½oz) fresh coriander, roughly chopped
30g (1¼oz) parsley, roughly chopped
70g (2¾oz) spinach (optional)
1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat and sauté the onion and garlic for 2 minutes or so, until they start to absorb the oil.
2. Stir in the dried parsley and coriander, cumin seeds, tomatoes and mushrooms with 25ml (1fl oz) of the water. Allow to sweat until the tomatoes start to split and the water is absorbed.
3. Stir in the lentils, chilli and 400ml (14fl oz/1⅔ cups) of the remaining water and cook over a medium heat for 25–30 minutes, adding the remaining water a little at a time as necessary until the lentils are cooked and reduced to a mushy consistency but still hold their shape.
4. To serve, stir in the fresh coriander and parsley and the spinach, if using.