The alkaline or pH diet, fans claim aids weight loss but can help alleviate a ... -

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 It can allegedly make you happier, more energetic and even reverse the ageing process.

The theory is that all foods once digested leave a mineral residue in the body which is either acid or alkaline. Our bodies need to be alkaline so we should avoid overloading our system with acid-forming foods such as sugar, meat, dairy, white bread and pasta.

To neutralise acid our body steals minerals such as calcium and magnesium from our bones to keep the body's pH levels stable. To avoid an acid surplus eat foods which leave an alkaline residue. These are mainly green vegetables and most fruits, especially, though it sounds contradictory, acidic ones such as lemons.

The pH diet has proved controversial with doctors and nutritionists who say that the body can manage to stay alkaline all by itself. So what is the truth?

Despite being sceptical about the diet's wilder claims I'm intrigued as to its beauty and anti-ageing benefits. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow is believed to be a fan and who wouldn't want to emulate her lean limbs and glowing complexion?

As a confirmed carnivore, chardonnay and croissant addict I realise I'll need some help to point me in the right direction so I contact Stephanie Morgan whose company Raw & Juicy provides bespoke alkaline diet meals delivered to your door.

Stephanie says the diet, which consists mostly of fruit, salads, vegetables, chickpeas, coconuts and almonds, isn't meant to be an ordeal.

For a week I have to drink two litres of water infused with lemon juice and a special vegetable powder daily, plus green and herb teas. Tea, coffee and milk are banned. I explain to my husband he'll be fending for himself and our two children while I get gorgeous and svelte. He's not convinced.

The food is left on my doorstep in a cool-bag. There's no shopping, no cooking and no washing up. On day one my breakfast is peaches, coconut and soya yogurt.

There is a salad with sprouted chickpeas, raw spinach, almonds and beetroot and dinner is a vivid green minty spinach soup. I have olives and tomatoes as snacks.

The food is delicious but it doesn't fill me up and I go to bed dreaming of bread and butter. The next morning it's raspberries, coconut and green tea, another huge salad and a veggie Thai green curry for supper.

Despite almonds to snack on I'm still hungry and sneak in a few apples which Stephanie says is OK. To my horror I feel bloated rather than light and lean. By day three things are looking up. Yes, I get so hungry I eat my butternut squash soup mid-morning but by the evening the bloat is subsiding.

On day four I nearly weep with happiness to find my breakfast is bread made from spelt, a high protein grain, topped with raw almond butter and discovering raw chocolate in my package on day five has me dancing round my kitchen in delight.

By the end of the week I'm often full enough to ignore the snacks. I do however miss wine and cappuccinos. When I started the diet I thought I'd rejoice when it was over but I'm devastated.

Not only have I had a week off cooking, I've lost 4lbs and even my husband tells me I look better. I decide to try to follow the diet for another week, this time preparing the food myself. As a busy working mum can I keep this up alone?

Stephanie gives a me list of foods to eat and to avoid and a book of healthy vegan recipes. I invest in almond butter, lettuce, avocados and soya yogurt.

My plan is fruit for breakfast with soya yogurt which I buy from the local health food shop.

I have a massive salad for lunch with hummus or falafel (or both) and make either a veggie soup or a curry for supper.

M y husband is tolerant of my experiments and loves the curries but my children, Cecily, six, and Henry, 10, hunger after my homemade burgers and shepherd's pie. They like vegetables but not my veggie curries. They will eat falafel but only in pitta bread, not on lettuce. I end up cooking separate meals for the family

By the end of the fortnight I've lost half a stone but I find keeping up a near-vegan diet difficult and, without meat, I feel rather tired.

Nutritionist Zoe Harcombe warns: "A diet that cuts out animal foods can have dangers long term. A vegan diet cannot provide certain vitamins such as retinol, the animal form of vitamin A, which is vital for wound healing, cell repair and eyesight, vitamin B12, which is essential to prevent anaemia and vitamin K2."

Stephanie says the key to integrating an alkaline diet into life is to adopt a 70/30 rule. While 70 per cent of your diet should be alkaline, 30 per cent can include meat, coffee and wine.

I'd say this it is a more realistic approach. The Raw & Juicy diet was a brilliant kick-start to a healthier regime but at £50 a day it's very expensive.

By cutting down on starchy food, increasing salads and green veg and choosing proteins such as nuts, seeds and chickpeas, I feel I have a much healthier diet.

However I don't believe the more dramatic claims about the alkaline diet. It's my son's 10th birthday, I've made a chocolate cake and there's no way I'm not having a slice. I may not end up looking like Gywneth but that is a sacrifice I am happy to make.

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17 Oct, 2011

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