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Top MD’s Delicious 80/20 Plan Heals the Body for Effortless Weight Loss: 6 Simple Tips to Make It Work for You

"Weight loss will start from day one, and it usually comes off the belly first," says Dr. Barnard.

Over the years, we’ve blamed many factors for our frustrating weight struggles: bad genes, social pressures, uncontrollable cravings. But an overly acidic body doesn’t usually come to mind. And maybe it should… Many experts now say that a majority of women over age 40 are plagued by internal acid overload. This body-chemistry imbalance can cause stubborn fat to stay locked on our bodies. The good news: Eating more alkalinizing foods can help. “Alkaline foods do the magic for you, muscling the weight off so you don’t have to work it off,” says Neal Barnard, MD, a professor at George Washington University School of Medicine and bestselling author of Your Body in Balance. It worked for one woman we spoke with, who lost 100 pounds. Keep reading for her story and to learn how Dr. Neal Barnard alkaline diet can work for you.

Understanding acid vs. alkaline foods

Dr. Barnard explains that all foods, after they are digested in the chemistry lab of our body, leave by-products in our system. Some foods, like vegetables and herbs, form alkalinizing particles. These particles harmoniously match the natural alkalinity of our blood for optimal health and energy. In contrast, other foods like meat, cheese and refined sugar form acid particles. When we consume more of these foods, it creates an overload, called acidosis.

It’s important to point out that we’re talking about how foods react inside the body. A food like lemons can be naturally acidic outside the body and on our dinner plate. But once eaten it actually has a calming, cleansing and alkalinizing effect inside the body. The foods to be concerned about are the ones that flare acid internally after we eat them.

How does the body become so acidic?

Modern life has caused dangerous amounts of acid to build up inside our system. The processed meats and cheeses of the standard American diet, for example, produce internal acid. What’s more, stress and the toxins we encounter from the environment also force our bodies into an acidic state. To offset and contain the acid, our body has to respond. It pulls alkalinizing minerals like calcium and magnesium from our bones, teeth and tissue to neutralize the threat, shifting our body’s pH balance.

Related: You’re May Not Get Enough Magnesium If You Feel Achy, Tired & Can’t Lose Weight

How acid buildup affects weight

When internal acid builds up, it lowers our metabolism. Organic chemist and nutritionist Dee McCaffrey, author of The Science of Skinny, explains, “To keep excess acid from entering our vital organs, the body shunts it into fat cells to quarantine the acid inside.”

This acidic state also triggers harmful changes in the body. It short-circuits activity of the fat-burning hormone called adiponectin. “When this hormone is shut off, the fat around our middle, thighs and butt never gets burned off,” says Ross Bridgeford, bestselling author of The Alkaline Reset Cleanse. As a result, he adds, “Your cells are starved of nutrients, you feel bloated and sluggish and you can’t lose weight, no matter how carefully you diet.” Bottom line: Bridgeford adds, “If you want to lose weight, you have got to get that pH balance back.”

Dr. Neal Barnard alkaline diet reduces acid buildup

Reversing the acid is as easy as increasing your intake of alkalinizing minerals and limiting acid-forming ingredients, says Dr. Barnard. To do so, eat a diet that contains 80% alkaline foods, like vegetables and beans, and 20% acid-forming foods, like bread and pasta. “If your diet is mostly alkaline and you have an acidic food, no big deal. But when your body is acidic, whatever few alkaline foods you eat don’t have a chance to heal you.” On Dr. Barnard’s alkaline diet he says, “It’s not about being perfect, it’s about getting more alkalinity in the body and enjoying the benefits.”

An alkaline diet is good for health and weight

Alkalinizing foods are proven to snuff the body’s inner acid level by as much as 68%. And according to University of Texas research, people with less acid in their system have a body mass index 52% lower than those with the highest amounts. Why? Restoring pH balance kick-starts the production of fat-burning hormones, which instruct the body to release the most stubborn fat. “Weight loss will start from day one, and it usually comes off the belly first,” says Dr. Barnard. “It doesn’t surprise me when someone loses 15 or 20 pounds in 21 days.”

What’s more, within three weeks of making these changes, women feel freedom from food addictions. People trying Dr. Barnard’s alkaline diet for six weeks can also see improvements in cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, joint pain, sleep, mood and heartburn.

Try Dr. Neal Barnard alkaline diet for yourself

On this six-week reset, you’ll prioritize alkalinizing plant foods, aiming to make them 80% of your total intake. Top choices include all vegetables, citrus fruit, tomatoes, avocados, beans (soy, navy and lima), raw almonds, wild rice, millet and tofu. “I’m not encouraging people to cut calories: Eat until you’re full,” reminds Dr. Barnard.

To seal in the benefits of this pH shift, you’ll also limit acid-forming foods, including meat, dairy, white bread and pasta and refined sugar. Aim to make them about 20% of your daily intake. (Click through to see where alkaline diets fit in our list of the top 10 diets of 2023)

For best results, follow the tips below:

1. Reach for fiber-filled foods

3 fruit and veggie smoothies; Dr. Barnard alkaline diet
Westend61/Getty Images

Aiming for 5 to 9 servings of fiber- and water-rich fruits and veggies per day will keep you satisfied, so you’re not tempted to overindulge in fat-packing, acid-forming snacks. Tip: Start your day with a fruit and veggie smoothie. It is a great way to flood the system with healing alkaline minerals. And for lunch and dinner, Dr. Barnard advises, “Rather than relegating vegetables to the sidelines, bring them front and center on your plate, and have more than one at a meal.” (Click to read how fiber helps with weight loss.)

2. Load up on leafy greens

These superstars not only provide alkalinity, they’re also rich in magnesium — a key weight-loss mineral. McCaffrey explains, “What makes kale, spinach or broccoli green is the compound chlorophyll, and in the center of every chlorophyll molecule is magnesium.”

3. Drizzle on flavor

salad with lemon juice drizzled over; Dr Barnard alkaline diet
Milen/Getty images

Sugar-laden marinades and salad dressings are acid-forming, so Dr. Barnard advises swapping them out for apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, which are naturally alkalinizing. For a savory topping on steamed veggies, Dr. Barnard loves Bragg Liquid Aminos All Purpose Seasoning (Buy on Amazon, $8.94 for a 10-oz bottle). It is made from soybean extract. “It softens the natural bitterness of vegetables and makes them delectable.”

4. Make meals smarter

Eating too many acid-forming foods at once can overwhelm the body and quickly deplete minerals. McCaffrey says, “It’s like continuing to draw money out of a dwindling savings account without replacing it.” To outsmart this, try not to eat multiple acid-forming foods in the same sitting. With chicken, for example, skip fried or breaded varieties and add an ultra-alkalinizing side like asparagus.

5. Hydrate with alkalinizing drinks

water with watermelon cubes; Dr. Barnard alkaline diet
invizbk/Getty Images

Try sipping beverages throughout the day that support a healthy pH balance. If you like watermelon, muddle 12 chunks of the melon in a pitcher with cold water and enjoy. And for a mocktail, mix 4 sprigs of fresh mint in a glass with 3 slices of cucumber, 1 tsp. of lime juice and 1 cup of sparking water or seltzer. (Click to read how Liquid IV can improve hydration for weight loss.)

6. Take it easy

“Our pH can be affected by stress, worry, even a lack of sleep,” says McCaffrey. That’s why she suggests making time every day for a little R&R. “Quiet time, breathing exercises or meditation — even for a minute — will rejuvenate you.”

Related: Hugs Have Been Study-Proven To Boost Immunity & Dramatically Lower Stress

What happens after the 6-week alkaline diet?

After following the six-week plan, your body is primed to meet the demands of acidity. That means you can enjoy occasional splurges like a cheeseburger or ice cream. “Once the body is healthy, it maintains adequate reserves to meet the normal demands of acidity,” says McCaffrey. “But the minerals in our alkaline reserve are not infinite. So it’s up to us to replenish them by eating a healthy, varied diet rich in alkalinizing veggies, legumes and nuts.”

Alkaline success story: Dee McCaffrey, 59

before and after of Dee McCaffrey, who lost 100 lbs: Dr. Barnard alkaline diet
Brandon Sullivan

As Dee McCaffrey watched her group hike a hill, she trailed far behind, struggling with each step. Feeling the extra 100 pounds on her frame, she thought of her grandmother, who’d passed away young. A voice inside Dee warned, You need to change your life or you’re going to die.

As an organic chemist, Dee knew the body’s natural state was to be healthy, not sick. So when she finally became fed up with fatigue and pain, she gave up dieting. Instead, she simply avoided the processed foods that triggered binges. She fueled her body with more plant-based options instead. “My weight started falling off!” Dee dropped 20 pounds in 30 days.

How Dee discovered alkaline eating

As Dee learned more about the acid-alkaline balance in the body, she realized, Oh my gosh, I’ve been doing this on my own. The intuitive way she’d been nourishing herself had a name: alkaline eating. She realized, “Maintaining the proper pH in our body is one of the basic necessities for good health — our life literally depends on it.”

In all, Dee lost 100 pounds in 13 months. And she began helping others as the founder of the not-for-profit organization Processed-Free America. Plus, she has maintained her weight, despite menopause and a little “rearranging,” for more than two decades. To celebrate, Dee conquered that once-daunting hill on her weight-loss anniversary. “The overriding feeling I had that day, and every day since, was gratitude!”

This article originally appeared in our print magazine. 

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

For more on the benefits of an alkaline diet:

Alkaline Food List: Expert-Approved Printable Guide to Alkaline Diet Foods

How Alkaline Foods Can Give You the Slim-Quick Benefits of a Keto Diet

6 Alkaline Superfoods That Will Get You Slim and Energized

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