Diane May Nutrition Blog

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Alkaline Diets

June 4th, 2018

Alkaline diets are based on the theory that certain foods can impact the pH balance of out bodies. The pH of our blood is 7.4 and perfect neutral balance is 7.  The alkalinity of food is determined by PRAL. PRAL stands for the Potential Renal Acid Load, which can calculate the acidifying effects of foods based on the amount of Magnesium, Phosphorus, Protein, Calcium, and Potassium in the urine. Vegetables, fruits, beans, soy and nuts are recommended on an alkaline diet and animal proteins, processed foods, added sugar, alcohol, whole grains and dairy are restricted.  There is limited scientific research to support the benefit of an alkaline diet.  The Journal of  Environmental and Public Health  did show benefits associated with alkaline diets, most particularly benefiting cardiovascular health, cognition, bone health and improved muscle.  This in part, was due to just increasing plants and reducing animal proteins and processed foods-which is beneficial, but doesn’t necessarily impact pH balance. This could be accomplished by following a DASH diet-which encourages vegetables, fruits, whole grains , low fat dairy and lean proteins and limits sodium and processed foods.

The body, our lungs and kidneys in particular work very hard to keep our bodies as close to neutral as possible.  If we were not alkaline enough, we would know it, because we would be very sick. If you are going to attempt an Alkaline diet, make sure you pay attention to your protein intake-make sure you are getting adequate intake. Diets that are as highly restrictive as an Alkaline diet plan also reduce consumption of important nutrients found in whole grains and dairy, which can lead to malnutrition. 

Can this diet make us more alkaline? No, but I agree that a more plant based diet that reduces processed foods, sodium and added sugar isn’t a bad thing! Alkaline diets increase magnesium and potassium through higher plant intake, very similar to the DASH diet, which is a good thing.  But it is important to note that we cannot influence our pH balance significantly through diet alone.  Our lungs and kidneys take their job very seriously and do the hard lifting in the case of pH balance. Many of the claims an Alkaline diet makes are false. Although it may be refreshing, drinking lemon water does very little to impact the pH of our body! Eat whole, eat clean, eat plants-don’t be overly restrictive and reap the benefits.

Braised Green Beans & Summer Vegetables

From: EatingWell Magazine, May/June 2009

“When green beans, summer squash and cherry tomatoes are plentiful in backyard gardens and farmers’ markets, try this quick braise. We like the salty, nutty flavor of Parmesan, but you can use any flavorful cheese.”


    • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 small onion, halved and sliced
    • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano , or 1 teaspoon dried
    • ½ cup white wine , or reduced-sodium chicken broth
    • 1 pound green beans, trimmed
    • 1 medium summer squash , or zucchini, halved and cut into 1-inch pieces
    • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes , or grape tomatoes
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
    • ¼ cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese


  • 1Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and oregano and cook, stirring, until softened and beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add wine (or broth) and bring to a boil. Add green beans, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. Add summer squash (or zucchini) and tomatoes and continue cooking until the vegetables are tender, 8 to 10 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan.



Nutrition information


  • Serving size: about 1 cup
  • Per serving: 92 calories; 4 g fat(1 g sat); 3 g fiber; 10 g carbohydrates; 3 g protein; 40 mcg folate; 2 mg cholesterol; 3 g sugars; 0 g added sugars; 834 IU vitamin A; 17 mg vitamin C; 90 mg calcium; 1 mg iron; 158 mg sodium; 291 mg potassium
  • Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (28% daily value)
  • Carbohydrate Servings: ½
  • Exchanges: 2 vegetables, ½ fat


What Is Added Sugar?

May 7th, 2018

Many people use the term added sugar, but few know what it means. The FDA defines added sugar as “Sugars that are either added during the processing of foods, or are packaged as such, and includes sugars (free, mono- and disaccharides), sugars from syrups and honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices that are in excess of what would be expected from the same volume of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice of the same type.”  I am always asked how much sugar can I have in a day? The actual answer is none. Sugar is not a nutrient and therefor, there are no formal guidelines and it is not a necessity. WHO (the World Health Organization) and the American Heart Association have stated that women should not have more than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day-the equivalent would be 2 glasses of juice and men should have no more than nine teaspoons. Why should we care about added sugar? Because it increases our risk of diabetes, weight gain/obesity, heart disease, hypertension and it is inflammatory in our bodies. Simple sugars, a carbohydrate, are called monosaccharides: glucose, fructose and galactose. These are naturally occurring sugars. The white sugar we are used to is sucrose and is 9 calories per small cube.  Below are some examples of where we find the most added sugar in foods:

  • Ketchup/tomato sauce: 1.5 teaspoons in a 1 ounce serving for ketchup, a third of a jar of tomato sauce can contain as much as 3-4 teaspoons
  • Candy bars: The average candy bar contains 7 teaspoons
  • Soda: The average serving of soda contains 9 teaspoons 
  • Cereals: Raisin bran has 6 teaspoons and frosted flakes has 7 teaspoons

Also, added ingredients such as these are just a few (there are over 200 names) of the other forms of added sugars:

  • agave syrup.
  • brown sugar.
  • cane juice and cane syrup.
  • confectioners’ sugar.
  • corn sweetener and corn syrup.
  • dextrose.
  • fructose.
  • fruit juice concentrates and syrups
  • HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup)

The best thing to do is to avoid processed foods and sweets as much as possible and to become a savvy label reader. As of now, it is not mandatory for manufacturers to put added sugar on a separate line on a label, but that day is coming. Until then, try and keep your sugar to 5 grams or under in a processed food. When you read a label, ingredients are listed from what they have the most of to the least of.  If sugar is one of the first ingredients, that means there probably is a lot of sugar in that product-compare and find a similar product with less sugar. For example, switch from Raisin Bran to Cheerios- a huge difference in sugar content.

So, what do you do when you want something sweet? Always head for fruit. I recommend no more than two servings of fruit a day. Fruit is NOT free! Eating frozen fruit can also be very satisfying and is a cool treat in the summer.  Look for lower sugar fruits and those that are high in soluble fiber such as berries, apples, pears, clementines and kiwis. The recipe below does have added sugar, which comes from dairy. Be a detective and always pay attention to ingredients and labels!

Ricotta & Yogurt Parfait

From: EatingWell Magazine, November/December 2016

Recipe By:  Sara Haas,

“Reminiscent of a lemon cheesecake, this healthy breakfast recipe is easy to throw together in the morning. Or stir together the filling in a jar the night before and top with the fruit, nuts and seeds when you get to work.”


    • ¾ cup nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt
    • ¼ cup part-skim ricotta
    • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
    • ¼ cup raspberries
    • 1 tablespoon slivered almonds
    • 1 teaspoon chia seeds


  • 1Combine yogurt, ricotta and lemon zest in a bowl. Top with raspberries, almonds and chia seeds.

Nutrition information


  • Serving size: about 1¼ cups
  • Per serving: 258 calories; 10 g fat(3 g sat); 4 g fiber; 21 g carbohydrates; 23 g protein; 19 mcg folate; 19 mg cholesterol; 13 g sugars; 6 g added sugars; 251 IU vitamin A; 9 mg vitamin C; 385 mg calcium; 1 mg iron; 125 mg sodium; 398 mg potassium
  • Nutrition Bonus: Calcium (38% daily value)
  • Carbohydrate Servings: 1½