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Foods That Fight Heartburn

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You've heard about the foods that can make your heartburn worse, from coffee to chocolate to tomatoes. But what about foods that could make your heartburn better? Check out some key eats you should add to your diet.

Eat More Low-Acid Foods

When acid and other liquids in your stomach back up into your esophagus, you get heartburn. The acid that's already in your stomach isn't the only problem, though.

The natural acids in foods you eat -- like many fruits, vegetables, and drinks -- play a role, too, says Bani Roland, MD. She is a gastroenterologist and assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University. To curb heartburn, build your meals around naturally low-acid foods like:

  • Melons and bananas. While most fruits have a high acid content, these don't. Bananas are always handy as a snack food. All sorts of melons are good, like watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew.
  • Oatmeal. It's a great way to start your day. Oatmeal doesn't cause reflux, it's filling, and it has lots of healthy fiber.
  • Bread. Choose whole-grain -- it will be the first ingredient on the label -- which is made with unprocessed grains. Other healthy-sounding breads -- like wheat, whole-wheat, or 7-grain -- may be made with refined grains, which are stripped of natural fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients.    
  • Rice and couscous. These healthy complex carbs are great if you have reflux. When choosing rice, go for brown rice, which has more fiber.
  • Green veggies. Broccoli, asparagus, green beans, celery, and cauliflower are all low in acid.
  • Lean poultry and meats. Prepare chicken and turkey grilled, broiled, baked, or steamed. Just remove the skin -- and don't fry it, Roland says. Even ground beef and steak can be fine, as long as they're lean.
  • Potatoes. Other root vegetables are good, too -- just not onions.
  • Fish. Grilled, poached, and baked fish are all good choices. Just don't fry it or use fatty sauces.  
  • Egg whites. They're a good source of protein and are low in acid. Just skip the yolk, which is more likely to cause symptoms.

You can't tell how acidic a food is by looking at it. It's not on the nutrition label either. But you can research a food's pH, which is a score of its acid content. The lower the pH number, the higher the acid -- lemon juice has a pH of 2.0. If you aim for foods with a pH of 5 or above, you may have fewer symptoms. You can find the pH level of foods on some government sites and in low-acid diet cookbooks.

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