Cooking for family gatherings at my house is a little like trying to
negotiate an international truce. My father says garlic and onions give him
heartburn. My brother-in-law won’t touch anything with tomato sauce. He says it
gives him heartburn. And after years of priding myself on having a cast iron
stomach, I’ve begun to have problems after very spicy meals. That’s right. They
give me heartburn.
What’s an avid home cook to do? The challenge is all the more difficult
because there’s no single food or type of food that can be labeled “heartburn
Despite its name, heartburn has nothing to do with the heart. Some of the symptoms, however, are similar to those of a heart attack or heart disease.
Heartburn is an irritation of the esophagus that is caused by stomach acid. This can create a burning discomfort in the upper abdomen or below the breast bone.
With gravity's help, a muscular valve called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, keeps stomach acid in the stomach. The LES is located where the esophagus meets the stomach -- below the...
Some people get heartburn, a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease
(GERD), from citrus. Others have trouble after drinking alcohol or caffeinated
coffee. Even chocolate can cause heartburn for some people.
And a particular ingredient that bothers someone after one meal may cause no
problems at all after another. Still, a few tips can help you serve up a
healthy, hearty, heartburn-friendly meal that won’t leave your family and
friends suffering afterwards.
Heartburn-Friendly Meals: Avoid the Top Offenders
The list of heartburn-inducing foods is long. But some ingredients stand out
as frequent heartburn triggers. These include tomatoes and tomato-based sauces,
citrus, chocolate, and mint. If someone in your household suffers from acid
reflux, try avoiding these items. Then watch to see if doing so provides
heartburn relief. Some alternatives:
At breakfast, serve apple, pineapple, or other non-citrus juices.
Offer tea as an alternative to coffee.
Check out recipes for no-tomato casseroles, lasagna, homemade pizzas, and
other main courses. For example, pesto or olive oil combined with parsley and
garlic makes a great pasta sauce.
For desserts, serve fruit slices or cooling fruit ices instead of
Heartburn-Friendly Meals: Lighten Up
“Fatty foods can increase the risk of heartburn because they take longer to
digest, lingering in the stomach and putting more upward pressure on the valve
that leads up to the esophagus,” says dietitian Elaine Magee, MPH, RD. Magee is
author of Tell Me What to Eat If I Have Acid Reflux. Her advice?
Bake or broil foods instead of frying them.
In recipes that include cream, try substituting low-fat yogurt.
In casseroles and stir-fries, cut back on the meat portions and add more
Include whole grains such as brown rice or quinoa in place of refined
grains. The added fiber is healthy in its own right and can make a meal more
filling with less fat and fewer calories.
Heartburn-Friendly Meals: Trim Down Portion Sizes
Perhaps the most effective way of preventing heartburn is to limit portion
size. “The bigger the meal, the greater the risk of reflux,” says Yale
University gastroenterologist Anish Sheth, MD. It’s easy for portion sizes to
creep up in the kitchen. Magee advises:
Use measuring cups to limit how much you cook.
Dine on smaller plates so that less still looks like a lot.
Go for intensity over quantity. For example, if you love chocolate --
frequently cited as a heartburn trigger -- enjoy a small square of dark
chocolate instead of a big chocolaty dessert.