Heartburn Diet and Tips

You don't have to give up all of your favorite foods to avoid heartburn.

How to eat well at home and dine out sensibly.

You don't have to give up all of your favorite foods to avoid heartburn. A well-stocked pantry with heartburn-friendly foods is key. So is making the right choices at restaurants. Heartburn foods that trigger symptoms, such as fats, oils, chocolate, or citrus products can be less tempting when there's a supply of "safe" ingredients in your kitchen cabinets. The added benefit of a good heartburn diet is healthier eating for the entire family.

Heartburn-Reducing Foods to Keep at Home

Grains: Try to purchase whole grains versus refined grains whenever possible. Be sure to store in an airtight container after opening.

Pasta: Be sure to prepare these with a light broth-type sauce (not tomato-based or high-fat). Perk up the dish with herbs like basil and tarragon.

Beans, Peas, and Lentils: All of these items provide a good source of vegetable protein, B vitamins, and minerals such as calcium and iron. They are also an excellent source of fiber for your heartburn diet. Keep both dried and canned varieties on your shelf, and toss them into soups, salads, and pasta and casserole dishes.

Oils: Use oils in moderation. Darker oils (such as sesame) have a wonderful flavor, and a little goes a long way in adding good taste and enjoyment to dishes.

Vinegars: These can be problem items for heartburn sufferers because of the acid content. However, cider vinegar and rice vinegar are often tolerated better by many people, and both add nice flavor to food. Use other vinegars in moderation if there hasn't been a problem with them in the past.

Condiments and Canned Goods: Most people with heartburn can eat mustard, and some can handle ketchup (in small amounts) fairly well. These are handy items to perk up recipes, and quick add-ons to a meal.

Spices and Herbs: Keep lots of dried spices and herbs on the shelf. They are generally less likely to promote heartburn, though each individual's system will respond differently. Dried/dehydrated forms of onion and garlic are more user-friendly than fresh.

Note: There are several spices that are generally irritating to the gastric (stomach) lining and are especially troublesome for heartburn sufferers and their heartburn diet. These include black pepper, mint, crushed red pepper flakes, curry powder, cloves, mustard seeds, hot sauce, chili powder, nutmeg and fresh garlic. They may be troublesome for some sufferers, but no problem for others. The best advice is to listen to your own body.

Baking Supplies:  Muffins and quick breads made from scratch can be made with less fat and without other troublesome ingredients such as pepper or spice. Whole-grain breads are made more simply with a bread machine. Here are some of the basic ingredients:

Smart Heartburn Food Choices at Restaurants

Just as at home, some foods served at restaurants, such as high-fat dishes, certain spices, citrus products like tomatoes or oranges, caffeinated beverages, and chocolate can bring on heartburn.

Restaurant meals can also bring on heartburn because they tend to be higher in fat. Fat takes longer to digest, so food stays in the stomach longer and has a greater likelihood of causing problems. Restaurant portions also tend to be larger than recommended serving sizes. This increases pressure in the stomach and can cause acidic stomach contents to backsplash into the esophagus.

Heartburn foods to avoid:

  • Foods that are fried, sautéed, or prepared in butter or oil

  • High-fat side dishes such as onion rings or French fries

  • High-fat sauces, gravies, and salad dressings

  • Tomato-based foods and juices

  • Caffeinated beverages such as cola and iced tea

  • Citrus drinks such as lemonade or orange juice

  • Alcoholic beverages

  • Chocolate

  • After-dinner mints (peppermint can exacerbate heartburn)

Heartburn foods to look for:

  • White meat, which is lower in fat than dark meat

  • Leaner cuts of red meat

  • Smaller portion sizes

  • White wine instead of red

  • Lighter desserts, such as angel food cake

10 Tips for Eating Well — While Managing  Heartburn

No, you don’t have to give up all your favorite foods. Try these tips  for managing frequent heartburn (occurring two or more days a week).

  1. Stay away from foods such as citrus fruits, chocolate, peppermint, spearmint, tomatoes or tomato-based products, raw onions and garlic.

  2. Avoid fatty or greasy foods as much as possible. They tend to slow down digestion, which means that both the foods and the acid your body produces to break them down remain in the stomach a long time. This gives the acid a greater opportunity to move backward up into the esophagus.

  3. Be careful using spices. Monitor the effect the following spices have on your heartburn and avoid those you identify as triggers: ground cinnamon, ground mace, ground ginger, coriander, dill, parsley, garlic powder (or fresh garlic), basil, thyme, tarragon, onion powder and dried onion pieces, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, Tabasco sauce, chili powder, curry powder, cloves, mustard seeds, nutmeg. 

  4. Choose vinegars wisely. Some are gentler than others: For example, cider vinegar and rice vinegar are tolerated better by many people.

  5. Cut back on drinking coffee; citrus juices; and caffeinated, carbonated and alcoholic beverages. Beer and caffeinated beverages—such as coffee, tea and cola make stomach acids even more irritating if they make their way up the esophagus. 

  6. Practice portion control. Your stomach responds to large portions by producing large amounts of acid. More stomach acid means a greater chance of acid reflux.

  7. Eat slowly and chew food thoroughly. Doing so will make you feel fuller—as food has had time to digest—and decrease the likelihood of heartburn. 

  8. Finish eating your final meal of the day at least two to three hours before going to bed. The added time will give your food and acid levels a chance to clear before lying down—the position in which heartburn is most likely to occur.

  9. Keep a stash of safe snacks. Do you reach for high-fat snacks or chocolate when hunger hits? Have on hand healthy foods that you enjoy, such as cutup vegetables, raisins or graham crackers.

  10. After a meal, try sucking on hard candy. This triggers the production of saliva, which acts as a natural barrier to acid. But be sure to avoid mint candies.

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