What Is the Acid Reflux Diet?

Bowl of fresh vegetables

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At Verywell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and take the whole person into consideration. Prior to starting a new diet plan, consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

What is the Acid Reflux Diet

The acid reflux diet provides lots of fiber-rich vegetables and low-fat foods, while avoiding spicy foods, high-fat and fried foods, acidic foods, and citrus fruits. The acid reflux diet aims to minimize and even eliminate symptoms of acid reflux, which include heartburn, chest pain or tightness, the feeling of a lump in your throat, and a bitter taste in your mouth.

Note that there is no gold standard for the diagnosis of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Dietary interventions, such as those outlined by the American College of Gastroenterology, may provide relief of GERD symptoms.

Reflux occurs when the contents of your stomach, particularly stomach acid, wash back up into your esophagus. That’s what causes the burning sensation you get in your throat when you experience reflux. 

What Experts Say

"The acid reflux diet limits foods that can exacerbate symptoms of reflux. Experts agree that food, and other lifestyle factors, can have a major effect on symptoms. It’s helpful to work with an expert when limiting foods to ensure nutrient balance and satisfaction are maintained."

-Willow Jarosh, MS, RD

The 7-Day Diet Plan

There are several foods that are believed to contribute to acid reflux, including spicy and fatty foods, chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol. Removing these foods, in theory, should relieve symptoms. However, there is only anecdotal evidence to support this. Some people with acid reflux may find some relief by avoiding certain foods, while others can eat the same foods without any issues.

The acid reflux diet should be customized for each individual, but most people start by eliminating all potentially non-compliant foods first and gradually adding things back in to see if it causes a reaction.

You don’t need to follow any particular eating protocol on the acid reflux diet, however, it is important to eat slowly and chew your food properly. Focus on eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day, rather than just two or three large meals. 

  • Day 1: Chia pudding with fruit; apples, pears, or bananas; avocado chicken salad; skinless chicken breasts with sweet potato
  • Day 2: Egg white omelet; broccoli and squash soup; fresh turkey breast with roasted asparagus and squash
  • Day 3: Sweet potato breakfast hash with scrambled egg whites; trail mix with walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and dehydrated bananas; turkey sandwich; ground turkey lettuce cups
  • Day 4: Edamame beans on toast; kale salad with squash and lentils; roasted salmon with quinoa
  • Day 5: Scrambled eggs with kale; vegetables with steamed fish; lean cut pork chops with rice
  • Day 6: Oatmeal with apples; turkey sandwich; baked cod with steamed vegetables
  • Day 7: Coconut milk yogurt; quinoa salad with roasted vegetables; grilled tofu with potatoes


What You Can Eat

For the most part, you’ll focus on avoiding reflux trigger foods on the acid reflux diet. Trigger foods include spicy foods, fried and high-fat foods, coffee, citrus, dairy, and carbonated beverages. You’ll replace those foods with vegetables, whole grains, and other healthy foods that may improve symptoms.

Ultimately there's no single acid reflux diet that works for everyone — instead, you should experiment with removing foods and adding them back in to find your particular trigger foods.

Low-Fat Proteins

Red meat and fatty meats have been associated with heartburn and other acid reflux symptoms, so you should stick to lean proteins like skinless chicken breasts, fresh turkey breast, ground turkey, and lean cut pork chops. You can also eat fish and seafood. 

Non-Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits are acidic and can increase acid reflux. Melons, bananas, pears, and apples are great choices. Eat berries and cherries in moderation. 

Vegetables and Greens

Pretty much any vegetable is a go on the acid reflux diet because vegetables are low in sugar and fat, and may help to reduce stomach acid. Leafy greens, asparagus, and squashes are great choices. 

Note that broccoli and cauliflower, as well as other highly cruciferous vegetables, may be harder for the body to breakdown, resulting in gas and bloating, which can worsen reflux symptoms. If these vegetables cause discomfort, you may want to try cooking them instead of eating them raw. You can also play around with portions of vegetables, as large volumes of fiber-rich foods may be challenging for digestion.

Beans and Legumes

Foods like kidney beans, black beans, edamame, and lentils pack a serious punch of fiber and protein. Most varieties also contain ample phosphorus, magnesium, folate, and other micronutrients. 

Starches

Potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, rutabagas, turnips, parsnips, and other starchy vegetables can be a staple of your acid reflux diet. Starchy veggies have lots of fiber, vitamins, and minerals and can make you feel satiated while providing sustained energy.

Some Whole Grains

You don’t have to cut out grains on the acid reflux diet. In fact, oatmeal is thought to be one of the best foods for dampening reflux symptoms. Other excellent choices include quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, whole wheat, barley, and many varieties of rice

Eggs

Eggs and egg whites are a fantastic source of protein, and you should enjoy them freely on the acid reflux diet.

Healthy Fats

It’s recommended that you moderate your intake of healthy fat on the acid reflux diet. When cooking, opt for oils like extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil over canola. You can also get healthy fats from walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and other nuts and seeds. Keep an eye on portion sizes, as dietary fat digests more slowly than protein and carbohydrates, which may cause acid reflux.

What You Cannot Eat

Red Meat and Fatty Proteins

Red meat and other fatty proteins, like chicken thighs with skin, have been associated with symptoms of acid reflux, particularly heartburn. Avoid these foods for a few weeks and see if your symptoms improve.

High-Cholesterol Foods

There is conflicting evidence when it comes to cholesterol intake and reflux. Some research suggests that cholesterol is linked to acid reflux and GERD, so you may want to avoid foods like egg yolks, organ meats, overly processed cheese, lunch meats, sausages, and hot dogs, and fast food.

Dairy

Dairy is a trigger food for many people with acid reflux, but not everyone. Avoid dairy for a few weeks to see if you notice a reduction in your symptoms. Some people find that only full-fat dairy irritates their reflux, but have no problem with low-fat or fat-free dairy products.

Oils and Fried Foods

Oils to avoid include canola, soybean, corn, cottonseed, and mixed vegetable oils, as they can be inflammatory and trigger symptoms. Be cautious of any fried foods, especially if you didn’t make it yourself. Fried foods are high in fat, cholesterol, and sodium and may exacerbate GERD symptoms.

Spicy Foods

Peppers, onions, and spices trigger acid reflux symptoms in many people, as do tangy foods like garlic and onions. Try cutting these foods out of your diet for a few weeks, and slowly add them back in to find out if they trigger your symptoms. 

Coffee

Caffeine has been associated with acid reflux symptoms because it might relax your lower esophageal sphincter, which allows stomach contents to travel upward. Coffee itself is very acidic, so it may worsen acid reflux symptoms. Anecdotally, if you're a big coffee drinker and are struggling from GERD, reducing coffee intake generally reduces acid reflux symptoms fairly quickly.

Carbonated Drinks

Carbonated drinks may trigger reflux because of the carbonation itself, or because of the caffeine found in many sodas. Carbonation may increase pressure in your stomach, which can lead to acid reflux. Some people can have carbonated drinks with no problem, so try reducing them to see what happens.

Citrus Fruits

Lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, and pineapple have a high acid content and may contribute to reflux. However, some people find they only react to citrus later in the day. Try limiting citrus to breakfast time.

Tomatoes

Like citrus fruits, tomatoes are highly acidic and may contribute to reflux in some people. Refrain from eating tomatoes or anything made with tomatoes, such as salsa, spaghetti sauce, chili, or pizza, to see if your symptoms improve.

Chocolate

Similar to coffee, chocolate contains compounds that may trigger acid reflux symptoms—in this case, a substance called methylxanthine is thought to induce symptoms despite its apparent health benefits. If you do eat chocolate, eat it in moderation. 

How to Prepare the Acid Reflux Diet & Tips

Avoiding trigger foods, eating smaller more frequent meals, chewing thoroughly, and healthy cooking and bedtime habits are important for success in relieving acid reflux.

It is also helpful to keep a detailed symptoms journal including food and beverage intake, sleep, and stress levels. This will help you to determine if the elimination diet has relieved symptoms and if any particular food causes your symptoms.

Some general healthy cooking and eating guidelines to follow: 

  • Try sautéing, roasting, baking, braising, steaming, or roasting your food rather than deep-frying it. 
  • Choose healthier fats like olive oil and ghee over mixed vegetable oils and butter. 
  • Make the majority of your plate fiber-rich vegetables or whole grains. 

When you eat a large meal, you increase pressure in your stomach and lower esophagus, your stomach produces more acid to aid digestion. All these factors contribute to acid reflux. Eating smaller meals makes digestion easier and decreases pressure in your digestive tract.

There is one meal you should time carefully: Your last meal of the day. Many people experience acid reflux symptoms at night and eating too soon before bedtime can exacerbate symptoms. Try to eat dinner at least two hours before getting some shuteye, but preferably even three to four hours—lying down with a full stomach causes even more pressure on your digestive tract, which can force stomach contents back up your esophagus.

And as far as duration, if you have chronic acid reflux, you may benefit from following the acid reflux diet long-term. If you only experience infrequent, sporadic symptoms, the acid reflux diet can still help you identify triggers and improve your overall health. 

Sample Shopping List

When shopping on an acid reflux diet, you'll be able to find most ingredients in your local grocery store. This is not a definitive shopping list. If you're following the acid reflux diet, you may find other foods that work best for you.

  • Low-Fat Proteins (Chicken Breasts, Ground Turkey, Salmon)
  • Non-Citrus Fruits (Apples, Pears, Bananas)
  • Leafy Greens (Spinach, Kale, Cabbage)
  • Beans (Kidney Beans, Black Beans, Edamame)
  • Starches (Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes, Carrots)
  • Whole Grains (Buckwheat, Barley, Quinoa, Rice)
  • Nuts and Seeds (Walnuts, Almonds, Pumpkin Seeds)

Is the Acid Reflux Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

In general, the acid reflux diet can be a healthy diet for most people because it emphasizes nutrient-dense, whole foods with lots of fiber and micronutrients. There are many pros and cons of the Acid Reflux diet, but ultimately, you may want to work with your health care provider to ensure dietary changes are appropriate for your individual needs.

Remember, foods on the “compliant” and “non-compliant” lists may not be the same for you as they are for someone else. For example, you may not tolerate dairy well, while someone else may do just fine with cow’s milk and cheese. 

Always make sure to account for food allergies and intolerances on any diet. Consult a physician or registered dietitian if you’re unsure about whether the acid reflux diet is right for you. 

Generally, the acid reflux diet can be a nutritious, therapeutic diet choice. It relies on lean proteins, vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, and eliminates many heartburn-causing ingredients.

A Word From Verywell

The acid reflux diet calls for eliminating any acid reflux- and heartburn-causing foods. Of course, remember that there is no single style of the acid reflux diet that works for all who follow it. As part of the elimination diet, experiment with your own diet to find what may trigger acid reflux symptoms and reaction.

Note that GERD or acid reflux may require medical treatment for some individuals. Always speak with a health care provider if you believe dietary interventions are not improving your symptoms, as medication may be indicated.

Remember, following a long-term or short-term diet may not be necessary for you and many diets out there simply don’t work, especially long-term. While we do not endorse fad diet trends or unsustainable weight loss methods, we present the facts so you can make an informed decision that works best for your nutritional needs, genetic blueprint, budget, and goals.

If your goal is weight loss, remember that losing weight isn’t necessarily the same as being your healthiest self, and there are many other ways to pursue health. Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors also play a major role in your overall health. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.

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6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading
  • Acid reflux (GER and GERD) in adults. niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults

  • Diet changes for GERD. (2017). aboutgerd.org/diet-lifestyle-changes/diet-changes-for-gerd.html

  • Farahmand F, Najafi M, Ataee P, Modarresi V, Shahraki T, Rezaei N. Cow's Milk Allergy among Children with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Gut Liver. 2011;5(3):298-301.

  • Kahrilas P, et al. (2017). Emerging dilemmas in the diagnosis and management of gastroesophageal reflux disease. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.11918.1

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  • Shapiro M, Green C, Bautista JM, et al. Assessment of dietary nutrients that influence perception of intra-oesophageal acid reflux events in patients with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2007;25(1):93-101.

  • Wang A, Mattek NC, Holub JL, Lieberman DA, Eisen GM. Prevalence of complicated gastroesophageal reflux disease and Barrett's esophagus among racial groups in a multi-center consortium. Dig Dis Sci. 2009;54(5):964-71.

  • Wu P, Zhao XH, Ai ZS, et al. Dietary intake and risk for reflux esophagitis: a case-control study. Gastroenterol Res Pract. 2013;2013:691026.