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Best and Worst Foods for Acid Reflux

Man on couch with acid reflux after eating takeout food

Some people may know which foods or habits trigger their acid reflux, and for them, it’s easy to avoid those triggers—or anticipate the resulting heartburn.

But what if you don’t know what triggers your acid reflux?

Learn about some of the worst foods for acid reflux—that is, the top culprits that may trigger it—as well as the best foods to help prevent it from occurring.

What Causes Acid Reflux?

Occasional acid reflux, or heartburn, is fairly common.1

When you experience acid reflux, it may be because of a relaxed esophageal sphincter.1 When it functions normally, the sphincter lets food pass into the stomach, then cinches closed to prevent food from going back up your esophagus. Some foods, however, cause the sphincter to relax, allowing food and stomach acid to go back up into the esophagus, resulting in the symptoms of heartburn.1

Diet Plays a Role

Fortunately, you do have some control over the situation: diet changes can have a big impact on the frequency and severity of acid reflux. When thinking about food that gives you heartburn, keep in mind that every individual is different. While some people have sensitivities to various foods, for general health, it’s important to pursue a well-balanced diet, full of fruits, vegetables, and proteins.2

Best Foods for Avoiding Acid Reflux

Some of the best foods for avoiding acid reflux include foods that are high in fiber like whole grains, foods that are not acidic like leafy greens, and foods that have a high water content like celery.1

Consider eating more of the following foods to tamp down acid reflux:1, 2

  • Oatmeal and other whole grains
  • Steamed brown rice
  • Root veggies like sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets
  • Green veggies like broccoli, green beans, and asparagus
  • Grilled chicken—remove any fatty skin
  • Bananas
  • Fennel
  • Ginger
  • Melons
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumber
  • Broth-based soups
  • Nuts

Worst Foods for Acid Reflux

You may have an idea of the kinds of foods that are bad for acid reflux, and many of them fall into one of two categories: fatty and spicy.

However, fatty and spicy foods aren’t the only types of foods that can trigger acid reflux. Consider reducing or avoiding the following foods that commonly exacerbate acid reflux:1, 2

  • Fried foods
  • Pizza
  • Most fast food
  • Potato chips or other highly-processed snack food
  • Chili powder
  • Fatty meat like bacon and sausage
  • Cheese
  • Grapefruit and oranges
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Chocolate
  • Tomatoes/tomato sauces
  • Coffee and caffeinated tea
  • Peppermint
  • Alcohol

While you may not be able to completely eliminate some of the foods that cause acid reflux, consider reducing the amount that you eat as well as boosting your diet with some of the foods that help prevent acid reflux.

Change HOW You Eat

You may also want to make some lifestyle changes around the way you eat. Some steps you can take include:1, 2

  • Avoid late-night snacks. Try to finish eating about three hours before you go to bed.
  • Eat smaller portions. Rather than two or three larger meals, break it up into four or five smaller meals.
  • Stay upright after you eat. You might not be going to bed right after you eat, but even lying down to relax right after eating can aggravate heartburn. Allow your food to digest first.

If you make some of these dietary changes and you’re still experiencing reflux, there may be a more serious issue. In that case, be sure to seek out your doctor or a specialist, such as a gastroenterologist. They can conduct tests to determine the acidity of your stomach acid as well as find any issues with your esophagus.1


  1. GERD Diet: Foods That Help with Acid Reflux (Heartburn). Johns Hopkins Medicine. Accessed 3/9/2021.
  2. The Best and Worst Foods for Acid Reflux. Healthy @ UH. Accessed 3/9/2021.