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The Most Common Acidic Foods to Avoid

Lisa Price
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by Lisa Price

Consuming acidic foods and beverages such as jellybeans, tomatoes, or coffee can result in a burning sensation that makes you feel like a dragon seconds away from blowing fire.

Unfortunately, that excruciating pain isn’t dragon’s breath; it is only heartburn, a sign of acid reflux. You feel it when the acid in your stomach starts irritating your esophagus.

In this article, we provide a list of common acidic foods you should avoid, particularly when you’re experiencing symptoms of acid reflux.

What Triggers Acid Reflux?

The causes of acid reflux may be related to your diet, stress level, or medical history. Regardless of the reason, the food you consume can trigger your symptoms and make your discomfort even worse.

What Triggers Acid Reflux?

The food we consume can be acidic (pH level 0-6.9), alkaline ( pH level 7.1 to 14), and neutral (pH 7), depending on its pH value. We’ve put together a list of common acidic foods you should avoid from four groups: fruits, beverages, dairy, and snacks. Take a look at our list to see if your diet is triggering heartburn.

Acidic Foods to Avoid if You Suffer from Acid Reflux

Acidic Fruits

Fruits
Fruits

Fruits are almost exclusively acidic since they contain organic acids like malic and citric acids that give them their unique sweet-sour taste. It may be wise to avoid them when you are experiencing symptoms of acid reflux.

However, they have valuable nutrients like vitamins and minerals and are also rich in natural fibers. If you don’t want to miss out on their health benefits, you can consume them in moderation or pair them with alkaline foods.

Here’s a list of fruits you should avoid when you experience heartburn, from the most acidic to the least.

FruitpHFruitpH
Lemons (and lemon juice)2 to 2.6Raspberries3.2 to 3.6
Grapes2.9 to 3.8Apples3.3 to 4
Grapefruit3 to 3.7Pineapples3.2 to 4
Blueberries3 to 3.3Oranges3.6 to 4.3
Strawberries3 to 3.5Tomatoes4.3 to 4.9

You’ll notice that lemons are extremely acidic. We suggest you swap lemon juice with tomato or orange juice for vinaigrettes or skip it altogether.

Cantaloupes, watermelons, and melons are somewhere between 5.5 to 6.5 on the pH scale and can be consumed in moderation. The only fruit that is not acidic is coconut, which has a pH of 7. It’s often consumed with other fruits to neutralize acidity.

Acidic Beverages

Beverages
Beverages

As hard as it is for us to say this, the most delicious beverages we drink with our food and snacks are… acidic. We’ve compiled a list of beverages that may be bad for you when experiencing acid reflux symptoms.

BeveragespHBeveragespH
Lemonade2 to 3Club Soda4.4 to 4.7
Coca-Cola2.5 to 3.2La Croix4 to 4.8
Gatorade2.9 to 3.3Tea4.9 to 5.5
Wine3 to 3.4Coffee5 to 5.5
Beer4 to 4.5Sparkling Water5 to 6

Keep in mind that the pH of Coca Cola, similar to Pepsi, can change depending on its flavor. For example, Diet Coca-Cola has a pH of 3.2, but Cherry Coke’s pH level is 2.5.

The pH of all alcoholic beverages changes depending on the duration of fermentation and the ingredients. For example, white wine’s pH is around 3, whereas red wine’s pH is around 3.8.

The origins of a particular brand of tea and coffee may change the pH level of your beverage, but they’re acidic in general. How you serve the beverage also makes a difference. Sugar will make your drink more acidic, whereas milk may decrease the acidity since it’s closer to 7 on the pH scale.

Carbonated drinks cause heartburn, and you may need to avoid them when you are experiencing acid reflux symptoms.

You can make a carbonated beverage substitute by combining watermelon juice or coconut water with sparkling water. They’re less caloric, and you’ll get to satiate your craving for carbonated drinks in a healthier, equally delicious way.

Acidic Dairy Products

Dairy
Milk, cheese and other diary products

Though it comes in all kinds of tasty things like cheese and milk, dairy does some weird things to our bodies. And we’re not just talking about acid reflux!

Dairy products have a high-fat content that can make acid reflux symptoms worse. They’re also rich in lactic acid and may wreak havoc on your body if you’re sensitive or intolerant to lactose.

In fact, lactose intolerance is a common cause of acid reflux, so please consult your healthcare professional if you are experiencing symptoms after you consume dairy products.

Here’s a list of acidic dairy products you may want to avoid.

Dairy ProductpH level
Plain Yogurt4.4 to 4.8
Buttermilk4.4 to 4.8
Cream Cheese4.4 to 4.9
Feta Cheese4.5 to 4.7
Cheddar Cheese5.1 to 5.4
MilkAround 6.5

The pH of dairy products may change slightly depending on the brand and the duration of the fermentation process.

Even though milk is close to 7, which is neutral, it contains lactic acid, which may worsen the symptoms you are experiencing.

Should You Try Non-dairy Options?

If you’re considering switching to non-dairy substitutes, you should thoroughly research the acidity levels of the available alternatives. Most vegan cheeses usually have an acidic pH level (ranging between 4.1 to 4.6), so they aren’t a good alternative. Similarly, the pH level of vegan yogurt (such as yogurt made from soy) is somewhere between 4 to 4.5.

You might consider opting for non-dairy milk because most brands are on the neutral side. The pH levels of coconut milk and oat milk are 6.5 to 7 and 6.7 to 6.9, respectively.

Almond milk is slightly more acidic than the other two, with a pH level of 6, but it’s still better than regular milk since it doesn’t contain lactic acid.

Acidic Snacks

Snacks
Snacks

We need snacks; we just need them. They comfort us, take us on a journey of deliciousness, and help regulate our blood levels before or after a meal.

Since the category is wide and the options are endless, we’ll list the most common ones you must avoid if you have acid reflux. Here’s a list of sweet and savory snacks you may want to abstain from.

SnackpH Level
Jelly Beans2 to 3
Potato Chips3 to 3.3
French FriesAround 5
Chocolate5.5 to 6
Beef Jerky5.9 to 6.3

Jelly beans are extremely acidic due to the fruit flavoring they contain. They are most definitely to be avoided when you have acid reflux.

Similarly, fried foods like potato chips and french fries also contain a lot of processed fats that can aggravate your stomach. You should refrain from consuming them if you are experiencing symptoms.

Even though chocolate has a higher pH, it’s still acidic enough to upset your stomach. Rich in fat and processed meat, beef jerky may also cause heartburn and aggravate your acid reflux.

Conclusion

When experiencing symptoms of acid reflux, it’s best to steer clear of acidic foods. Acidic fruits, carbonated beverages, dairy products, and snacks that contain sugar and chocolate can increase your discomfort.

You can check out almond milk or almond milk substitutes for non-acidic dairy products. For snacks, you can opt for whole grain and pH-neutral snacks like popcorn .

As for beverages, you can make your own drink by infusing mineral water (pH of 7.1 to 7.5) with coconut water. Coconut is a non-acidic fruit (pH of 7) you can enjoy without worries.


About Lisa Price
Lisa Price
Lisa is Food Champ's resident fitness enthusiast and nutrition expert. She holds a nutrition degree in her home state of Florida and works for a large health system to ensure sound nutrition and dietetics information is passed on to all members.
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