What kind of apples are best for acid reflux?


Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a common condition where stomach acid frequently flows back up into the esophagus. This can cause symptoms like heartburn, regurgitation, and chest pain. Making dietary changes is often recommended as a first line of treatment for acid reflux, and one food that is usually well tolerated is apples. But not all apples are created equal when it comes to acid reflux. The skin, flesh, acidity, and ripeness of different apple varieties can impact their effects on acid reflux symptoms. This article will compare different types of apples and provide recommendations on the best apples to eat for acid reflux.

Background on Acid Reflux

Acid reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a ring of muscle that separates the esophagus from the stomach, becomes weakened or damaged. Normally the LES closes after food passes through to prevent backflow of stomach contents. But when the LES malfunctions, acidic stomach juices can rise up into the esophagus, causing the characteristic burning sensation of heartburn. This is exacerbated by certain triggers like:

  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Chocolate
  • Spicy foods
  • High-fat foods
  • Citrus fruits

Acid reflux affects up to 20% of the population in Western countries. Obesity, smoking, and a high-fat diet are risk factors that can contribute to a higher incidence of acid reflux. Treatment focuses on lifestyle modifications, including avoiding trigger foods, losing weight if overweight, not smoking, and eating smaller meals. Medications that reduce stomach acid production like proton pump inhibitors can provide relief when needed. For those with severe acid reflux that is not controlled with other measures, surgery may be an option.

Benefits of Apples for Acid Reflux

Apples are often recommended for the acid reflux diet because they are:

  • Low acid fruits – Apples contain malic acid, which has a weaker acidity than other fruit acids.
  • Non-citrus – Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, and lemons are common heartburn triggers.
  • High in fiber – The fiber in apples can help soak up excess stomach acid.
  • Low fat – High fat foods sit in the stomach longer and can loosen the LES.

The high water and fiber content in apples also act as natural antacids. Eating an apple after meals can help cleanse the mouth and esophagus while stimulating saliva production, which aids in neutralizing stomach acid.

However, not all apples offer the same benefits when it comes to minimizing acid reflux symptoms. Factors like skin, variety, ripeness, and preparation can impact the effects different apples have on acid reflux.

How Apple Skin Impacts Acid Reflux

The skin is one of the main factors that determines how well an apple is tolerated for acid reflux. The skin contains much of the fruit’s insoluble fiber, as well as potential irritants for sensitive individuals:

Benefits of Apple Skin for Acid Reflux

  • Contains most of the insoluble fiber, which can help absorb excess stomach acid.
  • Insoluble fiber from skin increases production of saliva, which neutralizes acids.
  • Eating apples with skin doubles the amount of fiber consumed.

Drawbacks of Apple Skin for Acid Reflux

  • Fresh apple skin contains sorbitol, which can exacerbate reflux.
  • Older apples may have a tougher skin that is difficult to digest.
  • Pesticide residues on skin could potentially irritate the esophagus.
  • Waxed apple skin can be hard to break down.

For most people with mild to moderate acid reflux, eating apples with the skin is recommended to get the full fiber benefit. But those with severe reflux may need to remove the skin to reduce irritation. Organic apples may be best for limiting pesticide exposure.

Acidity Levels of Different Apple Varieties

Over 100 varieties of apples are grown commercially in the United States. The total acidity can vary significantly between different types of apples:

Low Acid Apples

Apple Variety Malic Acid Content
Gala 108 mg/100g
Ambrosia 117 mg/100g
Red Delicious 126 mg/100g

Medium Acid Apples

Apple Variety Malic Acid Content
Golden Delicious 157 mg/100g
Braeburn 166 mg/100g
Pink Lady 171 mg/100g

High Acid Apples

Apple Variety Malic Acid Content
Granny Smith 181 mg/100g
Honeycrisp 192 mg/100g
Macintosh 210 mg/100g

As a general guideline, sweet apples like Gala, Red Delicious, and Ambrosia tend to be lower acid. Tart apples like Granny Smith and Macintosh contain more acids. But individual growing conditions can impact acidity levels too. Testing different varieties to see which are best tolerated is recommended.

How Ripeness Impacts Apple Acidity and Reflux

The ripeness of an apple also factors into its potential to trigger reflux symptoms:

  • Underripe apples – contain more acids like malic acid and can be harder to digest.
  • Ripe apples – have a better balance of sweetness and acidity. Ripe apples tend to be easier on digestion.
  • Overripe apples – start to ferment, producing alcohols and acetic acid that can aggravate reflux.

For best results, apples for acid reflux should be optimally ripe. Not underripe or overripe. Avoid any apples with brown spots or a mushy texture. Select apples that feel firm and heavy for their size, without bruises or wrinkling.

How Apples are Prepared Affects Acidity

Preparation techniques also alter the effects apples have on acid reflux:

  • Whole apples – best for obtaining fiber benefits, saliva stimulation.
  • Sliced apples – exposes more surface area to help neutralize stomach acid.
  • Applesauce – easier to digest, but contains less fiber. Risk of added sugars.
  • Apple juice/cider – lacks fiber, but provides antioxidants. Choose low acid varieties.
  • Baked apples – softens apples for easier digestion, but reduces fiber.
  • Fried apples – adds fat, avoid for reflux diet.

Eating whole, sliced raw apples, or unsweetened applesauce are best for getting fiber benefits while minimizing acidity. Apple juice and baked apples can be tolerated in moderation by some with mild reflux.

Putting it All Together – The Best Apples for Acid Reflux

Taking into account all the factors discussed, these apple varieties tend to be the most recommended for managing acid reflux:

  • Gala – Low acid, sweet, smooth skin when ripe. Excellent choice.
  • Golden Delicious – Mild acidity, mellow flavor, easy to digest.
  • Red Delicious – Low acid, thick skin when ripe lessens irritation.
  • Braeburn – Slightly higher acidity but dense flesh reduces symptoms.

Other tips for picking the best apples for acid reflux:

  • Select ripe but firm apples without bruises.
  • If skin bothers you, peel before eating.
  • Eat apples alone or with low-fat foods like yogurt or cottage cheese.
  • Slice apples and chew thoroughly to aid digestion.
  • Enjoy apples at room temperature – not cold from the fridge.
  • Drink water after eating to help clear acid from the esophagus.

While not right for everyone, apples are an excellent fruit choice for many acid reflux diets. Paying attention to the variety, ripeness, and preparation can help you determine which apples are optimal for reducing your reflux symptoms.


Acid reflux is a common condition where stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus, causing uncomfortable symptoms like heartburn and regurgitation. Making dietary changes like avoiding trigger foods and eating smaller, slower-digested meals is recommended as a first line treatment. Apples are often well tolerated for people with acid reflux thanks to their low acidity, high fiber content, and ability to stimulate saliva production. However, different types of apples can vary in their effects on reflux due to factors like skin, flesh, acidity, and ripeness. Selecting low acid, ripe apples and eating them whole, sliced, or as unsweetened applesauce typically provides the benefits of fiber without aggravating symptoms. With some care in choosing apple varieties and preparation methods, apples can be a nutritious, low-risk fruit option for managing acid reflux.

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