Enjoying good food without bad acid reflux

Some maladies don’t sound too bad. Heartburn could be something to do with affection. Some sound as bad as they are. GERD can’t sound nice. It hurts, and you know it. The proper name is Gastroesophageal  Reflux Disease… acid reflux to you. Or heartburn. Stomach acid backs up and makes you feel that burning sensation. Severity varies from person-to-person.

Your doctor will decide if what you have is GERD or just occasional heartburn, but you can help him make a diagnosis before you walk through his door. Start by keeping a food diary. Write down what you eat for two weeks and make a note of how your body reacts.

Certain foods are known triggers: some meats; fats, oils and sweets; citrus fruits, vegetables (garlic, onion and tomatoes) and juice; liquor, wine, coffee and tea; grains; dairy; and spices (chilies, peppermint).

Acidy fruits and vegetables are easy to spot, but you can get a double whammy by mixing two trigger foods. Spaghetti and marinara sauce might have you heading for the Tums. A large portion can be a bigger problem than a smaller amount.

Fatty foods like cheese, nuts, avocados, and ribeye steak, for instance, take longer to leave the stomach so there is more time to put pressure on the muscles that control acid reflux.

Something that seldom causes a problem can cause a problem when you eat too much of it. Eat half of that great pasta dish, and take half home to enjoy the next day. It’s twice as nice with half the hurt.

Looking on the positive side—what is left to eat? Plenty. But not high-fat or high-acid. Go for low-fat and high-fiber foods—whole grains, lean meats, fruits and vegetables.

Instead of biscuits and gravy for breakfast try oatmeal made with apple cider and water. Dress it up with chopped pear, sweetened cranberries, cinnamon, vanilla, chopped pecans, and skim milk. You don’t need much of one thing to make it good.

Ginger is a powerful foe of heartburn. Using the fresh root, you can chew it, make tea or soda from it, flavor soups, cakes and cookies, as well as add it to braises or stir-fries. But just a little bit. Too much can cause the problem you are trying to stop.

Not having pasta can be a pain in itself, so to get around that, use whole wheat pastas with light sauces. Three kinds of mushrooms and a very little onion sautéed in olive oil makes a fine sauce. Just before serving, top it with grated strong cheese and a few drops of truffle oil. Truffle oil is a bit expensive, but a tiny bit can dress up many dishes. Use your imagination. Beans are super because they are full of protein. They can make a dish that’s light on fatty meat into a protein powerhouse. Think of the Italian soups that make a meal. Have whole wheat bread with the soup and, instead of butter, dip the crusty bread into the broth.

For a satisfying sauce, sauté zucchini and yellow squash with a few sweet red peppers and mushrooms, then add canned cannellini beans. If you must have tomato flavor, stir in a tablespoon of tomato paste. A sprinkle of garlic powder is better than fresh garlic. For sprinkling, the stronger the cheese the less of it you need.

Applesauce can take the place of butter and oil that are known to be heartburn triggers in baked goods. That includes Sunday morning pancakes and muffins. The rule of thumb is to use applesauce in place of oil ounce for ounce. Recipes vary so you will probably have to fine-tune the substitution.

Bananas are great for most people, but a small percentage of sufferers can’t eat them comfortably.

Salad is usually fine without tomatoes and onions. Dressings should be low acid, too, and use as little as possible. Dip your fork into the dressing then spear the greens. Your first sensation is the dressing.

Cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew are good beginnings or endings to a meal. Make a fruit salad and serve over slices of angel food cake.

If you like licorice you will probably love fennel. It looks like dumpy celery and tastes like crunchy licorice. Use it in stir-fries or salads. Thin slices are great nibbles instead of chips.

Lean chicken, turkey, fish, and seafood are good to go. If you have a choice, try for wild seafood because it can have less fat than farmed.

And sit up straight after meals.


story by TRENT ROWE, Food Editor

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