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crate of red applesApples and other non-citrus fruit can help lessen the effects of reflux disease.

How ‘bout them apples: Non-citrus fruit helps lessen effects of reflux disease

K-State food scientist says food choices can help in managing GERD

May 12, 2021

MANHATTAN, Kan. – It’s a well-known saying that an apple a day, keeps the doctor away, but do we really know why?

Truth is, there’s probably a lot of reasons why apples and other non-acidic fruits, in particular, are good for human bodies. But Kansas State University food scientist Karen Blakeslee says one especially strong reason is to reduce the effects of Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, a condition thought to affect up to 27% of consumers in North America, with an estimated 3 million new cases per year in the United States.

“Over time, research has found that for some people, changes in diet are beneficial to reduce the symptoms of GERD,” Blakeslee said. Common symptoms include heartburn – usually after eating and sometimes worse at night – as well as chest pain, difficulty swallowing, regurgitation of food or a sensation of a lump in your throat.

“Apples are not as acidic as citrus fruits like grapefruit and oranges,” Blakeslee said. “Apples allow the muscles at the bottom of the esophagus to relax so that food digests more easily. But citrus fruit, fatty and fried foods, caffeinated beverages, alcohol and spices cause the stomach to create more acid, which can wash up the esophagus and cause heartburn.”

In addition to apples, other fruits that are less meddlesome in the esophagus include grapes, cranberries, bananas and pears. Blakeslee said consumers can also steam, roast or stir fry vegetables instead of frying them in fat or adding a cream sauce.

“Making good food choices to reduce GERD includes reading the Nutrition Facts labels to look at the fat content of food,” Blakeslee said. “High fat foods can aggravate GERD. Read the ingredient statements to look for types of fat, caffeine and alcohol.

“It’s also helpful to know how a restaurant prepares certain foods. For example, choose steamed or roasted vegetables instead of fried. Choose smaller portions of food to avoid overeating and to help with weight control.”

Blakeslee noted that GERD can affect people of all ages, including infants, children and pregnant women. Food and lifestyles choices can help to manage the condition without the help of medication. “Discuss symptoms with your health care provider to determine the best treatment options,” she said.

Blakeslee, who is also coordinator of K-State’s Rapid Response Center for food science, publishes a monthly newsletter, called You Asked It!, that addresses many issues related to food science and safety.

More information on food safety also is available online from K-State Research and Extension.

At a glance

Apples and other non-citrus fruit can help to reduce the effects of Gastroesophageal reflux disease, which affects an estimated 27% of consumers in North America.


K-State Rapid Response Center for food safety


Karen Blakeslee

Written by

Pat Melgares


KSRE logo
K‑State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well‑being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county extension offices, experiment fields, area extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K‑State campus in Manhattan. For more information, visit www.ksre.ksu.edu. K-State Research and Extension is an equal opportunity provider and employer.