Both acidic fruits and alkaline fruits are delicious and healthy.
However, if you’re experiencing acid reflux, it’s best to stick to low acid fruits to help control your symptoms. This means that some of your favourites may be off the menu, but luckily there are still plenty of non-acidic fruits you can enjoy.
The pH scale measures how acidic or alkaline something is from 0 to 14. The lower the pH level, the more acidic the food.
A pH level of 0 would be pure battery acid, whereas a pH of 14 includes the highly alkaline chemicals found in caustic soda and drain cleaner.1
Obviously, you wouldn’t put any of these things near your mouth. All types of food, however, also have a pH level.
On the pH scale, 7 is considered neutral. Values higher than 7 are alkaline, and values less than 7 are acidic. Most foods are somewhat acidic, with some foods – especially some fruits – particularly so.
Eating too many acidic foods can aggravate certain conditions, such as recurring acid reflux (also called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD).
With acid reflux, digestive juices including stomach acid make their way up into the oesophagus. This often happens when lying down or sleeping. The stomach acid washing back up into the oesophagus causes heartburn and a sour taste in the mouth.2
Eating too many acidic things can increase the level of stomach acid and make these symptoms worse.
Acidic fruit can also damage the enamel on your teeth. Eating or drinking fruits with a low pH level, such as citrus fruits, temporarily softens the enamel on our teeth and causes it to lose minerals.3
Including such acidic fruits in meals and not eating them alone can minimise the damage to tooth enamel.
Overall, the human body is naturally slightly alkaline at around 7.4 pH, so you might think that eating acidic foods would alter your body’s pH level.4
Stomach acid is made up of hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes and other substances and has a natural (fasting) pH level of around 1.7.5 This helps the stomach break down the foods you eat.
However, it’s a myth that you can alter your overall pH level through diet, as the body is able to maintain its pH level regardless of what we eat.
The only part of the body that eating acidic foods causes to become temporarily more acidic is the stomach itself.
With a pH of around 5, bananas are considered low-acidic fruits and are unlikely to trigger gastroesophageal symptoms.
With a pH of around 4, apples are mildly acidic and may trigger acid reflux in some people.
Strawberries are a more acidic fruit, with a pH of around 3.5.
If you're wondering which fruits are acidic, look no further.6
Some believe that lemon juice turns alkaline after being metabolised. However, the citric acid still must pass through the stomach to become metabolised, hence why most people find lemon makes acid reflux symptoms worse.
It’s hard to imagine Mexican food without a slice of lime. However, limes are similar to lemons when it comes to citric acid content, so if you are avoiding acid for health reasons then it’s best to skip the lime.
Have you ever pulled a sour face after biting into grapefruit? It’s no wonder – they’re a citrus fruit and like lemons and limes, contain citric acid.
Oranges are high in vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid. This creates problems for people prone to acid reflux and heartburn.
Tomatoes are mildly acidic with a pH of 4.6. Tomato paste and concentrate are more acidic than fresh tomatoes.
There are several different varieties of plum, most with a pH level of around 3 making them acidic. Damson plums are the most acidic and yellow plums are the least.
A popular ingredient in jams and chutneys, be careful of eating too much concentrated quince if you’re prone to acid reflux.
Unfortunately, this deliciously cooling fruit can cause a burning sensation in the stomach for people who are sensitive to acidic foods.
The more sugar included with your cranberries, for example cranberry juice or cranberry jam, the more acidic it will be.7
Most berries are acidic. Some people find they can tolerate berries better than others, so try eating a few as part of a meal and see if you experience gastric symptoms.
This tangy favourite is another fruit you should eat with caution if you’re following a low-acid diet.
With a similar pH to oranges, nectarines are slightly acidic fruits.
Surprising for their mild flavour, pears are considered an acidic fruit with a pH of 4.
The rhubarb is strictly a vegetable, although its acid content and tart flavour means it’s usually cooked with lots of sugar.
Probably not a surprise due to its sharp flavour, pineapple falls into the category of acidic fruit.
For more ways to manage acid reflux, check out this article: What is acid reflux?
Low-acid and alkaline fruits include:
With a mild pH, watermelon is unlikely to trigger acid reflux symptoms.
Melons are considered safe fruits for acid reflux.
More sweet than sour, mangos are recommended for people experiencing acid reflux.
Papaya contains enzymes tough enough to help break down meat, but it’s low enough in acidity to be well-tolerated by most people.
One of the least acidic fruits.
Despite being mildly acidic like most foods, bananas are considered a safe bet if you have acid reflux.
Sometimes used as a meat substitute, jackfruit is also low in acidity.
Last updated: 2 June 2021
Joined Holland & Barrett: Apr 2019
Masters Degree in Toxicology and BSc Hons in Medical Biochemistry
Bhupesh started his career as a Clinical Toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products.
After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.