Foods That Are Good for the Esophagus

Whether you suffer from heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease or simply want to better your odds of preventing esophageal cancer, diet matters. What you eat impacts how you feel now as well as your health in the future. You can choose certain foods that are kinder to the esophagus than others.

Soft, bland foods, such as bananas, are gentle on the digestive system. (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Fruits and Veggies

With only a few exceptions, fruits and vegetables are great choices for preventing heartburn and esophageal cancer. All fruits and veggies offer beneficial, cancer-fighting antioxidants and phytonutrients, but green cruciferous vegetables, such as kale and broccoli, are particularly effective against esophageal cancer.

When choosing fruits, pick those that are soft and bland, like bananas, melons or pears, if you're prone to heartburn. Avoid citrus fruits and tomatoes, which may trigger heartburn or other GERD symptoms.

Whole Grains

Making whole grains a regular part of your diet guards against esophageal cancer and benefits not only your esophagus but also your entire digestive system. Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, oats and whole wheat bread are rich in dietary fiber, which helps foods pass smoothly and efficiently through your body. Whole grains also tend to be low in fat, one nutrient that would otherwise trigger heartburn or aggravate GERD. Whenever you have the option, choose whole grains over refined grains for better esophageal health.

Light Dairy

Full-fat milk and other fatty dairy products may exacerbate GERD, but low-fat and fat-free dairy products are less likely to irritate the esophagus. Yogurt in particular is a healthy choice for patients with GERD or heartburn, since the probiotic bacteria in yogurt can aid digestion and improve your overall gastrointestinal health. Skim or low-fat milk, light cottage cheese and other low-fat cheeses are also healthy choices unlikely to trigger heartburn.

Lean Proteins

GERD patients and frequent heartburn sufferers should include lean, low-fat proteins like chicken, fish and turkey in their daily diets, according to Frank W. Jackson, M.D., of Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroenterology Clinic. Red meats and other high-fat meats, conversely, may increase your risk of heartburn, so eat them infrequently or replace them altogether with leaner sources of protein.

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