Acid in fruit, including citric acid, can be a problem for a person's teeth and digestive system. People who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (also known as acid reflux), or those who are concerned about their tooth enamel, may want to stick to non-acidic fruits.
As you might expect, citrus fruits are highest in citric acid, with lemons and limes having the most, according to University of Wisconsin. Oranges, grapes and berries also contain a good amount of citric acid. However, citric acid isn't the only type of acid in fruit, so you should be aware of a fruit's overall acidity if you're being cautious about what you eat.
The Problem with Acidic Fruit
The acidity of fruit is measured by the pH scale, on which 1 is the most acidic and 14 is the most alkaline, or basic, according to Clemson Cooperative Extension. A measure of 7, right in the middle, is considered neutral, like pure water. All fruit has a little bit of acid in it, but the closer the fruit is on the pH scale to 7, the less acidic it is.
Acidic foods can weaken the enamel on your teeth, according to the Oral Health Foundation. Each time you eat or drink something acidic, the enamel gets a little softer and loses a bit of its mineral content. The saliva cancels out that acidic eventually, but when you eat too much acid too frequently, the saliva doesn't get a chance to restore the proper pH balance. This can lead to a wearing away of the enamel and eventual tooth decay.
Additionally, acidic foods can worsen symptoms of GERD, or acid reflux, according to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. Although there is medication to help relieve the symptoms of acid reflux, when a person is suffering from the condition, it's recommended to avoid acidic foods and drinks, including highly acidic fruit.
Persimmons: 4.42 to 4.7 pH
Falling between 4.42 and 4.7 on the pH scale, according to Clemson University, persimmons may be a problem for people who are particularly sensitive to acidic fruit. Additionally, persimmons are a citrus fruit, so they have higher citric acid levels than some other fruits. Therefore, if you're really concerned about acidity, skip persimmons in favor of non-acidic fruits.
Despite this, persimmons can be a worthy addition to your diet. They are winter fruits that come in two varieties, hachiya and fuyu, says the Calorie Control Council. Each little fruit has just 120 calories, but they're a good source of both vitamin A and fiber.
Hachiya varieties should be allowed to ripen until they are soft and then peeled, mashed and spread over toast as a sort of jam or pureed into a sauce, suggests the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Fuyu persimmons, on the other hand, are better eaten when their flesh is still firm. They can be sliced up and eaten raw in salads or baked into pies.
Bananas: 4.5 to 5.20 pH
Bananas might be low in acid, with a pH value of between 4.5 and 5.20, according to Clemson, but they're high in nutritional value. Each medium-sized banana contains around 105 calories but is free from fat, cholesterol and sodium, according to the Mayo Clinic News Network. Grab a banana as part of your breakfast in the morning — its natural wrapper makes it easy to eat in the car or on the train — or slice it into a bowl of cereal or oatmeal.
The fruit is fairly high in carbohydrates, which is your body's main source of energy, so it's a good pre-workout or morning snack to get you going. A portion of those carbohydrates are in the form of fiber — about 3 grams in an average-sized banana — which helps with digestion, as well as giving you a feeling of being full.
Read more: Top 10 Health Benefits of Bananas
Figs: 5.05 to 5.98 pH
Figs might not be the first option you think of when it comes to non-acidic fruits, but they're a healthy snack or ingredient. Each fig contains 37 calories, according to Team USA, but has a good amount of fiber — 1.4 grams per fruit. With a pH of 5.05 to 5.98, according to Clemson, this non-acidic fruit also has a good amount of calcium, potassium, manganese and magnesium, which are all important minerals for your body.
Figs come dried, but you can eat them fresh, too — although they can be intimidating to cook with for those not familiar with the fruit. Escoffier School of Culinary Arts recommends marinating figs for a salad, chopping them up into salsa or wrapping them in bacon and then baking.
Watermelon: 5.18 to 5.6 pH
As its name indicates, watermelon is made up of mostly water — 92 percent, according to the Mayo Clinic Health System. It's no wonder, then, that at 5.18 to 5.6, according to Clemson, it's higher on the pH scale than a lot of other fruits. One cup of watermelon also provides you with 865 IUs of vitamin A, which benefits your skin and eye health, as well as 12 milligrams of vitamin C, a micronutrient that boosts the immune system and helps your body absorb iron. It's also a rich source of potassium, which is vital for nerve function.
One of the beauties of watermelon is how easy it is to eat plain. However, the Produce for Better Health Foundation suggests a few other ways to enjoy the fruit: combine the watermelon with greek yogurt, strawberries and a banana in a blender for a smoothie or season the watermelon with a little spice and pop it on the grill.
Papaya: 5.2 to 6.0 pH
The tropical fruit papaya isn't as popular as some other non-acidic fruits — but maybe it should be! Native to southern Mexico and Central America, a papaya provides plenty of carotenoids in the form of vitamin A, says University of Wyoming. With a low pH level of 5.2 to 6.0, according to Clemson, the fruit is also a good source of vitamin C, folate, fiber, magnesium, potassium, copper and vitamin K.
Papayas can be eaten much like melons, University of Wyoming notes. Unlike melons, though, the seeds of the papaya are edible and taste nutty and a little peppery. Use the flesh of the papaya as an accompaniment for grilled fish or puree it into a fruit sauce.
Mango: 5.8 to 6.0 pH
Despite a relatively high pH level of 5.8 to 6.0, according to Clemson, mangos have a small amount of organic acids, according to research published in Frontiers in Plant Science in October 2019. Those acids include oxalic and citric acid — but they have a low molecular weight, meaning there's not too much citric acid in mango.
However, mangos have a good amount of micronutrients, particularly vitamins A and C, with vitamins E and K found in small amounts. Minerals in mango include potassium, calcium and phosphorus, with smaller amounts of zinc and iron. The National Mango Board suggests enjoying mango by rolling up a slice of the fruit with deli turkey or ham or mixing chopped mango with vanilla-flavored frozen yogurt.
Read more: 14 Surprising Facts About Mangos
Honeydew Melon: 6.0 to 6.67 pH
Honeydew melons can be awfully sweet, which might make you wonder if the sugar in the fruit is bad for you. However, these are natural sugars, rather than added sugars, says UT Southwestern Medical Center, and the fruit has a pH level of 6.0 to 6.67, according to Clemson. Honeydews, which have a pale green flesh, contain just 61 calories per serving, but have 88 IUs of vitamin A, 32 milligrams of vitamin C, 388 milligrams of potassium and 1.4 milligrams of fiber per serving.
All types of melon are great in a fruit salad, but try a different option next time you fancy some honeydew. The Produce for Better Health Foundation suggests chopping honeydews up into a fruit salsa with red onion, cilantro and lime juice or wrapping a slice of honeydew with a slice of prosciutto for a snack.
Cantaloupe Melon: 6.13 to 6.58 pH
Like its sibling, cantaloupe — another type of melon — doesn't have a lot of acid in it, with a pH level of 6.13 to 6.58, according to Clemson. It also has rich orange flesh that is high in vitamin A, much like papayas and mangos, with a whopping 27,529 IUs of the nutrient, notes UT Southwestern Medical Center. Cantaloupe also contains potassium, vitamin C and fiber.
Like honeydew, cantaloupe is an ideal addition to fruit salad. Mayo Clinic Health System also recommends using melons to infuse plain water with a little bit of flavor, or to puree them, add a bit of sugar and lime juice and freeze into ice pops.
Avocados: 6.27 to 6.58 pH
At 6.27 to 6.58 on the PH scale, according to Clemson, acid levels are low in avocados, which are botanically a fruit. They are rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, though — 15 of the 20 to 25 grams are monounsaturated, says the Cleveland Clinic — which helps you feel satisfied after eating, so you don't consume too much. Avocados are also high in fiber, another nutrient that helps you feel full, as well as potassium and vitamins A, D, E and K.
To enjoy all the nutrition that avocados have to offer, think of clever ways to use the fruit. The Produce for Better Health Foundation suggests mashing it up and using it in place of mayonnaise on a sandwich or using it as part of the filling in deviled eggs.
Acidic Fruit to Avoid
If you're avoiding citric acid in food, or trying to cut down on acid in food overall, stay clear of or moderate these fruits that are low on the pH scale:
- Certain citrus fruits, including lemons (2 to 2.6 pH), limes (2 to 2.8 pH) and oranges (3.69 to 4.19 pH)
- Some berries, such as blueberries (3.12 to 3.33 pH), raspberries (3.22 to 3.95 pH) and strawberries (3.0 to 3.9 pH)
- Certain stone fruits like peaches (3.3 to 4.05 pH) and plums (2.8 to 3.4 pH)
- Grapes, which range from 2.8 to 3.82 pH, depending on the variety
- Apples, which range from 3.33 to 4.0 pH, depending on the variety
- International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders: "Diet Changes for Gerd"
- University of Wisconsin: "Citric Acid and Kidney Stones"
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: "What is pH?"
- Clemson University: "pH Values of Common Foods and Ingredients"
- Mayo Clinic News Network: "Go Bananas for... Bananas"
- Oral Health Foundation: "What Foods and Drinks Contain Acid and Why It Spells Trouble for Our Oral Health"
- Calorie Control Council: "Keep Up Your Fruits and Veggies This Winter"
- Team USA: "Try This Fabulous Figs Recipe"
- Frontiers in Plant Science: "Chemical Composition of Mango (Mangifera indica L.) Fruit: Nutritional and Phytochemical Compounds"
- Mayo Clinic Health System: "The Wonders of Watermelon"
- University of Wyoming: "Papaya"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Can You Eat Too Much Avocado?"
- UT Southwestern Medical Center: "Beat the Heat with Heart-Healthy Cantaloupe, Honeydew, and Watermelon"
- Escoffier School of Culinary Arts: "5 Ways to Eat Figs"
- Produce for Better Health Foundation: "Top 10 Ways to Enjoy Watermelon"
- Produce for Better Health Foundation: "Top 10 Ways to Enjoy Avocados"
- Mayo Clinic Health System: "Melons Pack a Nutritional Punch"
- Produce for Better Health Foundation: "Top 10 Ways to Enjoy Honeydew Melon"
- National Mango Board: "How to Eat a Mango"
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden: "Eat Local: How to Shop for and Prepare Persimmons"