This colorful Lemongrass Ginger Poached Shrimp Salad with Toasted Fennel Dressing is bursting with ingredients that combat acid reflux. Photos by Jessica VanRoo.
Whether it starts with a spicy meal a new restaurant, too many nachos and beers while watching the big game or overindulging at a holiday feast, most people have experienced heartburn — also known as acid reflux — at some time in their lives.
In fact, more than 60 million Americans suffer from acid reflux at least once a month and some studies have suggested that more than 15 million Americans experience heartburn symptoms daily, according to the American College of Gastroenterology.
Acid reflux happens when powerful stomach acids flow back into the esophagus. One of the most common causes is a weakened or damaged lower esophageal sphincter that doesn't close properly.
Chronic acid reflux can damage the esophageal lining, leading to more serious conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and even esophageal cancer if left unchecked.
“Fortunately, the foods we eat can have a profound effect on how much acid the stomach produces," says Katie Rankell, a registered dietitian and program director of the UCI Health Weight Management Program.
Many ingredients known to calm acid reflux and improve digestive health are combined in these delicious recipes created by Jessica VanRoo, executive chef of the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute, part of UCI Health. Give them a try and see if you're able to say goodbye to those antacid tablets.
Serves 6 (Total cost: $4.72/ $0.59 per serving)
Calories: 331 per serving
Edamame — green, immature soybeans — are one of the few legumes that don’t aggravate acid reflux. During digestion, they also form short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which may improve gut health and not incidentally reduce your risk of colon cancer.
Blended into a tasty green hummus and served with raw veggies, edamame become a protein-rich, high-fiber, low-fat snack option.
Adding more vegetables to your diet also helps to minimize acid reflux because they are more alkaline which can help to offset strong stomach acids. Veggies with high alkaline content include leafy greens, broccoli, celery, cucumber, cauliflower, green beans and asparagus.
- 16 oz shelled edamame beans, fresh or frozen
- ⅓ cup packed cilantro stems and leaves
- 3 tablespoons white miso
- 6 tablespoons tahini
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 6 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 3-9 tablespoons water, more as needed
- Salt to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Add edamame, cook 5 minutes then drain immediately and set aside.
- In a blender or food processor, combine cooked edamame with cilantro, miso, tahini, garlic, cumin and lime or lemon juice and blend until smooth.
- Slowly drizzle olive oil and water into the mixture with the motor running to reach your desired consistency.
- Season to taste with salt.
- Makes about 1¾ cup.
Lemongrass Ginger Poached Shrimp Salad with Toasted Fennel Dressing
Serves 4 (Total cost: $18.34/ $4.59 per serving)
Calories: 309 per serving/ 449 per serving using chicken
This colorful, fresh salad is bursting with ingredients that combat acid reflux.
Fried and fatty foods can cause the esophageal sphincter to relax, allowing more stomach acid to wash back into the esophagus. Seafood, freshwater fish and lean meats like chicken and turkey may also reduce symptoms of acid reflux because they are low in saturated fats. Grilling, broiling, baking or poaching them helps lower the fat content even further.
Combining alkaline vegetables and seasonings like lemongrass stalks, ginger and fennel not only adds rich and savory flavors, they tamp down stomach acid and offer anti-inflammatory properties that help calm and protect the stomach lining.
Ginger in particular has long been known as a natural remedy for heartburn, nausea and a host of other gastrointestinal problems. Gingerol is its main bioactive compound.
Fennel seeds are another popular digestive aid that reduce stomach spasms. They are also high in vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium and manganese and other essential nutrients.
Shrimp: (Substitute chicken breast for a more budget-friendly meal)
- 1 lb large or jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 quarts of water or 2 cups coconut milk mixed with 1 quart water
- 2 stalks of lemongrass, bruised
- 1 shallot, roughly chopped
- 5 lime leaves, bruised, or zest of 1 lime
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1-inch piece of ginger or galangal, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 head green or red leaf lettuce
- 1 carrot, shredded or spiralized
- 1 cucumber, shredded or spiralized
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- ½ red onion, thinly sliced and soaked in ice cold water at least 10 min.
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup chopped peanuts, optional
- 2 teaspoons toasted fennel seeds, ground
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 large shallot, chopped
- 1½ teaspoon honey or agave
- 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves and stems
- 1 Thai chili
- Combine shrimp, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl then refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- In a pot, combine water with lemon grass, shallot, lime leaves, garlic, galangal or ginger and lime juice.
- Bring everything to a boil, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Strain out the solids and return broth to the pot.
- Bring the broth back to a boil, place chilled shrimp in pot and turn off heat. Cover and let it sit for 5 minutes.
- Remove the pot lid and transfer cooked shrimp into the ice water. Remove shrimp after 5 minutes, then pat dry and set aside.
- For dressing, add all ingredients in a food processor or blender and combine. Season with salt and pepper.
- Toss all the salad ingredients with half the dressing, top with shrimp, serving the extra dressing on the side.
Directions for poaching chicken:
- Do NOT use baking soda on the chicken.
- After you've cooked and strained the broth, arrange the boneless, skinless, chicken breast pieces in a single layer on the bottom of the pot large. It's fine if they overlap a little.
Cover the chicken with poaching broth and bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let the chicken simmer.
- Begin checking the chicken after 8 minutes. It is done when opaque through the middle and an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the meat registers 165°F. Chicken will typically finish cooking in 10 to 14 minutes.
- Remove from broth, place on plate or cutting board and slice into bite-sized pieces.
Maple Pumpkin Oat Bars
Serves 10 (Total cost: $4.21/ $0.42 per serving)
Calories: 219 per serving
Eating a diet high in fiber is associated with a lower risk of acid reflux and improved digestive health, studies show.
The oatmeal, pumpkin puree, flaxseed and chia seeds in these hearty maple pumpkin oatmeal bars gives them a high-fiber profile.
The seeds are also rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids and a host of other nutrients that assist with blood sugar regulation.
Pumpkin is a great source of beta-carotene, a carotenoid your body converts into vitamin A, which is important for eye health and immune system function.
These versatile, low-calorie bars work well as a quick breakfast, an energy-boosting snack or to satiate that sweet tooth without any regrets.
- 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
- 2½ tablespoons water
- 2½ cups old-fashioned oats
- 1 cup 1% milk (other milks work well)
- ½ cup pumpkin puree
- ½ cup pure maple syrup
- ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ⅓ cup almond slivers of slices
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees, then spray or coat an 8 x 8 baking pan with oil or nonstick spray.
- Mix flaxseed meal with water in a small bowl and set aside for 5 minutes.
- Place oats in a food processor and mix until you create a flour. You can also use 2¼ cups of oat flour instead of making your own!
- Combine flaxseed mixture with milk, pumpkin, maple syrup, oil and extract. Mix well.
- In a clean bowl, whisk oat flour with chia seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder and baking soda.
- Pour milk into the oat flour mix and stir just until combined. Do not over-mix.
- Fold in almond slivers then pour batter into prepared pan.
- Bake 30-35 minutes until the edges begin to brown and the middle is set. Do not overbake!
- Cool then cut into bars, which can be stored up to 5 days in the refrigerator.