If you suffer from acid reflux and have to follow a low-acid diet, you know how frustrating it can be to find foods that don’t worsen your symptoms. But, while it might seem like you should avoid all foods, eating an alkaline diet doesn’t have to be boring.
There are still many delicious foods that are either alkaline-forming or low in acid that can be incorporated into your diet. But to know which ones are safe, you have to know their pH levels.
So, how about BBQ sauce? It’s a staple in most households, but is BBQ sauce acidic? Is it bad for acid reflux?
Is BBQ sauce acidic?
BBQ sauce, just like almost all other sauces, has a low pH level and acid-forming properties. This means that consuming too much of this sauce can lead to acid reflux and GERD symptoms. What’s more, barbecue sauce contains barely any minerals and micronutrients, which means that it doesn’t contribute to maintaining good health.
It also means that it basically provides you with empty calories, nothing else.
What is the pH level of BBQ sauce?
Generally, BBQ sauce has a pH level of around 4.0. This is mostly because of the ingredients it’s made of and the fact that all sauces contain a form of acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice.
While lemon juice is alkaline-forming once digested, the version found in BBQ sauce is highly processed, making it highly acidic. All of these acidic ingredients mean that consuming too much of this sauce can lead to severe acid reflux and GERD flareups, which you should want to avoid.
There are also not many ways to purchase commercial BBQ sauce brands that have a higher pH level. This is because the acidity and low pH level protect the food from bacteria growth and becoming spoiled as it spends a lot of time on the shelf.
Acidity is also important to prevent botulism, which is a condition one can develop from improperly stored and preserved tomatoes (which are the main ingredient in BBQ sauce).
Is BBQ sauce healthy?
Barbecue sauce is definitely not a health food. It contains around 53 calories in a single serving (two tablespoons), and most of these calories come from carbohydrates. It also doesn’t have any protein, which is an essential macronutrient that fuels your muscles and helps you feel full after each meal.
Because of that, BBQ sauce will most likely spend more time in your stomach, increasing stomach acid production and leading to acid reflux symptoms.
BBQ sauce is also very high in sodium, containing around 20% of your daily recommended need for this mineral in just two tablespoons.
This is a lot, especially since most people tend to consume more than this recommended serving. A diet high in sodium is bad since it leads to high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke, and other serious health conditions.
While sodium is essential to maintain a healthy electrolyte balance in your body, you don’t need nearly as much as you may think.
If you purchase organic BBQ sauce with a list of ingredients you’re actually familiar with, you might reap some antioxidant properties. This is because barbecue sauce is primarily made of tomatoes, which are high in a compound called lycopene, which helps prevent certain forms of cancer, including prostate, stomach, and intestine.
But it’s still important to note that you’re probably not getting enough lycopene in a single serving of BBQ sauce to reap a lot of these benefits.
If you’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet, including BBQ sauce in your diet in the place of mayonnaise, for example, might be a good idea.
Most store-bought barbecue sauce brands don’t contain any animal products since the basic ingredients include tomatoes, spices, vinegar, and sweeteners to taste. Because of that, it might help you add flavor to various meals while not increasing the calories too much.
Can you eat BBQ sauce on acid reflux?
BBQ sauce is a processed condiment that contributes to acid reflux and GERD symptoms. Because it’s loaded with sodium, processed carbs, and sugar, it slows down digestion and increases stomach acid production, which can then reflux up your esophagus.
On the bright side, BBQ sauce is mostly consumed in small quantities, so it’s very unlikely to worsen your acid reflux or GERD symptoms as long as you’re following a healthy, balanced diet rich in many vitamins and minerals.
What’s more, some people may be able to tolerate larger amounts of barbecue sauce, but always make sure to listen to how your body is reacting.
What sauce is better for acid reflux instead of BBQ sauce?
As a starting point, all sauces and marinades are acidic. This is because all of them are processed foods that contain vinegar or lemon juice as an acidifier. Also, most sauces contain huge amounts of sodium and sugar, which negatively impact your health and worsen acid reflux symptoms.
On the other hand, if you simply can’t live without BBQ sauce, your best bet is to make the sauce yourself. That way, you can carefully control its acidity and include fresh, natural ingredients.
There are many GERD-friendly and low-acid sauce and marinara recipes on the internet, so there’s something for everyone. Most of them use lemon juice instead of vinegar, which is slightly less acidic and provides you with more vitamins and minerals.
Moreover, making BBQ sauce yourself ensures that you’re using fresh ingredients which aren’t processed.
BBQ sauce is an acid-forming food that may aggravate acid reflux and GERD symptoms, especially in people who suffer from severe flareups. It also lacks many essential minerals and vitamins that contribute to good health.
Instead of these vital nutrients, it’s loaded with sodium and sugars that slow down digestion and may cause stomach acid to come back up your esophagus. Because of that, it’s best to limit your consumption of barbecue sauce as much as possible.
Alicia is the senior content editor and writer here at Food FAQ. She has extensive experience with acid reflux, heartburn, GERD, and various supplements. When not eating food for “research”, she’s watching “Friends” for the 100th time.