Are tomatoes acidic or alkaline? Can they cause acid reflux?

Many people have reported to have that burning sensation in their lower chest (heartburn) after eating tomatoes. Since acidic foods are usually one of the main culprit of heartburn or acid reflux, inquiring about the acidity in fresh, canned, and sauced tomatoes is of utmost importance.

When you experience an acid reflux, some of the acid in your stomach backs up into the esophagus. This creates a burning sensation that grabs hold of your chest, usually after you must have eaten what you shouldn’t have; acidic foods amongst others.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, fresh tomatoes have a pH of 4.3-4.9. Tomato pastes and canned tomatoes have a pH range of 3.5-4.7, while tomato juice has a pH range of 4.1-4.6. A pH scale is used to determine the level of acidity or alkalinity of a substance. It runs from 0-14, with values 0-6.9 representing acidity, and 7.1-14 representing alkalinity. The intermediate value of 7.0 depicts a neutral state.


Are tomatoes acidic?

From the above values, we can see that tomato in almost all its forms is acidic, with canned tomatoes being more acidic than fresh ones. This is due to the process of canning, which alters the pH of the tomatoes. For this reason, people looking to lower their intake of acidic foods should consider substituting canned tomatoes with fresh ones.

However, the acidity in fresh tomatoes tend to be dependent on the degree of ripeness. The more mature and ripe a tomato is, the lower the acidity. This is the reason why people suffering from acid reflux are advised to buy and use only the ripest of tomatoes.

The acids present in tomatoes are numerous, more than eight in number. However, only two account for a large percentage of their total acidity, namely; citric acid and malic acid. Tomatoes also contain ascorbic acid or vitamin C.

Tomatoes and acid reflux

Tomatoes and all other tomato-based foods are naturally acidic. Due to their acidity, they tend to trigger acid reflux in many individuals. As a result, most health professionals strongly advise against its consumption. The acids present in tomatoes, malic and citric are renowned heartburn triggers. They tend to increase the production of stomach’s gastric acid, which may subsequently back up into the esophagus to cause heartburn.

However, not everyone suffering from acid reflux find tomatoes to be harmful. Some are able to eat these wonderful vegetables without any cause for alarm. If you are not sure about the effect of tomatoes on your health, you can give it a try. Using the food-symptom log technique isn’t a bad idea after all.

It can be done by removing all acidic foods from your diet, and then adding tomatoes to see if there are any negative symptoms. If you unfortunately react to it, then you should eliminate it. But if you see no symptoms, then you are good to go.

There are many people out there who have acid reflux and love tomatoes. But it gets so hard for them to completely let go of their favorite vegetable. Besides, who doesn’t want that tasty tomato sauce, stew, ketch-up and the rest?

For this reason, nutrition experts around the world have developed numerous processes that can help reduce the acidic content in tomatoes. Some of these processes include the use of baking soda after cooking, reducing cooking time, removing the seeds, and eating only fully ripe ones.

About the author


Abbati studied Biological sciences at Ahmadu Bello Univeristy, Zaria. He loves learning about the medicinal properties of foods, and the need to explore them!

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