Bland as Can Be, the BRAT Diet Temporarily Helps Upset Stomachs

Since the 1920s, anyone luckless enough to experience a stomach bug or digestive ailment — along with the attendant symptoms of diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and stomach upset in general — was likely to hear about the BRAT diet. It was a recommendation for specific kinds of bland foods that were thought to be easily digested and less irritating to tender tummies.

Although components of BRAT can be beneficial, current medical and nutritional thinking has raised some concerns about the diet, while offering additional guidance for anyone just getting over a bout of belly trouble. Here’s what you need to know about the BRAT diet. 

What Is on the BRAT Diet?

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The BRAT diet is a simple diet of specific foods thought to help calm the digestive tract and reduce symptoms of gastrointestinal distress. The foods are low in fiber and easy to digest, making it a temporary solution during recovery. Here are the staples of the BRAT diet.


Besides being a soft and relatively bland food that’s easy on the stomach, bananas contain pectin, a starch that can make stool firmer. Bananas also contain potassium, a key electrolyte that our bodies need, but often lose while experiencing vomiting and diarrhea. 


Another bland but starchy food that can help with diarrhea. White rice in particular was recommended since it is a low-fiber food that’s also easy to digest.


Depending on the source, some simply let the “A” stand for “apples.” But the more traditional component that’s recommended is typically applesauce, preferably a variety that’s unsweetened. Applesauce is generally considered easier to digest than a whole piece of fruit, while still containing soluble fiber and pectin, as well as some nutrients.


By now you’ve sensed a common theme to these foods and toast is no different. A low-fiber piece of toast — white bread was typically recommended over a hard-to-digest whole grain variety — helps bulk stool while also being easy to digest. 

Read More: Stomachache? Your Gut Bacteria Might Be to Blame

Is the BRAT Diet Safe?

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Of course, bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast are generally safe to eat, somewhat nutritious, and a part of many people’s regular diets. Over the years, though, medical and nutritional thinking has evolved on using the BRAT diet specifically as a therapeutic eating plan for people who are recovering from stomach ailments, especially conditions that involve diarrhea and vomiting.

Taken together, the BRAT foods simply don’t constitute a balanced meal, lacking sufficient calories and numerous important vitamins and minerals that everyone needs, especially growing kids. For this reason, pediatricians in particular no longer recommend the BRAT diet for kids, preferring a more balanced diet. Critics of the diet also consider it a little simplistic and failing to acknowledge the need for fluids to avoid the risk of dehydration. 

To be clear, any of the BRAT foods are still fine to eat, as long as they’re part of a balanced diet. And if you find them easy or soothing to tolerate while getting over a stomach bug, it’s ok if that’s all you feel like eating — for a day or so. But the BRAT diet should definitely not be used as a long-term eating plan, even if you do suffer regularly from chronic digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome.

And it’s worth bearing in mind that some research has shown that a more restrictive diet doesn’t necessarily help, especially when it comes to easing diarrhea. Luckily, there are plenty of other recommendations to ensure you are getting proper nutrition and hydration, while going easy on your gut. 

Read More: Recurring Stomach Pain? It Could Be Abdominal Migraines

Are Fluids Part of the BRAT Diet?

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Before we get into foods beyond the BRAT diet, it’s important to note that any stomach issue involving diarrhea and/or vomiting can put you at risk for dehydration, as well as cause you to lose important vitamins and minerals, especially electrolytes such as potassium and sodium. This has led some experts over the years to restyle the BRAT diet as the BRATT diet — the extra letter stands for “tea,” a reminder to make fluids part of your recovery plan.

In addition to tea (which ideally should be uncaffeinated), other fluids include drinks containing electrolytes (Pedialyte or low-sugar sports drinks), clear juices, soups and broths, and of course good, old-fashioned water. If you feel like it, some experts also allow lactose-free milk, as well as almond, oat, rice, and soy milks. 

Read More: This is How Much Water You Should Actually Be Drinking Each Day

What Can I Eat Besides BRAT Diet Food?

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Generally, you should avoid eating or drinking things that could be hard to digest or irritating to the digestive system. This include foods and liquids that are high in sugar or fat, anything spicy or caffeinated, and acidic foods, such as citrus fruits. Also, since many people are intolerant to lactose, it’s often recommended to stay away from most dairy products.

However, that still leaves a wide range of foods you can have that are easy on the stomach while still giving you more balanced nutrition than the four BRAT foods alone. Some options include:

Low-Fiber dry cereal: Unsweetened dry cereal like Rice Krispies, corn flakes, and Rice Chex.

Cooked cereals: Beneficial hot cereals include farina, grits, or oatmeal. 

Plain crackers: Think saltines, rather than flavored snack chips. Pretzels are also an option.

Peeled potatoes: Enjoy them boiled, baked, or mashed. You can put a little salt on them, but otherwise avoid adding spices.

Chicken: Take the skin off, then enjoy steamed, boiled or broiled. Avoid frying. 

Fruits: Try options like watermelon, cantaloupe, and peeled apples. 

Vegetables: Raw vegetables can be hard to digest and generally aren’t recommended while you’re getting over stomach issues. However, some steamed or boiled vegetables are fine, including carrots, squash, zucchini, asparagus tips, and even mushrooms. Just be sure to peel first and remove seeds, where applicable.

Yogurt: While yogurt is a dairy product that could upset the stomachs of people who have issues with digesting lactose, in general the active cultures in yogurt are thought to do more good than harm, especially if you have diarrhea. Look for options that contain probiotics, but are low in sugar (and don’t include chunks of fruit). Yogurt is thought to be so helpful that some experts have added a “Y” to the bananas, rice, applesauce, tea and toast regimen, giving patients permission to be BRATTY.

But whatever you decide to eat while you’re recovering, keep an eye on your symptoms. No bland-eating plan can take the place of solid medical advice, so if you’re experiencing stomach troubles — especially diarrhea and vomiting — for longer than a couple of days, call your doctor. 

Read More: Lactose Intolerance Impacts Millions in the U.S.

Article Sources

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Before he became editor of Discover in 2012, Steve George spent more than 20 years as a writer and editor, specializing in health and medicine. He began his career at a scientific, technical and medical publisher, then moved to consumer-oriented publications, where his work has appeared in Men’s Health, Men’s Journal, Prevention, Outside and dozens of other magazines and web sites.

Source : Discovermagazine