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You Ask, I Answer: BRAT Diet

How legitimate is the BRAT (banana, rice, applesauce, toast) diet for relieving diarrhea?

– Celia (last name withheld)
New York, NY

The reasoning behind the BRAT “diet” is legitimate.

The idea is that, when consumed for approximately four consecutive days, these foods help thicken stools, thereby assuring a speedy recovery.

Apples, for example, are part of the diet because they are high in pectin, a soluble fiber that helps solidify the stool.

That said, carrots, peas, and peaches contain higher levels of pectin.

Although thousands of pediatricians still recommend it to parents whose children are going through gastrointestinal distress, I don’t find adherence to BRAT to be of such critical importance.

When someone is sick, nutrition plays a very important role in terms of consuming all the nutrients we need.

The BRAT diet, however, falls short for me because it is very low in protein, zinc, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals.

Besides, other foods can be just as effective at treating diarrhea — particularly oat-based products.

Remember, oat bran contains soluble fiber (the type that, apart from helping lower cholesterol levels, thickens stools).  Other great sources of soluble fiber include nuts, legumes, beans, fruits, and vegetables.

Insoluble fiber — found in high amounts in whole wheat products — keeps things moving through our digestive system.  Definitely a plus, but not when you’re dealing with these symptoms.

Plain yogurt — particularly if it contains live and active cultures — is another great food for battling these symptoms, since the live and active cultures help boost healthy bacteria in our gut.

I don’t think anyone should be restricted to the four foods suggested by the BRAT diet when looking to get their digestive system back on track.

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One Comment

  1. Kristin said on November 28th, 2008

    Ick… I ate the BRAT diet for 4 days while I had salmonella from this summer’s outbreak. The only thing it managed to do was make me gag at the thought of eating raw banana, rice or dry toast and applesauce. So much that I stopped eating all four things and drank only liquids. Then I became so sick from not eating that I couldn’t get out of bed without dry heaving. Lovely I know. I still to this day do not want to eat anything on the brat diet.

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