In the past, the BRAT diet consisting of bananas, rice, applesauce and toast was often used to help treat diarrhea and other stomach issues. The diet was widely recommended for both children and adults, along with pregnant women experiencing issues like morning sickness.
“The BRAT diet was thought to be beneficial because these foods are bland, which can be ideal when experiencing stomach issues,” says Rhyan Geiger, registered dietitian and owner of Phoenix Vegan Dietitian. Geiger goes on to explain that these foods are also fairly easy to digest: “Because there is very little fiber and fat in this diet, it is unlikely to cause any gut irritation.”
Indeed, for some people, the BRAT diet may help with diarrhea, adds Jane Guo, a registered dietitian based in Dallas.“The bland foods on this diet are easier on the digestive system and not likely to cause further stomach upset in most people.”
Additionally, several of the foods recommended on the BRAT diet contain nutrients that may be lost due to vomiting or diarrhea. For instance, bananas are rich in potassium, an important electrolyte that regulates fluid balance and muscle contractions. Similarly, rice and toast are both good sources of magnesium, another key micronutrient needed to maintain optimal health.
In an article in Practical Gastroenterology, researchers state that bananas and rice may possess antidiarrheal properties and have both been associated with improved outcomes in children with diarrhea. However, they also note that there are no clinical trials to evaluate the effectiveness of the BRAT diet specifically.
In addition to easing stress on the digestive system, the BRAT diet also emphasizes foods with binding properties, which can add firmness to stool to treat diarrhea.
The four foods included in the BRAT diet are also widely available and easy to prepare, which may be particularly appealing for those who aren’t feeling well and are unable to spend lots of time on cooking or meal prep.