Fruits are very healthy. They play an important role in promoting and maintaining good health by providing the body with vitamins and minerals that help fight diseases. They are rich in anti-oxidants and dietary fiber which have been shown to help in weight loss.
In spite of all these health benefits, the best time to eat fruits has become a source of contention. Some people advise specific fruits to be consumed at a specific time to reap off their full benefits. In addition, other say that fruits must be eaten on an empty stomach to adequately use the nutrients they contain. This article addresses the popular myths about eating fruits and explains when it is best to take them.
#1 Fruits Are Best Taken on an Empty Stomach
This is perhaps one of the most popular myths about when to eat fruits, written by Devagi Sanmugam in 1998 (1). She is a reputable chef and writer in Singapore. This was published in August 2001 in an article entitled “The Correct Way of Eating Fruits.” Since then, it has gone viral in several websites and email chains. This myth claims that fruits can slow down digestion and causes food to stay in your stomach, which may cause rotting and fermentation. It has also been said that combining fruits and meals in the stomach can produce gas and other gastrointestinal symptoms.
While it is true that the fiber contained in fruits may delay the release of food from your stomach, the other claims are not true. Fiber has shown to delay the time it took for the stomach to empty half of its content from 72 to 86 minutes (2). While the time difference may be significant, it will still not cause food to stay in your stomach indefinitely. The stomach also contains acid, which has a very low pH, to prevent the growth of bacteria (3).
One study even said that slow emptying of the stomach can be a good thing! It makes you feel full for a much longer period of time, thus decreasing your calorie intake (4). As for the other claim saying that eating fruits with meals can cause gastrointestinal discomfort, there is no scientific evidence to support this idea.
This practice is also not good for people who have acid reflux, stomach ulcers, and diverticulitis. Certain fruits like citrus, lemons, pineapples, grapefruits, pineapples, and tomatoes contain acetic acid that may worsen heartburn and other related symptoms (5).
#2 Eating Fruits Right Before or After a Meal Lessens Their Nutrient Content
This myth is related to the one discussed above. It claims that eating fruits on an empty stomach will give you all the nutritional benefits, and taking them right before or after a meal will reduce their nutrient value. But, none of these is true. Our body can extract nutrients from food effectively. After a meal, our stomach will act as a reservoir, releasing just a fraction of food at a time for easy digestion (6).
The small intestine, with a very large absorptive area, will then have enough time to absorb enough nutrients. Studies even reported that the intestine can absorb double the amount of nutrients that we can consume in a day (7).
#3 Diabetics Should Eat Fruits 1-2 Hours Before or After Meals
Most diabetics have gastroparesis. It is a condition where the stomach empties slower than usual or not at all. Unfortunately, this is rather a bad recommendation for patients with diabetes. While some dietary changes may help with this condition, eating fruit on an empty stomach is definitely not one of them. There is no scientific evidence supporting this claim. The only difference it makes is that the sugar content of fruits may enter the bloodstream faster, which is not good for diabetics.
Instead of consuming fruits separately, eat them with a meal or as a snack together with a food rich in protein, fat, or fiber to slow down the release of food into the small intestine (8, 9). This will absorb less amount of sugar at a time. Studies have shown that 7.5 grams of soluble fiber, which is present in fruits, can slow the rise of blood sugar after a meal by as much as 25% (2).
#4 Eat Fruits in the Afternoon
It is said that metabolism is slower in the afternoon and eating foods rich in sugar like fruits increases your blood sugar levels and conditions your digestive tract. However, there is no scientific evidence supporting this claim.
In reality, absorption of any carb-containing product can temporarily increase your blood glucose level, anytime within the day. Eating a high-carb meal can temporarily cause your body to use carbs for energy, but it will not affect the rate of metabolism (10). The digestive system also needs no conditioning as it is always ready to work at any time of the day.
There is no harm in eating fruits in the morning! They are perfectly healthy at any time of the day!
#5 Do Not Eat Fruits After 14:00
This directly contradicts the myth above. This rule is part of the 17-Day Diet. It claims that eating carb-containing food like fruits after 2 PM can increase your blood sugar, which cannot be stabilized before bed, causing weight gain. But, this isn’t true!
As mentioned earlier, any carb-containing product may raise your blood glucose level right after absorption. There is no evidence saying that it will be raised more after 14:00 as compared to any other time (11). Carb tolerance may change throughout the day, but these changes are mild and will not affect your overall metabolic rate.
You should also not fear that eating fruits in the afternoon will cause you to gain weight. Metabolism may decrease a little as you sleep, but you’ll still burn a lot of calories to keep yourself running (12, 13). Several factors determine whether calories will be stored as fat or burned for energy, but avoiding fruits in the afternoon is not one of them. In fact, studies and review found that eating more fruits and vegetables all throughout the day can help decrease your risk of obesity (14, 15).
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can help in your weight loss journey. It is a good way to get enough nutrients while taking on healthy, low-calorie foods.
So, you can really eat fruits at any time of the day! Fruits are nutritious and weight friendly! You just have to take note of some conditions when the timing of intake can make a difference.
- Fibers in fruits can help you feel full longer. This allows you to eat fewer calories and help you lose weight (16). But, eating fruits with or right before meals may increase this effect. It may cause you to bring high-calorie food on your plate.
- Patients with acid reflux, stomach ulcers, and diverticulitis should not eat certain fruits on an empty stomach to avoid heartburn and other related symptoms (5).
- If you are a diabetic, pairing fruits with a meal high in fiber, fat, and protein may slow down the absorption of sugar (2). This results can help control blood sugar better, compared to eating fruit alone.
- For pregnant women who developed diabetes, eating fruit with a meal is also a good choice. But, if you are having a hard time controlling your blood sugar levels, avoiding fruits in the morning may do the trick. Pregnancy hormones are at peak during this time, and so carb intolerance is severe (17).
Fruits are highly nutritious and tasty! It is understood that for you to stay healthy, there should be a measure of fruit in your regular diet! Forget about the myths that bring confusion.
Regardless of the time, except for the few instances mentioned above, eating fruits can get you plenty of nutrients and may aid in your weight loss journey!