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 antioxidants 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, others say that fruits must be eaten on an empty stomach to adequately use the nutrients they contain.
Why Do We Need to Eat Enough Fruit Daily?
You will always hear health experts recommending you to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables! But do you know why that is? Of course, we all know how nutritious, and highly beneficial for our health are all of the fruits that Mother Nature has to offer us, but we yet fail to understand their true importance and day after day, most of us fail to eat enough fruits and vegetables on a daily level.
For starters, fruit represents a natural source of fructose, which is the natural sugar that our body and mind need in order to maintain an ultimate health condition. In addition, the fruit is highly filling, since it contains high amounts of fiber and water. In fact, by eating a single apple, you are reducing your hunger, introducing natural sugar to your body, and reducing the number of calories that you will intake throughout the day. The fibers found in fruits will help you control your blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, and body weight, among other beneficial effects. Eating fruit is what will protect your heart as well.
But that is not all. The fruit is one of the best sources of the many vitamins and minerals that most of us do not succeed to intake according to the daily requirements. So you see, there are multiple reasons why you need to eat fresher, seasonal fruit on a daily basis.
Meal Timing Is As Important As What You Eat
Although the body is not an actual watch, it does have an internal clock that runs nearly 24/7. This is termed as “circadian rhythm.” It helps your body function on a schedule and adjusts to sleeping, environmental changes, and behaviors such as eating.
While it is clear that fruits are healthy for the body, the timing may also have an effect on the following:
- Body-weight regulation
- Management of obesity-related disease and other metabolic disorders
- Sleep cycle
But the question is, when is the best time to eat fruit?
Popular Myths About Eating Fruits And When Is It 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 (1). A reputable chef and writer in Singapore published an article entitled “The Correct Way of Eating Fruits” in August 2001. Since then, it has gone viral on 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 6 Hours After You Wake Up
Your digestive system needs to be ‘reactivated’ as the day progresses. It is believed that your metabolism rate decreases around midday and that eating food rich in sugar, like fruit, raises your blood sugar levels ‘activating’ your digestive system.
Actually, there is no need to ‘reactivate’ your digestive system. The digestive system is able to digest food at any time of the day, with or without fruits. Although eating large quantities of food might temporarily cause the body to divert more blood flow to the digestive organs, this does not affect your metabolism rate.
The claims that fruits should be eaten in the afternoon should not be taken seriously. No matter the time of day, fruits are good for you.
5. 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!
6. 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 reviews found that eating more fruits and vegetables all throughout the day can help decrease your risk of obesity (14, 15).
7. You Shouldn’t Eat Fruits Before Sleeping
Generally speaking, eating a full meal in the hours before sleeping can interrupt a person’s sleep cycles. However, when snacking at nighttime, the fruit is less likely to interfere with sleep, compared with other foods, especially processed foods.
According to experts, eating certain foods before bed can interfere with sleep due to the body’s digestive processes (16). They recommend avoiding foods with processed sugars just before bed, as these can cause energy levels to rise and fall quickly. Choosing fresh fruit may be a better option.
They add that eating a banana before bed provides potassium that may prevent nighttime leg cramping. Including fruits with higher magnesium, such as plantains, apricots, or dates, can also aid in relaxation and better sleep.
When to Eat Fruit for Weight Loss?
While there is no overall magic timing, there might be better times to eat fruit for someone with a goal of weight loss. Since fruits tend to be high in fiber, they can help a person feel full for a longer period of time.
A high-fiber diet can help someone eat less. Since taking in fewer calories promotes weight loss, people aiming to lose weight could benefit from planning their fruit consumption (17).
Eating nutritious, low-calorie fruit before a meal may make a person feel fuller and therefore make them less likely to overeat during or after their meal. Eating fruit alongside a meal can help a person eat fewer high-calorie foods.
Replacing high-calorie snacks with fruit — at any time during the day — is a great way to promote weight loss.
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 fruit 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 (18). 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). These 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 (19).
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!