Medical Myth Busters: Is There A Best Time To Eat Fruit?

Discussion in 'Dietetics' started by Mahmoud Abudeif, Jan 18, 2020.

  1. Mahmoud Abudeif

    Mahmoud Abudeif Golden Member

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    Just as there is a wide variety of fruits available, there are also a number of myths that people swallow to go along with them. One myth is that the strawberry is a berry. It’s not—a strawberry is an aggregate fruit. And a banana, believe it or not, actually is a berry.

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    But, those are trivial myths. Other myths about fruits—specifically, when to eat them—can have important health implications. With the New Year still upon us and people resolving to eat healthier, now is a good time to bust a few of those myths.

    Myth: Eat fruit on an empty stomach
    Fact: The nutritional value of a piece of fruit is the same whether it’s eaten on an empty stomach or after a meal.

    The “eat fruit on an empty stomach” myth was propagated by a widely circulated email from 20 years ago, according to Snopes.com.

    The email states: “Let’s say you eat two slices of bread and then a slice of fruit. The slice of fruit is ready to go straight through the stomach into the intestines, but it is prevented from doing so. In the meantime, the whole meal rots and ferments and turns to acid. The minute the fruit comes into contact with the food in the stomach and digestive juices, the entire mass of food begins to spoil.”

    Of course, eating fruit with other foods or after a meal won’t cause an unhealthy effect. It’s true that fruit (or any other food, for that matter) is digested more rapidly if it’s in an empty stomach, but it won’t “rot” in there if it’s occupying the stomach with other food.

    Myth: Don’t eat fruit right after a meal.

    Fact: The notion behind this myth is that fruit eaten with, or soon after, other foods may not be fully digested nor its nutrients absorbed properly. The fact is, your digestive system is ready, willing, and able to digest and absorb the nutrients from fruit, whether you eat it by itself or with a meal.

    First of all, the stomach acts as a reservoir, parsing out only small amounts of food at a time to allow your intestines to easily digest it, explained dietician Taylor Jones, RD, on Healthline.com.

    Second of all, “studies have shown that your intestines have the ability to absorb twice as many nutrients as the average person consumes in one day,” Jones wrote. “This huge absorptive area means that getting the nutrients from fruit (and the rest of your meal) is easy work for your digestive system, regardless of whether you eat fruit on an empty stomach or with a meal.”

    So, go ahead and eat fruit with meals or in between meals.

    Myth: Eat fruit only in the morning

    Fact: Eating fruit is healthy at any hour of the day or night.

    This myth is espoused by the likes of Jesse Itzler, a self-made multimillionaire who credits his success to eating fruit—and only fruit—before noon every day.

    “For me, the No. 1 thing that has changed my life—and I know this sounds crazy—but I only eat fruit until noon every day,” Itzler told CNBC Make It.

    At least he knows it sounds crazy.

    This myth likely originated from the 1985 best-selling diet book Fit for Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond.

    Having only fruit and fruit juice exclusively before noon is the single most important facet of this system,” the Diamonds wrote in their book. (The emphasis is theirs.) “The only time fruit can cause any negative manifestations at all is when it is altered by heat or incorrectly combined, meaning consumed with or immediately following any other food. When eaten on an empty stomach, fresh fruit can only have a positive effect; it accelerates weight loss.”

    Erin FitzGerald, RD, nutritionist and manager, Lenox Hill Hospital's Outpatient Nutrition Program, New York, NY, told CNBC Make It that eating only eat fruit until noon isn’t exactly unhealthy, but she doesn’t advise it.

    “I would never recommend that my patients eat only fruit until noon. If anything, we need to ‘break’ our overnight fast with protein and/or healthy fat,” FitzGerald said. “Fruit can be a healthy part of our mornings, but eating a lot of fruit in the morning can potentially harm some individuals—in particular, those who have diabetes or who are at risk for diabetes.”

    Myth: People with diabetes shouldn’t eat fruit at any time

    Fact: Generally speaking, people with diabetes should eat fruit—but spread throughout the day.

    The basis behind this myth is that the sugar in fruits will cause a spike in blood glucose in people with diabetes. In reality, most fruits have low to medium glycemic index values, so they don’t lead to a sharp rise in blood glucose levels compared with other foods high in carbohydrates.

    “A portion of fruit contains about 15-20 g carbohydrate on average, which is similar to a slice of bread. To put things in perspective, just a can of cola contains 35 g carb, and a medium slice of chocolate cake contains 35 g of carbs as well,” according to Diabetes UK. “So, if you are looking to reduce your carb intake, with the aim to manage blood glucose levels, the advice is to reduce your intake of foods and drinks like ordinary fizzy drinks, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, and other snacks.”

    On a related note, eating whole fruit is better than drinking fruit juice. This is good advice for anyone, but particularly for people with diabetes.

    “Because you can get through a lot of juice within a relatively short period of time, compared to eating the actual fruit, you may end up loading up with a lot of carbs over that period. Depending on how your diabetes is managed, this can result in your blood glucose levels going up, and may affect your weight in the long term as well,” Diabetes UK explained.

    For this reason, people with diabetes should spread their fruit intake throughout the day rather than having it all in one sitting.

    So, when is the best time to eat fruit?

    “The truth is that any time of the day is a great time to eat fruit,” said Jones.

    For most people with diabetes, however, eating fruit on an empty stomach isn’t the best advice, she added. Pairing fruit with a meal or snack is usually a better choice to minimize the rise in blood glucose.

    For people looking to lose weight, the fiber in fruit can help them feel full for longer. This could lead to eating less food and even weight loss, Jones suggested. Eating fruit with or before a meal may increase this effect.

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