Many sources claim that people can get the utmost benefits from the fruit they eat if they consume it on an empty stomach or in the afternoon. That is why some people tend to be curious about the best time to eat fruit. In this article, we will find out if there is really the best time, when and why it is considered as the best time, and some tips in consuming fruits.
Here are the top 5 claims about the best time to eat fruits:
You should eat fruits on an empty stomach
This is the most common information that is circulating on the internet. This has been popularized because eating fruits with meals can slow down digestion, causing the food to stay in your stomach, which eventually leads the food to rot or ferment. This can also cause stomach discomfort, gas, bloating, and other similar symptoms.
Indeed, most fruits contain fiber. It can slow the release of food into the small intestines. It is slower to empty your stomach after eating fruits. But the truth is, fruits do not cause the food to stay in your stomach for a longer period until they become rot or fermented.
A study has shown that fiber can slow the release of food from the stomach, and it takes almost 72 to 86 minutes to empty half of its contents (1). Yes, the time may be significant in the digestion of food, but it is not long enough for the food to rot in your stomach.
In the first place, this is beneficial if you want to lose weight because slowing the emptying of your stomach can make you satiated for a longer period. And this can make you consume fewer calories which can be helpful in your weight management (2). This can also improve your gut health.
And even if the fruit stays in your stomach for a longer time, it will not rot or ferment because your stomach has the ability to prevent the overgrowth of bacteria. Most microorganisms cannot survive in your stomach because of your stomach’s acidity level (3).
Bacteria is the cause of the rotting and fermentation of food in your stomach (4). But the food in your stomach is mixed with acid with around one or two pH levels, and that is very low. That means that it is so acidic that it makes it uninhabitable by most microorganisms.
People who experience stomach discomfort, bloating or diarrhea may not be due to eating fruits with meals. Much more eating fruits on an empty stomach is not a remedy to avoid experiencing these stomach issues. Instead, you should seek help from your doctor about the specific remedy to help you have healthy digestion. You may be having gastrointestinal issues.
You should not eat fruits before or after meals
According to various sources, eating fruits before or after meals can remove all the nutrients they have. But your body is made to be efficient in extracting nutrients from fruits. From the moment you eat foods, your stomach is a reservoir that limits the amount of food it releases in your intestines for better digestion (5).
And your small intestine has the ability to absorb a lot of nutrients from the food you eat. A study has shown that your intestines are capable of absorbing twice the nutrients you typically consume in a day (6). This only means that your digestive system can absorb as many nutrients from the fruits you eat, whether you eat them with meals or on an empty stomach.
You should not eat fruits before bed
In general, people are avoided to eat a full meal before bedtime because this might cause sleep interruptions. But, eating fruits at night time will less likely interrupt your sleep, unlike with other kinds of foods, especially processed and junk foods.
According to The National Sleep Foundation, the food you eat has a huge role in getting a night of better sleep. It suggests you avoid foods or drinks containing caffeine as it is a stimulant that will make you wide awake. It specifically recommends us to choose fresh fruits than packed snacks that are rich with process sugar that can increase energy levels at night, resulting in sleep interruptions (7).
Bananas are high in potassium which are recommended to avoid leg cramping at night. Fruits high in magnesium, such as apricots, dates, and plantains, are also good for giving you a night of relaxed and better sleep (8).
You should eat fruits in the afternoon
According to several claims, your metabolism is slower in the afternoon. That is why eating fruits that are typically rich in sugar can help increase the levels of your blood sugar, which will eventually awaken your digestive system.
But the truth is, regardless of the time of day, eating any food containing carbs will have the effect of increasing your blood sugar level during the absorption of glucose in your body (9). Sugar may give you nutrients and energy, but you know that most people are suggested to avoid it because of its harmful benefits to your well-being.
Anyway, fruits can be eaten at any time of the day because they are healthy. It means that there is no harm if you eat fruits in the morning or evening. Yes, carbs can be used by your body as a fuel to keep it moving. But your digestive system does not need any other trigger as it is always ready to be on the go from the moment your tongue touches food. Carbs do not significantly affect your metabolism rate.
You should avoid eating fruits after 2 PM
This claim contradicts the belief that you should eat fruits in the afternoon. This is popularized by the 17-Day Diet (10). The reason for this belief is that eating fruits or foods rich in carbs after the said time can increase your blood sugar level. And your body has no time sufficient enough to stabilize these foods before bedtime. This can make you gain weight.
As mentioned earlier, it is natural for your blood sugar levels to increase if you consume any food containing carbs, regardless of the time of day. Your tolerance with carbs may fluctuate all throughout the day, but this does not significantly affect your overall metabolic rate (11).
Yes, your metabolic rate may decrease when you sleep, but it does not mean that you stop burning calories and begin storing them as fats. Your body still has a lot of calories for it to burn as you fall asleep to keep it running (12).
When is The Best Time to Eat Fruits?
There is no specific time of day to eat fruits. It seems that fruits can be eaten at any time of the day as they are healthy and nutritious for you. There is no evidence to show that the best time to eat fruits is on an empty stomach or in the afternoon. It is not even proved that eating fruits before or after meals, before bed, or after 2 PM should be avoided to get the utmost health benefits from these fruits.
Best Practices to Consume Fruits
Yes, there is no best time of the day when you should eat fruits. Here are the tips or best practices in consuming fruits:
If you want to lose weight:
Fruits contain fiber. As mentioned earlier, fiber can help in making you feel satiated for a longer period. If that happens, then you will be less likely to consume calories that will enable you to lose weight (12). This effect will be increased if you eat fruits before or during meals.
A study has shown that a high-fiber diet can help you eat less in a few hours, thereby promoting weight loss (13). Fruits are not only low in calories, but they are also nutritious. Fruits can make you feel fuller that prevents you from overeating. Opting to fruits than high-calorie snacks can promote weight loss.
If you have diabetes:
Eating fruits, together with other foods, may have a different effect if you have diabetes. Foods high in fat, fiber, or protein when eaten with fruits can cause the sugar found in fruits to enter more slowly in the small intestine. This could lead to a smaller rise in your blood sugar, unlike if you eat fruit alone (14).
Fruits can be high in carbs, especially sugar. These can affect your blood sugar levels. But if compared with other foods, fruits have a low glycemic index rating. This means that its effect on your sugar level is lesser. But then, fruits are high in fiber which makes it a good option for those who have diabetes.
If you have gestational diabetes:
You need to eat healthy food, especially if you are pregnant, as it can help in the development of the baby in your womb. Eating fruits can help in avoiding complications, such as obesity, hypertension, and gestational diabetes during pregnancy (15).
Gestational diabetes occurs when a pregnant woman develops diabetes. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause you a carb intolerance. That is why it is suggested to eat fruits with meals as it has the effect of making sugar slowly enter the small intestine.
If you find it hard to control your blood sugar level, it is probably a good choice to avoid eating fruits in the morning. This is because your pregnancy hormones are high in the morning, and this makes your carb intolerance severe if you have gestational diabetes (16).
According to experts, aside from eating healthy during pregnancy, you also need to maintain your weight to ensure you and your baby’s health. Obesity could have a detrimental effect on your unborn. And it is also linked to joint problems, heart disease, diabetes, and other health-related conditions (17).
If you want to be healthy:
Fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals, prebiotic fiber, and antioxidants which can provide you with healthy biological effects. A study shows that people who eat more fruits and vegetables have a longer life and have a lower risk of various health-related conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and others (18).
Here are some of the ways on how you can focus on whole fruits (19):
- Always make sure that you have whole fruits in your refrigerator, on the counter, or table.
- If you want to store fruits in your refrigerator, slice them for future consumption.
- It is advisable to buy fruits in season as they are more flavorful and less expensive.
- Although fresh whole fruits are always the best, you can also opt for frozen, dried, and canned fruits.
Here are the things to consider if you want the best nutritional value for the fruit:
- Prefer whole, or cut-up fruits than fruit juices as the former contains more dietary fiber.
- Fruits high in potassium such as prunes, bananas, orange, dried apricots, and peaches should be chosen more often.
- If you buy canned fruits, make sure that it contains water or 100 percent fruit juice than syrup.
- Since all fruits have different nutritional contents, you should vary your fruit selections.
Here are some of the ways on how you can let your children eat fruits:
- Be a role model of your children by eating fruits as snacks or meals.
- Always give your children the option of eating fruits for lunch.
- Let your children help you with buying, peeling, cleaning, or cutting up your fruits.
- Allow your children to choose fruits while shopping.
- Instead of sugar-sweetened drinks, pack a fruit juice in your child’s lunch box.
Fruits are healthy, and they can be eaten at any time of the day. Yes, there are lots of claims regarding the best time to eat fruits, such as in the afternoon or on an empty stomach, but all of these are clearly explained by scientific studies. If you are suffering from a certain condition such as diabetes or gestational diabetes or if you merely want to lose weight or be healthy, experts recommend how you can eat fruits. Fruits are best eaten when whole, so always see to it that you choose fresh fruits to get the utmost nutritional benefits.
(18) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000282230000420X(19) https://www.choosemyplate.gov/eathealthy/fruits/fruits-tips