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Is There A Right Time To Eat Fruits?

4 October, 2021

, Nutrition

Knowledge is power goes the old saying. However, when knowledge became available at our fingertips through a Google search, it potentially also became dangerous. Information on any topic is available by searching, and videos are abounding that showcase how to do stuff. Unfortunately, many people Google the symptoms and self-medicate, often not with happy results. When you cannot verify the information firsthand, you tend to get confused.

A lot has been said lately about the best time to consume fruits. There was a time when people did not pay much attention to such information and just followed the age-old traditions. Then we started getting expert comments on how or when to eat fruits. In India, we are used to eating seasonal fruits throughout the year. 

Many Indian households have fruits as part of their staple diet. With the health-conscious younger generation, it is more so, with juices and smoothies. Some even follow the fruit diet to lose weight, and some eat only fruits for breakfast. So is there a good time to eat fruits, or can we just let things be and do what we used to do? You may be surprised at what science has to say about this.

Should fruits be eaten on an empty stomach?

This expert advice went against some traditional Indian practices wherein we used to have fruits after a meal. Instead, experts suggest fruits should be eaten on an empty stomach/before and NOT after a meal.

Fruits indeed contain fiber that slows down digestion. However, this kind of natural slow digestion is good for our body. The slower digestion can help us feel full for a long time and avoid snacking. It also adds bulk to the stool and eases bowel movement, and improves gut health. Eating bananas after a meal is an age-old practice, especially in South India. Perhaps, our ancestors had the necessary wisdom to know the intricacies involved and started this practice. So, there is no scientific reason to eat fruits only on an empty stomach.

Another claim suggests that unless we eat fruits on an empty stomach, their nutritional benefits are lost. Our digestive system can hold, release and absorb the nutrients in the food in a reliable, consistent way. So, whatever time of the day you eat fruits, the nutritional value does get depleted in any way.

People with diabetes should avoid eating fruits?

Most diabetics avoid all fruits except papaya and apple because of this much-propagated myth. Many fruits indeed contain a good amount of sugar. However, scientifically, fruits slow down the digestion of the food in the stomach, which is helpful for people with diabetes. As a result, only a smaller amount of sugar is released into the system, which means that blood sugar levels will not spike suddenly. 

Some people with diabetes have digestive issues that helped build this myth that they should not eat fruit with meals. The advice is to avoid eating fruits or eat them only one or two hours before or after a meal. This claim is untrue, and eating a few pieces of fruit can only help digestion and sugar levels.

However, if people with diabetes drink fruit juices instead, that can help spike the sugar levels. This is because the fruit juices don’t contain fiber as fruit pieces do, and also, the sugar levels in them are higher. Hence, people with diabetes should eat fruits rather than drink juices. The key is to eat them in moderation and mix it up along with the other meal ingredients. Too much fruit consumption is not ideal for people with diabetes as that can affect sugar levels adversely. 

Should fruits be eaten only in the morning?

Eat fruits only in the morning and within six hours of waking up is another myth that goes around. The reasoning behind this myth is said to be the fact that metabolism decreases around noon. Therefore, eating fruits at that time may cause indigestion, as they can sit in the stomach for a long time, and cause issues like bloating, etc. 

Some experts even say eating fruit first thing in the morning wakes up the digestive system. Scientifically, any carb-containing food will increase the blood sugar levels temporarily as fruits do. Hence, this waking up of the digestive system can happen at any time of the day, and not necessarily only in the morning. Therefore, feel free to eat fruits any time of the day.

Avoid eating fruits at bedtime?

Some people are so used to eating fruits at bedtime; it is comfort food for the night. However, the reasoning given for avoiding fruits at bedtime gets them worried. Some foods can interfere with sleep at night; however, fresh fruits aren’t on that list. Some experts say the spike in sugar levels and less burning of fat at night can cause weight gain. They suggest not eating fruits after 2 p.m. to avoid weight gain. This claim is also untrue scientifically as the body continues to burn fat through sleep, and any changes in metabolism are minor. 

Some fruits like bananas, which contain Potassium, may help prevent night leg cramping. Some other fruits are high in Melatonin, like cherries, pineapples, oranges, apricots, etc., and aid relaxation and better sleep. However, fruits are not a cure for insomnia and can only work as an aid to help sleep. 

Bottom line: There is no right or wrong time to eat fruits. They can be eaten safely, in moderation at any time. 

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