Fruits are nature’s desserts! They’re packed with nutrients, loaded with fibre and to top it off, they’re really tasty. It’s universally understood that in order to stay healthy, there should be a measure of fruit included in your diet. But the question that is often asked is, “What’s the right way to consume fruit? Does it have to be on an empty stomach?”
To be fair, there is no real ‘wrong way’ to eat fruit. Eating fruit at anytime of the day will still bring you health benefits to a certain extent. However, that said, there is the ‘best’ or effective way to consume fruit - one that will make sure you get the most out of each fruit and that will also reduce some of the harmful risks that might affect you from eating fruit ‘incorrectly’.
Best time to eat your fruits: Empty stomach and/or Between Meals
Best practice is to eat your fruit first thing in the morning before anything else. This way your body can absorb all the nutrients in said fruit because it is not bogged down by other food items in your stomach. Fruits digest very quickly in the stomach, so when eaten on an empty stomach - especially one that is well rested overnight, it allows the stomach to easily process the fruit. This is the optimal way to eat fruit.
Rules of ‘empty stomach’ fruit: But bear in mind that not everyone is able to consume fruit on an empty stomach. I will not recommend this to those who have stomach ulcers, acid reflux and diverticulitis, as well as people who might have weak stomach functions like the elderly or toddlers. This is because certain fruits such as grapefruits, cranberries, pineapples, tomatoes, citrus, lemons and even persimmons, contain acetic acid that stimulates the production of gastric acid in the stomach which can worsen heartburn and lead to discomfort later.
Between meals as a snack
Fruits are also great as a snack between two meals - mid morning snack and mid afternoon snack. I always say that a balanced diet should consist of three main meals and two snacks. Not only will this keep your metabolism rate up, a healthy snack in between will also help maintain your blood sugar levels so your body does not fall into ‘starvation’ mode and start storing fat instead of losing fat.
Never eat your fruit at this time
Right after a meal.
Us Malaysians do love to finish our meals with a little bit of fruit. Many falsely believe that by eating some fruits after a meal, it helps digest or breakdown the calories that they just consumed effectively. Sorry to burst your bubble but eating fruit right after a meal will not counter the calories you just ate - remember fruits contain calories too, especially those high in sugar. So you are only putting extra burden/calories in your body.
All this extra sugar (from fruits) can cause havoc in those who suffer from metabolic syndromes, glucose intolerance and diabetes. The sweetness of the fruit mainly comes from the fructose content, and unlike glucose, fructose goes directly to the liver to be metabolised, and the metabolic product? It’s ‘fat’ and it is stored in the body. So, can you consume too much fruit and put on weight? The answer is YES!
So consume these high sugar fruits in moderation:
Banana, fig, grapes, guava, kumquat, lychee, mango, persimmon, pomegranate, durian, and watermelon.
For those who have issues with sugar, eat these low in sugar fruits:
Papaya, passion fruit, peach, apple, pear, pineapple, plum, raspberry, and strawberries.
Right before you go to bed
If you really want to snack on fruit before bed, make sure you pick the ‘right’ type of fruit. Bananas (contains tryptophan that helps you relax), kiwis (natural serotonin that calms you down), and cherries (natural melatonin that improve sleep), are good choices as they aid sleep. That said, make sure you eat them at least one to two hours before bedtime. Avoid high-in-sugar fruits like mango, durian, and grape right before bed, as these may actually disturb your sleep during the night because of the sugar content that can keep your brain active and awake.
Fruit juice is not as healthy as the whole fruit
Fruit juice is tasty and refreshing, but is not as healthy as the real deal. When a whole fruit is pressed to make juice, some of the nutrients, most notably the fibre and the water-soluble vitamins, are lost in the process. While 100% fruit juice is not completely devoid of nutrients, it is undoubtedly less nutrient dense than the whole fruit that it came from.
Take the almighty orange juice. A staple in many breakfasts all over the world. The white pulpy part of the orange is the primary source of its flavonoids, which are colourful pigments that support numerous metabolic processes in the body, and most importantly, it also helps you to absorb the vitamin C from the orange. In other words it is there for a reason as a whole, but when the pulpy white part of the orange is removed in the processing of orange juice, the flavonoids in the orange are lost in the process.
Additionally, fruit juices are also loaded with sugar, although it is ‘healthy’ natural sugar, but too much of a good thing can also be an issue. And stay away from juice boxes from supermarkets! They contain very little actual fruit and a lot of preservatives and sugar. As a result, it is easy to consume a large amount of calories without getting any actual nutrition.
Hope these tips help. Enjoy eating your fruits!