Fruits: with or without a meal?

Whether one should combine eating fruit with their main meal is a topic that has always left me asking more and more questions. Many nutritionists do not comment on this subject and if they do, it is limited.

From a naturopathic perspective, it is a “no” to combine fruits with food. It is claimed that the “…fruit will sit on top of the food in your stomach and ferment and putrefy”.

Fruits are mostly water (90-96 percent) and therefore it may take approximately 30 minutes for the water to get absorbed. Among solid material, the major component, dietary fiber, is the last to be digested, which is in the large intestine (through microbes).

What is digestion?

It is the breakdown of food through enzymatic and mechanic action. Just like any food, fruit takes around 24 hours for digestion and excretion out of the body. What is a meal? Do you mean cooked food only? To me, scientists, nutritionists and dietitians, the meal is everything: cooked food, soup, vegetable salad, fruits etc. Scientifically, bread is from the fruit of wheat plant. Some times some foods are eaten as cooked or as raw, e.g. fruit as a salad.

After much research on this topic in the past, I was never able to find information of good quality, that is, until now. I was speaking with my friend, Dr. Zafar A. Nomani (Professor Emeritus of Nutrition, West Virginia University and recipient of King Hassan II International Research Award on Health and Ramadan Fasting, Casablanca, Morocco) and posed him with the aforementioned topic.

This is what he had to say:

Dear Sohail,

The notion that fruits create stomach problems is not right. Some people may have an exception to this and as a result, they should evaluate their diet based on their individual health status in consultation with a doctor. The dietary fiber in fruits helps in the churning of the stomach content. The reflex action opens the valve between the stomach and the small intestine. It helps in the movement of digesta in the small intestine. Actually, fruits which are rich in dietary fiber help in reducing stomach acidity, heaviness of stomach, etc.

I had the opportunity of observing food habits of various regions or cultures of the world. In general, the food habits of the subcontinent ( i.e. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh.) and the Arabian Peninsula are most horrible and extremely unbalanced. Dubai (UAE, where I – the health blogger – am currently living) represents people from both regions. In your article you have described their food habits during Ramadan very well.

Do not worry. Fruits are good. You can eat them before, during and after a meal.

My findings are based upon scientific studies which include human and animal experiments (don’t worry, the animals were not exploited in anyway).

One can eat fruits during or after the meal. During Ramadan the common practice which is “Sunnah” is to break the fast with dates, which is a fruit. One may include some fruits or a cup of fruit juice – not sherbet and drinks full of added sugars.

When dietary fiber in fruit touches the inside lining of the stomach, it stimulates muscle contraction and expansion and has a churning effect. Hence the movement of the digesta. It contributes in preventing constipation, upset stomach or acidity. This has been shown in hundreds of studies.

Therefore consuming fruits before, during or after a meal (e.g. breaking a fast, breakfast, lunch or dinner) is fine and I do not see any harm with this, though overeating is not good to say the least. Some people in the states eat only fruits during the meal, especially at lunch.

When people claim “not to combine food and fruits together,” this may be because fruits are more expensive and less available (at least in the past), and to make its best use there has been a tradition to eat fruits afterwards or before the meal. Maybe for this reason the saying has come that not to eat or combine food and fruits with the meal. In todays global economy everything, including fruit, is easily available.

I also forwarded some articles to Dr. Nomani to comment upon and this is what he had to say:

With these popular mass-media publications, I first look the author’s credential and reliability. I made an internet search about the authors, you referred, and I could not form a good impression about them. It is a waste of time to comment on such half knowledge experts. These people make life most complicated and even harmful.

Along with the research studies on Ramadan fasting, my area of specialization has been “Dietary fiber.” Some of the statements by the authors are very annoying. For example, what do they mean by fruits sitting on top in the stomach? By using words such as fruits producing “toxins” and other words from their vast vocabulary, they are trying to scare and impress the reader. How much have these authors actually studied in this area is questionable.

Fruits are an excellent source of dietary fiber. Fruits and vegetables are mostly made up of water, around 90-95 percent. Along with dietary fiber they provide, carotenoids, flavonoids, certain water soluble vitamins, antioxidants and a myriad of other health benefits. Dietary fiber is indigestible complex carbohydrates by digestive tract enzymes such as lipases, proteases, amylases. The components of dietary fiber are: cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, pectin, gums and mucilage and other non digestible carbohydrates. Part of the fiber is digested (fermented) by microbes in the large intestine. Dietary fiber helps in motility in the stomach, small intestine and large intestine. It helps in movement of digesta (digestive tract content). Actually, it helps in removal of toxins by regular bowl movement. Dietary fiber by itself does not contribute from a nutritional perspective, but has lot of physiological importance in prevention of many health problems – constipation, diverticulosis, certain kinds of cancers, diabetes, obesity, blood pressure and others.

Nutrition is simple. Just follow the basic principle of variety, moderation and balance. The biggest problem in the west and during Ramadan (Islamic month of fasting) is over eating. When we say eat fruits and vegetables, it does not mean that one has to live on these foods. In general, people in the west and the Arabian peninsula do not consume enough dietary fiber, which should amount to approximately 30 grams per day.

Unless you have some serious digestive disorders, eating fruit with your food should be fine…


I hope this insight was both helpful and beneficial.

Another simple tip for a healthy, productive and pleasant lifestyle: do some kind of exercise and be physically active, of course along with the good nutrition ;)




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14 Responses to Fruits: with or without a meal?
  1. [...] presents Fruits: with or without a meal? posted at The HealthBlogger, saying, “Can and should fruit be eaten with a [...]

  2. [...] read more | digg story [...]

  3. Matthew Bateson
    February 28, 2008 | 10:37 am

    Hi I am a student at Krikbie Kendal School in Cumbria, England and I am doing a project on healthy eating and i was wondering wether I could use one of your pictures from this site to use on my Eportfolio.

    Thanks Mathhew Bateson

  4. High Protien Low Carb Diet
    February 3, 2009 | 9:38 am

    Great site. Keep up the great work. All the best, London

  5. Guy
    December 30, 2009 | 3:20 am

    We all think eating fruits means just buying fruits, cutting it and just popping it into our mouths. It’s not as easy as you think. It’s important to know how and when to eat.

    What is the correct way of eating fruits?


    If you eat fruit like that, it will play a major role to detoxify your system, supplying you with a great deal of energy for weight loss and other life activities.

    FRUIT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FOOD. 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….

    So please eat your fruits on an empty stomach or before your meals! You have heard people complaining — every time I eat watermelon I burp, when I eat durian my stomach bloats up, when I eat a banana I feel like running to the toilet, etc — actually all this will not arise if you eat the fruit on an empty stomach. The fruit mixes with the putrefying other food and produces gas and hence you will bloat!

    Graying hair, balding, nervous outburst, and dark circles under the eyes all these will NOT happen if you take fruits on an empty stomach.

    There is no such thing as some fruits, like orange and lemon are acidic, because all fruits become alkaline in our body, according to Dr. Herbert Shelton who did research on this matter. If you have mastered the correct way of eating fruits, you have the Secret of beauty, longevity, health, energy, happiness and normal weight.

    When you need to drink fruit juice – drink only fresh fruit juice, NOT from the cans. Don’t even drink juice that has been heated up. Don’t eat cooked fruits because you don’t get the nutrients at all. You only get to taste. Cooking destroys all the vitamins.

    But eating a whole fruit is better than drinking the juice. If you should drink the juice, drink it mouthful by mouthful slowly, because you must let it mix with your saliva before swallowing it. You can go on a 3-day fruit fast to cleanse your body. Just eat fruits and drink fruit juice throughout the 3 days and you will be surprised when your friends tell you how radiant you look!

    KIWI: Tiny but mighty. This is a good source of potassium, magnesium, vitamin E & fiber. Its vitamin C content is twice that of an orange.

    APPLE: An apple a day keeps the doctor away? Although an apple has a low vitamin C content, it has antioxidants & flavonoids which enhances the activity of vitamin C thereby helping to lower the risks of colon cancer, heart attack & stroke.

    STRAWBERRY: Protective Fruit. Strawberries have the highest total antioxidant power among major fruits & protect the body from cancer-causing, blood vessel-clogging free radicals.

    ORANGE : Sweetest medicine. Taking 2-4 oranges a day may help keep colds away, lower cholesterol, prevent & dissolve kidney stones as well as lessens the risk of colon cancer.

    WATERMELON: Coolest thirst quencher. Composed of 92% water, it is also packed with a giant dose of glutathione, which helps boost our immune system. They are also a key source of lycopene — the cancer fighting oxidant. Other nutrients found in watermelon are vitamin C & Potassium.

    GUAVA & PAPAYA: Top awards for vitamin C. They are the clear winners for their high vitamin C content.. Guava is also rich in fiber, which helps prevent constipation. Papaya is rich in carotene; this is good for your eyes.

    Drinking Cold water after a meal = Cancer! Can u believe this?? For those who like to drink cold water, this article is applicable to you. It is nice to have a cup of cold drink after a meal. However, the cold water will solidify the oily stuff that you have just consumed. It will slow down the digestion. Once this ‘sludge’ reacts with the acid, it will break down and be absorbed by the intestine faster than the solid food. It will line the intestine. Very soon, this will turn into fats and lead to cancer. It is best to drink hot soup or warm water after a meal.

  6. Geraldine Rasamussen
    March 22, 2010 | 2:40 pm

    This “maxim” do not est fruit with a meal or after, may have developed from Edgar Cayce’s rule: do not eat citrus with cereals- that is grain products.
    It is best to eat raw fruit only, and for some individuals to eat fruit by itself.

  7. Raj
    March 24, 2010 | 11:59 am

    Is it ok to take fruits with milk? As many of them telling that you should not take fruits with milk… Normally fruits shakes are available…..Are those shakes are good or having some side effcts?

    • the health blogger
      April 9, 2010 | 2:20 pm

      Raj, everyones experience and reaction to a food will be different.

      Personally I try to avoid mixing fruit and milk, however if you quite fancy the shakes – and they don’t have a negative effect on you – then go for it (depending on which “school” you follow).

  8. saira khan
    May 21, 2010 | 1:59 am

    i want to be thin.i eat many many fruits in a day.i am afraid that i would become fat.i really loves fruits!but i dont skip my meals.i also have 3 meals everyday but i eat many many fruits.i am afraid it’s not good.i am afraid that i would become fat.please reply me soon.can we eat many many fruits as much as we can?even 10 fruits in a day but without skipping the meals?i dont skip meals.i have all of the 3 meals..

    • the health blogger
      May 24, 2010 | 3:19 pm

      Saira, if your goal is to be thin by eating many fruits and three meals a day, then this may not necessarily work.

      Eating fruits is very good for you, especially if you are eating them whole.

      In order to lose weight and consistently keep it off, you need to have a balanced diet where the amount of calories you take-in in a day are ideal for you goals.

      You also need to implement a good exercise regime which will help burn calories and increase your fat burning capacity during and post exercise (aka Excess Post Oxidative Consumption – EPOC).

  9. wpoohtx
    September 16, 2010 | 6:50 pm

    This is a great article, if you do away with the one from Guy, as he’s just repeating what we’ve all “heard” and Dr. Nomani is telling us what he “knows” from his research. I, too, am trying to loose weight and am really enjoying the Clementines that are available right now. So please keep this blog going and I’m most impressed that you find a reliable source for your articles.

  10. Vitamins Online
    December 2, 2010 | 3:43 pm

    I use fruits as nutritional snacks between meals. Fresh fruits are one of the advantages of summer.

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