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,
This is what he had to say:
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.
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
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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