Always eat fruits before a meal?? The science behind false claims

Short answer: It may have marginal benefits. Definitely not enough to entirely change your eating habits though!

Long rant: I was sent this email as a forward. Many of you might have received it. This blog post is an attempt to put some science to use in countering these outrageous claims that someone is making.

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?

IT MEANS NOT EATING FRUITS AFTER YOUR MEALS! * FRUITS SHOULD BE EATEN ON AN EMPTY STOMACH.

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.

How do fruits supply ‘energy’ for weight loss? It is wrong to say that, may be they meant something else. Yes, there is a possibility of reduction in weight by eating a lot of fruits. If about one-third of your diet is fruits, it helps fill the stomach and avoid the high calorie foods. Thus, eating lots of fruits will decrease the total calorie intake and thus make you lose weight not by some divine ‘energy’ as claimed here.

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….

Digestive juices evolved in human being’s stomachs to spoil the food we eat?? How outrageous is that? Yes, stomach is a very acidic place, and for a good reason. Our food needs to be chewed one more time before nutrients can be absorbed in the intestine. Acidifying the food helps the stomach ‘chew’ the food by easing the energy the stomach expends in its mechanical motion. Also, the enzymes released in the stomach are meant to work at that acidic pH. So this hypothesis is false. You eat bread or fruit, the stomach will release digestive juices which will be acidic and no they won’t ‘rot’ your food.

There might be some truth in the fact that digestion of fruits takes less effort by the stomach than the same amount of bread, because fruit is more fibrous and has high water content. So I don’t completely disagree with eating fruits on an empty stomach. It might have some benefit. But not much.

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 during 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!

On the contrary, bloating is caused due to inadequate intake of fluids and fibre. Both of which are present in fruit in plenty. So, if you want to reduce bloating please eat fruit.

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

Anything else? These are outrageous claims without any reasoning!

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.

Dr Herbert Shelton was an American alternative medicine advocate who passed away in 1985. Science and in particular nutritional science has come a long way since then. I’d rather read a peer-reviewed science publication than listen to what a proponent of pseudo-science has to say. Won’t you? And to counter the claim, foods can definitely be classified according to their pH. So yes, orange and lemon are acidic (they have ascorbic ACID!). There is some truth that food becomes alkaline in the process of digestion but only after they have gone through the acidic stomach juices. After being chewed and gulped, the food goes into our stomach where it is attacked by acid in the digestive juices, once broken down this food travels to the intestine where it is neutralised and made slight alkaline which is the pH of the intestine for further processing.

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.

Wrong, wrong, wrong!  Vitamins in food are affected by growing conditions, post harvest changes, initial treatments (washing, milling), blanching and other thermal processing, and storage. Not heating alone, there are only a few vitamins which are lost, NOT ALL.

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!

Whole fruit is better than juice because it is fibrous. Gulping any food not just juice is not a good idea because the first stage of digestion begins in the mouth. Enzymes like amylase breaks down starch to sugar and salivary lipase (more potent form of lipase) breaks down fat. Chewing or keeping food longer in the mouth will help dissolve or mix these important enzymes and let them act effectively.

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.

Ok, attack on eating fruit wasn’t enough. You have to dwell on cancer?? All this is complete bullshit. It is possible that if you drink very cold water after a meal then some fat in the food stuff will solidify. But nothing after that is true. Even if it slows your digestion it will not lead to more fat in the body. The amount of fat in the food is decided by the type of food and drinking cold water will in no way affect the absorption of this fat. Excess fats can cause cancer but because cold water does nothing to increase the fat in the food. That should not be a worry at all. It’s such a far-fetched claim!

Sorry for the rant but these sort of emails get on my nerves. It’s worth the time investment to dispel myths like these. Written in genuine public interest. Period.

References:

Britannica Encyclopedia. (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/567085/stomach)

Wikipedia. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stomach)

More on stomach acidity (http://www.madsci.org/posts/archives/may98/892927858.Ch.r.html)

‘Tongue’ in the stomach
(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18367093)

Stability of Vitamins (Many references for different vitamins, so quoting a few, a google scholar search will give u many academic publications)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1253064/
http://cdavies.wordpress.com/2006/03/09/vitamins-part-2-stability/

Digestion (Amylase & Lipase)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digestion#Human_digestion_process

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58 thoughts on “Always eat fruits before a meal?? The science behind false claims”

  1. good job aks! as a kid my housekeeper always found it funny that i came home from school and ate a fruit before i had lunch! i had no idea how beneficial it was, i just did that intuitively!

    1. nice! It’s not a bad idea, but definitely not idea that worth realigning your beliefs about food.

    1. True, very true! Yet, I hate to see that the influence of bad science seems to be more than that of good science. Every effort to revert that trend is worth it.

  2. Good one! would like to see more of such passionate and analytical efforts countering ‘bad science’. keep it up!

  3. As much as I want those baseless emails to have references, I might enjoy going through references for the counter-response too.

  4. I agree. Here are the references:

    Britannica Encyclopedia. (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/567085/stomach)
    Wikipedia.
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stomach)

    More on stomach acidity (http://www.madsci.org/posts/archives/may98/892927858.Ch.r.html)

    ‘Tongue’ in the stomach
    (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18367093)

    Stability of Vitamins (Many references for different vitamins, so quoting a few, a google scholar search will give u many academic publications)
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1253064/
    http://cdavies.wordpress.com/2006/03/09/vitamins-part-2-stability/

    Digestion (Amylase & Lipase)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digestion#Human_digestion_process

    Actually, it’s very easy to counter this kind of science because one needs only very basic knowledge. If you ever come across such an example of bad science, write about it or send it to me. 🙂

  5. Comment posted on behalf of Vasu Sodhani

    I am follower of Naturopathy and have done extensive research on this subject and per my findings:

    Stomach takes different time lengths to digest different foods. Some fruits like oranges, tangerines, grape fruits, grapes, all types of mellons (water mellon, etc), peaches,nectrines are in the category of predigested foods and pass thru stomach quickly in about 15 minutes or so depending upon how much volume one is eating and how much mentally one is relaxed after having them. Whereas dairy products take 1 to 2 hours depending upon how concentrated they are. Milk is likely to pass thru stomach in about 1 hr but cottage cheese and Gulab Jamoon will take 1.5 hrs and yellow cheese will take may be 2 hours (anybody having constipation must not eat hard cheese, cottage cheese is ok). Meats will take 3 hours. Also these timings will be little different depending upon how strong and healthy stomach or more closely liver is. It is liver that sends proper juices (mostly Hydrochloric Acid) to stomach to digest particular kind of food.

    Whatever you put in stomach has to be digested together (not separately) and when entire mass digestion is complete then and then only it goes out of stomach to duodenum where gall bladder duct connects to bring in bile to digest whatever fat is in the mix entering duodenum. Now if we combine orange with milk, orange juice has to stay 1/2 to 1 hour longer in hydrochloric acid environment until milk is digested. This means fermentation and gas formation and will decrease health of stomach over period of time. Very strong stomach may be able to take this beating without much notice but on an average it will start producing gas.

    Ayurveda does not recommend any fruits with milk with one exception of mangoes.

    Therefore fruits like mentioned above must be eaten on empty stomach and by itself and not before or just after meal. Means early morning 1/2 hour before breakfast or around 4 oclock when stomach is again empty. Then wait until stomach to get empty to eat anything else.

    There is lot of literature in Naturopathy “Food Combination”.

    Hope it is not too long for one line question.

    vasu sodhani
    (1962 BChemEng)
    Houston, TX

    1. hello vasu , i read your article n it has given so many information but i would like to know one thing that is it beneficial to drink milk or tea in empty stomach , right in the morning. plz revrt back ………………..

    2. There is a lot of good science in this comment, especially regarding anatomy. There is just as much bad science. As an example, food doesn’t sit in your stomach until it is digested then get dumped into your intestine; food is constantly being squeezed into your intestine at a rate determined by things such as fat content and adrenaline in the blood. As such 1 oz. of milk and 1 qt. of milk will not stay in the stomach for the same duration. The “fermentation” statement is also flawed. Ignoring that fermentation in a highly acidic environment is questionable, reducing the amount of time in the stomach (by lowering the milk/juice ratio e.g. from 1:0 to 1:1) does not increase fermentation. Note that the author does not recommend against dairy, which would stay in the stomach longest. Yes, dairy has sugar and can ferment as easily as fruit.

      Addressing the question of milk and tea: Milk is a “soothing” drink, is generally good anytime, and is especially good after exercise. Tea is a more harsh drink and may not be best on an empty stomach.

      http://www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/digestion/basics/transit.html
      http://biology.about.com/od/organsystems/a/aa032907a_2.htm
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gastric_acid
      http://gillesenergies.webs.com/phinfermentation.htm
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermented_milk_products
      http://www.japanese-healthy-eating.com/green-tea-side-effects.html
      http://stronglifts.com/milk-post-workout-build-muscle-gains/
      http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/recipes/healthy-eating/superfoods/chocolate-milk-after-workout/

  6. Sorry mate, but the liver does not produce hydrocholoric acid. It is formed directly in the stomach by parietal cells which pump out the hydrogen and chlorine atoms separately into the lumen of the the stomach. This prevents the highly acidic product from damaging the parietal cells themselves.
    Furthermore, ones entire meal is not completely digested before it is pushed into the duodenum for further digestion. Without getting too technical, the stomach rhythmicly mashes the food and pushes sections of it toward the pyloric sphincter which is the entrance to the duodenum. Once a portion has undergone enough digestion it fits through the small opening and continues on it’s journey while the rest of the meal continues digestion in the stomach.
    Might I suggest Gastrointestinal Physiology by Kim E. Barrett for those interested in further details.

    1. Thanks for the clarification mate. I will forward your reply to the concerned person. Cheers!

  7. Aks, or anyone in general,
    How do you think one’s body fat can be reduced without losing muscle? I know it can be done gradually and with a lot of exercise, but do you think there is a way or type of food to eat, caloric amount being the same, that would spur on the body to burn its fat? Finally, thanks for taking the time to share your response.

  8. Keep busting such myths Akshat! There are some other things which really get on my nerves:
    *High-protein-low-carb diet…Ridiculous!
    *The fad for the so-called (fibreless) nutritious cornflakes, complan, bournvita et al…Does anyone ever think about the bio-availibility of the nutrients in these products?
    *Cerelac, Farex and the likes given to babies…

    It’s all hogwash!

    1. Why do High-protein-low-carb diets get on your nerves?
      I have recently changed my diet to a low carb, high protein diet. I eat half a chicken with Salad and Vegetables for Dinner every day, with fruits for desert! Maybe for breakfast I’ll have some toast but that’s about it.
      Occasionally I would have some rice with my food, but not as much as I did before.
      Before, Rice, Pasta, and Bread were the primary source of my food, and meat and vegetables were second in portion size! That high carb lifestyle was literally destroying my body!
      Now I don’t eat as much carbs as I did before, and its done wonders for me! Not only have I lost weight and gained muscle from simple weekly workouts, my acidity and digestive problems completely went away! I no longer have to walk around with tums in my pockets all day long! I never feel bloated anymore after a meal no matter how much I ate, and I feel stronger and lighter! And my digestion has certainly gotten better!

      Its not a diet for me anymore, its a lifestyle. So maybe you shouldn’t knock something before learning more about it, don’t you think?

  9. Highly informative,educative & useful to ensure good health if followed meticulously regularly .One is suggested to take a PRINTOUT like class room time table & get it framed . The first thing the morning it will work like a Reminder for your day’s routine starting with FRESH FRUIT intake Empty Stomach . Gr888 Suggestion

  10. I find it somewhat amusing that people freak out over high fructose corn syrup when fruit is…. high in fructose.

    I try to avoid both.

  11. […] Finding sources of motivation Posted on March 2, 2011 by akshatrathi294 Motivation to do something acts as that driving force which helps us through every phase of an activity. It gives us the energy to initiate the task, then to continue through its ups and downs, and finally also to bring it to an end. […]

  12. Well i like your suggestion and i will try to follow this things……………… and always keep updating this kind of things for health Aman Jain

  13. so , just like everything else in life, take it with a grain of salt. you people make yourselves sound foolish when you try to paint everyone and their advice with one brush. I get a real kick out of people who say “thanks for telling everyone this is bullshit” when it’s not. Aks said himself that it’s not all bad ideas in the article; maybe just not hard science. hate to say…there wasn’t a whole lot a hard science in his response either. do yourself a favour for life in general: LOSE THE DRAMA. peace and love to all.

  14. In my mind, we only need to do something really simple. Eat everything, but don’t eat too much. Keep the portion size down while eating a lot of varieties of food. Don’t be tempted to food that are too oily, too salty and too sweet. Start doing that along with some exercise and a reasonably healthy life style is all you need to keep in shape. Of course, if you already 100 lbs over weight, then extra steps will be needed to get rid of that. But once you are normal, this is all you need, in my opinion.

  15. As a scientist I was unaware of this piece of information until I saw it in an email. Now, having read it I actually have put it into action. I do now eat fruit on an empty stomach, never after meals or following a workout and have found the only difference is the absence of bloating I sometimes would experience eating fruit. The stomach does have a very low pH and question whether any difference should exist at all. Nonetheless I will heed the advice because it works for me.

  16. Although I believe you, Wikipedia is hardly a scholarly reference to support your position on the article you’re criticizing.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion. Wikipedia isn’t the most ‘scholarly reference’ sure but the references therein are pretty scholarly. Anyways, I think this whole issue needs a further good look at and I will do that sometime soon, till then I am happy with the references that I have used.

  17. Hi,
    Eating banana after a meal is good or eating banana before a meal is good,,,,, and y what s the reason,, which one i should follow.

  18. Nice article. There are some interesting replies.

    I believe knowing what the fruit has to offer is very important as well. For example, eating a lot of acidic fruit can cause an imbalance and will have to be avoided if you have acid reflux problems. Low acidic fruit can be handled by the body in more abundance but are less detoxifying than acid fruits. Fruits can be acidic, low-acidic, sweet, starchy, non-starchy. Balancing these categories is ideal. On a larger scale we can look at foods being cleansers, congesters (not sure if this a word, but you know what I mean. lol), and builders. If you eat a lot of starchy and heavy foods, you may gain weight and store body heat. If you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, you may feel lighter and tend to loose height easily. MODERATION is key. We must know our bodies and pay attention to what our body needs.

    That being said, dieting is a corrective practice. If you feel bloated and congested, you may go on a cleansing diet to aid your liver, kidney, lungs, skin, and intestines. A low carb, hi protein and veggie diet should be for a person that has health issues due to over indulgence. If a diet is not for you, please do not be ignorant in your claim that it does not work.

    I too have tried eating fruits on a empty stomach. I recently noticed that my stomach does not pain me when I start my day with fruits that are low in acid. After lunch, I find I can have more acidic fruits. Also, note that fruits and veggies DO NOT mix well. Not all foods mix well together and the more of a mix you give your body to handle at once is not ideal. Foods also break down and get processed at different speeds. Grouping like foods will make it easier for your body to process, therefore, optimizing the distribution of energy, vitamins, nutrients, etc.

    After working out, your body will crave what it needs. Feeding your body food that it can process fast is ideal because heavy foods will require more energy and time to breakdown; over working your body and satisfying the craving. This is why a lot of fitness professionals will suggest shakes with protein and etc. Your body will soak up all the nutrients it needs to rebuild after you workout. Fruit before a workout is good too, because the energy is ready right away. I suggest a banana, avocado, dates, apple, and orange.

    this is getting too long of a reply to enjoy. lol. I hope this is helpful.

    Sources:
    1) http://www.thefruitpages.com/acidsweet.shtml
    2) “Staying Healthy With the Seasons” by Elson M. Haas, M.D. – 1981
    Published by Celestial Arts. Berkeley, California

  19. I guess d pseudoscientist does not have an insight about nutrition. It’s kind of weird when am been told that cold water after meal causes cancer.

  20. It’s very sad that you feel so threatened by an alternative vision of food and nutrition. I haven’t received this email but the snippets you pasted in you post make perfect sense to me.

    Have you *personally* tried eating (organic) fruit on an empty stomach?

  21. Science is not necessarily truth, because there are huge gaping holes in what studies have been done. For example, if a study was done that concluded that fruit should be eaten alone, everyone would change tack and recommend it, and yet it was always “true.” Science is what you do when you don’t know what you’re doing.

    So in the absence of science, it’s not unreasonable to look to personal experience to unravel the cause/effect of things like eating fruit before or after a meal. To put it another way, just because there is no science, it doesn’t mean it’s incorrect.

    The idea that fruit naturally takes less time to exit the stomach if eaten alone, creates a very solid hypothesis that it would be better to do so. Is it proven? No, but that doesn’t make it not true.

  22. There is certainly some bad science here, but even the second article you mention for nutrients states the following: “Other processing steps with elevated temperatures can cause significant loss of vitamins and this loss is dependent on the chemical nature of the food…” There is significant variability in the stability of vitamins when cooking. Other processing or just the passing of time, can also lead to significant declines, depending on the item. So i must with all due respect say that your statement that minimal vitamins are lost through cooking is overstated. Fresh is always best.

  23. Nice!I like this articles it clears lots of myths.Its great job!i Willemstad follow it in my routine from today !m goin to eat Apple now bye !!

  24. Thanks for educating me by given me more insight on how to eat especially when to eat fruit and the effect of drinking cold water after meal.

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