Fruits are probably the most versatile food. They can be substituted for snacks. They can be eaten as dessert, or before meals in their natural form, or mixed with milk and custard (fruit salad), with whipped cream, dipped in chocolate, as splits, and so on and so forth. Most of us have probably eaten fruits in all of these mentioned combinations. None of those combinations had any serious or life-threatening effects, right? But maybe you didn't notice or pay attention, and you did experience some discomfort after trying a couple of those combinations? Nothing very serious, just some discomfort? Or an upset tummy? Gas problems? Although there are no hard and fast "rules" for eating fruits, there are a few things that merit some thought on our part. The following paragraphs will highlight these points.

Eating Fruits - How and When

To address this question of how exactly are we supposed to eat fruits, we have to first understand the composition of various fruits. And by that, I do not mean getting down to the technical details, I just mean that it is better to know -
  • Whether the fruit is more acidic in nature, i.e., citrus fruits (limes, oranges, etc.)
  • Whether they have a lot of fiber (basically fruits eaten with skins, like apples, grapes, and others like pomegranates, oranges, etc.)
  • Whether they have a lot of water content (all types of melons)
  • Whether they are pulpy fruits (bananas, custard apples, etc.)
Depending on the nature of these fruits, it is better to eat them in certain combinations, at specific times, or alone.

It is always better to eat any fruit alone, to avoid mixing of the fruits. Meaning, if you want to eat more than one fruit at a time, it is perfectly okay, but try to stick to one type, and avoid combining one pulpy or sweet fruit with a citrus fruit. Also, it is better to plan your meal, so that foods that you are consuming do not clash; for example eating yogurt and then eating a citrus fruit. Such combinations do not work well for the stomach, and can cause an upset stomach and indigestion.

One interesting fact is that fibers help in the movement of foods in our stomach. That is why we hear things like "fibrous foods aid in digestion", and the like. They help in motility of the foods, and so it is always good to eat fiber-rich fruits before a meal, so that they will aid in digestion. That does not mean that it is not good to eat fruits after a meal. There is nothing wrong with that either, as long as you don't experience any discomfort. But if you do want to eat fruits after your meal, then remember to leave a gap of at least an hour between the meal and the fruit. This is because, some fruits do not mix well with vegetables, and there is a chance that you will end up getting gas, or indigestion, or a stomach ache.

Coming to the question of when. While there is nothing wrong with eating fruits after a meal, it is preferable to eat fruits before a meal. There is a good reason for this. Fruits contain sugars which are in the most natural forms, that do not have to be broken down into simpler forms for absorption and digestion. Also, most of the fruits contain almost 90% to 95% water. As such, they require hardly 15-25 minutes for their digestion. So, if eaten after a meal, the fruits will simply have to wait for their turn to be digested, which is quite unnecessary. This also makes your stomach feel full. If you eat them before, and have your meal 15 - 20 minutes after that, the fruits will have been digested and won't have to wait for their turn. It is as simple as that.

Another thing to keep in mind while eating fruits is that, if a person is diabetic, then certain fruits which have a high content of sugar may cause the blood sugar levels to rise, if there is nothing else to balance it out. In such cases, it is always better to combine fruits with a little carbohydrate or proteins.

There is a myth that if eaten after meals 'fruits sit in the stomach and putrefy and release toxins', but that is not true at all! What happens is, the sugars will ferment and cause gas, which in turn may bloat up your stomach. That is the worst that can happen. Fruits are in no way toxic to our systems, unless for some reason you are allergic to a particular fruit.

Fruits have immense health benefits, and they are also a great source of antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, fibers, etc. They help with digestion, and are easily digestible themselves. While it is absolutely okay to eat fruits whenever you please, it is preferable to eat them before you have your meals. At the same time, even if you do want to have them for dessert, just remember to keep a buffer of half an hour, and there shouldn't be any problems! The only difference is that if you eat fruits before meals, you will be able to get the maximum nutrients and benefits out of them.