5 Myths About the Best Time to Eat Fruit (and the Truth)

Half Eaten Slice of Apple Turned into a Clock

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation about nutrition circulating on the internet.

One common topic is the best time to eat fruit.

There are claims about when and how you should consume fruit, as well as who should avoid it altogether.

Here are the top five myths about the best time to eat fruit, along with the truth.

Myth 1: Always Eat Fruit on an Empty Stomach

This is one of the most prevalent myths regarding when to eat fruit.

It has been popularized through websites and email chains, and seems to have originated from a chef in Singapore.

The myth claims that eating fruit with meals slows digestion and causes food to sit in your stomach and ferment or rot. This myth also claims that eating fruit with meals is what causes gas, discomfort and a range of other unrelated symptoms.

While it’s true that the fiber in fruit can slow the release of food from your stomach, the rest of these claims are false.

Although fruit can cause your stomach to empty more slowly, it does not cause food to sit in your stomach indefinitely.

One study found that in healthy people, fiber slowed the time it took the stomach to empty half its contents from an average of 72 minutes to 86 minutes (1).

While this change in speed is significant, it’s by no means slowing digestion down enough to cause food to spoil in the stomach.

Additionally, slowing the emptying of your stomach is a good thing. It can help you feel full for longer, which might help you eat fewer calories in the long run (2).

But even if fruit did cause food to sit in your stomach for significantly longer than usual, your stomach is specifically designed to prevent the growth of bacteria, which is what causes fermentation and rotting (3).

When food reaches the stomach, it’s mixed with stomach acid, which has a very low pH of about one or two. Your stomach contents become so acidic that most microorganisms cannot grow (3).

This part of digestion occurs partly to help kill bacteria in your food and prevent microbial growth.

As for the rest of these claims, saying that eating fruit with meals is the cause of bloating, diarrhea and discomfort is equally misleading.

There is also no scientific support behind the idea that eating fruit on an empty stomach can affect longevity, fatigue or dark circles under the eyes.

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Bottom Line: Eating fruit with a meal can slow the emptying of your stomach but only by a small amount. This is actually a good thing as it may help you feel more full and cut back on calories.

Myth 2: Eating Fruit Before or After a Meal Reduces Its Nutrient Value

Fruit Kebabs

This myth seems to be an extension of myth number 1. It claims that you need to eat fruit on an empty stomach to reap all of the nutritional benefits.

It claims if you eat fruit right before or after a meal, the nutrients will somehow be lost.

However, this is not at all true. The human body has evolved over time to be as efficient as possible when it comes to extracting nutrients from food.

When you eat a meal, the stomach acts as a reservoir, releasing only small amounts at a time so that your intestines can easily digest it (4).

Also, the small intestine is designed to absorb as many nutrients as possible.

It’s up to 20 feet (six meters) in length, with over 320 square feet (30 square meters) of absorptive area (5).

In fact, studies have shown that your intestines have the ability to absorb twice as many nutrients as the average person consumes in one day (6).

This huge absorptive area means that getting the nutrients from fruit (and the rest of your meal) is easy work for your digestive system, regardless of whether you eat fruit on an empty stomach or with a meal.

Bottom Line: Your digestive system is more than prepared to digest and absorb the nutrients from fruit, whether it’s eaten on an empty stomach or with a meal.

Myth 3: If You Have Diabetes, You Should Eat Fruit 1–2 Hours Before or After Meals

Apple Clock

The idea is that people with diabetes often have digestive problems, and eating fruit separately from meals somehow improves digestion.

Unfortunately, this is rather bad advice for most people who have diabetes.

There is no scientific evidence supporting the idea that eating fruit separately from a meal improves digestion.

The only difference it might make is that the sugar contained in fruit may enter the bloodstream faster, which is exactly what a person with diabetes should try to avoid.

Rather than eating fruit separately, eating it with a meal or as a snack paired with a food high in protein, fiber or fat is a much better choice for someone with diabetes.

This is because protein, fiber and fat can cause your stomach to release food into the small intestine more slowly (7, 8).

The benefit of this for someone with diabetes is that a smaller amount of sugar is absorbed at a time, leading to a smaller rise in blood sugar levels overall.

For example, studies have shown that just 7.5 grams of soluble fiber — which is found in fruit — can decrease the rise in blood sugar after a meal by 25% (1).

However, it’s true that some people with diabetes develop digestive problems.

The most common issue is called gastroparesis. It happens when the stomach empties slower than normal or not at all.

Although dietary changes can help with gastroparesis, eating fruit on an empty stomach is not one of them.

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Bottom Line: For the majority of diabetics, eating fruit on an empty stomach isn’t great advice. Pairing fruit with a meal or snack is usually a better choice.

Myth 4: The Best Time of Day to Eat Fruit Is the Afternoon

There is no real logic behind this idea, and there is also no evidence to support it.

It is claimed that your metabolism slows down in the afternoon and eating a food that’s high in sugar, such as fruit, raises your blood sugar levels and “wakes up” your digestive system.

Four Apples and an Alarm Clock on a Wooden Table

The truth is that any carb-containing food will temporarily increase your blood sugar while glucose is being absorbed, regardless of the time of day (9).

However, apart from providing your body with energy and other nutrients, this has no special benefit.

There is no need to “wake up” your digestive system, as it’s always prepared to jump into action the moment that food touches your tongue, no matter the time of day.

And while eating a meal high in carbs might temporarily cause your body to use carbs as fuel, it doesn’t change the overall rate of your metabolism (9).

The truth is that there’s no harm in eating fruit in the morning. Fruit is healthy any time of the day.

Bottom Line: There is no evidence or logic behind the idea that fruit should preferably be eaten in the afternoon. Fruit is healthy no matter what time it is.

Myth 5: You Shouldn’t Eat Fruit After 2:00 in the Afternoon

Mix of Various Fruits

Interestingly, myth number five directly contradicts myth number 4, claiming that you should avoid fruit after 2 p.m.

It seems that this rule originated as part of the “17-Day Diet.”

The theory is that eating fruit (or any carbs) after 2 p.m. raises your blood sugar, which your body does not have time to stabilize before bed, leading to weight gain.

However, there is no reason to fear that fruit will cause high blood sugar in the afternoon.

As mentioned previously, any carb-containing food will raise your blood sugar as the glucose is being absorbed. But there is no evidence that your blood sugar will be raised more after 2 p.m. than any other time of day (10).

And although your carb tolerance may fluctuate throughout the day, these changes are minor and do not change your overall metabolic rate (9, 10).

There’s also no reason to fear that eating fruit in the afternoon will cause weight gain.

Your body does not simply switch from burning calories to storing them as fat when you go to sleep. Your metabolic rate does tend to decrease as you fall asleep, but you still burn plenty of calories to keep your body running (11, 12).

Many different factors determine whether calories are burned for energy or stored as fat, but avoiding fruit after a certain time of day isn’t one of them.

There is also no evidence that avoiding fruit in the afternoon affects weight.

But there is overwhelming evidence that people who eat lots of fruits and vegetables throughout the day tend to weigh less and are less likely to gain weight (13, 14).

For example, one review of 17 studies found that the people who had the highest intakes of fruit had up to a 17% decrease in the risk of obesity (14).

When it comes to weight loss, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is one of the best things you can do. It’s a great way to get the nutrients you need, all while filling up on healthy, low-calorie foods.

Furthermore, if you’re avoiding fruit in the afternoon and before bed, you’re eliminating a healthy, whole-food option for a snack or dessert.

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Bottom Line: Eliminating fruit after 2 p.m. has no benefits and doesn’t affect your weight. Eating fruit is a good idea at any time of the day.

So Is There a Best Time to Eat Fruit?

Alarm Clock Made out of an Orange

The truth is that any time of the day is a great time to eat fruit.

There is no evidence that you should avoid fruit in the afternoon or around meals.

Fruits are healthy, nutritious and weight loss friendly foods that can be eaten throughout the day.

That being said, there are a few instances when the timing of your fruit intake might make a difference.

If You Want to Lose Weight

Due to the fiber in fruit, eating it may help you feel full for longer. This could cause you to eat fewer calories and may even help you lose weight (15).

However, eating fruit with or right before a meal may increase this effect. It could cause you to eat less of another, higher-calorie food on your plate.

If You Have Type 2 Diabetes

As mentioned before, eating fruit with another food can make a difference for someone with diabetes.

Pairing fruit with another food or meal that’s high in protein, fat or fiber may cause the sugar from fruit to enter the small intestine more slowly (1).

This could result in a smaller rise in blood sugar, compared to eating fruit alone.

If You Have Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is when a woman develops diabetes during pregnancy. For these women, the change in hormones during pregnancy causes a carb intolerance.

Like for those with type 2 diabetes, eating fruit with a meal is probably a good choice.

However, if you have trouble controlling your blood sugar, avoiding fruit in the morning may help.

This is when pregnancy hormones are the highest, and studies have shown that this is often when carb intolerance is most severe in gestational diabetes (16).

Bottom Line: For most people, eating fruit at any time of the day is great. However, timing may matter for diabetics or people who want to lose weight.

Take Home Message

Fruit is rich in nutrients and an important part of a healthy diet.

Myths claiming there’s a best or worst time to eat fruit are unfounded and untrue. In truth, these made-up rules only spread confusion and misinformation.

Regardless of the time of day, eating fruit is a sweet, delicious and weight loss friendly way to get plenty of healthy nutrients for your body.