....Not alone as in isolation, but alone as in without any other foods and on an empty tummy.
There are two main controversies around eating fruit and I'd like to explore both so you can make an informed decision about whether eating fruit is a healthy choice for you.
The first relates to the sugar content in fruit. Those who reject fruit as a healthy dietary choice point to the Glycemic Index and claim that eating fruit causes blood sugar spikes. These fruit-haters also point out that fruit sugar is high in fructose which is difficult for the liver to metabolize and therefore turns directly to fat in the body. While this fructose-becomes-fat assertion is accurate, I don't believe that these critics are looking at the full picture. Fruit does contain fructose, but the whole food package that it comes in also contains fiber. Fiber not only restrains us from consuming large amounts in one sitting (unlike high-fructose corn syrup or agave), but also, along with antioxidants and vitamin C, it helps to inhibit rapid fructose assimilation into the bloodstream thus minimizing the negative effects.
That said, I am definitely a fruit supporter, as long as your body can metabolize it. If you eat fruit along with a heavy animal protein, fat and junk-food diet, you may not be able to digest fruit well and feel bloated, gassy, or nauseous after eating it. Those who have candida are best to avoid eating fruit while doing a candida cleanse as even the natural fruit sugars can feed yeast. I would also strongly caution (everyone) against straight fruit juice as, without the fiber, the fruit sugars will be quickly absorbed into the bloodstream causing a blood sugar spike....followed by a crash.
As long as your diet is clean and balanced, I see no problem with enjoying some delicious and nutritious fruit each day. If you are concerned about minimizing sugar intake, then perhaps emphasize eating low sugar fruits. Berries are, in general, the fruits lowest in sugar and also among the highest in antioxidants and other nutrients. Summer fruits (peaches, nectarines, etc) are the second lowest, followed by winter fruits (apples, pears and citrus). Tropical fruits (banana, mango, pineapple) are the highest in sugar. Highest of all, however, are dried fruits (raisins, dates, figs, etc) which are best eaten only occasionally. The chart below gives you an idea of the amount of sugar in some common fruits.
The second controversy is in regards to when to consume fruit. Many nutritional experts agree that eating fruit on an empty stomach away from other foods is essential for proper digestion and assimilation of all fruit's nutrients. The reason behind this fruit-eating rule is the fact that fruit breaks down the quickest of all food groups. Fruit combined with other food sticks in the digestive system along with the other slower digesting foods (protein and starches) and begins to ferment and disrupt the digestion of all the foods in the gut. This is a nightmare for your tummy, and quickly becomes one for you too as it inevitability leads to gas, bloating, and other uncomfortable effects. It's a bummer because I know you think you are being healthy by opting for fruit salad for dessert, but instead a healthy meal followed by fruit actually acidifies the whole meal and causes trouble in your intestines.
Fruit does digest well will leafy green vegetables which is why adding an apple or pear to a green smoothie or juice is totally fine! The chart below depicts the best combining principles for optimal fruit digestion. As you can see, sweet fruits and acid fruits are not a good match but both do OK with sub-acid fruits. Melons should be eaten by themselves as they don't combine well with any other fruit or food, for that matter.
Take Home Message: Fruit is a totally awesome healthy food that contains no fat, is extremely alkalizing and detoxifying, promotes weight loss and provides us with many vital vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids. All of these great benefits can only be achieved if it is metabolized and utilized by the body effectively. This requires an empty stomach and a clean gut full of healthy bacteria that can break down the sugar and metabolize the nutrients.
How to follow these guidelines: Most people eat three meals a day, so space out your fruit servings in between. Aim to have your fruit about one hour before a meal or two hours after. Wait longer if it was a heavier meal. You could also try having fruit first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and then have breakfast 1-2 hours later. In regards to fruit smoothies, it's OK to pair your chosen fruit with some nut / coconut milk or non-dairy yogurt. These shouldn't strain the digestive system too much, but perhaps just try it and see how you feel. We're all a bit different so trial and error is the best way to learn what works for you and your body.
I'm not about to tell you I follow these rules 100%. I mean, hellooo pavlova is my favorite dessert! But I do try to be mindful of these principles most of the time. I strive to only have one fruit at a time so that I don't have to think about the different categories from which to combine (ain't got time for that!). It is helpful to be conscious of these food combining guidelines (especially for those of us with finicky digestion) even if you don't always abide by them. For the most part, all of this is actually easier than it sounds once you get over the shock factor (if this is all new news to you..)!
I hope this post has given you a better idea of how to get the most out of nature's perfect gifts! Following these guidelines will keep you looking and feeling awesome and energized without any of those awful digestive problems.
What do you think - is this too difficult to follow? Did you know this about fruit? Would love for you to share in the comments below.
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