True or False? “You must always eat fruit on an empty stomach.”

Tony Robbins thought so in 1986. From Unlimited Power:

This paragraph got a “HUH?” from me this morning.

A quick google search shows this opinion isn’t rare. (see: MDhealth.com, MindBodyGreen.com, Guardian.co.uk)

It can be traced back to the Natural Hygiene health movement, which started in the 1830s and later re-popularized in the 1980s. Eating fruit with meals is also discouraged by the 5000-year old Indian preventative health tradition Ayurveda.

The basic reasoning can be summarized as follows:

When fruit stays in the stomach too long, the sugars combine with bacteria and cause rot, or fermentation, and some unpleasant side effects (like burping).

Sounds conceivable... But is it actually true?

No. There is no scientific basis for the assertion that fruit must be eaten on an empty stomach.

In fact, there is very little bacteria in the stomach, which is highly acidic and inhospitable to bacteria. And without bacteria, there is no rot or fermentation.

Here’s Dr. Mark Pochapin quoted in a 2010 NY Times article:

“Nothing can rot in the stomach…The place where fruit produces gas is in the colon, not the stomach.”

(And bonus fact: belching is caused by swallowed air. Full stop. See sources one, two, three.)

Could eating fruit on empty stomach actually be harmful?

Possibly.

The sugar in fruit raises blood sugar levels. For diabetics, monitoring blood sugar and preventing spikes is not optional. It’s important for anyone looking to get rid of extra adipose (aka “fat”) tissue.

When a fruit’s sugar is absorbed quickly — as it would when consumed on an empty stomach — the effect on blood sugar levels can be significant.

Some fruits are worse offenders than others. The worse options: bananas, pineapple, and raisins. (Don’t eat these on an empty stomach.)

The better options: apples, oranges, mangoes, and grapefruit. (These are OK to eat whenever.)

So, in closing, here’s a rule of thumb:

If you’re going to have a piece of fruit, eat something else with it.

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