5 Myths About the Best Time to Eat Fruit (and the Truth)
Written by Taylor Jones, RD — Medically reviewed by Kim Chin, RD, Nutrition — Updated on September 2, 2021
A lot of misinformation about nutrition circulates 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 5 myths about the best time to eat fruit, along with the facts.
Myth 1: Always eat fruit on an empty stomach
This is one of the most prevalent myths regarding when to eat fruit.
The myth claims that eating fruit with meals slows digestion and causes food to sit in your stomach and ferment or rot.
It also claims that eating fruit with meals causes gas, discomfort, and a range of other unrelated symptoms.
While the fiber in fruit can slow the release of food from your stomach, the rest of these claims are false.
Fruit can cause your stomach to empty more slowly, but it does not cause food to sit in your stomach indefinitely.
One study found that participants who consumed gelled pectin, a type of fiber in fruit, had a slower stomach emptying rate of around 82 minutes, compared with around 70 minutes in those who did not eat pectin (1).
While this change in speed is notable, 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 generally a good thing. It may help you feel full for longer (2Trusted Source).
Still, 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 (3Trusted Source).
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 (3Trusted Source).
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.
No evidence supports the idea that eating fruit on an empty stomach affects longevity, fatigue, or dark circles under the eyes.
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.
Myth 2: Eating fruit before or after a meal reduces its nutrient value
This myth seems to be an extension of myth number 1. It claims that you need to eat fruit on an empty stomach to gain all of its nutritional benefits.
According to this myth, if you eat fruit right before or after a meal, the nutrients will somehow be lost.
However, this is not true. The human body has evolved to be as efficient as possible when it comes to extracting nutrients from food.
When you eat a meal, your stomach acts as a reservoir, releasing only small amounts at a time so that your intestines can easily digest it (4Trusted Source).
Also, the small intestine is designed to absorb as many nutrients as possible. It’s up to 20 feet (6 meters) in length, with over 320 square feet (30 square meters) of absorptive area (5Trusted Source).
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.
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
The idea is that people with diabetes often have digestive problems, and eating fruit separately from meals somehow improves digestion.
However, no scientific evidence suggests that eating fruit on its own improves digestion.
The only difference it might make is that the carbs and sugar contained in fruit may enter the bloodstream faster, which is exactly what people with diabetes look to avoid.
Rather than eating fruit separately, try pairing it with a meal or a snack. Eating fruit alongside a food high in protein, fiber, or fat can cause your stomach to release food into the small intestine more slowly (6, 7Trusted Source).
The benefit of this for someone with diabetes is that a smaller amount of sugar is absorbed at a time, which may lead 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% (8Trusted Source).
The type of fruit you eat is also important. For people with diabetes, look for fruits with a low glycemic index, which will raise your blood sugar more slowly. These include most fruits besides melons, pineapple, and dried fruit (9).
Still, some people with diabetes indeed develop digestive problems.
The most common issue is called gastroparesis. It happens when the stomach empties slower than normal or not at all.
Although some dietary changes can help with gastroparesis, eating fruit on an empty stomach is not one of them.
Eating fruit on an empty stomach may quickly increase your blood sugar. Pairing fruit with a meal or snack may help prevent this, which can benefit people with diabetes.
Myth 4: The best time of day to eat fruit is the morning
There’s no logic behind this idea, and there’s also no evidence to support it.
Some online sources claim that eating a food that’s high in sugar, such as fruit, raises your blood sugar levels and “wakes up” your digestive system.
In fact, any carb-containing food will temporarily increase your blood sugar while glucose is being absorbed, regardless of the time of day (10Trusted Source).
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 what time it is.
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 (10Trusted Source).
The truth is that fruit is healthy any time of the day.
There is no evidence or logic behind the idea that fruit should be eaten in the morning. Fruit is healthy no matter what time it is.
Myth 5: You shouldn’t eat fruit after 2:00 p.m.
Myth number 5 is similar to 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 idea 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’s no reason to believe that fruit will cause high blood sugar in the afternoon.
Any carb-containing food will raise your blood sugar as the glucose is being absorbed. Still, there’s no evidence that your blood sugar will be raised more after 2 p.m. than at any other time of the day (11Trusted Source).
And while your carb tolerance may fluctuate throughout the day, these changes are minor and do not change your overall metabolic rate (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
There’s also no evidence 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 (12).
Many 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’s no evidence that avoiding fruit in the afternoon leads to weight gain, either.
In fact, if you’re looking to lose or maintain your weight, research indicates that people who eat lots of fruits and vegetables throughout the day tend to weigh less and are less likely to gain weight (13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).
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 (14Trusted Source).
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is a great way to get the nutrients you need. 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.
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?
Any time of the day is a great time to eat fruit. There’s no evidence that you should avoid fruit in the afternoon or around meals.
Fruits are healthy, nutritious foods that can be eaten throughout the day.
That 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 lead to weight loss (15Trusted Source, 16).
Eating fruit with or right before a meal may increase this effect. It could cause you to eat less of the other, higher calorie food on your plate.
If you have type 2 diabetes
Eating fruit with other food can make a difference for people with diabetes.
Pairing fruit with other food or a meal that’s high in protein, fat, or fiber may cause the sugar from fruit to enter the small intestine more slowly (8Trusted Source).
This could result in a smaller rise in blood sugar, compared with eating fruit alone.
If you have gestational diabetes
Gestational diabetes is when a person develops diabetes during pregnancy. For these people, the change in hormones during pregnancy causes a carb intolerance.
Similarly to those with type 2 diabetes, eating fruit with a meal is probably a good choice.
However, if you have trouble managing your blood sugar, it may help to avoid eating large amounts of fruit and other carbs in the morning.
Research has suggested that those with gestational diabetes may experience a higher increase in blood sugar after breakfast compared with later in the day. However, more studies are needed on this topic (17).
For most people, eating fruit is a healthy choice at any time of the day. Still, timing may matter for people with diabetes or those who want to lose weight.
The bottom line
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, and they only spread confusion and misinformation.
Regardless of the time of day, eating fruit is a delicious and healthy way to get plenty of nutrients for your body.
Last medically reviewed on September 2, 2021