Is it better to eat fruit before or after a meal?

Louise asks…

“In Happy Guide, you suggest a piece of fruit before lunch and dinner. Is it important to have it before, rather than after? Personally I would prefer it after but I won’t if there’s a reason. Many thanks!”

© Pink Sherbet

Well, fruit eaten on its own will exit the stomach in about 30 minutes or so, so that’s how long it would naturally be there. When you eat fruit after a meal, it’s held back because meat for example, may be in the stomach for hours.

Eating fruit after a meal will definitely produce a less dramatic insulin response and some people argue this is good.

I don’t hold this view though… insulin gets sugar out of the blood and into cells, it’s a perfectly natural process. What is problematic is metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and over-production of insulin as a result…

This is something I want to do in-depth study of in future, but I may not get much further, because there’s just no science on it. There’s only one study of “food combining” and that was just about whether it improved weight loss.

There are studies showing that free fatty acids inhibit glucose uptake and a quote from a Dr Neal Bernard that “insulin can’t work in an oil slick.” But as to what these things mean, it’s very hard to pin down. The “official” line is that the body can handle any combination of food, and clearly it can, I’m just not convinced it’s best.

Fructose, a sugar in fruit, can react with omega 6 fats to create toxins, so if the meal has a lot of omega 6 (not good in any case), this is not ideal. So my feel is that fruit before a meal, or on its own as a snack, is better. But it’s not a rule set in stone, or even one with solid science behind it. But it may prove to be right in the fullness of time.

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Michael Kinnaird is the author of Happy Guide, the result of a 20 year exploration into what works for health and happiness.

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4 thoughts on “Is it better to eat fruit before or after a meal?

  1. Hi es, I usually eat fruit first, then prep the meal, so the timing depends on what I’m making. 30 is probably best or having fruit as snacks or even whole meals. As I said in the article, carbohydrate and fat together mean that it takes more insulin to get the glucose out of the blood. I think this could be a very big deal and I’m actually researching and experimenting along these lines at the moment.


  2. Hi Michael, so would you suggest,ideally, eating fruits 30 mins prior to meal because then it can leave the stomach? Or can it be eaten shortly before a meal? Thanks :)


  3. Good point, and another reason to eat the fruit first is that it’s very healthy… so you don’t want to fill up with the meal and then have not eaten the fruit. Whereas if you have fruit, then it definitely does help, as you say, to have the fullness feeling, maybe before you’ve even finished your plate.


  4. Thanks Mike. I must say that I do feel fuller if I eat a piece of fruit before a meal and therefore don’t feel the need to eat as much of the meal which I suppose is a good thing as I’m trying to lose weight!


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