A Scientific Understanding
Fri Apr 24, 2020
Have you been warned by someone not to eat fruits after food? Or that mixing fruits with food will cause digestive issues like acidity and gas? Let's find out how true these ideas are.
Human beings have evolved from frugivorous apes, and we are fruguvorous animals ourselves. This means that our digestive system has evolved to thrive on a primarily fruit-based diet with other whole plant foods. Studies assessing microscopic wear and tear patterns on archeological tooth samples and studies comparing ratios of functional body size to area of absorptive gut mucosa have concluded that human beings are primarily fruit eaters and plant eaters.
In India, however, there is no practice of eating fruits everyday! Most of us think of fruits as a snack. Some eat fruits only on special occassions and days of indulgence. Even worse, many people think fruits actually raise your blood sugar and need to be eaten in moderation! There are also many myths floating around that fruits must not be eaten at the same time as cooked food, and must not be eaten after food either. Listening to these, fruits seldom make it to the lunch box or the dinner table.
Here are two things that happen when we add fruit to a meal.
Fruits are among the most antioxidant-packed foods we can eat. Why is this important?
Every time we eat food, the body goes into what's called a 'pro-oxidant state' for the next few hours. Metabolising glucose at the cellular levels causes the formation of free radicals, which damage our body from the inside out, causing chronic lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, high BP, heart disease, and cancer. The body has a natural mechanism to counter this free radical production, using antioxidants. Therefore, if we eat foods that are rich in antioxidants while containing calories in the form of carbohydrates, fat and protein as well, we get the best of both world - a boost in energy and a boost in health too!
Consuming fruits along with cooked food during meals has been found to boost our antioxidant capacity during the postprandial state, in the hours following our meal. When we eat fruits with food, instead of the body suffering for hours afterwards, we get an amazing boost in health for many hours! Repeat this through the day by eating fruits with every meal and snack, and we stay healthy throughout the day!
The food industry wants us to believe that a calorie is a calorie, regardless of where we get it from. But how true is this?
One serving of French Fries, around 150 grams, contains 365 calories. One serving of Gulab Jamuns (with two Jamuns) contains 380 calories. In order to get the same number of calories from a fruit like watermelon for example, you would need to eat 1.2 kg! That's more than a full meal's worth!
When you start your meal with a fruit, even if you eat stomach full, you will still end up eating a lower number of calories overall, because of the low calorie density of the fruit. What does this translate to, on a daily basis? You end up eating more and weighing less! For example, starting a 1000 calorie meal with just a single apple can make you eat almost 200 calories less at the same meal, eating the same quantity of food! You don't need to eat less, just eat lower calorie dense foods at your meals!
If you eat the apple after your meal, though, you may have already eaten your 1000 calories, and may just be topping that up with even more food.
Having understood the science behind nutrition, the logical conclusion is to eat fruits before food.
This does not mean that eating fruits after food is bad for health! It is great, too, but eating fruit first can have much more beneficial effects on your health.
For this reason, at our Whole Food Plant Based Kitchen SampoornaAhara.com, every single meal we serve has a large helping of fruit, without exception! Participants at our Healing With Food Masterclass are encouraged to start their journey in whole food vegan diets with this one simple change - add a fruit or two before every meal - and they feel amazing just one single meal later!
Among India's top dietary risk factors, a Diet Low in Fruits comes second! Shockingly, we can save nearly four lakh lives every year by just eating fruits everyday! How much fruit should we consume everyday to achieve the maximum benefit we can? Check out next blog, 'How Much Fruit to Eat Daily?'!
Dr Achyuthan Eswar
Lifestyle Physician & Co-founder, NutritionScience.in, PHC Lifestyle Clinic & SampoornaAhara.com Plant-based Kitchen