It's easy to get answers about health and nutrition! Just send your question by email to [email protected] and Dr. Harlan will respond to selected questions of general interest. Answers will be posted in the Ask Dr. Gourmet newsletter (sign up now!) and archived in the Ask Dr. Gourmet section of the website.

Please note that the Ask Dr. Gourmet feature is restricted to questions regarding food and nutrition. Due to the many questions we receive, not all questions may be answered. For more specific questions about your individual health, please contact your doctor. About Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy


Ask Dr. Gourmet

I found this interesting article about fruit on an empty stomach; I'm still puzzled as to the proper way to eat fruit. (Read on)

A. "The answer is a definite no," said Dr. Mark Pochapin, director of the Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. "Fruit can be eaten at any time."

Nothing can rot in the stomach, Dr. Pochapin said. Rotting, or fermentation, means bacterial action on food resulting in decomposition. And because of the presence of hydrochloric acid, the stomach has very few bacteria.

"One of the main purposes of the stomach," he said, "is to sterilize food by mixing and churning it within the muscular, acid-containing stomach."

In the days before refrigeration and supermarkets, food spoiled easily, and stomach acid helped protect the body from food poisoning, he said.

"The place where fruit produces gas is in the colon, not the stomach," Dr. Pochapin said. The colon is loaded with bacteria and acts as the body's sewage system.

Food takes 6 to 10 hours to reach the colon, which explains why it does not really matter when fruit is eaten, Dr. Pochapin said. Fruit contains sugar and vitamins, which are absorbed in the small intestine, and complex fibers, which pass through the gastrointestinal tract without much digestion. When the fiber reaches the colon, the colonic bacteria feed on the fiber and produce gas as a byproduct, regardless of when and with what the fiber was ingested.

Can I get an answer on the proper way to eat fruit?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

This is another one of those wacko internet myths. Dr. Pochapin is correct that there is no problem and fruit can be eaten anytime.

The myth originated with a chef from Singapore, Devagi Sanmugam. She describes herself (on her web site) as "one of Singapore's most dynamic and talented food personalities." She has appeared on her own and numerous television programs, and while she may be a dynamic and talented chef, her essay about fruit is (in my opinion) just a load of bunk. You can read the original here (although I would only do so for the sake of a good laugh):

These sorts of things are just as silly as they sound and Dr. Pochapin's description of the digestive process is correct and not Chef Sanmugam's. This falls along the same lines as such things as the acid / alkali diet, alkalized water, the blood type diet and food combining. If dietary advice sounds weird and silly, it is just that: weird and silly.

Fruit is good for you. Not a little bit good, but a LOT good, and you can eat it any time you want - with or without meals.

More on Timing Myths:

Is it true that I should avoid eating fruit for thirty minutes before or after a meal?

Are there rules for when and how you should eat fruit or drink water?

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS
Dr. Gourmet