Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research
Q: I’ve heard that fruit should be eaten alone rather than with other foods. Is that true?
A: No. You may see articles suggesting a myriad of problems that stem from eating fruit along with other foods, but none are based on science. One thing you may read is that you cannot digest fruit if other foods are present in your stomach at the same time, so the fruit ferments causing indigestion or heartburn after a meal. This is absolutely untrue: carbohydrate digestion begins with enzymes in the saliva and continues as food passes through the stomach and then the intestine. Enzymes that break down carbohydrate in fruit are separate from those that break down protein and fat. Eating different types of food together does not inhibit digestion. The stomach puts out large amounts of acid; food does not sit there rotting or fermenting. You may also hear claims that fruit combined with other foods leads to overweight because the body cannot digest them. But this, too, is untrue. Mixing foods at a meal does not leave the body unable to digest them. And even if it did, undigested food passes out as waste material; it cannot possibly turn into body fat. Excess body fat comes from just the opposite: more calories consumed, digested and absorbed than our bodies burn. If anything, combining fruits with other plant foods like vegetables and whole grains could be beneficial. Fruit can be a filling appetizer to help limit calories at a meal, a delicious addition to salads, and a satisfying way to end a meal on a sweet note. Don’t be afraid to combine fruit with whatever foods you want.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $95 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is part of the global network of charities that are dedicated to the prevention of cancer. The WCRF global network is led and unified by WCRF International, a membership association which operates as the umbrella organization for the network.The other charities in the WCRF network are World Cancer Research Fund in the UK (www.wcrf-uk.org); Wereld Kanker Onderzoek Fonds in the Netherlands (www.wcrf-nl.org); World Cancer Research Fund Hong Kong (www.wcrf-hk.org).