I have been asked on several occasions whether it is healthy to eat fruits directly after a meal. I am not quire sure where this theory originates from, having been accustomed to eating fruit after a meal from an early age; this practice was so deeply ingrained in my conscience as being associated with health, that this has now become second-nature.
A closer look at the science
Our digestive system is ready to digest a variety of food during a meal. In fact, having a piece of fruit after a meal has many benefits; not only does it represent a treat for those who have a sweet tooth, but also eating some fruit is a more nutritious option than having a dessert, as it is lower in calories and fat.
If you are having an iron-rich vegetarian meal, for example spinach or lentils, having a vitamin C-rich fruit e.g. orange, melon or strawberries directly after your meal will enhance the absorption of iron from the food. This will enable you to better meet your iron requirements, which helps prevent iron-deficiency anemia.
A word of caution - don't go crazy!
Although fruit is nutritious, it does contain calories. If you consume some fruit right after eating an energy-dense meal, you will most likely be getting more calories than your body needs. The over consumption of calories, even from healthy foods like fruit, will inevitably lead to weight gain. Take into account the fruit you will consume after a meal into your total caloric limit for the day, so you do not end up taking in more energy than you can burn. Also, bear in mind that if your diet consists of a lot of fruit, it leaves less room for other nutritious foods such as vegetables, whole grains, lower-fat dairy products etc.
You can rest assured that eating a fruit at any time during the day will increase your intake of key vitamins and minerals. This will keep many diseases at bay. In case you feel really full after a meal, then save your fruit for a delicious and healthy afternoon snack. The timing of your fruit intake is up to you, as long you have 2-3 servings a day.
Sophie Bruno is a Registered Dietitian living and working in Brussels (Belgium). Read Sophie's foodie blog which will enable you to learn, increase your knowledge & cultivate yourself in the field of nutrition & health directly from Brussels