Should Fruits & Vegetables Be Mixed Together?

Most healthy diet plans encourage you to eat more fruits and vegetables, but some recommend you not eat them together. Such diets advise that eating the wrong food combinations may be toxic or deter your weight-loss efforts. While it's OK to eat fruits and vegetables at different times of the day, it's also OK to eat them together, especially if it's the only way you can meet your needs.

A couple talking and carrying a crate of vegetables. (Image: altrendo images/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Fruit and Vegetable Nutrition

Fruits and vegetables are considered nutrient-rich foods. Both contain varying amounts of health-promoting essential nutrients, including vitamins A and C, potassium and fiber. The significant nutritional differences between the two are their carb and protein content. Fruits do not contain any protein but are high in carbs and sugar. Vegetables are low in carbs, with the exception of starchy vegetables such as peas and potatoes. They are also low in sugar and contain protein. The differences in nutritional makeup may be the rationale behind not eating them at the same time.

Fruit and Vegetable Digestion

Food combiners say that you should not eat fruit with other foods because they digest quickly and ferment in the stomach if eaten with other foods. There is no evidence to support this food-combining rule, however. Digestion of fruits and vegetables begins in the mouth, where the enzymes in your saliva begin to break down the carbohydrates. The chewed food moves on to the stomach, where everything is mixed together and the acid and protein enzymes begin to break down the protein in the vegetables. Once in the small intestines, other enzymes break down the carbohydrates from your fruits and vegetables into glucose and vegetable protein into peptides and amino acids. It is then absorbed, along with the vitamins and minerals, into the bloodstream. Your body can handle the digestion of a variety of nutrients from all different types of foods at the same time. It does not digest the carbs from fruit any differently than the carbs from vegetables.

Getting Your Fruits and Veggies

Most Americans don't eat enough fruits and vegetables, according to the publication "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010." Meeting your daily fruit and vegetable needs not only ups your intake of health-promoting nutrients but also lowers your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer. Fruits and vegetables are also low in calories when made without added fat or sugar, which may help make it easier for you to lose weight and keep it off. You need a minimum of 2 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables a day, eaten together or separately, to see the health benefits, states "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010."

The Exceptions

There are one or two exceptions for eating fruits and vegetables at the same time. If eating them together causes abdominal pain or indigestion, you may be better off eating your fruits and vegetables separately. Additionally, if you need to be careful with the amount of carbs you eat at mealtime to aid in blood sugar control for diabetes, you may prefer to not eat starchy vegetables and fruits at the same time. That may help control your carb intake at meals. Both exceptions are based on personal preference.

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