This section is from the "The Young Mother. Management of Children in Regard to Health" book, by William A. Alcott. Also available from Amazon: The Young Mother
Some say that fruit should never be eaten in the morning, before breakfast. Now everything I know of the human constitution, together with what I have learned from experience and observation, has been for years leading me to the contrary opinion. Indeed, I am most fully convinced, that of all periods for eating fruit, whether we use it alone or make it a part of our regular meals, the morning, soon after we rise, is the most favorable. [Footnote: I ought to remark, that as the morning is the best time for eating good fruit, so it is the very worst time for eating it if not good; and as a large proportion of that which is eaten is unripe, or otherwise bad, this may account for the general prejudice against eating it at this period.] My reasons are as follows:
1. The rest and sleep of the preceding night has restored our general vigor, and consequently has invigorated the stomach, so that digestion will be more easily and perfectly accomplished.
2. We have been, at our rising, so long without food on our stomachs, that they are not likely to be oppressed by a moderate quantity of good, ripe, wholesome fruit. In the course of our waking hours, meals follow each other in such quick succession, and there is so much variety, even at the plainest tables, to tempt us to excess, that there is more danger of injury from the addition of fruit than at our first rising.
3. I have never known any one to receive injury from the use of fruit in this way, provided no other circumstance in relation to quantity, quality, &c. had been disregarded. In my own case, the practice has, on the contrary, seemed beneficial.
4. There is one reason in favor of this practice which perhaps would have less weight, if people rose as early in the morning as they ought; or, in the language of Dr. Franklin to the inhabitants of Paris, if they knew that the sun gives light as soon as he rises. I allude to the demand which I conceive that the stomach makes for something, after so long fasting, and the pernicious custom of late breakfasts. I am persuaded that it is advisable to eat something nearly as soon as we rise, be it never so early; and if we can get nothing else for breakfast, and have not accustomed ourselves to relish a piece of good bread, or some other simple thing, which requires no labor of preparation, I think it perfectly proper to eat a small quantity of fruit.
We come now to the particular consideration of some of those fruits which universal experience has shown to be the most salutary.
Of all these, none is more wholesome than the apple. There is indeed a great diversity in the quality even of this single article. Sweet apples are the most nutritious; but perhaps those which are gently acid, and at the same time mealy, are rather more cooling, and when eaten raw, and in the heat of summer, not less wholesome.
Apples which come to maturity very early in the season appear, as a general rule, to be less rich, and even less perfect, than those which ripen later. In view of this fact, some writers have endeavored to dissuade us from their use; and among others, Mr. Locke. We may judge a little what his opinions were, from his concluding remarks on the subject:—"I never knew apples hurt anybody," says he, "after October."
But although neither apples nor any other fruits which ripen uncommonly early are quite so good as those which come in a little later, yet I do not think they are to be wholly rejected, unless they have been raised in hot houses. Fruits, and indeed vegetables in general, whose maturity is hastened by artificial processes, must be less wholesome than when brought to perfection in nature's own appropriate time and manner. I ought to say, however, very distinctly, that of the fruits of any particular tree, those which first ripen are always the worst; for they are usually wormy, or otherwise defective.
Most of the fruit, as well as other vegetables, brought to our city markets in this country, is utterly unfit to be eaten. Sometimes it is immature; sometimes it has a hot house maturity; sometimes it has been picked so long that it has begun to decay. Many fruits—berries especially—are in perfection for a very short period only. Mulberries, for example—one kind especially—are not in perfection long enough to carry to the market house, even though the distance were very small. Luckily, however, very few mulberries are eaten. But the raspberry and strawberry, if perfect when gathered, have usually begun to decay, before they are purchased. That this appears to be rather unfrequent, is because they are gathered before they are ripe.
Dr. Dewees regards most fruits as difficult of digestion. I do not think they are so, if perfect and ripe. The experiments of Dr. Beaumont, so far as they prove any general principle, show conclusively that mellow sweet apples are more quickly digested than any kind of vegetable food whatever, except rice and sago. But even admitting they were slow of digestion, I do not think—as I have already shown in another place—that they ought on that account to be excluded. Besides, my opinion differs from that of Dr. D. in regard to the strength of the digestive powers of children. After teething, they seem to me to be able to digest any substances which adults can; and with as little difficulty.
But to return:—No fruit is in perfection longer than the apple. Besides, no fruit appears to be less injured in its nature and properties by picking it a little before it is ripe, and preserving it during the winter. It is on this account, more perhaps than any other, that I value it more highly than all other fruits united.