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
There is a very great diversity of opinion on the subject of fruit. Some maintain that all fruit, even in the most ripe and perfect state, is of doubtful utility, especially for children. Others say none is hurtful, if ripe, and eaten in moderate quantity. Some require care in making a proper selection; but here again, in regard to what constitutes a proper selection, there is a difference of opinion. Some consider fruits easy of digestion; others believe they are digested only with very great difficulty.
When the cholera prevailed in the large cities of the United States, a majority of the physicians believed all fruits, even those which were ripe, to be injurious in their tendency. But it was insisted by the minority—I think very justly—that whenever fruit appeared to be injurious, it was accidental—that is, the disease, being prepared to make its attack just at that time, happened to do so immediately after the use of fruit, rather than something else, and especially in the season of fruits—or on account of excess; or (which was certainly the case in some instances) because the quality of the fruit was bad.
At present, the weight of testimony on this subject—estimating according to talent, and not according to numbers—is in favor of good fruit, used with moderation—even in the face of the cholera. Dr. Dunglison—one of the last to adopt such an opinion—appears to be in its favor.
On several points, in regard to fruit, I believe that among medical men there is no essential difference of opinion. As I always prefer, in controversies, to see in how many things antagonists agree, before proceeding to the points in which they differ, I will here endeavor to enumerate them.
1. All unripe fruits, especially, if eaten raw and uncooked—let the season, or prevalent disease, or individual, be what or who it may—are unwholesome.
2. Excess, in the use of the most wholesome fruits, under any circumstances, is also injurious.
3. Fruits, eaten immediately after a full meal, when the stomach is in an improper condition for receiving anything more, contribute to overtask the digestive powers, and must hence produce more or less of injury.
4. The skins and kernels of the larger fruits are unwholesome, because indigestible. The skins of fruits, if beaten or masticated finely; may appear to be digested, because dissolved; but I have already endeavored to show that solution is not always digestion.
5. Fruits of all kinds are most wholesome in their own country, and in their own appropriate season.
6. Dried fruits are less wholesome than fresh.
7. Fruit of all kinds should be withheld from infants, until they have teeth.
Thus far, as I have already said, all agree; at least so far as I know. There are several other points on which medical men are generally agreed, though not universally. One of these is, that fruits, if eaten at all, should usually form a part of a regular meal. Another is, that it is better not to eat them immediately before going to bed.
There are contradictory opinions among the mass of the community, physicians as well as others, on the general intention of our summer fruits. From the fact that children's diseases prevail more at the season of the year when fruits are more abundant, many think the fruits are the immediate cause of them. Others, and with better reason, suppose that the latter are intended by the Author of nature to check or prevent the bowel diseases of summer.
Nothing, certainly, is more unnatural than to suppose that at the very season of the year when so many other influences combine to awaken a tendency to disease in the human system, the Creator should place before our eyes an abundance of fruits, inviting us by all their cooling and tempting properties, only to do us mischief. On the contrary, it seems to me much more probable that many of them were designed for our moderate use. In what quantity, under what circumstances, and which are best, it is left to human experience to determine.