A subset of the vegan diet is the fruitarian diet and it is exactly what the name implies. This is one of the most restrictive diets out there since 50% to 75% of food consumed must make up of raw fruit. The reason why people adopt the fruitarian diet varies but primary motives are health concerns, religious beliefs, and moral or ethical reasons.
What is the fruitarian diet?
The fruitarian or fruit diet is an extremely restrictive vegan diet that only allows you to primarily consume raw fruits. It excludes all animal products and dairy and vegetables, dried fruits, and seeds can only be eaten in moderation.
Grains, legumes, tubers, and other types of food are either limited or eliminated, as well as any kind of cooked fruit.
There are no specific guidelines for a fruit diet. Some only eat fruit that has fallen to the ground instead of fruits that have been picked and others won’t eat any seeds since these can turn into living plants.
Potential Benefits of the Fruitarian Diet
When eaten in moderation and paired with a nutritious and balanced diet, fruits can be extremely healthy. Here are some benefits you can get from eating fruits.
Fiber. Fruits, such as apples, pear, blackberries, and raspberries, contain fiber that helps lower cholesterol and encourages bowel movements.
Vitamin C. Vitamin C-rich fruits like oranges, red peppers, and strawberries, help keep the teeth and gums healthy, as well as, support the immune system.
Potassium. Bananas, guavas, cantaloupe, and mangos are some of the fruits that contain high levels of potassium that help maintain blood pressure and regulate fluid balance.
Folate. Tropical fruits, like oranges and mangos, are rich in folate that boosts the body’s red blood cell production and supports healthy fetal development.
Antioxidants. Black plums, prunes, and all berries are fruits that are rich in antioxidants that limit the production of free radicals. Antioxidants can also protect the skin and battle out illness.
What are the potential risks?
The fruitarian diet is a restrictive eating pattern that excludes a lot of essential food groups. Unfortunately, this diet does not contain all the nutrients and vitamins that the body needs.
Here are the potential risks that you need to look out for if you are thinking of following the fruit diet.
There are certain nutrients the body needs that fruits cannot give. This will result in the body missing out on important nutrients and vitamins, including:
- Vitamin D
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- B vitamins
All of these nutrients have a vital role in the body and if you consume too few of these, it can lead to multiple health problems, such as:
- Dry skin
- Brittle hair
- Weak bones
- Reduced immunity
- Weakened muscles
Because the fruitarian diet is highly restrictive, people who follow this diet are more prone to malnourishment and their bodies might even go into starvation mode. This is when the metabolism drastically slows down as the body tries to hold into the nutritional stores and conserve energy.
Living on a fruitarian diet can also lead to anemia, fatigue, and a weakened immune system. Eventually, the lack of calcium can lead to osteoporosis. This particular diet is also heavy on natural sugar and despite being natural, it is a poor choice for people with existing medical conditions like diabetes, prediabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, or insulin resistance.
What to eat
If the fruitarian diet appeals to you, we highly recommend proceeding slowly. In this diet, at least half of your calories must come from raw fruit, such as bananas, papayas, grapes, apples, and berries, and the rest must come from nuts, seeds, vegetables, and whole grains.
However, strict followers of this diet eat up to 90% fruits and 10% nuts and seeds.
The diet usually revolves around these fruit groups:
- Acid Fruits – Citrus, cranberries, pineapples
- Subacid fruits – Sweet cherries, raspberries, figs
- Sweet fruits – Bananas, grapes, melon
- Oily fruits – Avocados, coconuts, olives
- Vegetable fruits – Peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash
- Nuts – Hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts
- Seeds – Sunflowers, pumpkin, squash
Why the fruit diet is not recommended
As mentioned, the fruitarian diet is extremely restrictive which can cause several health problems, including:
Weight Gain. Some people can lose weight with the fruit diet but since it is rich in natural sugars, earring large portions can make some people gain weight instead.
Diabetes. For diabetics or those at risk for diabetes, the fruit diet is a huge red flag. Though it is natural, fruits contain high levels of sugar and excessive consumption can greatly affect blood sugar levels. It is also dangerous for people with pancreatic and kidney disorders.
Nutritional deficiencies. A fruit diet has low levels of vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, iodine, and omega-3 fatty acids. This can lead to anemia, lethargy, a weakened immune system and low calcium can lead to osteoporosis. Nutritional supplements that fulfill these deficiencies can be found in sources like dairy cultures or soy protein, food that are excluded from the fruitarian diet.
Cravings. Excessive food restriction to fruits can lead to cravings, food obsessions, and even eating disorders.
Starvation mode. Since the body is mainly relying on fruits and depriving itself of essential vitamins, fats, and proteins, the body can go into starvation mode where it will slow down metabolism to conserve energy for more important functions.