How do you follow the fruitarian diet?
The fact that there’s no definitive description of the diet can cause some confusion and misunderstanding. Followers often adopt the diet differently, both between each other and during their time on the diet. However, a commonly cited ‘rule’ is that between 55 per cent to 75 per cent of the diet is made up predominantly of raw fruit. Some people also include nuts, seeds and wholegrains.
What can I eat on the fruitarian diet?
As well as what we typically consider to be fruit, like apples and grapes, fruitarians may also eat tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and avocado, which – despite commonly considered vegetables – are actually fruit. Some of these foods, such as avocado, make an important contribution to fat intake, while those who also include nuts and seeds benefit from some protein and essential fats.
What food should I avoid on the fruitarian diet?
The diet is a form of veganism, so meat, fish and any foods derived from animals, including honey, are off limits.
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What is the evidence for the fruitarian diet?
Due to the niche nature of the fruitarian diet, there is limited research or reliable information to support it. However, detrimental reports include the case of a 49 year old man who developed severe vitamin B12 deficiency while following the diet, and another who developed elevated blood potassium levels (hyperkalemia).
Will I lose weight following the fruitarian diet?
Some people may lose weight because they are severely restricting the amount and variety of food they eat. However, as a result they are also likely to experience anaemia, tiredness and a weakened immune system. When normal dietary patterns resume it is likely that they will regain any weight lost.
It should also be noted that some people actually put on weight when they start to eat high quantities of fruit – this may be because fruit is high in natural sugars.
Is a fruitarian diet healthy? A nutritionist’s view…
The risk of malnutrition for those who follow a fruitarian diet is high, despite the nutritional quality of most fruits. Eliminating many food groups can lead to low levels of vitamin B12 and iron, this may result in tiredness and anaemia as we as cognitive impairment. The diet is also likely to be low in calcium and vitamin D, needed for strong bones and teeth, as well as the mineral iodine, needed for normal metabolic function. The restrictive nature of the diet makes it likely to be low in protein and essential fatty acids, which are important for growth and repair, as well as for the normal function of the immune system and for hormone regulation.
Fruit is, of course, rich in vitamins, minerals and protective antioxidants, which is why including some, as part of a balanced diet, is a valuable dietary inclusion for most people. For this reason, UK dietary guidelines recommend that we eat a minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables, with an emphasis on the vegetables, each day.
However, there are some people for whom even a small amount of fruit may be problematic. These people are intolerant to the natural sugar found in fruit (fructose). For these people, fructose consumption may lead to gut symptoms including abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea and bloating.
Many advocate higher intakes of fruit and vegetables as a means to protect against certain cancers, however, the evidence to date suggests no firmly established links with those eating more than ‘adequate amounts’ of fruit and vegetables. Therefore, the current advice remains that whole fruit should be consumed as part of a balanced and varied diet, as it supplies important nutritional benefits, including dietary fibre.
Is a fruitarian diet safe to follow in the long-term?
Adopting a fruitarian diet is not safe as a long-term dietary strategy. Restricting your diet to such a limited range of foods means you are unlikely to achieve a balanced diet and are at risk of malnutrition. Furthermore, fructose – the natural sugar in fruit – when consumed at excessive levels, may be associated with digestive issues and possible dental erosion.
Who shouldn’t follow a fruitarian diet?
The unbalanced nature of a fruitarian diet makes it unsuitable for most of us. Particularly those suffering from diabetes or pre-diabetes, with blood sugar issues or pancreatic and kidney disorders. Vulnerable groups, including the elderly, the young (under 18 years of age), those who are on medication, those who have a low body mass index (BMI) and those with emotional or psychological issues around food (including any history of eating disorders) should avoid restrictive diets, as should women who are planning a pregnancy, pregnant or breastfeeding.
If you have any concerns, speak with your GP before embarking on any radical change to your eating patterns.
Please note, if you are considering attempting any form of diet, consult your GP first to ensure you can do so without risk to your health.
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This page was reviewed on 10th January 2023 by Kerry Torrens.
Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a BANT Registered Nutritionist® with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
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