Fruitarian Diet Overview: Dietitians’ Advice For Beginners
The fruitarian diet is a restrictive vegan diet that may have short-term benefits. Fruits and vegetables are rich in dietary fiber and antioxidants that are beneficial for your health. However, it eliminates animal proteins and other nutrients, which may have long-term side effects. What are the hidden dangers of a long-term fruitarian diet? Read on to get an overview of the fruit diet from the experts and know why dietitians do not recommend it for long periods. Scroll down!
What Is A Fruitarian Diet?
As the name suggests, a fruitarian diet is mainly a fruit diet with limited quantities of vegetables, dried fruits, nuts, and seeds. Shena Jaramillo, MS, RD, says, “The fruitarian diet is a subset of a vegan diet, which emphasizes the intake of fruit.” California-based RD, Brenna O’Malley, elaborates, “This diet excludes all animal products, limits the consumption of grains, legumes, and emphasizes raw food.”
Here is a full picture of what you can eat and what to avoid in the fruitarian diet. Take a look.
What To Eat
- Sweet Fruits: Melons, banana, and grapes
- Acid Fruits: Oranges, lemons, tangerine, grapefruit, cranberries, and pineapples
- Oily Fruits: Avocado, olives, and coconut
- Subacid Fruits: Apples, figs, cherries, and raspberries
- Vegetable Fruits: Cucumber, tomato, squash, and bell peppers
- Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, macadamia nuts, and hazelnuts
- Seeds: Pumpkin, sunflower, and melon seeds
- Vegetables: Limited amounts of all edible raw vegetables
- Beverages: Water, tea or coffee without sugar and cream, juices, coconut water, almond milk, and detox drinks
What Not To Eat
- Animal Protein: Fish, chicken, mutton, lamb, beef, turkey, and veal
- Animal Products: Dairy (milk, buttermilk, yogurt, cheese), eggs, and milk bread
- Grains: Rice, wheat, oats, millets, barley, and sorghum
- Starches: Potato, corn, pasta, cereal, cornmeal, rice crackers, noodles, and saltine crackers
- Beans And Legumes: Peas, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, soybeans, black beans, navy beans, and peanuts
- Cooked Food: All cooked fruits and vegetables
- Processed Foods: Sausage, salami, pizza, burger, fried foods, frozen foods, jam and jellies, bottled sauces, ketchup, pickles, biscuits, and packaged fruit and vegetable juices
While the fruit diet is quite restrictive, it has a few benefits when followed for a short period. Scroll down to know the positive side of the fruitarian diet.
The Benefits Of A Fruitarian Diet
- Improves Digestion
- Rich In Antioxidants
Antioxidants help scavenge harmful free radicals to reduce toxins and inflammation in the body (3). Fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants like vitamin C and other plant nutrients that boost the immune system (4).
- Reduces Calorie Intake
Fruits and vegetables have fewer calories. Hence, being on a fruit diet for some time can help you restrict your calorie intake.
- Increases Potassium Intake
Fruits like bananas, avocados, and apples are rich sources of potassium, which helps reduce high blood pressure (5).
- Increases Folate Intake
- Reduces Processed Food Intake
Processed foods are high-calorie, have no nutritional value, and are loaded with trans fats, sugar, and salt. Going on a fruitarian diet can help you avoid consuming these foods and lower the risk of health issues like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease (8).
- Reduces Animal Product Intake
Avoiding unhealthy animal products like sausage, salami, processed cheese, and animal-based processed food reduces the risk of high cholesterol, central obesity, and other comorbidities (9).
We cannot deny the benefits of a short-term fruitarian diet, but is it a good option for weight loss? Let’s see what dietitians say.
Can The Fruit Diet Cause Weight Loss?
Kristin Gillespie, MS, RD, LDN, CNSC, says, “This diet could promote weight loss as most fruits are inherently low in calories. Most fruits (and other foods permitted on the diet) are also relatively filling because of their high fiber content.”
If a fruit diet can promote weight loss, why is it not recommended by experts? Find out below.
Why Is It Not Recommended By Experts?
Dietitians and experts do not recommend the fruitarian diet for weight loss or in general. Michelle Rauch, MS, RD, explains, “While this diet may cause weight loss as you are consuming fewer calories, fruits do not contain all the nutrients that your body needs and could lead to nutritional deficiencies. The lack of dietary iron in this diet could leave you anemic. The lack of dietary calcium may eventually lead to osteoporosis.” She adds, “Any diet that eliminates multiple food groups should not be followed long term.”
Kristin Gillespie echos the same thought. “Most experts would not recommend this diet as it is extremely restrictive and lacks many nutrients,”she says. Registered dietitian, Brenna O’Malley expresses concern about the ill effects of this diet and says, “It would be hard to meet your body’s needs eating in this way, and I would be concerned about malnutrition, disordered eating, and the intentions behind following this diet.”
Board-certified physician, Dr. Anthony Puopolo says, “It is not a healthy and consistent diet. People need consistent protein, healthy fats, and fibers that cannot be found eating only fruit.”
Nutritional deficiencies are not the only concern. There are many other hidden adverse effects of being on the fruit diet, as discussed below.
Dangers Of The Fruitarian Diet
- Causes Protein Deficiency
The fruitarian diet eliminates all protein sources, including plant-based proteins like legumes, beans, mushrooms, and soy. Protein deficiency causes diseases like Kwashiorkor, lack of energy, and muscle loss (10), (11).
- Triggers Other Nutritional Deficiencies
- May Increase The Blood Sugar Levels
Fruits contain fruit sugar, which can increase blood sugar levels. According to Shena Jaramillo, MS, RD, “It will be specifically harmful for people with diabetes or kidney disease as their sugar, potassium, and phosphorus levels need to be closely monitored.”
Michelle Rauch, MS, RD, states, “Eating large quantities of fruit is unhealthy. Fructose is a simple sugar like glucose, and an excessive amount of fructose can lead to insulin resistance and other long-term liver issues due to the way it is metabolized. The high blood sugar levels will also leave you feeling tired.”
- Causes Tooth Decay
The high sugar and fruit acids can damage the tooth enamel and cause tooth decay. Nutritional deficiencies and malnutrition can also drive poor oral health, tooth cavity, microbial biofilm (plaque), and reduced wound healing (15).
- Increases Food Cravings
Although vegetables and fruits are high in fiber, you need to consume a balanced diet to reduce cravings. Your brain signals when your body needs certain nutrients. As a result, no matter how much fruit and vegetables you consume, you will feel hungry and dissatisfied.
- May Cause Weight Gain
Reduced calorie intake can push the body to starvation mode, meaning, your body will start storing every calorie you consume. This metabolic change reduces your energy levels. Why? That’s your brain’s strategy to minimize calorie expenditure. As a result, you will feel lazy, sluggish, feel drowsy, and have blurred vision, mood swings, and constant food cravings. This, in turn, will make you eat more and gain weight instead of losing it.
These are the reasons dietitians do not advise being on the fruitarian diet for too long. However, you can try this diet for a limited period. Scroll down to the following section to know what the experts advise.
How Long Is It Safe To Be On A Fruit Diet?
A week or less is the ideal time to be on the fruit diet safely. “I would not recommend adhering to this diet for a long-term (longer than a week) as it lacks several key nutrients and may lead to malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies,” says Kristin Gillespie, MS, RD, LDN, CNSC.
You may argue that you can be on supplements to make up for the nutrient deficiency. Well, we have news for you. Scroll down.
Can Supplements Help?
Courtney D’Angelo, MS, RD, debunks a common misconception that supplements can help fulfill nutritional deficiency in the fruitarian diet. She says, “Supplements cannot help as the fruitarian diet is mainly for flushing out your system (detoxification). You don’t need supplements to help with that.” That’s why you cannot be on this diet for more than a week or less.
Is it ok for anyone to be on the fruitarian diet for a week? Here’s what experts say.
Avoid Fruitarian Diet If…
Everyone should avoid the fruitarian diet! Dietitians agree that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. From mood swings and weight gain to anemia and diabetes – the health risks are way too high. “No one should follow a fruitarian diet, and it will be specifically harmful to someone with diabetes or kidney disease,” says Shena Jaramillo, MS, RD. “Because this diet is loaded with carbohydrates, specifically sugars. Those who are sensitive to sugar and have conditions like diabetes, prediabetes, PCOS, or insulin resistance should avoid it,” adds Kristin Gillespie, MS, RD, LDN, CNSC. Pregnant women should also avoid it.
Following a highly restrictive diet to lose a few pounds is a dated concept. Going on a vegan diet or a plant-based diet is a better option. Dietitians advise going on the Mediterranean diet for weight loss. Change your lifestyle gradually instead of banking on fads that do more harm than good. Follow a balanced diet and practice portion control. If you do not lose weight, talk to a doctor or a registered dietitian to identify the underlying causes. Treat your body with respect, and you shall be rewarded!
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Can a fruitarian diet be healthy or help you lose weight?
No. A fruitarian diet is not healthy. It is a highly restrictive vegan diet that dietitians do not recommend. While it may help you lose water weight, you will constantly feel hungry and experience mood swings and end up consuming more calories.
Will I get enough healthy fats on a fruitarian diet?
No, you will not get enough healthy fats on the fruitarian diet. The only sources of healthy fats are olives, avocado, a limited amount of nuts and seeds, and coconut.
Which nutrients may be lacking in a fruitarian diet?
The fruitarian diet lacks protein, calcium, iron, vitamin B12, and folate.
How to build muscle on a fruitarian diet?
You cannot build muscle on the fruitarian diet. This is because it lacks protein, the main component of muscles.
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- Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables
- Cholesterol-lowering effects of dietary fiber: a meta-analysis
- Free radicals antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health
- Free Radicals Antioxidants in Disease and Health
- The importance of potassium in managing hypertension
- Folic Acid Supplementation and Pregnancy: More Than Just Neural Tube Defect Prevention
- New insights into erythropoiesis: the roles of folate vitamin B12 and iron
- Ultra-Processed Foods and Health Outcomes: A Narrative Review
- Children and adults should avoid consuming animal products to reduce risk for chronic disease: YES
- Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health Benefit
- The role of dietary calcium in bone health
- Vitamin B12 Deficiency
- Iron Deficiency Anemia
- Malnutrition and its Oral Outcome – A Review
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