Plant-based diets are all the rage nowadays, with millions of people turning to them to mitigate future health risks, lose weight, and help the environment. But within the plant-based craze, something called the fruitarian diet has gained increasing attention in recent years. However, researchers say it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
What’s the fruitarian diet?
Fruitarianism consist of eating a plant-based diet where 55 to 75 percent of the foods consumed are raw fruit. It also doesn’t include any animal products like dairy, eggs, and meat. Fruitarians largely point out a number of purported health benefits: Eating mostly fruit packs your body with fiber, vitamin C, and potassium.
According to James Brown, PhD, a biology professor at Aston University, even Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple, followed somewhat of a fruitarian diet for part of his life. That said, this diet “is mistakenly based on the belief that humans are not omnivores, but “frugivores” — animals that prefer to eat raw fruit,” Brown wrote in The Conversation. “Proponents of this belief state that the human digestive system is physiologically designed to digest fruit and raw vegetables. While this may have once been true, the human body has evolved.”
Why is it potentially harmful?
Plant-based diets generally come with a number of health benefits. Research shows that they reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, lower blood pressure, and could also help with weight loss and management. Not to mention, there’s also a positive environmental impact that comes from consuming fewer animal products.
However, scientists are quick to point out that a fruitarian diet could end up doing more harm than good. While some fruitarians claim that the lifestyle can cure diseases like cancer and get rid of bloating, there’s no concrete evidence to back those up. Moreover, while fruits are an essential part of a balanced diet, relying largely on them for nourishment means you miss out on so many incredibly important vitamins and minerals, including iron, vitamin B, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and vitamin D. Not to mention, you won’t be getting enough fats or protein, which are critical building blocks for making your body function properly.
Plus, while the natural sugars found in fruit are an important part of a larger diet, eating meals comprising of mostly fructose can lead to blood sugar spikes and buildup in the liver, prompting bigger health issues.
Overall, if you’re considering a fruitarian lifestyle or a similarly restrictive diet, it’s important to get a medical opinion or two ahead of time. “Before changing a diet, especially if the change is going to be extreme, it is always wise to speak to your doctor first,” Brown wrote. “Incorporating more fruit and vegetables as part of a balanced diet is a far safer, healthier way to approach fruit consumption.”
Enjoy your favorite fruits — but with a lot of other foods too.