The Fruitarian diet: what is it, and is it a good weight loss option?

It's proven controversial...
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  • Have you heard of the Fruitarian diet?

    Let’s be honest, between us, we’ve tried almost every diet plan out there. From Slimming World to Weight Watchers, to the Paleo diet and the Flexitarian diet, there aren’t many we haven’t attempted, in the hope that this one might just be THE one.

    But sometimes, it doesn’t work like that. So we wondered if something a little more left field could, perhaps, be the answer to our dieting problems.

    Introducing: the fruit diet. We know what you’re thinking, ‘do I really have to live on a diet of fruit in order to lose weight?

    Don’t panic, there’s more to it than you think.

    Credit: Getty Images

    The fruitarian diet – what’s it all about?

    Essentially, the fruit diet requires you to eat fruit, plus nuts and seeds, for all three of your meals in a day. Fruit, nuts and seeds should also be your only snacks. The general rule of thumb with the diet is that you eat at least 75% raw fruit (by weight), and 25% nuts and seeds.

    Otherwise known as a raw vegan diet, the fruit diet is a subset of veganism.

    Although the diet can be flexible (within reason, of course), it generally features 7 main food groups. These include; acid fruits (citrus, pineapples, cranberries); subacid fruits (sweet cherries, raspberries, figs); sweet fruits (bananas, melons, and grapes); nuts (hazelnuts, pistachios, cashews); seeds (sunflower, squash, pumpkin); oily ‘fruits’ (avocados, coconuts, olives); and dried fruits (dates, prunes, raisins). So while lots of food are off limits, you are allowed savoury foods in order to vary your diet.

    Many fruitarians also follow a wider 75/25 rule too, which says that as long as you’re eating fruit 75% of the time, it means you’re technically still following the diet, and can eat slightly more substantial, non fruit-based products 25% of the time.

    The diet claims to be healthy as it leaves dieters with only raw, unprocessed foods.

    Fruitarians on Instagram

    The fruitarian diet appears to be hugely popular over on Instagram, with the hashtag #fruitarian featuring on the social media site over 496.5k times.

     

    However, despite its popularity, the fruit diet is certainly not without its critics.

    What does the science say?

    In general, eating more fruit is of course, a good thing. Fruits are chock full of vitamins and anti-oxidants. And all that good stuff can even help to prevent your risk of some diseases, such as cancer too. But the concern is that fruit shouldn’t take up your whole diet.

    Dieticians have pointed out that this diet is fairly restrictive. Considering our bodies also need protein, iron and fat to function properly, depriving yourself of these food groups is a risky idea. Dr Carrie Ruxton, at the Health and Food Supplements Information Service, said, “I would caution against having large amounts of fruit and excluding other food groups. This is because fruit is low in protein, healthy types of fats, and several key nutrients, such as vitamin D, B vitamins, calcium and iodine.

    “Fruit is a good source of vitamin C, folate, potassium and polyphenols (plant bioactive compounds linked with health). However, it is only one food group and needs to be balanced against sources of protein (beans, pulses, eggs, fish, meat), healthy fats (oils, nuts, seeds) and wholegrains (rice, pasta, quinoa).

    One dietician Laura Jeffers, writing for Cleveland Clinic, also suggested that the diet is so restrictive that it could even tip your body into starvation mode.

    MORE: The Sirtfood Diet: Drink red wine, eat chocolate and still lose weight!

    She wrote, “By relying mainly on fruits and depriving yourself of needed vitamins, fats and proteins, it’s possible to push your body into starvation mode. If your body feels it’s starving, it will slow down your metabolism in an attempt to conserve energy for vital functions.’

    Dr Jeffers even admitted that fruitarian diet could leave you at risk of some pretty scary sounding nutritional deficiencies, including anaemia and osteoporosis.

    “Fruitarians frequently have low levels of vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, iodine and omega-3 fatty acids, which can lead to anemia, tiredness, lethargy and immune system dysfunction. Low calcium can also cause osteoporosis.’

    Can you eat too much fruit?

    So what are the side effects of that much fruit? We’re always told to up our fruit intake, but if you’re on a fruitarian diet, can that much sugar – even if it’s natural – really be good for you? Considering the fact that there is around 10 grams of sugar in an average sized apple, and the American Heart Association recommends no more than 36 grams a day, you can see how easily it might stack up.

    Ondrej Matej, a qualified raw food nutritionist, admits that there are some downsides to the diet. But he insists you can make it work if you know what to eat. “Every diet can work if you know and have all the necessary information. The negatives are that you can get yourself a candida infection as all you eat is fruit sugars,” he writes. “You need to know which fruits will give you healthy fats, fibre and protein, so your diet is balanced and not just based of fruit sugars. Avocado and durian and young coconuts are great source of healthy fats. Lucuma will provide you with a great source of fiber, and goji berries with a great source of amino acids.”

    But Dr Carrie explained that eating lots of amounts of fruit could prove dangerous to your health. She told GoodtoKnow, “Eating large amounts of fruit to the detriment of other food groups creates an unbalanced diet which could lead to deficiencies of nutrients, low energy levels and diarrhoea – since the gut will not be used to this level of soluble fibre.”

    Credit: Getty Images

    Plus, the diet has been subject to some seriously bad press in the past. Back in 2013, actor Ashton Kutcher undertook the fruitarian diet for one month, before taking on the role of Steve Jobs in the biopic, Jobs.

    It was claimed that Steve himself was a fan of the diet, so, channelling the tech mogul in a method actor way, Ashton began the diet too, in order to properly emulate the tech CEO.

    But it all came to a terrible end when Ashton was admitted to hospital after less than a month on the diet. At a film festival, Ashton admitted, “First of all, the fruitarian diet can lead to like severe issues. I ended up in the hospital two days before we started shooting the movie. I was doubled over in pain, and my pancreas levels were completely out of whack, which was terrifying, considering everything.”

    Overall, it seems that eating more fruit is always a good thing – but making it the only component of your diet could be risky.

    And Dr Carrie concludes that, although having a mainly fruit-based diet will probably lead to you losing weight, it isn’t the most nutritious meal plan out there.

    She said, “Any diet which removes whole foods groups and limits your options will lead to weight loss, but this isn’t a healthy sustainable option as the weight will pile on again when normal eating resumes.

    “It is better to lose weight by restricting overall calories, eating a healthy balanced diet and taking more exercise. However, if people are determined to follow a fruitarian diet, they should do this only in the short term, and consider a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement plus fish/algae oil supplement to address shortfalls in essential nutrients.”

    What do you think? Would you try out the fruit diet? Let us know!