Eating only fruits and veggies sounds great in theory. After all, most Americans get less than half of the government-recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables every day, and such foods are packed with nutrients that our bodies need. The reality, however, is that a meal plan calling only for fruits and vegetables is imbalanced and can present serious health risks.
Depending on the specific parameters of a diet restricted to fruits and vegetables, you may be able to have dried fruits in addition to cooked and raw vegetables. Breakfast could be a berry blend and fresh vegetable juice or a large fruit smoothie. For lunch, you might have a bowl of bean and vegetable chili or a broth-based vegetable soup with a side of fresh fruit. Dinner may be a big grilled vegetable salad or a veggie “taco” of cooked lentils and roasted or raw vegetables wrapped in a lettuce leaf.
One primary risk of eating only fruits and vegetables involves developing nutrient deficiencies, such as protein malnutrition or fatty acid deficiency, over time. Most fruits and vegetables are low in fat and protein, which are both essential nutrients for health. Beans and legumes do provide protein, but they don't offer the same variety of other nutrients that you'd get from lean meats, dairy products and other protein-rich foods. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you get 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories from fats and 10 to 35 percent from protein. Not meeting those baselines could result in health problems ranging from dry and scaly skin to headaches, nausea, weakness and depression.
There are also more serious health risks associated with following such a limited diet. Since most fruits and vegetables are low in calories, eating them without any other foods may cause rapid weight loss, for example. However, weight loss of more than 3 pounds per week as a result of following a fad diet can raise your risk of gallstones and heart problems, according to the National Institutes of Health.
For most people, eating more fruits and vegetables is a healthy move -- but eating exclusively fruits and vegetables is not. The healthiest eating plans meet all of your daily nutritional needs by providing balance and variety. Instead of following such a limited eating plan, increase your intake of fruits and vegetables while also eating other foods -- such as lean meats, dairy products, whole grains and healthy fats -- in moderation. Before you make any changes to your diet, get approval from your doctor.
- USA Today: Americans Need to Try Harder to Eat Fruits, Vegetables
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Nutrition for Everyone - Dietary Fats
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Nutrition for Everyone - Protein
- The Merck Manual: Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency
- Elephant Journal: Could You Be Protein Deficient? Here Are the Hidden Signs
- Weight-Control Information Network: Weight Loss and Nutrition Myths