We've all seen our fair share of diet trends pop up over the years, some more beneficial than others. One such diet is called fruitarianism, similar to vegetarianism, except followers eat only fruits, nuts and seeds.
Some people claim being fruitarian increases mental clarity, concentration and energy, and causes dramatic weight loss. Some even claim it gives you a stronger immune system and prevents cancer. But there's no scientific evidence supporting these claims, and the weight lost from this diet might actually be unhealthy.
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Without enough protein and fat, this restrictive diet can cause serious nutrient deficiencies. This is why it's not usually recommended by doctors or dietitians, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Here, learn the risks of the fruitarian diet, foods you can eat on the diet and whether it's a good weight-loss diet choice.
Talk to your doctor before starting any new diet. They can let you know whether it's a safe and healthy choice based on your current health.
What Foods Do Fruitarians Eat?
While there's no official source that states the rules of fruitarianism, anecdotally, most people on this diet try to get about 75 percent of their food volume by weight from fruit. The rest comes from nuts and seeds.
People who follow this diet claim it consists of seven basic fruit groups, including the following, per Proactive Health Labs:
- Acidic fruits: citrus, cranberries, pomegranates, strawberries
- Subacid fruits: apples, cherries, raspberries, mangoes, blueberries, peaches and pears
- Sweet fruits: bananas, melons and grapes
- Dried fruits: dates, figs and apricots (without added sugar)
- Oily fruits: coconuts, avocados and olives
- Nuts: a variety of nuts including peanuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts, etc.
- Seeds: a variety of seeds including sunflower, pumpkin, etc.
Because fruit is low in calories, it can be hard to eat enough to meet your calorie needs. After all, in order to stay healthy, the average adult shouldn't dip below 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day, per Harvard Health Publishing.
This means you may need to eat a large amount of fruit each day to stay within a healthy calorie range.
Other Guidelines of the Fruitarian Diet
A fruitarian diet can look different from person to person. Some fruitarians choose to eat what they want when they want, as long as they stick to fruit, nuts and seeds.
Others follow specific rules — like only eating raw fruit, or eating one type of fruit at a time and then waiting 45 to 90 minutes before eating another type.
An example scenario: If you choose to eat peaches for lunch, then you would only eat peaches (as many as you want until you're full). In 45 to 90 minutes, if you decide to eat something else — like grapes or almonds, for example — you can eat one of them until you are full.
The Downsides and Risks of Fruitarianism
One of the biggest downsides of fruitarianism is that it's expensive. Fresh produce is not cheap, and if you're eating large amounts of it, you're racking up your grocery bill each time you go to the store.
This diet can also be socially isolating, especially if you live with others not on the diet. Meal planning and going out to eat with friends is almost impossible because most places don't have a variety of fruit options.
Most importantly, fruitarianism can cause negative health effects like malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies, including B12, calcium, zinc and protein, especially if you're not planning out your diet carefully. These deficiencies can cause anemia, fatigue and a weakened immune system, among other things, per the Cleveland Clinic.
In order to stay healthy, you may need to take several nutritional vitamins and supplements every day.
Other issues that could potentially happen from sticking with a fruitarian diet include the following, per the Cleveland Clinic:
- Diabetes: For people with diabetes or prediabetes, eating large amounts of sugar (even natural sugar) can lead to blood sugar spikes and a worsening of symptoms. Too much sugar can also be harmful for people with kidney and pancreatic disorders.
- Tooth decay: The natural sugar in fruit could speed up tooth decay if you're eating it in large quantities. This can especially happen from the high-sugar content of apples, or the acidic juices of citrus fruits like oranges, which could erode tooth enamel.
- Disordered eating: Restricting your diet this much can alter your thoughts, feelings and behaviors around food, which could lead to disordered eating.
- Starvation: By only eating from one food group, you could deprive yourself of essential nutrients, and your body could go into starvation mode. This slows down your metabolism, and may end up making it harder to lose weight.
If you or someone you know is dealing with food obsession, body image issues or disordered eating behaviors, visit the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) website for resources and support groups near you.
Is Fruitarianism a Good Weight-Loss Diet?
A typical weight-loss plan involves eating fewer calories than you burn each day. While you may lose weight on a fruitarian diet (simply because fruits are lower in calories), it doesn't mean it will be healthy or sustainable weight loss.
If anything, you may lose too much weight too quickly, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies and side effects like constipation, reduced muscle mass, hair loss, brittle bones and fatigue, per the Cleveland Clinic.
One way to make sure you don't lose weight too quickly with fruitarianism is incorporating more calorie-dense fruits — like avocados, coconuts or olives. For example, one medium-sized avocado has about 240 calories, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and dates have about 415 calories per cup, per the USDA. Most nuts are also a high-calorie option.
But it's all about finding balance. Too many calorie-dense fruits and nuts could actually cause you to gain some weight (the opposite of what you may be trying to achieve).
And if you decide to stop the fruitarian diet? You may end up gaining back all the weight you lost and more, which is a common result of restrictive or "crash" diets, per Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Ultimately, a fruitarian diet is not ideal for healthy, sustainable weight loss.
A Sample Fruitarian Meal Plan
Because a fruitarian diet plan is not recommended for most people, there are no reputable sources online with sample meal plans. Most of the meal plans out there are those created by average people (not doctors), sharing their personal experience with the diet.
Always talk to a doctor or a registered dietitian before starting a new meal plan — whether you find it online or create one yourself. They can help you figure out if the plan is right for your specific needs.
All that said, if you're curious about some of the types of fruits a fruitarian would eat in a day, here's a rough breakdown:
- Breakfast: Fresh-squeezed lemon juice, melon or melon juice or raisins
- Mid-morning snack: Fruits like figs, pears, grapes or kiwis, or a handful of nuts
- Lunch: Fruits like papayas, oranges or tangerines, or avocados or coconut meat
- Mid-afternoon snack: Strawberries, mangoes, cherries, pomegranate seeds, tomato slices or watermelon
- Dinner: Fruits like blackberries, raspberries or grapes
- Bedtime snack: Fruits like strawberries, persimmons, plums or watermelon, or a handful of nuts
While fruit is good for you and has plenty of fiber and vitamins, it shouldn't be the only thing you eat. A nutritious, beneficial diet is one that's balanced and includes vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats.
Fruitarianism can lead to nutrient deficiencies and a host of other negative effects, and is not an ideal weight-loss diet.
If you're unsure about the right type of weight-loss diet for you, talk to your doctor. They can offer advice, or refer you to a registered dietitian who can give you a specific diet plan to meet your needs.
- Cleveland Clinic: "The Fruitarian Diet: Is It Good or Bad For You?"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calorie Counting Made Easy"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Is It Bad to Lose Weight Too Quickly?"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Maintaining Weight Loss"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Avocados"
- USDA: "Dates, Deglet noor"
- Proactive Health Labs: "This Couple Switched to a Fruitarian Diet. Now They’re Sharing Why It’s Right For You (But, Is It?)"