Nutrition

Science Fact Or Fiction: Fruitarian Diet

We’re diving a little deeper into another hot dieting topic called fruitariansm, a diet which (you guessed it) involves a lot of fruit. Let’s dive into exactly what it involves, if it benefits us at all, or if it’s just another fad on the ever-growing list of fads.

What is fruitarianism?

There’s a variety of ways one can be a fruitarian. For some fruitarians, the motivation comes from a fixation on a return to a past that pre-dates an agrarian society to when humans were simply gatherers. Another common motivation is the desire to eliminate perceived toxicity from within the body. For others, the appeal of a fruitarian diet comes from the challenge that the restrictive nature of this diet provides.1

To be a fruitarian, at least half of your calories must come from raw fruit.  Usually, the other 25% to 50% of calories come from nuts, seeds, vegetables, and wholegrains.  Strict fruitarians, however, may eat up to 90% fruit and just 10% nuts and seeds.1 This diet is very restrictive in nature.

Foods that fruitarians are allowed to eat include:

  • Acid fruits: Citrus, cranberries, pineapples 
  • Subacid fruits: cherries, raspberries, figs 
  • Sweet fruits:  grapes, melons, bananas 
  • Oily fruits:  coconuts, olives, avocados
  • Vegetable fruits: Peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash
  • Nuts: Hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios, walnuts 
  • Seeds: sunflower, pumpkin, squash
  • Drinks: Coconut water, fresh fruit juices, and water

 

Prohibited foods

A fruitarian does not consume any animal protein. Eggs, poultry, pork, and beef aren’t options for fruitarians. Just like animal protein, dairy products aren’t permitted for the fruitarian diet – milk, yogurt, cheese, or any other animal dairy products aren’t allowed. Some fruitarians drink almond, cashew, or coconut milk in place of cow’s or goat’s milk. 

Grains and grain products are not allowed on the fruitarian diet, and this includes sprouted grain products. You might think that potatoes would be allowed on the fruitarian diet, but that isn’t the case as potatoes are starchy. A true fruitarian diet does not include any beans or legumes, including chickpeas, lentils, peas, soybeans, and peanuts. Processed foods are not permitted on the fruitarian diet. This means shopping only the perimeter of your grocery store or at your local farmers’ market.

 

What the science says

Despite the nutritious qualities of whole fruits, eating them at the expense of other food groups can be dangerous.  

Our bodies need protein and fat, two main macronutrients you may not consume enough of on a fruitarian diet. Additionally, cutting out grains puts you at risk for vitamin B deficiencies, restricting dairy and vegetables can put you at risk for a calcium deficiency, and leaving out animal products can lead to vitamin B-12 deficiency. Deficiencies in micronutrients can lead to complications such as anaemia, fatigue, immune disorders, and osteoporosis.  Fruitarians frequently also have low levels of vitamin D, iodine and omega-3 fatty acids, which can lead to anaemia, tiredness, lethargy and immune system dysfunction.  This makes malnourishment and deficiency on the fruitarian diet very common.

 

Risk of health complications

The risk for health complications is high with the fruitarian diet. The restrictive nature of the diet can be dangerous for people with diabetes or prediabetes because eating large quantities of fruit can raise blood sugar and affect insulin sensitivity. A fruit-based diet can also be dangerous for people with pancreatic and kidney disorders. In some cases, strict fruitarians may even accidentally starve themselves into severe ketoacidosis. 

Restriction in your diet to only one food good can lead to binge eating other food groups due to what we know as the dieting cycling. This can also fuel disordered eating as it is a very all or nothing way of eating. 

By relying mainly on fruits and depriving yourself of needed vitamins, fats and proteins, it’s possible to push your body into what we know as ‘starvation mode’. If your body feels that it is not meeting its energy requirements, it will slow down your metabolism in an attempt to conserve energy for vital functions such as breathing. 

Here’s how to get more fruit and veggies into your diet, in a balanced way…

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The verdict

While the fruitarian diet does offer some nutritional benefits, there are serious drawbacks as well. Because fruits are typically low-fat and full of water, you can eat a lot of fruit for relatively few calories. On a fruit-based diet, you would need to eat large volumes of food to meet your calorie requirements, effectively promoting fullness. 

Even though fruits contain many nutrients, they don’t contain all the nutrients you need for a healthy, balanced diet. Following a fruit-based diet also can also lead to serious cravings for other foods, which may cause bingeing or other forms of disordered eating. Our verdict is that this is another fad out there amongst the bunch. Focus on a wholefoods diet that incorporates a variety of food groups and does not eliminate whole foods group as you automatically put yourself at risk for major nutritional deficiencies when not done correctly.

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Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.


  1. Boyle, J. (2012). Vegetarianism and fruitarianism as deviance. In Routledge Handbook of Deviant Behavior (pp. 285-290). Routledge.
  2. Sanders, T. A. B., Reddy, S., Sheehy, P. J. A., & Monahan, F. J. (1994). Nutritional implications of a meatless diet. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society53(2), 297-307.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Micronutrient facts. Updated December 3, 2020.
  4. Wasserman, M. (2014). Plant-based diet for dummies. John Wiley & Sons.
  5. Muraki I, Imamura F, Manson JE, et al. Fruit consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective longitudinal cohort studiesBMJ. 2013;347:f5001. doi:10.1136/bmj.f5001.
  6. Causso C, Arrieta F, Hernández J, et al. Severe ketoacidosis secondary to starvation in a frutarian patientNutr Hosp. 2010;25(6):1049-52.
  7. Tuncali, S. Starvation Mode–A Myth or Reality?


Jenaed Gonçalves Brodell

Jenaed Gonçalves Brodell

Writer and expert

Jenaed Gonçalves Brodell is a well know Registered Dietitian (HCPC) and Sport Scientist. She is a fitness enthusiast and comes from a semi professional field hockey background. Her passion for sports nutrition and background in the sporting arena making her relatable to many amateur and elite sports personnel. She has experience working for the NHS & in South Africa as a consultant dietitian. She provides evidence based, easy to follow, practical advice and guidance.She has experience in the Paediatric field specialising in sports performance for junior and adult athletes. Her writing background comes from extensive researching throughout her career finding the most up to date information and translating it into easy to understand information for the public. She shares information on her public instagram page @the_Athletes_dietitianUK on the latest in evidence based nutrition.


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