Eating fruit can help some people lose weight. It’s also useful in protecting your body against disease and illness. Not to mention, it’s pretty tasty to consume and not as difficult to choke down as a salad. But some people choose to only eat fruit. "Fruitarians," as they are commonly called, eat solely fruit (and some nuts.) While this may sound extreme, there are several famous celebrities that have chosen this diet.
Steve Jobs spent portions of his life as a fruitarian. It’s even said that he named his company Apple because he believed it sounded "fun, spirited, and not intimidating." According to Walter Isaacson’s Jobs biography (via NBC News), he would sometimes eat only carrots and apples for weeks on end. YouTube celebs and bloggers have chosen this lifestyle and espouse its benefits online.
But as Garden of Eden-like as an all fruit diet sounds, is it a wise choice?
You lose Vitamin D
According to the Mayo Clinic, Vitamin D is naturally found in "fortified milk, fortified cereal, and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines." These items are prohibited in a fruit-only diet. Without Vitamin D, we can’t properly absorb calcium and magnesium, two crucial nutrients for our bone health. Vitamin D is crucial for strong bones, something we need to carry us around our whole lives. Additionally, without Vitamin D, it’s more difficult for bones to heal from injury.
Vitamin D is also important for strong cellular health. It’s an anti-inflammatory and helps keep your immune system. In other words, your body needs Vitamin D to keep you healthy. While there are Vitamin D supplements available, those supplements often have additives that the fruitarian diet prohibits. You can absorb vitamin D through the skin, but as our bodies age, this becomes more difficult. If you choose to only consume fruit, you may be depriving your body of a valuable nutrient.
You could push your body into starvation mode
Without some levels of protein and fats, your body may decide it is starving. This can cause important systems to shut down as you slip into survival mode. Rgistered dietitian Kate Patton explains, "The fruitarian diet has a big risk of malnourishment." The restrictive nature of limiting your body to only fruit keeps this from being a balanced diet. Even if you add in a few nuts or seeds, you will rarely feel full and your body will sense something is awry.
Starvation mode doesn’t occur if you skip a meal or two. But a consistent lack of nutrients will trigger warning bells in your body. As your body struggles with lack of nourishment, you may start to feel lethargic, depressed, constipated, chilled, or even lose your hair. The best way to avoid this? Eat a balanced diet. Fruits by themselves are not enough nourishment for the body and the body will assume no "next meal" is on its way.
You will upset your digestion
Fruit has excellent prebiotics that are important for digestion. According to the Mayo Clinic, prebiotics are like fertilizer for your gut – they help the healthy bacteria grow. There are nearly 1000 different types of bacteria in your gut to contribute to digestion. This bacteria lines your gut and helps you digest your food properly. Gut bacteria is responsible for good health, mood, and brain function.
Prebiotics play an important role in keeping the bacteria in your gut functioning properly. And fruits higher in complex carbohydrates contribute valuable prebiotics for your body. But without other important nutrients, your body can’t entirely absorb the prebiotics. Absorption is key, as your body doesn’t fully utilize a nutrient if it’s not properly absorbed. It will merely pass through the system as waste.
Additionally, the extra fiber and water you take in with excessive amounts of fruit can upset the delicate digestive system. You may experience intestinal distress, which can further keep you from absorbing nutrients properly.
Your hair and nails may break
Speaking of absorption, prebiotics aren’t the only nutrient you’re missing out on if you only eat fruit. B vitamins — calcium, iron, zinc, and omega-fatty acids — can’t be found in fruit. These nutrients play an important role in the health of your hair and nails. If you’re only eating fruit, you may experience hair loss, or your hair may not grow very well. It can also be brittle and break off easily. The same will be true of your nails. Vitamin B, zinc, and iron are crucial for nail health. A lack of certain vitamins can make your hair and nails very brittle.
Your skin will even feel thin and less bouncy. Without vitamins B and C or omega fatty acids, your collagen production will decrease, which wil make your skin feel less plump and youthful. Vitamin B can also help reduce inflammation and acne in the skin.
Fruit is good for your skin, absolutely, but only in balanced doses with other nutrients that your body needs to keep you healthy and feeling young.
You’ll develop cravings
When the list of things you can’t have is long and restrictive, it becomes harder to stay within the boundaries of your diet and you begin to crave all of the "forbidden foods." Just like putting a chocolate bar on your desk and then telling yourself you can’t have it, trying to keep up with all of the "no’s" in a fruitarian diet can begin to feel like an un-winnable game. And you’ll either give in and possibly binge on wildly unhealthy foods, or you may become so regimented that your body feels like it’s starving.
When your body is lacking in nutrients, it will give you a sense that you crave the foods that have some nutrient you need. Cravings are no fun to fight on any day, but committing yourself to fighting cravings for basically every food but fruit seems like a recipe for disaster. It can actually lead to eating disorders and subsequent health problems associated with such disorders.
Your body will weaken
There is very little protein in fruit. Although fruitarian diets usually allow for some nuts and seeds, that isn’t enough protein for a healthy adult body. Plus, if you’re exercising or physically active while on this diet, your body needs even more protein to properly recover and build muscle. Protein is best found in animal products like dairy, meat, poultry, eggs, and fish.
When your body doesn’t have enough protein, you can develop swelling, a weak immune system, and physical weakness. Protein contributes to the reduction of fluid in the body. Without it, you’re likely to experience swelling in your stomach and extremities. Furthermore, protein gives you valuable antibodies that help you fight infection and illness. Without it, your immune system will weaken.
Lack of protein means your muscles will also weaken, which can contribute to injury or less productive exercise. And the weaker you feel, the less likely you are to engage in healthy cardiovascular exercise.
You can damage your pancreas
When Ashton Kutcher played Steve Jobs in the movie "Jobs," he tried to eat the same fruitarian diet Jobs did. It landed him in the hospital with severe pancreatic distress. "First of all, the fruitarian diet can lead to, like, some severe issues," he told USA Today. "I ended up in the hospital like two days before we started shooting the movie. I was, like, doubled over in pain. My pancreas levels were completely out of whack, which was really terrifying … considering everything."
In 2003, Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His doctors offered to perform surgery, but Jobs reportedly chose to try to heal himself with a strict fruits and carrots diet. He did eventually choose to have surgery, but the cancer spread to his bones. Jobs died of pancreatic cancer in 2011 and there is a general myth that eating only fruit or vegetables can cause pancreas issues.
The real threat to your pancreas is any restrictive diet that doesn’t balance your nutrition. In fact, it is suggested that restrictive diets can cause damage to the pancreas. Fruit is not the real culprit. Deprivation and imbalance do the most harm, which is why balance in your diet just might be the best solution.
You could gain weight
Even though it seems like eating only fruit would be an effective method for losing weight, fruit is full of natural sugars. Sugar is still sugar to the body, even in its most natural state, and would be processed and stored as sugar. Too much sugar can lead to weight gain in some individuals. This is because in order to process sugar of any type, your body has to make insulin. Over time, you can build up a resistance to insulin. Eventually, your body won’t be able to break down the sugar and will begin storing it as fat. This will be especially noticeable in the tummy area.
The weight you gain will not be muscle weight, either, as your muscles will likely weaken due to lack of protein. It’s tempting to think that avoiding fat will be the solution to losing weight, but some studies reveal that it’s not fat that makes you gain weight. It’s actually the added sugars and complex carbohydrates (like fruit) that we often consume in excess when we’re avoiding "fatty" foods.
You might develop cavities
The acids in many fruits can contribute to excessive tooth decay. Citrus fruits like oranges, limes, lemons, and grapefruits are all highly acidic. (Grapes are, too!) This acid can break down the enamel on your teeth and contribute to decay. Furthermore, if you choose to consume your fruit in juice form, the acid is more highly concentrated, which will speed up the decay. Dental experts suggest balancing out the acidic fruits with less acidic fruits like cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew, and bananas.
If the enamel in your teeth is starting to erode with the excess acid, you’ll have increased sensitivity, discoloration, your teeth may feel weak or transparent, and they might even crack. Acidic fruit can also contribute to mouth sores. (L-Lysine is a helpful supplement to take when consuming highly acidic fruits as it helps reduce the impact of the acid on your mouth. It won’t, however, help your tooth enamel stay protected.)
You can miss your period
Women, in particular, will feel the effects of eating only fruit. If their body thinks they are starving, they can suffer from excessive weight loss and amennorhea (missing periods.) In starvation mode, a body won’t ovulate (produce an egg) or be able to maintain a healthy pregnancy.
Even if you’re not worried about your fertility, depriving your body of its normal cycles can be damaging long-term. You need to "flush" the system on occasion to avoid other health risks, including cardiovascular concerns and blood vessel disorders. Amenorrhea can also cause excessive hair growth, voice changes, headaches, and decreased sex drive.
Furthermore, women need all of the hormones associated with their cycles in order to keep strong, healthy bones. In so many ways, eating only fruit deprives women of this natural strength-building system. This hormonal imbalance created by low-calorie diets is difficult to recover from and, in general, long term raw diets are not recommended for women.
Balance is best
Fruit isn’t bad for you, or even dangerous when used in moderation. It can be the highlight of a healthy diet and can give you vital fiber and vitamins. But doctors and nutritionists agree that a healthy balance of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and fats is what will fuel your body and keep it healthy. If the fruitarian way really appeals to you, dietitians recommend the pescetarian form of diet, which lets you incorporate fish and vegetables into your eating, too. This gives you essential ingredients missing in a stricter fruitarian diet.
Additionally, the best diet (besides being well-balanced) is one that you can maintain. Stick to a diet that isn’t over restrictive, that allows your body to be nourished, and that you can enjoy a few favorite foods on occasion. Food is a source of life to all humans and we should celebrate our ability to pick and choose from a wide range of foods and flavors to nourish our bodies.