What Is the Fruitarian Diet?

In This Article

Fruit
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

The fruitarian diet is a subset of the vegan diet and it works just the way it sounds—you eat mostly (or all) fruit on the fruitarian diet. The fruitarian diet is one of the most restrictive eating patterns out there, and the risk of malnourishment is high, despite the nutritional quality of most fruits. 

A fruitarian diet means that raw fruit should make up 50 to 75 percent of your foods consumed. The strictest fruitarians, however, may eat up to 90 percent fruit.

What Experts Say

“Fruit is nature’s candy—a wholesome treat to satisfy your sweet tooth. But even Mother Nature would advise against such a large proportion of fruit in the diet. Experts agree that depriving yourself of fat and protein from other food groups can lead to nutrient imbalances.”

Chrissy Carroll, RD, MPH

Background

The fruitarian diet is nothing new, although its popularity has soared in recent years due to the raw-food movement.

Famous Fruitarians

In 2013, actor Ashton Kutcher was hospitalized with pancreatic problems after following a fruitarian diet to get into character as Steve Jobs for the movie Jobs. Jobs, the late founder and CEO of Apple, had some strange eating habits, such as the tendency to only eat one or two foods for extended periods of time. His fruit-only eating habits actually helped inspire the name of the famous tech company. Jobs died of pancreatic cancer in 2011.

To get into the mind of Jobs for the film, Kutcher adopted a fruitarian diet for one month. He ended up in the hospital just days before the movie was set to begin shooting.

Other famous fruitarians include artist Leonardo da Vinci (as indicated by his writings) and Mahatma Gandhi, who followed the fruitarian diet for six months in the 1990s before reverting to veganism.

Motivation

The motivation for adopting a fruitarian diet differs among people, but primary motivators are thought to be health reasons and/or religious, moral, or ethical factors. Like paleo advocates, many fruitarian followers tout the diet as the original diet of mankind.

Recently, the fruitarian diet has seen a surge in popularity along with veganism and raw-food diets. The tiers seem to get more and more restrictive. Veganism means eating only plant-based foods. A raw-food diet is essentially veganism (though some consume raw eggs and dairy) that excludes foods that have been heated, refined, pasteurized, or otherwise treated. Finally, fruitarianism means eating only raw fruit, nuts and seeds.

Some fruitarians are motivated by a desire to not kill any living organism, even plants—hence, why they eat only the fruit of a plant.

How It Works

To be considered fruitarian, at least 50 to 75 percent of your calories must come from raw fruit, such as bananas, papayas, grapes, apples, and berries. Usually, the other 50 to 25 percent of your calories would come from nuts, seeds, vegetables, and grains. Strict fruitarians, however, may eat up to 90 percent fruit and just 10 percent nuts and seeds.

The fruitarian diet typically revolves around these seven fruit groups:

  • Acid fruits: citrus, cranberries, pineapples
  • Subacid fruits: sweet cherries, raspberries, figs
  • Sweet fruits: bananas, grapes, melons
  • Oily fruits: avocados, coconuts, olives
  • Vegetable fruits: peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash
  • Nuts: hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios, walnuts
  • Seeds: sunflower, pumpkin, squash

What To Eat

Compliant Foods

  • Fruits

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Some vegetables

Non-Compliant Foods

  • Animal protein

  • Dairy products

  • Grains

  • Beans and legumes

  • Starches

  • Anything processed

Compliant Foods

Fruit: A fruitarian diet encourages a variety of fruits, including exotic ones like rambutan, mangosteen, passionfruit, jackfruit, longan, and snake fruit.

Of course, more common fruits such as bananas, pears, apples, oranges, and berries are also encouraged. Fruit also includes foods we don’t usually think of as fruits: tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, avocados, squashes, and olives.

Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds are technically parts of the fruits of plants, so fruitarians are encouraged to fill in the rest of their diets with foods like pepitas, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and almonds.

Some Vegetables: It isn’t recommended that anyone follow a 100 percent fruit diet. Many fruitarians consume some vegetables, mostly leafy greens.

Beverages: Fruitarians can drink coconut water, fresh fruit juices, and water. Coffee is permitted based on each fruitarian’s individual perspective.

Non-Compliant Foods

Animal Protein: A fruitarian does not consume any animal protein. Eggs, poultry, pork, and beef aren’t options for fruitarians.

Dairy Products: Just like animal protein, dairy products aren't permitted for the fruitarian diet. Milk, yogurt, cheese, or any other animal dairy product is not allowed. Some fruitarians are known to drink almond, cashew, or coconut milk in place of cow or goat milk.

Grains: Grains and grain products are not allowed on the fruitarian diet, and this includes sprouted grain products.

Starches: You might think that potatoes would be allowed on the fruitarian diet, but that isn’t the case. Fruitarians don’t eat any kind of tuber or potato.

Beans and Legumes: A true fruitarian diet does not include any beans or legumes, including chickpeas, lentils, peas, soybeans, and peanuts.

Anything Processed: It should go without saying that any processed foods aren’t allowed on the fruitarian diet, because it’s a subset of vegan and raw-food diets. This means you’re confined to the perimeter of your grocery store, or better yet, your local farmer’s market.

Keep in mind that this description is of the true definition of a fruitarian diet. Just like other diets—such as paleo, Mediterranean, and flexitarian—there is room for interpretation. If you decide to follow a fruit-based diet, you can fill in the gaps with foods that work for you.

Recommended Timing

There isn’t any specific meal-timing for the fruitarian diet. In fact, the fruitarian diet encourages you to eat intuitively, or eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. There aren’t any hard-and-fast rules about how much or when to eat on the fruitarian diet.

In this case, we’d recommend that you focus on eating at least three full meals each day, with snacks in between if you get hungry. A great aspect of an intuitive eating plan like the fruitarian diet is that you’re free to follow your hunger cues.

Resources and Tips

Unfortunately, there isn’t much information available on the fruitarian diet. Since it’s so niche and restrictive, research on the diet is lacking. Most research on fruit is focused on its antioxidant or other unique healthful properties, rather than on the long-term effects of a fruit-based diet.

Most evidence of the benefits of a fruitarian diet comes from anecdotal sources or people who follow the diet.

Be wary of anecdotal evidence—a diet that works well for one person may not work well for you.

Some evangelical fruitarians, like well-known fruitarian Michael Arnstein, have dedicated their entire lives to the fruit-based way of living. For Arnstein, being a fruitarian is more than a way of eating. Rather, it’s a whole groundwork of ethical beliefs, values, and personal growth. Arnstein is the founder of the Woodstock Fruit Festival, a popular week-long fruitarian event held in New York every summer.

Modifications

There are countless ways to modify the fruitarian diet, and modifications may make the diet healthier. You can eat a fruit-based diet and still include other essential food groups, such as whole grains and protein. A modified fruitarian diet might look like:

  • 50 percent fruit
  • 20 percent plant-based protein (tempeh, soy, seitan)
  • 20 percent vegetables
  • 10 percent whole grains (oats, wheat, bulgur, quinoa, etc.)

Adding other foods to the fruitarian diet ensures a better nutritional composition and decreases the risk of nutrient deficiencies and health complications.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Promotes whole, nutritious foods

  • Helps with hydration

  • Good for satiety

Cons

  • Risk of nutrient deficiencies

  • Risk of health complications

  • Restrictive

  • Tooth decay

Pros

Promotes Whole, Nutritious Foods: Fruits are well-known for their healthful properties, including high antioxidant content and high concentration of vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, phytonutrients, and fiber.

Helps With Hydration: In addition to their high nutrient density, fruits also contain a lot of water. Eating such large quantities of fruit can aid in hydration.

Good for Satiety: 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.

Cons

Risk of Nutrient Deficiencies: Even though fruits contain many nutrients, they don’t contain all the nutrients you need for a healthy, balanced diet. Our bodies need protein and fat, two main macronutrients you may not consume enough of on a fruitarian diet.

Additionally, cutting out grains leaves you at risk for B vitamin 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. Certain nutrient deficiencies can lead to complications such as anemia, fatigue, immune disorders, and osteoporosis.

Risk of Health Complications: The risk for health complications is high with the fruitarian diet. The fruitarian diet can be dangerous for people with diabetes or prediabetes because eating such large quantities of fruit can raise blood sugar levels 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.

Restrictive: The fruitarian diet is one of the most restrictive out there. Eating only or mostly fruit can get very boring and can lead to cravings for other foods. Just like any other restrictive diet, the fruitarian diet puts you at risk for bingeing and possibly disordered eating. Plus, any weight lost on the fruitarian diet will likely return once you stop following the diet.

Tooth Decay: The high sugar content in fruit can put you at risk for tooth decay. Some acidic fruits, such as oranges and pineapple, can erode tooth enamel if eaten too often.

How It Compares

The fruitarian diet is not like many other diets you will find. While many other diets may include pre-packaged foods or identify specific food groups to focus on, the fruitarian diet only focuses on one food group.

USDA Recommendations

The federal dietary recommendations include five food groups: fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein. The key recommendations in the federal guidelines include:

  • “A variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups—dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other
  • Fruits, especially whole fruits
  • Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
  • A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds, and soy products
  • Oils
  • Limited saturated fats, trans fats, added sugars and sodium”

The fruitarian diet does not meet many of the federal dietary recommendations.

In fact, it only meets two: make half your plate fruits and veggies, and limit saturated fats, trans fats, added sugars, and sodium.

Compared to the USDA guidelines, the fruitarian diet is lacking in vegetables, grains, dairy, protein, and oils.

It’s important to know how many calories you should be consuming each day in order to reach your weight goals, whether your goal is to lose, maintain, or gain weight.

Most people need around 2,000 calories per day. Smaller-framed women and children may need less; men and very active people, in general, may need more. Note that calorie needs are extremely individual: age, height, weight, and activity level all play a role in your caloric needs.

The fruitarian diet doesn’t make any recommendations about caloric intake. Instead, fruitarianism encourages people to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. In other words, fruitarians eat intuitively.

Similar Diets

Vegan Diet: The fruitarian diet is a subset of the vegan diet, which involves eating no animal products. Key differences, however, include that vegans can eat as many vegetables, nuts, seeds, and plant-based protein products as they like. Fruitarians, on the other hand, must stick to mostly raw fruit.

Raw Foods Diet: The raw foods diet involves eating only foods that are not cooked or altered in any way, because of the belief that heating, pasteurizing, or otherwise altering foods reduces their nutritional quality. Most people on the raw food diet only eat fruits and vegetables, but some raw-food followers also eat raw eggs, raw dairy products, and in rare cases, raw meat or fish.

Raw Vegan Diet: The raw vegan diet is a subset of the raw foods diet that only allows fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Grains and legumes are permitted, but raw grains and legumes usually need to be soaked and/or sprouted before consumption.

80/10/10 Diet: The 80/10/10 diet is a low-fat, raw vegan diet based on the idea that the optimal diet consists of 80 percent carbs, 10 percent protein, and 10 percent fat. The 80 percent of carbs should come mainly from low-fat fruits, and the protein and fat should come mainly from nuts and seeds.

A Word From Verywell

While the fruitarian diet does provide many nutrients, it isn’t the best way to consume all of the nutrients you need. A fruitarian diet lacks protein and healthy fats, as well as vegetables, which are critical to maintaining an optimal nutrient balance. The fruitarian diet can lead to nutrient deficiencies and other health complications, especially in those with kidney or pancreas disorders. Following a fruit-based diet can also lead to serious cravings, which can lead to bingeing or other disordered eating.

Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian before starting a fruitarian diet. A health professional will be able to help you design an eating plan that will work best for you.

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