What Is the Fruitarian Diet?

Fruitarian diet

Verywell / Debbie Burkhoff

At Verywell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and take the whole person into consideration. Prior to starting a new diet plan, consult with your health care provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

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 50–75% of your foods consumed. The strictest fruitarians, however, may eat up to 90% fruit. The fruitarian diet is nothing new, although its popularity has soared in recent years along with vegan diets and raw food diets.

Following a vegan diet means eating only plant-based foods. A raw food diet is essentially a vegan diet (though some may consume raw eggs and dairy) that excludes foods that have been heated, refined, pasteurized, or otherwise treated. Fruitarianism means eating only raw fruit, nuts, and seeds.

In 2013, the actor Ashton Kutcher was hospitalized with pancreatic problems after following a fruitarian diet to get into character as Steve Jobs for the movie, "Jobs." Kutcher adopted a fruitarian diet for one month and ended up in the hospital just a few days before the movie was set to begin shooting.

The founder of Apple was known for his fasting habits or eating just one or two foods for extended periods of time. Jobs' fruit-only diet, in particular, may have inspired the name of the world-renowned tech company he built. Jobs died of pancreatic cancer in 2011.

Other fruitarians like Michael Arnstein have dedicated their entire lives to a fruit-based way of living. For Arnstein, being a fruitarian encompasses his personal ethics, beliefs, and values. Arnstein is the founder of the Woodstock Fruit Festival, a popular week-long fruitarian event held in New York every summer.

Other famous fruitarians include Leonardo da Vinci (as indicated by his writings) and Mahatma Gandhi, who followed the fruitarian diet for a period before reverting to veganism. The rationale for adopting a fruitarian diet differs among followers, but primary motivators are thought to be for health and/or religious, moral, or ethical reasons. But the fruitarian diet restricts other healthy food groups, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies. It is not recommended by health and nutrition experts.

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

What Can You Eat?

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

The fruitarian diet typically revolves around these seven fruit groups:

What You Need to Know

Similar to the proponents of the paleo diet, many followers of the fruitarian diet tout the eating plan as the original diet of humankind. 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.

There isn’t any specific meal-timing for the fruitarian diet. The plan actually encourages you to eat intuitively—or only 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, it's recommended that you focus on eating at least three full meals each day, with snacks in between if you get hungry. A benefit of intuitive eating is that you’re free to follow your hunger cues.

There are countless ways to modify the fruitarian diet, which may make the diet healthier. For instance, you could 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 this:

  • 50% fruit
  • 20% plant-based protein (e.g., tempeh, soy, seitan)
  • 20% vegetables
  • 10% whole grains (e.g., 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.

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

Health claims in support of a fruitarian diet come from anecdotal sources or people who follow the diet. Be wary of anecdotal evidence—a diet that works well for one person may not be right for you.

What to Eat
  • Fruits

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Some vegetables

What Not to Eat
  • Animal protein

  • Dairy products

  • Grains

  • Beans and legumes

  • Starches

  • Anything processed

The following is a description of what you can and cannot eat according to the true definition of a fruitarian diet.

What to Eat

Fruit

A fruitarian diet encourages a variety of fruits, including exotic ones like rambutan, mangosteen, passionfruit, jackfruit, durian, 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 a part 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% 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 an individual's preference.

What Not to Eat

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 products are not allowed. Some fruitarians are known to drink almond, cashew, or coconut milk in place of cow's or goat's 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.

Processed Foods

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.

Just like other diets—such as paleo, Mediterranean, and flexitarian—there is room for modification on the fruitarian diet. If you decide to follow a mostly fruit-based diet, you can fill in the nutrition gaps with other healthy food groups.

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

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. The fruitarian diet is one of the most restrictive eating plans out there. Eating only or mostly fruit may also become boring and lead to cravings for other foods.

While fruit is a healthy choice for a balanced diet, eating only fruit increases your intake of sugar. The high sugar content found in fruit puts you at risk for tooth decay. Some acidic fruits, such as oranges and pineapple, can erode tooth enamel if eaten too often.

Is the Fruitarian Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

The fruitarian diet is unique compared to most other diets. While some eating plans may include pre-packaged foods or focus on specific food groups, the fruitarian diet emphasizes just one food group.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products, and protein each day for a healthy, balanced diet. The key recommendations in the federal guidelines include:

  • A variety of different vegetables including dark, leafy greens, red and orange varieties, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and others
  • Fruits, especially whole fruits
  • Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
  • Dairy products including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
  • A variety of protein sources, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds, and soy products
  • Healthy oils
  • Limited saturated fats, trans fats, added sugars, and sodium

The fruitarian diet does not meet most of these dietary recommendations. While filling half your plate with fruits and veggies, and limiting saturated fats, trans fats, added sugars, and sodium is considered healthy, the fruitarian diet is lacking in vegetables, grains, dairy, protein, and oils.

Whether your goal is to lose, maintain, or gain weight, it’s important to know how many calories you should be consuming each day. Most people need around 1,500 calories a day for weight loss, 2,000 calories per day for weight management, and an additional 500 calories a day for weight gain. Of course, this number varies based on age, sex, body type, level of physical activity, and other factors.

The fruitarian diet doesn’t make any recommendations about caloric intake and eliminates important healthy food groups. Eating only fruit does not adhere to USDA guidelines for a balanced diet and is not a healthy eating plan.

Health Benefits

Encourages 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. The high fiber content of fruit also promotes satiety, which could lead to weight loss.

Promotes 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.

Fruitarianism encourages people to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. In other words, fruitarians eat intuitively.

Health Risks

Nutrient Deficiencies

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. Certain deficiencies in micronutrients 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 restrictive nature of a fruitarian diet can be dangerous for people with diabetes or prediabetes because eating 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.

The fruitarian diet puts you at risk for bingeing and disordered eating—and any weight lost will likely return once you resume normal eating habits. The diet could lead to nutrient deficiencies and health complications, especially for those with kidney or pancreas disorders.

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, stick to mostly raw fruit with a limited amount of vegetables.

Raw Food 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 altering foods reduces their nutritional quality. Most people on a 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 variation 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% carbs, 10% protein, and 10% fat. The 80% 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 nutrients from fruits, you likely won't get all the nutrition your body needs. A fruitarian diet lacks protein and healthy fats, as well as vegetables, which are critical to maintaining overall health and optimal bodily function.

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

Remember, following a long-term or short-term diet may not be necessary for you and many diets out there simply don’t work, especially long-term. While we do not endorse fad diet trends or unsustainable weight loss methods, we present the facts so you can make an informed decision that works best for your nutritional needs, genetic blueprint, and budget, and goals.

If your goal is weight loss, remember that losing weight isn’t necessarily the same as being your healthiest self, and there are many other ways to pursue health. Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors also play a major role in your overall health. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.

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Article Sources
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