Fruit diet: Risks, benefits, and types – Medical News Today

A fruit diet mostly consists of raw fruits. A person who follows this diet may call themselves a fruitarian.

In this article, we look at what people consider a fruit diet to be, the different types, and the potential benefits and risks.

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A fruit diet may not be optimal for health, as it eliminates a lot of food groups.

A fruit diet is a vegan diet made up mostly of raw fruits. People who follow this diet may also eat some vegetables, seeds, and nuts, but they usually eat only raw foods and avoid grains.

While there is no strict definition of a fruit diet, people who follow it tend to consume 70–80% of their daily calories from fruits.

A fruitarian diet may include plenty of fruits commonly considered to be vegetables, such as:

There is no limit to the amount of fruit that a fruitarian can eat — most people tend to eat as much as satisfies their hunger.

A fruitarian diet is very restrictive, excluding a lot of food groups. It does not include the range of nutrients that the body needs for optimal health.

A fruit diet is also high in sugar, which may lead to a number of health problems.

Nutritional deficiencies

The body cannot absorb the nutrients that it needs from fruit alone. Anyone following a fruit diet may be missing out on vital nutrients, including:

These nutrients play crucial roles in the functioning of the body. Consuming too few of these nutrients can lead to health problems, such as:

  • dry skin and brittle hair
  • fatigue
  • low mood
  • depression
  • weakened bones
  • reduced immunity
  • weakened muscles
  • cognitive difficulties
  • life threatening complications

Lack of protein

A lack of protein is one of the main risks of a fruitarian diet. Although a person following the diet may eat some nuts and seeds, these may not contribute sufficient amounts of protein to maintain health.

According to a 2016 article in the journal Food & Function, these are the recommended dietary allowances for protein in adults:

  • adults with minimal physical activity: 0.8 to 1.0 grams (g) of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight
  • adults with moderate physical activity: 1.3 g of protein per kg of body weight
  • adults with intense physical activity: 1.6 g of protein per kg of body weight

A lack of protein can cause a number of health problems, including:

  • swelling
  • anemia
  • a weakened immune system
  • physical weakness
  • problems with blood vessels, which can lead to cardiovascular diseases
  • stunted growth

Fructose and the glycemic index

Fruits naturally contain sugar, called fructose, and some have more sugar than others.

A type of fruit with more sugar ranks higher on the glycemic index (GI), a scale that measures how quickly specific foods cause blood sugar levels to rise.

Fruits with higher GI values include:

  • bananas
  • grapes
  • tropical fruits

Fruits with lower GI values have slightly smaller effects on blood sugar. Some of these fruits include:

  • apples
  • oranges
  • pears
  • berries

Regardless of their GI values, all fruits raise blood sugar because they contain carbohydrates.

Focusing on portion size and following a balanced diet are two important ways to keep blood sugar levels stable. This can be difficult for people on a fruit diet.

Controlling blood sugar levels is vital for overall health and especially important for people with diabetes. A fruit-based diet is likely not a good choice for people with unstable blood sugar levels.

To prevent spikes in blood sugar, it is also a good idea to avoiding drinking a lot of fruit juice.

Tooth decay

Fruits contain acids, including fructic and citric acids. If a person does not have a good oral hygiene routine, some fruits and fruit products may dissolve tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay over time.

Certain fruits are particularly acidic, such as oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and limes. Juices from these and similar fruits are also especially acidic.

Drinking 100% fruit juice may increase the risk of developing cavities, according to some research.

Rinsing with water after eating acidic fruits can help prevent dental erosion. Overall, however, following a fruit-based diet likely exposes the teeth to more acid than a more inclusive diet would.

People can help reduce their risk of tooth decay by:

  • brushing twice a day
  • flossing
  • not brushing immediately after eating, to help prevent enamel erosion

A person may follow a fruit diet for a variety of reasons. On social media sites and blogs, people seem to be motivated by the following goals:

  • to reduce caloric intake
  • to lose weight
  • to detox
  • to have a more environmentally friendly diet
  • to avoid cooking
  • to increase vitamin and antioxidant intake
  • to avoid killing anything for food, including plants
  • to have a more hunter-gatherer type of lifestyle

Fruits are an excellent source of antioxidants and vitamins — including vitamins that are lacking in a standard American diet.

Many fruits contain high levels of:

  • vitamin C, which helps repair tissue and maintain healthy gums and teeth
  • potassium, which is vital for keeping blood pressure at a healthy level
  • folate, which helps the body create red blood cells

Fruits are naturally low in calories. If a person switches from a standard diet to a fruit diet, they may reduce their caloric intake and lose weight.

Fruits are also an excellent source of dietary fiber. According to the Department of Agriculture, many people in the United States do not eat enough fiber. It is an essential part of any diet and can help:

  • reduce the risk of heart disease
  • lower blood cholesterol levels
  • improve bowel functioning and reduce constipation
  • create a feeling of fullness, which can cause a person to consume fewer additional calories

Fruit juices, however, contain little to no fiber.

It is important to note that — despite its fiber and vitamin contents — a fruit diet does not provide the range of nutrients that the body needs to function well.

A person can often acquire the benefits of a fruit diet by following a less restrictive diet that is still rich in produce, including fruit.

There are different types of fruit diet, and some are more restrictive than others.

Some people on a fruitarian diet only eat what drops from the tree or plant, to avoid picking or harvesting. The goal is to refrain from doing anything that would harm the plant.

Other people avoid grains, nuts, and seeds because of beliefs about what is natural for a human to eat.

Some fruitarians eat only raw fruit before a certain time, such as noon or a point in the evening, after which they will introduce other foods.

Others take a more flexible approach and may eat small amounts of the following throughout the day:

  • nuts
  • seeds
  • pulses
  • grains
  • vegetables

Overall, fruit-based diets are extremely restrictive and do not provide key nutrients.

Also, for some people, following very restrictive diets contributes to an unhealthy relationship with food.

A person can often benefit from following a less restrictive diet that still includes plenty of fruits and vegetables and few, if any, processed foods.

A fruit diet mostly consists of raw fruit. Some people also eat small amounts of nuts, seeds, vegetables, and grains.

Fruit is an excellent source of vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. Eating a diet made up mostly of fruit, however, can result in nutrient deficiencies and serious health problems.

A fruit diet is low in protein, for example, and it can lead to spikes in blood sugar. For this reason, a fruitarian diet is not suitable for a person with diabetes.

Anyone who is considering a fruit diet should consult a doctor first. Most healthcare professionals will not recommend a fruit diet for the long term because it does not contain the range of nutrients that the body needs.

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