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Fruitarianism: Pro and Con

by Tom Billings

First issue 1996 Second (revised) issue 1997

Introduction This article is based on my direct experience as a fruitarian, and on my observation of, and association with, fruitarians over the years. I was a fruitarian for most of the 1970's, when I lived in Florida; see my bio on this site for details. I no longer follow a fruitarian diet; instead I suggest that others find, and follow, a more diverse (less extreme), more balanced diet.

Definition Here fruitarianism will be defined as a diet that is predominantly raw fruit (75+ %), with the remainder of the diet being composed of raw vegetarian (usually raw vegan) foods. Here fruit has the common definition, i.e., the reproductive parts of a vine, bush, or tree, that includes juicy pulp. The common definition is used here rather than the botanical definition, as grain is considered a fruit under the botanical definition (but not the common definition).

Summary Statement on Fruitarianism Fruitarianism is possible according to idealistic dietary theory, but it can be quite difficult in practice. The diet has many pitfalls that can cause serious problems for the would-be fruitarian. Fruitarianism portrays fruit as the ideal natural food, yet modern fruit is the product of generations (in some cases, thousands of years) of human-directed plant breeding. In short, modern fruit has been bred for a high sugar content, and is greatly over-rated as a food. Very few people claim to succeed on the fruitarian diet, in the long term. Additionally, the high incidence of binge eating and backsliding in raw veganism raise serious questions regarding the credibility of the claims of long-term success. In summary, apply common sense: there are very few long-term success stories, and even fewer credible success stories, for fruitarianism. Does that suggest that it is the "ideal, natural" diet for everyone, as its advocates claim, or a fringe diet that appeals primarily to idealists? This question deserves serious consideration, particularly if you are considering adopting the diet.

Fruitarianism: Pro

* fruit is widely regarded as the best tasting raw food, and eating fruit is very pleasant indeed - after all, we all like sugar! :-)

* it is a very cleansing diet, and may be helpful (in the short run) against diseases/disorders where physical toxemia is a factor (note: this applies to other raw foods diets as well; the point is that fruitarianism is probably the most cleansing diet)

* fruit, if it is grown locally and not shipped, refrigerated, fumigated, subjected to heat/cold treatment to kill fruit flies, etc., is a low violence food. However, shipping fruit, refrigerating it, etc. do involve violence to the environment; fruit subjected to such treatment cannot be considered a low violence food. In other words, most fruit is neither violence-free nor karma- free.

* promotes weight loss and gives you a light body

* fruitarianism alters your mental state, promoting a light and airy mental feeling that some find quite pleasant. Some interpret this as a "spiritual" feeling.

* can promote extraordinary physical health - you *appear* to be (relatively) immune to illness (at least in the short run), and injuries heal very quickly. This, combined with the "light" mental effect, makes it *appear* that you are experiencing a higher state of living.

* your respiratory system may function better than on other (cooked) diets, though only slightly better (or same) as other raw diets

* it can sharpen your senses to an extraordinary degree, especially the senses of taste and smell. Your sense of smell may get so sharp that it is emotionally painful to sit in the same room with someone who is a garlic eater, or one who smells of tobacco (you simply can't stand the stench).

* reduces the amount of water you need to drink (as fruit is high in water)

Fruitarianism: Con

* modern fruit is expensive, lacking in vitality and quality as a result of shipping, refrigeration, fumigation, etc. The importance of year-round access to good quality local fruit limits the applicability of fruitarianism.

* fruitarians usually experience severe weight loss, with weight stabilizing at anorexic levels. It is extremely difficult to gain weight on a fruit diet, even if you overeat avocados.

* advocates of fruitarianism claim that anyone can succeed on their ideal, natural fruitarian diet if they have faith or positive thinking. This is a contradiction: does the cow need faith to succeed on diet of grass? Does the lion need positive thinking to succeed on a diet of zebra, antelope, and wildebeest meat? Of course not! If you need faith to succeed, it is probably not the "ideal, natural" diet as claimed by the advocates.

* the diet is extremely difficult, as most people find that a fruit diet is neither physically nor psychologically satisfying: hunger is frequent, and backsliding and binge eating are very common.

* fruitarians often display food-obsessive behavior. Take two pieces of bread, give one to an anorexic, and another to a fruitarian. The anorexic thinks, "I can't eat this bread, it will create fat"; the fruitarian may think in a similar matter: "I can't eat this bread" - with the reason(s) cited being one or more of the following delusions: a) the bread is cooked, hence toxic, b) the bread will produce mucus, which is the root of all disease, and will make me "impure", c) the bread contains protein (and/or starch), and all protein/starch is toxic and a horror. Here the point is the obsessive attitude toward food common to the anorexic and the fruitarian.

* very easy to overeat, and easy to fall into the nasty trap of sugar addiction. Sugar is well known for its ability to promote food cravings, which often leads to binge eating and/or overeating.

* modern, cultivated fruit is very high in sugar, higher in sugar than most wild, uncultivated fruits. A diet of only fruit can provide excess sugar intake, resulting in diabetes-like symptoms: sugar cravings, excessive urination, thirst, sugar highs/blues, fatigue. Excessive sugar, in the long run, may have a negative effect on the pancreas. (Fruitarians would be well advised to daily eat some dark, bitter, leafy greens - according to several herbal health systems, bitter greens help regulate sugar metabolism and reduce sugar cravings.)

* very socially isolating. This is very difficult for most people to handle; extroverts should not try to be fruitarians! The social isolation can promote a sense of psychological deprivation, which further encourages backsliding and binge eating. The social isolation and psychological deprivation can also warp your perception of eating; instead of a nourishing, nurturing experience, it becomes an exercise in egoism (similar to the phony compassion/ego trap that so many ethical vegans fall into.) One may identify with the diet; it becomes a "badge" or "symbol" of your individuality - in other words, a projection of the ego, rather than a peaceful, nourishing experience.

* many fruitarians eventually give up the diet as it is too difficult to continue - one experiences burnout from the food obsessions, social isolation, psychological deprivation, frequent hunger. It's interesting that some untreated anorexics also eventually recover from anorexia nervosa for the same reasons. In practice there is little difference in avoiding eating because you fear getting fat, and eating an inadequate diet because you are afraid of cooked food, mucus or protein. One must be very careful to practice fruitarianism with a totally positive attitude, lest it become a diet motivated by an obsessive fear of cooked food, mucus, or protein; for when fruitarianism is characterized and motivated by obsessive fear, it becomes an actual eating disorder!

* light, airy mental feeling that some compare to a minor drug high, and others mistake it for some kind of spiritual feeling. Said light feeling does not compare to, and is not the same as, the secure, peaceful, blissful, loving feelings that one gets from meditation or other genuine spiritual practices. I speak from direct personal experience on this point, having experienced both kinds of feelings. (P.S. some anorexics report mental effects similar to those experienced by fruitarians; that is one reason anorexia is so hard to overcome.) Note also that the "light" or "euphoric" mental feeling reported by fruitarians (and those with anorexia) may in fact be a symptom of a zinc deficiency. Zinc supplements are sometimes used in therapy for anorexia. Similarly, the loss of libido reported by some fruitarians, may be another symptom of a zinc deficiency (zinc is scarce in vegan diets, particularly raw vegan diets).

* fruitarianism, especially the 100% fruit version, is a very purifying diet, on the physical level. However, it is my observation/opinion that extensive physical purification, without accompanying spiritual or ethical development, usually leads to mental and/or emotional problems. These problems can take many forms; a few examples (in my experience/opinion), are as follows. 1) The fruitarian who was obsessed with two things - food and his bowel movements - and who drank vinegar like it was water. 2) The fruitarian who left his wife, moved to South America and lived naked with his girlfriends on a mountain. 3) The zealot fruitarian(s) who attack all diets other than (their own) raw vegan, and whose dialog is filled with ego, anger, hate, and other negativity. A pure body is irrelevant when your heart and mind are full of the poisons of anger and negativity.

An Alternative: A Near Fruitarian Diet

A "near-fruitarian" diet is an alternative to consider, for those who insist on following a high % fruit diet. It may help you avoid some of the problems of a 75+% fruit diet, but, of course, it cannot be guaranteed, and one should keep sharp watch for problems on a near-fruitarian diet as well.

For purposes of discussion, such a diet is a raw vegan diet that is approximately 70% (or less) raw fruit, with emphasis on semi-sweet and (to the extent possible) neutral fruit.

And, the remainder of the diet consists of:

- dark leafy greens and other vegetables. Emphasis is on bitter greens, but should also eat astringent, pungent, salty tasting greens. According to several herbal health systems, such greens help regulate sugar metabolism and provide some protection from sugar addiction. They also provide chlorophyll and minerals, and provide tastes that are difficult to get in fruits (most of which are predominantly sweet or sour).

- It's also a good idea to regularly eat some ginger to promote the digestive fire. If you object to ginger, eat pungent greens instead: mustard, arugula, watercress.

- Sprouts, specifically almonds, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, peanut, also flax. These provide fatty acids that are scarce in fruit (you do get tired of avocados if eaten daily). Green jelly coconuts are good also. Buckwheat, other sprouts are also OK but do not supply fatty acids.

Additional considerations:

- get vitamin B-12 from a reliable source (supplement)

- do something to avoid or counter stress and social isolation

- last but most important: make spiritual or ethical development a top priority, to reduce/avoid the potential mental and emotional problems that often occur.

Comments on Neutral Fruit

The term neutral fruit refers to fruits that are neither sweet, nor acid. This includes many "vegetable fruits": tomatoes, sweet peppers, zucchini, eggplant, cucumbers. However, these fruits also present problems if one tries to make them the basis of a diet: - tomatoes - can be acidic, and many people react negatively to them, especially when eaten in quantity, - zucchini has little or no flavor, - raw eggplant is not appealing, in texture or flavor, - sweet peppers are notorious for causing gas (severe flatulence), - cucumbers - the least offensive, but provide almost no calories, and very little nutrition. What do you call someone on a long-term, (nearly) mono- cucumber diet? In my opinion, the term anorexic may apply.

Neutral fruit, primarily cucumbers and some tomatoes, can be part of your diet, but are not a sufficient basis for a diet for most people. Some fruitarians suggest that you emphasize neutral fruit if you have trouble with the high sugar content of sweet fruit. Be aware that you may experience severe weight loss if your diet is based on cucumbers. (Once again, reality contradicts idealistic dietary theory.)

Epilog

Don't try fruitarianism out of fear of cooked food, mucus or protein. If you choose to try fruitarianism - do so ONLY if you have clear, positive reasons to motivate you, and do watch for signs of ALL the potential problems listed above. A fruitarian diet that includes protein foods and leafy greens, will pose fewer risks/problems than a 100% fruit diet. The information in this article is offered in the hope that it may help others who are considering fruitarianism.

Some readers of this article may think the difficulties of fruitarianism are exaggerated here: they are not, but you are of course free to find out the hard way, if you insist. To anyone on a fruitarian diet, or contemplating one, good luck - you may need it!

 

 

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