Dietitians can provide great advice when it comes to losing weight, nutritional plans and addressing lifestyles factors about a patient’s wellness goal.
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In fact, many people turn to dietitians when they’re curious about trying a plant-based, vegan or vegetarian diet. Other folks are looking for low-carb, keto or high-protein diets. And occasionally, some people ask about the fruitarian diet, which involves eating primarily fruits.
But according to registered dietitian Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD, the fruitarian diet is one of the most restrictive diets out there and most importantly, is not often recommended or endorsed.
“The fruitarian diet has a big risk of malnourishment,” she explains “Because of this, the diet is not usually recommended by dietitians because it’s just not part of a balanced eating plan.”
People were likely looking to eat whole, natural foods from the earth, so they turned specifically to fruits. But because of the restriction and malnourishment factor, the diet has (thankfully) decreased in popularity over the years.
Can a fruitarian diet be healthy or help you lose weight?
Fruits are packed with natural sugar in the form of fructose and many vitamins and antioxidants, including vitamin C and beta-carotene. Some research even shows fruits can reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.
So generally speaking, eating fruit (in moderation) is healthy for you and it’s often recommended to increase your intake of whole fruit (but not fruit juice) when you’re looking to revamp your diet and eat healthier. Plus, fruit makes a great addition to meals as a natural sweetener and is a good snack to grab instead of chips or cookies.
That being said, even when you consider the benefits of fruit and why it should be included as part of a balanced diet, people should generally keep their fruit intake to no more than 25% to 30% of their diet to avoid nutritional imbalances.
A better dietary approach to being a fruitarian is the Mediterranean diet or a pescatarian diet (which is a vegetarian diet that includes fish). Both include a strong base of fruits and vegetables, along with other plant based foods like nuts, seeds, legumes, plant based oils and whole grains. Both diets limit dairy and sugar.
But what about weight loss on the fruitarian diet?
“You might lose weight on the fruitarian diet, but I don’t consider this a true benefit, because you are likely losing muscle,” says Patton.
Instead, dietitians always recommend choosing an eating style or diet that you can stick with long-term.
Why the fruitarian diet is not recommended
Fruit-based diets can be very restrictive and can cause several health problems:
- Weight gain: Fruits are heavy in natural sugars. While there are some people who could lose weight on the fruitarian diet, eating large portions of fruit actually puts some people at risk for gaining weight.
- Diabetes: For diabetic or pre-diabetic people, the fruitarian diet can be dangerous. Fruits contain so much natural sugar that eating too much can negatively affect blood sugar levels. A fruit-only diet can also be dangerous for people with pancreatic and kidney disorders.
- Tooth decay: Fruit’s high sugar content can put you at high risk for tooth decay. For example, apples have the potential to be as corrosive as candy or soda. Some fruits, such as oranges, are highly acidic and can erode tooth enamel.
- Nutritional deficiencies: Fruitarians frequently have low levels of vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, iodine and omega-3 fatty acids, which can lead to anemia, tiredness, lethargy and immune system dysfunction. Low calcium can also cause osteoporosis. Nutritional supplements that fulfill these deficiencies are often made from food sources like dairy cultures or soy protein, which are considered off-limits in the fruitarian diet. This makes malnourishment on the fruitarian diet super common.
- Cravings: Restricting your diet to mainly fruits can lead to cravings, food obsessions and disordered eating.
- Starvation mode: By relying mainly on fruits and depriving yourself of needed vitamins, fats and proteins, it’s possible to push your body into starvation mode. If your body feels it’s starving, it will slow down your metabolism in an attempt to conserve energy for vital functions.
Talk to your doctor before starting any diet
Before you start any new diet or nutrition program, Patton recommends talking with your doctor or meeting with a dietitian to discuss your goals and lifestyle. Together you can craft an eating plan that you’re more likely to stick with long-term.