You’ve met both the fruitarians, but what is the medical consensus on the way they eat? Well last week, I went to speak to dietitian Chloe Miles from the British Dietetics Association to find out what she thought about fruit-based diets.
Laura: So Chloe, what is a fruitarian diet?
Chloe: A fruitarian diet is largely of course based around fruit. So fruitarians eat up to 75% of their diet just based around fruit, and then they can eat nuts and seeds as well. However, different fruitarians differ their diet obviously depending on their beliefs. So they could eat a purely fruit diet, it just depends on the person.
L: So in your opinion, do you think fruitarianism can ever be healthy?
C: I wouldn’t recommend it as a healthy balanced diet, I don’t think there’s enough research on it and I think you could miss out on a lot of nutrients that you would get from a normal healthy diet, so I wouldn’t recommend it as a diet, no.
L: Why not, what is it that’s missing from the diet?
C: So you’d miss out on a whole range of nutrients. It could lead to feeling very tired. You’d lack iron, which is used to form healthy blood cells, which could lead to dizziness, fainting, and make you feel very tired – anaemia essentially.
You could also miss out on B12, which is a vitamin often found in animal products but also in dairy and eggs. You wouldn’t really find that in fruit. So you could have low blood levels with that, which can also lead to tiredness, so it’s a bit of a double whammy really.
You can also miss out on your calcium, which can cause brittle bones in the long run, if you’re following it for a long period of time, which is really worrying and can lead to fractures as well.
L: And what about the psychological effects, can it be harmful to your mental wellbeing?
C: I think that any restrictive diet can be harmful to your mental wellbeing, especially when it impacts on your social life. So if your friends aren’t fruitarian, then it’s going to be really difficult to go out to dinner with them, go round to their houses and eat with them – and food isn’t just about nutrition, it’s about a social experience as well and bonding with people – and I think you’re really going to miss out on that on a diet like this which can have a massive psychological impact. I think if you come off it as well, then there might be feelings of guilt around the foods that your eating which isn’t very healthy for you psychologically.
L: So would you describe that as Orthorexic by any chance, or is that something that you recognise in this country?
C: So Orthorexia isn’t a clinical diagnosis in this country – it’s used by the media to describe an unhealthy addiction to healthy food. So it’s healthy eating but gone too far, and there’s nothing wrong with healthy eating but it’s when it does impact on your social life, and you do become really addicted to it, and again the feelings of guilt come into play, then that isn’t healthy, and is a form of disordered eating, even if Orthorexia isn’t a clinically recognised term.
L: But if there’s little research into fruitarianism as it stands, how can you be sure that it isn’t healthy?
C: Although there is very little research into the fruitarian diet, there is research into micronutrient deficiencies, which is what this could cause and there’s a lot of research into iron deficiencies – anaemia – and deficiencies of B vitamins, and so if we analyse a fruitarian’s diet, I’m sure we’d find that their diet was low in these micronutrients which could cause some problems.
L: So what are the recommended guidelines when it comes to diet, what would you prescribe?
C: It would be based around something called the eatwell plate, which is basically a balanced healthy diet. So it should be made up of all the food groups; starchy carbohydrates, protein – so whether that comes from your nuts and your seeds, or your animal products – but also your dairy products, or your dairy substitutes like soya proteins, your soya milks, almond milks, that type of thing, but also your fruit and vegatables.
Also, a small portion of fatty foods is fine, but in small amounts. So a bit of everything does you good basically, no one food is going to give you all the nutrients you need, or no one food group, so it is important that we have a range of foods.