Health: diet/lifestyle – too much of a good thing?

Eating fruit is good for us but how much is too much and what if we ate “only” fruit and nothing else?fruit

When you go to a restaurant there’s usually a vegetarian dish on the menu but soon we may be seeing a “fruitarian” dish as well.  For those who eat only (or at least 80%) fruit of course.

Woodstock could never surpass the legendary music festival of the 60’s – but there’s a new mindset and a completely different festival – that of the Woodstock fruit festival which began in 2010.fruit2

In just four short years the festival (WFF) has grown into the largest and most progressive raw food event on the planet!

Founder Michael Arnstein envisioned the festival as a place where longtime fruitarian practitioners (how long has this been going on? – I just found out) could be brought into the spotlight and transformed into role models for those just starting out. In exchange for giving talks and leading exercises for free in the festival’s first year, pioneers are invited back each year, for varying amounts of compensation. At Woodstock, the pioneers lead exercise classes, tie-dye sessions, support groups, and give lectures. They chat and take photos with attendees, do interviews, and frequently sign festivalgoers up for paid services, such as nutritional testing or health retreats. Above all, they motivate. They offer themselves up as physical embodiments of one’s best self – the kind of person you could be, if you ate this way.

In the natural foods movement of the 1960s and 70s, activists and hippies combined diet, politics, and community, to provide a vision of how one could live a life that matched one’s diet. Foods were eliminated not only for health reasons but in order to cultivate a desirable personality – meat-eating, for example, was denounced as an impediment to spiritual growth and a cause of aggressive behaviour. Groups such as The Diggers in San Francisco gave food away for free and popularised wholewheat bread baked in emptied coffee cans as part of a broader experiment in creating a miniature society free from capitalism, while the macrobiotic Zen diet proposed eating your way to enlightenment through 10 different stages, each more restrictive than the last, until the eater reached an apex where she sustained herself on brown rice alone. The fruitarian lifestyle shares the narrative structure of the macrobiotic diet, its emphasis on eliminating toxicity within the body, as well as its ethos of restrictive decadence. Where it differs from macrobiotics is in its fixation on a utopian past.

Like those on the nutritionally inverse “paleo” diet, fruitarians eat in hope of returning to a past that predates the primal wound of agrarian society, but whereas paleo dieters hark back to the era when humans were hunter‑gatherers, fruitarians look back to an even earlier time, when we were simply gatherers – equal, undifferentiated, and deeply in harmony with nature.

In theory, fruit is free and abundant, a sweet package of harm-free profit.  Fruit is literally made to be eaten, and the relationship between an apple tree and the creature that eats the apple and transports its seed to some other promising location is symbiotic. What better basis for a community could there be than fruit, which is a symbol and sustenance at once?

But real fruit is expensive, difficult to source and ship without compromising on these principles. Most commercially grown fruit is harvested by labourers who are overworked and underpaid, then shipped long distances in gas-guzzling trucks or oil-guzzling ships that exact a toll on the environment. There are also health concerns. In 2013, Ashton Kutcher was hospitalised for two days after following a fruitarian diet for a month, part of a Method-acting stunt designed to prepare him for filming the *Steve Jobs biopic Jobs (“I was doubled over in pain, and my pancreas levels were completely out of whack,” Kutcher later told reporters at the Sundance film festival.) Conventional nutritionists confirm that the diet is too high in sugar, which can cause tooth cavities and overwork the pancreas, and too low in nutrients vital to maintaining the body. Fruit, for all its excellent qualities, is low in protein, calcium, vitamin B12, zinc, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, iodine, and vitamin D. Sticking to the diet long-term can result in dangerous deficiencies that many fruitarians try to ward off with nutritional testing and vitamin injections. And while going on a restrictive diet is not necessarily the same thing as having an eating disorder, doctors warn that the severe dietary restrictions inherent in eating strictly low-carb or fruitarian regimens can trigger orthorexia nervosa, a term that literally translates to a “fixation on righteous eating”. Orthorexics are prone to anxiety over the purity or healthfulness of their food, to the point where their restricted nutritional and caloric intake can cause severe malnutrition.fruitbook

This diet is not easy to maintain, but raw fruit experts promise a vast array of benefits. In testimonials, fruitarians claim that going raw has done everything from curing cancer to eliminating body odour and changing the colour of one’s eyes from brown to blue. Unlike other diets, 80-10-10 (The 80/10/10 Diet: Balancing Your Health, Your Weight, and Your Life One Luscious Bite at a Time) promises to transform your experience of your body, revealing levels of thriving that you didn’t know existed. In this way, “going raw” breaks with the traditional function of diet as rudimentary medicine (seen even in early Hippocratic medical texts) and becomes a lifestyle. A diet tells you what you should eat; a lifestyle tells you how you should feel about it.

I love fruit but I also love too many other foods like vegetables, bread, meat, pasta, chocolate….so I’ll pass.

How about you – could you do it? Could you eat fruit and only fruit forever?

*Steve Jobs – his fascination with fruitarianism helped inspire his company’s name.

Source: this is a very abridged version of the’s article on “the problem with fruitarians” which originally came from:

An abridged version of an essay from the latest issue of N+1, on sale now.  To find out more, visit                                                                      Aboutn+1 is a print and digital magazine of literature, culture, and politics published three times a year.