Fruitarians (or ‘fructarians’) are a subgroup of vegans, who are in turn a subgroup of vegetarians, most of whom adopt their particular dietary preference for reasons of health, ecological/environmental responsibility, or ethics.
A Vegetarian diet excludes meat and fish, and products derived from them (such as cochineal, lard, tallow, gelatin), although it can include honey, milk and other dairy products, and eggs.
A Vegan diet goes further by excluding dairy and egg products – only vegetables are eaten.
A Fruitarian (fructarian) diet goes further again by excluding all parts of all ‘vegetables’ (that is, plants and trees) except the fruit of the plant.
In a fruitarian diet, the only parts of plants used are the fruit, nuts, seeds and other plant matter that can be gathered without harming the plant. In other words, ‘culinary’ fruit (apples, oranges, pears etc) and ‘botanical’ fruit or seed-containing reproductive parts of flowering plants (beans, berries, capsicums, cucumbers, grains, nuts, peas, pumpkins, seeds, squash, tomatoes, and the like), can be eaten, but not carrots, potatoes or spinach etc., which require destruction of the plant.
A true fruitarian believes that removal of a vegetable from its roots (say a potato or a lettuce leaf) injures it, which is against the fruitarian concept of causing no death or injury to anything in order to consume part of it (the tomato and avocado are considered either fruit or vegetable, and thus are exceptions to this rule).
The fruitarian diet may appear to be limited in variety and in nutrition, but nuts of any type provide a protein source, and grains and pasta are suggested for a balanced diet. Eggs may also be eaten if from organically grown chickens.
A fruitarian diet is difficult to follow, and long-term fruitarians can develop health problems, such as:
- Vitamin B12 deficiency – B12 is essential for normal nervous system function and the production of blood cells. To be absorbed by the body, B12 must bind to a protein (secreted by glands in the stomach lining) called ‘intrinsic factor’. Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is produced exclusively by microorganisms (bacteria), and the main sources of vitamin B12 are meat, eggs, and dairy products, all absent in the fruitarian diet. B12 is not present in any fruit, and even if found on the fruit’s surface due to bacterial action, there will be nothing left after cleaning/preparing the fruit. Of course, there are other causes of B12 deficiency apart from it being low in the diet, such as:
- Abdominal/intestinal surgery or disorders affecting the production or absorption of intrinsic factor
- Chronic alcoholism
- Crohn’s disease
- Fish tape worm
- Pernicious anemia, due to a lack of intrinsic factor
- Diabetic or hypoglycemic-type symptoms, due to the high sugar content of the fruitarian diet, which also lacks protein, minerals, and fat-soluble vitamins.
- Eating disorder symptoms – long-term fruitarians are prone to food cravings and consequent binge-eating of either ‘allowed’ or ‘illegal’ foods, and often become addicted to dates (for their high sugar content) and avocados (for their high fat content). Some may develop a type of eating disorder for which a name has been coined, “orthorexia nervosa”
(“ortho” meaning straight, correct, and true), which has similarities to “anorexia nervosa”. Orthorexia nervosa refers to a pathological fixation on eating so-called ‘proper’ food.
Maintaining nutrient levels
Care should be taken with a fruitarian diet to ensure sufficient consumption of certain nutrients, by identifying and including the appropriate sources of:
Fruitarianism: The Path To Paradise by Anne Osborne