Can you only survive on apples
The fruitarian: eat only fruits and nuts for 4 weeks
Background to the self-experiment: The fruitarian
My readers voted. In March 2018, as a fruitarian, I should only eat fruits and nuts. Frutarians (also called frugans) follow a strictly vegan diet based on fruits. The aim is to only eat plant-based products that avoid damaging the plant. An extreme interpretation is to only eat fruit that has already fallen from the tree.
The inadequate intake of proteins, vitamins such as B12, calcium, zinc, iron and iodine is criticized in this diet. Is that really the case? How do blood counts and mood change after a month of a frugan diet? And how socially acceptable is this extreme form of nutrition? I wanted to test it for a month and keep a detailed record.
Goals and rules for self-experiment:
- only eat foods that can be picked from the plant without damaging it
- Health check with blood values at the beginning and at the end of the experiment
- Keep a diary of weight and mood
- accurate records of everything that is consumed
- seek a conversation with longtime frutarians and their critics
“Live and let live” is the fruitarians' motto, which is why they only eat what nature willingly gives. This means that no animals should be killed and plants should not be destroyed. The best-known Frutarians supposedly included Mahatma Gandhi, Henry David Thoreau, Leonardo da Vinci and, at times, Steve Jobs.
Extreme diets are based on ideologies or health considerations. In the best case, they form a mix of them. In the run-up to my experiment, I talked to people who have a frugan diet for very different motivations.
The ideological motivation for the diet with fruits, nuts and seeds is the assumption that not only humans and animals, but also plants are animated. An unnatural death, i.e. harvesting fruit and vegetables before they actually deteriorate, is just as irresponsible as killing animals.
The menu of frutarians therefore includes:
- Sweet fruits like berries, apples, pears, plums, oranges, melons, grapes, papayas, cherries, peaches, apricots, figs, dates, durians, mangoes and coconuts
- Vegetable fruits such as cucumbers, tomatoes, pumpkins, peppers, zucchini or avocado
- Vegetables like lettuce, sprouts or celery
- Beverages such as coconut water, fruit and vegetable juices, water
- Legumes like peas, beans, and soybeans
It is controversial whether grain products such as bread, pasta, rice, millet or corn should be consumed, as these are monocultures. When it comes to nuts and seeds such as sunflower seeds, almonds and walnuts, there seem to be just as different opinions between frutarians as they do with olive oil, honey, granola bars and chocolate.
Everything that a vegan would not touch is clearly excluded. In addition, tuberous plants such as potatoes, beetroot, beets, carrots or onions, leaves or roots of food plants as well as fruit and vegetables that are grown and harvested especially for consumption.
In other areas of life, too, fruitarians pay attention to compatibility with nature. Furniture should only come from fallen or dead trees, and clothing should not be made from leather, silk or cotton.
I didn't want to take it that strict. My simple rule was: I only eat fruits that can be picked from the plant without damaging it. For shopping I wanted to go to weekly markets and pay close attention to the origin in the supermarket.
At the beginning of the experiment I had done a health check with blood count, vitamins (B12, D), cholesterol (ChE), liver values (GOT, GGT) and inflammation markers. I also kept a detailed diary of weight, state of mind and what I consumed.
In conversations with long-time frutarians and their critics, I was able to learn what motivates people to adopt this diet and how it affects their health and general happiness.
On the pro side, fruitarians have a higher level of well-being, better sleep and fewer stomach problems. The high intake of fiber leads to a lowering of the cholesterol level and other blood lipids. In addition, the frutarian diet promotes digestion.
Risks can arise as a result of malnutrition (important minerals, proteins, vitamin B12 / D, iron and calcium) in depression, fatigue, restless sleep and weight loss. The high fructose intake through the fruit may have a negative effect on metabolism and hormonal balance and even increase the risk of cancer. Some fruitarians also have problems with their teeth, which are caused by the high percentage of fructose in the fruit.
In the morning I was recommended to eat something light, watery and without a lot of fructose, e.g. papaya or watermelon. For lunch then something filling like coconut or avocado and in the evening something light again like cucumber, iceberg lettuce, tomato and avocado. In between, nuts and seeds are a good option every 2-3 hours to satisfy hunger.
The fruits are best eaten raw, without being processed or mixed. Here, too, there are different approaches among frutarians, ranging from completely raw to food combining to cooked.
All of this is pure theory, which is now waiting to be put into relation through your own practical experience. So here is the practical experience report on self-experiment as a fruitarian.
The self-experiment "fruitarians"
As with all 12 experiments in 2018, the fruitarian wasn't just about nutrition. If you will, the fruit serves as a metaphor for the ultimate goal: to initiate radical changes that turn my mindset upside down. That definitely worked in February.
My goal for this experiment, to only eat food that can be picked from the plant without damaging it, has been achieved in the last week, with the exception of small slip-ups. I learned not only about nutrition, but above all about how habits work. But one by one.
Week 1: In the fruit paradise
The month started with a 4-day seminar in Singapore and a flight to Penang. Not good prerequisites for starting the new diet gently. Nevertheless, I was very happy about the many fruits in Southeast Asia in the first week.
It took me a few days to get my hunger under control. Most fruits are low in calories, which is why I had to triple the portions for watermelon, pomelo, guava, and oranges. On the way I always had bananas, tangerines and nuts with me.
I was warned by other frutarians about the "withdrawal" that occurs when the body is deacidified. Except for diarrhea, minor stomach upsets and a slightly cold nose, that didn't bother me. A good indicator for this was my urine, which probably became clearer every day due to the deacidification and a lot of water.
The detox felt good. During the day, energy levels and wellbeing were high. At night I slept better (and less) and increasingly got the feeling that my digestion was very grateful to me for the change.
However, I had already lost over 2 kilograms in that week. My calorie consumption (2,500 - 3,000 per day) was significantly higher than the calories I consumed (1,500 - 2,000 per day) and the diet was anything but balanced.
I was shocked that most of the fruits were imported even in Malaysia (I had expected that from Singapore). The many local fruit sorts were only available at street stalls outside the cities, not in the supermarket or the fruit markets in Georgetown. If I had only eaten local "fallen from the tree" fruit here, my selection would have been very limited.
Typical frutarian meal plan in week 1:
- In the morning: 500 g watermelon, 3 bananas, 4 passion fruits
- Lunchtime: 1 pomelo, 3 guavas, 1 avocado with lemon
- In the evening: 1 papaya, 1 pomegranate, 3 oranges
- Snacks: fresh orange juice, cashew nuts
- costs: 76.39 euros (53.68 euros for groceries; 22.53 euros for restaurant visits)
Week 2: Boredom on the plate
Half of the second week of February I spent in Georgetown on Penang and the other half on Phuket at a meeting with my business partners from Citizen Circle.
Even if the selection of fruit was relatively large, the meals were repeated quickly. It wasn't much fun stuffing myself into 10 bananas, a whole watermelon, or 5 mangoes to meet my caloric needs.
I was getting fed up with fruit, especially when I went out to dinner with friends and the waitress asked me what I wanted as my main course while ordering the fruit salad. What I missed was variety and warm food in the stomach.
When I went to restaurants I always had my bag of fruit and nuts with me, so that although I was able to withstand all temptations, I missed the social aspect of feasting together.
I also started doing sports again in Penang. Functional training for 15 minutes in the morning and an hour's jog in the evening. After that, I was pretty weak and noticed that my body was just making use of its energy reserves. By the end of week 2, I had lost nearly five pounds.
Typical frutarian meal plan in week 2:
- In the morning: 1 papaya, 1 pineapple, 3 oranges, 4 kiwis
- Lunchtime: 2 coconuts (water and meat), 3 bananas, 2 mango
- In the evening: 1 avocado with lemon, 5 tomatoes
- Snacks: fresh orange juice, Langsat (lychees), mixed nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, macadamia)
- costs: 52.48 euros (40.90 euros for groceries; 11.58 euros for restaurant visits)
Week 3: Cabbage and Beets
Back in Germany there was no fruit apart from stored apples in winter that had not already traveled thousands of kilometers. So I extended my diet to include cabbage, beets, carrots, chicory, tomatoes, and lettuce. I didn't eat everything raw, but braised cabbage and boiled carrots for soup. Even without spices and oil, pretty tasty after two weeks of fruit.
Of course, this did not correspond to the ideals of a frutarian, because it is well known that cabbage and beets do not fall from the tree. But if I had taken it too seriously, I would have come close to starving. Perhaps proof that we humans have no business this far from the equator.
I started to wonder what people in Central Europe ate before there was ranching, agriculture and fire. The answer is likely: nothing. Before these achievements, our ancestors could not survive because of a lack of food. It was probably only a few tens of thousands of years ago that people from the tropics moved to northern areas.
Eating regional fruits doesn't have to be natural at all. After all, very few of us like cauliflower or white cabbage raw. We have trained our bodies to eat these things. A "people have always eaten this here" is simply wrong.
After exactly three weeks, on February 21, 2018 at 6 p.m. local time, I became weak for the first time when I had sold out a few pieces of chocolate. Let's blame it on the cold in Germany that made me do it.
Otherwise, thanks to the vegetables, my diet was much more balanced (more protein, less fats). Eating was more fun again, with something warm going into my stomach every now and then, and it became easier to meet my caloric needs. Even the weight remained fairly stable through week 3.
What I increasingly missed was the enjoyment of eating and the social aspect of having meals with friends. Here ideals, health and needs contradict each other.
Typical frutarian meal plan in week 3:
- In the morning: 2 oranges, 2 apples
- Lunchtime: 400 g white cabbage (braised)
- In the evening: 10 carrots (pureed as soup), 1 cucumber
- Snacks: hot lemon, orange juice, cashew nuts
- costs: 83.43 euros (61.43 euros for groceries; 22 euros for restaurant visits)
Week 4: Juice cure without joys
Motivated by the first three weeks, I wanted to give the frugan month a worthy end. What would be more appropriate than a 7-day juice treatment? My assumption was that the hurdle was no longer that big ... far from it.
I consumed my previous fruit consumption mixed, which was more pleasant, because 5 bananas in a row are much easier to drink than to eat them. It was really fun to try out a wide variety of recipes and own creations.
What was amazing to me was that I consumed almost no water. I only added a little water to each juice, otherwise the amniotic fluid was apparently enough for my hydration.
What I totally underestimated was how much energy nuts supplied me with in the first three weeks. Even with 5 juices a day I had real problems getting the feeling of hunger under control, so I had a “Cheat Meal” (pumpkin soup, sweet potato fries and potato soup) at least every other day.
I have felt physically weak for the past few days. That was certainly not only due to the juice diet, but also to the weeks before that, when I could neither meet my calorie requirements nor had a balanced diet.
At the end of week 4, at 74 kilograms, I had over 7 kilograms less on my ribs than at the beginning of the month. That was probably more due to my ignorance of the frugan diet than to the fruits themselves.
Either way, I couldn't wait to “break the fast” on the evening of day 28! There was fried potatoes, cabbage soup and nachos. Plus a cyclist. It was delicious but far from what my imagination had previously figured out.
Typical frutarian meal plan in week 4:
- In the morning: Juice from 2 oranges, 2 apples, 1 lemon and 1 banana
- Lunchtime: Juice made from 1 avocado, 2 bananas and 20 g ginger
- In the evening: Juice from 200g beetroot, 1 cucumber, 1 apple, 2 carrots and 20 g ginger
- Snacks: Orange juice, cashew nuts
- costs: 44.92 euros (31.42 euros for groceries; 13.50 euros for restaurant visits)
My frutarian menu
I tried to eat juicy fruits like watermelon or papaya in the morning. Then at lunchtime sweet and filling things like mango, banana or avocado. In the evening, more juicy fruit or light salads.
It was amazing how easily I got used to avoiding caffeine, alcohol, the occasional cigarette, and sweets. The switch in the head flipped quickly, from fear of loss to gain for the body. That showed me once again how much my basic needs (what I really need) differ from habits (what I think I need).
What I really missed were warm meals and now and then something filling the stomach like pasta or bread. I could only really enjoy my fruit diet in the first few days. Then it quickly became boring and unsatisfactory, which was certainly also due to my lack of knowledge of balanced raw food nutrition and recipes or the availability of regional ingredients.
Even if I rarely felt a real stomach growl, this monotony and the lack of desire to eat resulted in a large deficit between calorie requirement and calorie intake. I burned 2,853 calories a day with my basal metabolic rate and exercise, but only consumed 1,679 calories. So the weight loss of 7.5 kilograms was not surprising.
I had specific nutritional deficiencies for vitamins B12 and D, calcium and sodium. On the other hand, I was able to overflow my nutritional goals for iron and other vitamins.
How the proportions of calories between carbohydrates, fats and proteins are best distributed for the body is a matter of debate. For me, what Douglas Graham said in his 80/10/10 diet (80% carbohydrates, 10% fat and 10% protein) makes the most sense. This is what our diet probably looked like before McDonalds and flavor enhancers.
At 31.3%, my fat percentage of the total calorie intake was significantly too high. At 7.1%, proteins were still in a healthy range, most of which came from fatty nuts.
I got carbohydrates mainly from bananas (16%), mangoes (8%), oranges (7%) and apples (7%). Fats from cashew nuts (20%), avocados (8%), almonds (6%), walnuts (5%) and coconuts (3%). A significant amount of protein came from cashew nuts (5%).
For a month I recorded everything I ate with two different apps: Cronometer and Myfitnesspal, although I found the first app to be much more user-friendly and informative. If you are interested, you can read in this Cronometer Report exactly what I ate for 28 days and how that is reflected in nutritional values.
Based on this foodlog, here are a few more useful and useless data:
- I burned 2,853 kcal a day (301 kcal through exercise, 819 kcal through exercise, 1733 kcal through basal metabolic rate)
- 1,679 kcal consumed daily (7.3% protein / 30.9% fat / 61.8% carbohydrates)
- A 1,174 kcal deficit for 28 days resulted in a weight loss of 7.5 kg
- I covered 20% of my energy requirements with cashews (10%), bananas (7%) and avocados (3%)
- I consumed 71 oranges, 54 bananas and 27 apples in February
- Drunk 3 liters of water daily (+22 glasses of orange juice and 8 coconuts)
- 1,550 g cashews and 820 g other nuts (walnuts, macadamia, peanuts) gave me strength
- I ran 288,904 steps (10,318 per day) in February (of which I jogged 60.1 km)
- I ate small cheat meals 3 times, all of them on a juice fast during the last week
My blood values as a fruitarian
In the first few days I still enjoyed eating a lot of exotic fruits and seeing my body deacidified. By the end of the month, the initial euphoria was gone and I didn't always feel good physically.
First of all, I can say that my mood did not fluctuate much throughout the month. I didn't feel that the malnutrition made me more stressed or tired. On the other hand, I slept much better and had fewer digestive problems.
At the end of the month, the scales showed a weight loss of 7.5 kilograms. This was also evident in the mirror, where a face looked at me with less vitality. My complexion itself hadn't changed, but the weight loss didn't necessarily make me look fresher.
But here are the hard facts from two laboratory analyzes that I carried out on January 30th. in Bangkok and on February 27, 2018 in Berlin.
Science & common sense
I don't want to get carried away with recommendations because I don't have the background knowledge. But I would like to share with you a few thoughts that I made during the self-experiment as a fruitarian. No matter what your diet is, when reading the next few paragraphs, judge based on your common sense rather than your habits and food industry propaganda.
All of our anatomy, biochemistry, and psychology suggests that we are not carnivores. We have to cook, fry or deep-fry meat. We remove things like tendons and boils. We are disgusted with warm blood and organs. The meat only becomes tasty with a lot of oil and spices. It's the same with dairy products and eggs.
On the other hand, we like ripe fruit and vegetable fruits without preparation. It is ready as soon as it has ripened in nature. Fruits just smell and taste good, without the need for flavor enhancers or overcooking. Does your mouth water too at the thought of wheat, raw eggs and milk from the udder?
“If we observe nature, we will find that all creatures are born with or develop everything they need to secure their natural food. No human has yet been born with a stove on his back or the keys to a tractor in her hand. " - Dr. Douglas Graham
We humans discovered fire a few hundred thousand years ago, agriculture and livestock (and thus also cow's milk) only existed a few thousand years ago. What did we eat before? Probably fruits, grasses, roots and worms. Maybe a mammoth now and then.
The fact is that the body has been able to adjust to new foods such as flour or cooked meat over a long period of time. Spans of thousands of years. In the last hundred years alone there were suddenly so many new foods that we shouldn't be surprised to see at least as many home-made diseases.
Cancer, HIV and allergies are only now becoming more common. Diabetes and obesity have only existed since our diet began to contain so many fats and proteins. Both are signs of generally poor health, leading to causes of death such as blood and vascular diseases, cancer or strokes.
Our bodies have been dieting for millions of years. Figuratively speaking, in the last seconds of the evolutionary year we are throwing all sorts of new things (including medication) down our throats and expect our digestion to sort it out somehow.
My little scientific but common sense conclusion at this point is:
- everything that tastes raw and ripe is good for us (with the exception of toxins)
- We should question everything that we don't like raw
- Fruits can not only be a dessert or a snack in between, but also a full meal
- We should only consume dairy products, meat and eggs in small quantities, as they are unnatural for us
- it is absurd to combat symptoms with more and more drugs instead of changing the causes (diet, lack of exercise, drugs)
As I said, my judgment on this topic does not go very far. It is only intended to initiate discussions. For reading and looking, I can recommend the following sources:
I know far too little about nutrition and wonder why I've only looked into it for the last few years. Shouldn't that be part of the education system? For me, nutrition (just like finances) is part of every student's curriculum.
I've forgotten how to listen to my body. Is this just telling me that I really need this slice of bread or the curry with chicken or is it just a desire or a habit? It got better every day and I am in good spirits that my body and I will continue to improve our relationship.
Local food is rare: I was surprised how difficult it was in the supermarket (both in Asia and Germany) to find local fruits in the supermarket. Avocados from Mexico, melons from Vietnam and grapes from Australia - there is not much choice if you really want to eat locally and seasonally.
We eat not only for nutrition and hydration, but also for enjoyment. The selection of locally grown fruit is not large, especially in Germany. Meals are quick repetitive and not much fun to eat 10 bananas, a whole watermelon, or 5 mangoes to meet your caloric needs.
In addition to enjoyment, food also offers one Platform for social exchange. It was not as bad as expected to go out to dinner with friends (I always had my fruit bag with me and ordered water or freshly squeezed juice), but sometimes I looked enviously at the plates of my companion.
Calorie intake is made more difficult: I can hardly cover my calorie requirement of over 2,000 kcal with fruit alone, except when I use fatty fruits such as avocado or coconut from overseas. So there are still nuts and kernels, which, however, also have a very high fat content, which in turn leads to high blood sugar.
High blood sugar and fatty liver due to the high intake of fructose are arguments against the frugan diet. From what I've read and heard, the risk is high, especially with dried and juiced fruits. However, the sugar in whole, raw and ripe fruit is broken down more quickly and therefore does not stay in the blood for long.
Missing proteins are another argument against plant-based nutrition that has been brought up again and again. Legumes, soy, nuts and seeds easily have a protein content of 10%. Vegetarian sources of protein are plentiful. The fact that we cannot live healthy without meat is a pure justification for not having the schnitzel taken from our plates.
Missing vitamins B12 / D: I did not take in both vitamins through my diet in February. Of course, I don't like to judge the long-term effects of malnutrition. After a month, I had no symptoms of bad mood, tiredness, restless sleep, or deteriorating physical or mental performance.
Except for the first few days, I had no problems with my digestion. This is especially noticeable before bed, as I usually have a large dinner. 6-7 hours of sleep per night in February seemed to be enough to wake up early (otherwise 8 hours). Perhaps my body will need less time to recharge the batteries because less energy is required for digestion.
I don't need my coffeeto be fit in the morning. After the first caffeine stimulation, I was even more tired than before, which I usually fought with a second coffee. This diabolical cycle is just as true for all other stimulants, drugs and medicines. The quick enjoyment or the fix cause long-term damage.
My costs have gone down, which was mainly due to the few visits to restaurants. In the previous months I spent around 100 euros a week on food and drinks outside. In February it was an average of around 15 euros for an occasional fruit salad, coconut or hot lemon. At 45 euros per week, the cost of groceries was slightly higher than in the previous months with my normal diet, but this is more due to the frequent restaurant visits than to the type of food.
Why am I doing these experiments? Because it forces me to reevaluate my habits and ways of thinking. Many patterns of action have crept into my life without being asked and only become conscious again when I change my perspective on them. Only with this awareness can I change automatisms.
An example: In the course of the morning I like to grab my laptop and go to a café to write. I automatically order a coffee there, which occasionally makes me want a cigarette. When I give in to lust, I sit out and play with my cell phone while smoking. These are all automatisms that I only consciously control to a limited extent.
Coffee wasn't an option in February, so after years of habit I had to look around the menu again. With that, the desire for the occasional cigarette has completely disappeared.
Habits are shaped by a loop of trigger, routine, and reward. The trigger (when I visit the café) puts our brain on autopilot, we carry out our routine (work, drink coffee, smoke a cigarette) and then reinforce it with a reward (going out, scrolling through the Facebook newsfeed).
In order to change habits, the cravings for the routine must be turned off or changed. The best approach to this is to change the trigger and reward, or to insert a new routine into the existing loop. What is still missing for long-term successful change in a habit is the belief in it and the firm intention to create it.
How many of these automatisms are you aware of? Which of them harm you? How can you change the trigger or the reward? Why do you want to throw these routines out of your life? What will your life be like in 10 years if you don't?
At every moment we have the chance to change habits and thus give our life a different direction. We don't have to wait until the coming New Year or “the right moment” to do this. A “maybe” or “later” must be replaced by “immediately” and “definitely”.
Do you know what happens when living conditions change radically: the perspective changes and this gives us the chance to reevaluate ways of thinking.
Surely you have an opinion about raw foodists or vegetarians. You admire them, shake your head, or stand neutral towards them. Much the same thing happens in your head when a woman in a burqa walks past you or when a street musician plays on the S-Bahn.
It doesn't matter whether you call these associations prejudices, stereotypes or clichés in your head; they are usually not fair. Far too often we judge things and people on the basis of fewer details because we simply don't know any better.
For me, neither militant raw foodists nor eating meat 7 days a week are good options. Between these two extremes, however, there is an unbelievably wide range of possibilities that we can only see if we regularly question our rigid thought patterns again.
Outlook and open questions
My biggest gain from this experiment is questioning habits. After just a few days, I discovered some patterns in myself that I wasn't fully aware of. My great hope is to motivate you to question yourself and make small changes.
What I would like to keep for myself in the future are to avoid nicotine and caffeine, replace one meal a day with fresh juice, and severely limit meat, dairy products and processed foods. I will also continue to track my diet in order to get as close to a balanced diet as possible.
I've been asking myself a ton of questions over the course of this month. I haven't found clear answers for myself yet, but as is so often the case, good questions are worth much more than answering them.
Why do we actually eat 3 times a day? Why not once? Or 8 times?
Why are we the only living things that still drink milk after we are babies? And why from other species?
Why do so many of us eat so much processed foods, junk food, and meat when we know full well that it will shorten our lives?
How do I know when my body really needs something and when it's just a desire generated by habits or good marketing?
Why does all food have to be available at all times? Why not eat regionally and seasonally?
Isn't it a contradiction if, as a fruitarian, I don't want to harm any living being, but at the same time eat fruits that have traveled halfway around the world?
How did the food and pharmaceutical industries manage to make us dependent on supposedly quick cures instead of tackling the causes of disease?
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