The Fruit Diet: These Are the Alarming Health Risks to Know About

Popularized by Steve Jobs, we unpack what the fruit diet is and why it can be so risky.
paleo fruit variety

The fruit—or fruitarian—diet came into the limelight almost a decade ago after it was disclosed that Steve Jobs reportedly spent some time following it. So what did the tech innovator supposedly eat? Well, the fruitarian diet is a subset of veganism, but it's much stricter.

On this diet, not only do you rid your daily meals of meat and dairy products, but you also cut out other foods containing valuable nutrients including nuts, legumes, and grains. Even vegetable consumption is encouraged to be kept to a minimum on this diet. The only thing you can eat fruitfully is fruit. And that's about it.

Cynthia Sass, RD, CSSD, LA-based performance nutritionist, says that while fruit is very nutritious, too much of anything is neither healthy nor is it sustainable. By eating only fruit, you limit yourself to a specific amount of nutrients and miss out on others that are naturally occurring in other food groups. We asked Sass about her opinion of the fruit diet and about some of the adverse side effects one may experience while following the diet.

Is the fruit diet healthy?

The dietitian says that while relying on fruit as your primary energy source will deliver a plethora of vitamins and minerals, it's unlikely that the body will be able to utilize all of them at once.

Vitamin C, for example, is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning excessive amounts will be excreted through urine. It will not be stored in the body for later use like fat-soluble vitamins will. Fruit also doesn't provide all of the vitamins, minerals, macronutrients, and fatty acids you need to sustain good health.

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"Fruit alone cannot supply many of the raw materials the body needs for healing, repair, and maintenance, including protein," says Sass. "This imbalance can throw the body out of whack, which can lead to serious health risks if followed long-term. Even if you include some nuts and vegetables you won't obtain the spectrum of nutrients needed for health."

Ashton Kutcher famously tried the fruit diet while prepping for his role as Steve Jobs. He consumed an all-fruit diet for just one month and ended up being hospitalized two days before they started filming Jobs in 2013. He told U.S. News,  "I was doubled over in pain, and my pancreas levels were completely out of whack, which was terrifying, considering everything."

What are some of the risks that may come with adopting this diet long-term?

Sass says some of the most likely side effects that could occur if you take on the fruit diet long-term include:

  • a weakened immune system
  • susceptibility to injury
  • a decrease in bone density
  • anemia
  • fatigue
  • hair loss

"If you have diabetes or other blood sugar issues or a condition like PCOS, this diet may be especially inappropriate," advises Sass.

Nutrition can be described as a balancing act; you need specific types (and amounts) of certain building blocks and nutrients in order for the body to properly function.

"The goal is to prevent both shortfalls and surpluses," she says.

So, any diet that eliminates a significant amount of vital nutrients while at the same time boosting too much of others can ultimately hinder your body's ability to carry out normal processes.

"Nutrition is about balance," says Sass. "That may not be a sexy word, but it's a vital concept."

We'll keep eating our fruits in normal doses, thank you very much.

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Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more
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