By Claude Vigneault (a HappyCow member)
Recently I went from vegan to fruitarian, this is my personal experience of a 6 months fruitarian diet, my set goal is one year. I do not present what follows as a guide into the world of fruitarianism nor do I yet suggest it constitutes the one and only diet, the ideal diet, I don’t know yet. When questioning or altering our diet, I believe we must not only consider nutritionists points of view, but above all carefully listen to our body, and as time goes by, possibly modify quantities and varieties, observing on the way what could constitute bad mixes and good mixes for us under such or such circumstances, being receptive to our bodies’ feedbacks but at the same time considering that our body is undergoing changes, that it is regenerating and adapting, as in this case, to digest only living food, hence some temporary discomforts may be normal and worth enduring. I have to say that I would have come up with a better scientific study if I could have kept some variables more constant, like sleep time, exercises, etc… however this experience did change some of my views and I am closer to reach some conclusions. I accepted to share this experience here with the thought that maybe it can shed some light on aspects of what may happen when switching to a fruitarian diet, maybe some people who read this will relate to some points or maybe it will bring some questionings and answers that perhaps can help or inspire a few to take some decisions and to become more alert and careful, in view of what constitutes natural food for us, and what is more alien to our body.
Some fruitarians who will read about my experience, my diary, may be offended that I called myself a fruitarian even in the starting period when I did include some leaves, coconut, etc… I am very well aware of those shortcomings and use the term fruitarian here more to designate the fruitarian journey itself. My goal of one year should start at the point where I truly became a strict fruitarian. I have not come to this point from a challenge, I am simply experimenting, observing, feeling and trying to find ways to reconnect to some degrees with where I truly belong in the natural order, how I should relate to it, eliminating habits that alienates me from it, by first keeping outside of our society’s food industry, getting back to some basics and to simplicity. This study is far from a complete picture but it may incite some to do further researches, to seek out comments and advices from more experienced fruitarians…
For that one year period, I decided to have a limited use of soap, shampoo, and toothpaste and this is all very well as fruitarians’ body do not exude bad smell and teeth escape the types of food that are reputedly most detrimental to them; I wish I would be familiar with types of fruits that could be alternatives to soaps and toothpaste, I need to do more researches, I know only that tamarind can replace soap. I also avoid all other body care products such as sunscreens, mosquito repellents, etc… and I made a firm point of not taking any medicine (except for fruits) during that one year for any reason.
Since I started this journey, I must certainly have cut drinking in half in the first months then much more afterwards. On many days I do not drink at all, sometimes for many days in a row. It seems to be common among fruitarians. On an interview I have seen recently one said that she never drinks simply because she is never thirsty. Many fruits do have a high water content.
Do humans have a natural diet like other animals do?
Some monkeys eat very few kinds of leaves yet, from the sun, the air, water and these leaves alone they can metabolize all they need to develop their body (of which apparently we share about 93 to 95% of our DNA) and have a resplendent vibrant healthy long life (longevity is according to each species but herbivores tend to live longer). To every species of animals there is a group of specific food that is taking complete care of their body, they do not need to go beyond safe boundaries just to try new stuff nor do they go out mixing ingredients to create new dishes to their liking. In fact, out of the approximate 8.7 millions of animal species on this planet, we humans are the only species that cook their food. Did we human go astray? Where did it start to go wrong? Let’s assume that all animals in the wild have found what constitute the ideal foods to make their body strong and healthy, it is not hard to see that if we were to replace their natural food for something else it could hardly be believable that it would be more beneficial to them. From this assumption where do we humans find our ideal food? Are we still searching? Maybe we lost it a long time ago, we forgot what it looked like and this made humanity take a totally different journey. Let’s imagine what might have happened. Perhaps in the beginning, prehistoric humans had keener senses, they did not get fooled by the appearances of poisonous plants, fruits but at some point they became as disconnected from their natural heritage as we are today: they started to get fooled repeatedly, resulting in many death and severe sicknesses from food poisoning, then they went ahead imitating what other animals were eating (isn’t it what primates do, imitating?). Then as they moved when circumstances made their safe usual environment poor in food sources, they reached other places having different conditions, different plants. Through observing other animals, they found more and more edible plants, fruits and other part of plants, some available only in season. We can safely assume that humans started eating animals only from seeing animals eating other animals, because it is not in our instincts to eat animals, we are physiologically an herbivore species (so many information abound on the net, check this one for example: http://www.vegsource.com/news/2009/11/the-comparative-anatomy-of-eating.html ). So when edible plants were not enough, they started doing the same as the animals, not that we are omnivores by nature but more likely, our evolving intelligence was starting to overshadow our intuitions. We can maybe assume also that humans became reluctant to move again to distant places when they found a relatively safe location in this hostile world. When their main nearby food sources got depleted, instead of moving to unknown/unsafe locations, they further observed and imitated other animals and let themselves go against their natural instincts. Meat eating and other improper food became a habit that they allowed themselves to have, thanks to their expanding disconnection with their instinct, with their True Nature. It can be viewed that people becoming fruitarians are re-establishing this connection, this aspect of the connection.
We evolved with our environment, the biological system of every species has evolved with their environment. Some find their energy and needs in one variety of food alone, while others will have to eat many varieties of food daily: is it because their system is more complex? Or else is it less efficacious in metabolizing nutrients? Or is it not that the reason is to expand the possibilities of nourishment, getting away from specialisation so as to have a better chance at survival? We humans, evolved as herbivores (and quite possibly as fruitarians), there are ample evidence as we share many key features with other herbivorous animals and so much less with carnivorous animals. Not only did we evolve with our environment and developed our biological system in symbiosis with our environment as to be able to extract our daily needs in minerals, vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, etc… but we are MADE OF our environment. Creationism or evolutionism, it makes no difference, we have been created has an herbivorous species or we came this way by stages. So, if we want to regain our primordial health, it makes sense to connect with our True Nature and give up some of our social habits that go against our nature, especially the unhealthy ones.
Why did I decide to become fruitarian now at 48? Or rather, more interestingly, why didn’t I do it before? Of course habits, social conventions, high availability of ‘alien’ food created in vast varieties of tastes and textures from ever more clever processes to transform basic foods into tasty ‘snacks’ and ‘meals’, expanding ceaselessly the range of textures and prolonging their shelf lives to a maximum! Oh, but at what price! This is a whole subject in itself, what goes into processed food and mass produced foods, which chemical ingredients get allowed by the FDA (and why?!), this is the invisible part of our habitual food, the part we prefer not to see. I have decided to do a one year committed fruitarian diet, It took a few months to mature but once started, it was full time. This decision was basically in response to this world that is unscrupulously incorporating animal parts in ever expanding range of foods and household items. By giving up on all manufactured food, I simply affirm my primordial right to live without participating in this big machine that is completely cold towards the suffering of billions, without taking a part in this madness, it is a right to be able to live harmoniously with our surrounding.
Societies and mega-corporations geared for profit have become so depraved, barbarian and clever that it is now very difficult to avoid participating in their cruel ways despite our best vigilance. It seems that for one who does not want to participate in ways that rely on taking animals’ lives, the first gateway one would see is to go live a recluse life, ideally in nature, in the forest, to completely isolate oneself from this unhealthy society.
During my last trip, I went to a meditation retreat center in Malaysia for 2 weeks of voluntary work (they were offering 10 and 20 days retreats). The whole place was supposed to be strictly vegetarian (no eggs but some milk – in cookies or to go with hot beverages) – meals were to be completely vegan. It was forbidden to bring in meat you see. In the second half of my stay I found a bottle of Worcestershire sauce in the kitchen! This contains anchovies which are a type of small fish. The bottle was half emptied. When I told them in the kitchen it went on to the ears of the teachers who then said we have to get rid of it, it has to go out. After this discovery I made a 4 days fast, only water, even though I believe there was a very good chance that they did not use that particular sauce during my stay. However this had a powerful effect on me, I became more determined than ever to affirm my right to be able to feed myself without killing, without imposing suffering. I believe it is a most basic right, the right of being able to abstain from killing, in fact it should be added to the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’! So far the closest article of the Declaration would be in Article 20 (2): “No one may be compelled to belong to an association”… I would even say that people who do really live by this ‘right’ (to abstain from killing) should be respected and even praised in all societies. So, no more ‘looseness’ in my practice, meaning no more vegetarian or vegan restaurants, no more eating in monasteries as probably the great majority of those places do use, without knowing it, one or more ingredients that are not vegan, like refined white sugar, some enriched flours, some colouring, some… sauces. So I considered buying some cooking equipment or else go raw. I had to adapt, especially as I was travelling. At the beginning I restricted myself to only a few items from restaurants: plain white or brown rice is ok, mostly anything raw (very restricted choice in Asian restaurants!), maybe some steamed unseasoned vegetables… then at the market, more options: uncooked tofu, bean sprouts, many nuts, fruits, greens and vegetables, oatmeal, some brown sugar, unsweetened soy milk, etc…
2 weeks later, I met a fruitarian in Japan who has been fruitarian for 5 months already, his wife was a raw-vegan certified chef, seeing their relation with food opened my eyes: even though I have considered a raw food diet many times before and went almost completely raw for 3 months 2 years earlier, now raw food and more specifically fruitarianism became not only possible but a logical choice. These new friends also introduced me to the concept of mono-veganism of which I wasn’t aware: mono-veganism does make sense, even though contradicting the long time belief into ‘food complementarities’ or ‘food combining theory’ (according to this principle, we can get more out of 2 or more different type of food when they are eaten combined, so there are lists of ingredients that goes well together and lists of those that do not). I am not saying here that the ‘food combining theory’ is wrong or false, certainly many combination recommendations have validity, but maybe it does not apply to fruits. The main reason to eat only one type of fruit at a time – mono-fruitarianism – is that it allows digestion to be at its most efficient, assimilating more nutrients then when we have a complex mix of foods in our stomach. The enzymes and digestive fluids are more easily adapted to the specific food we eat if it is not made of complex mix of different things.
So my motivations started out perhaps as a stubborn will to affirm my right to feed myself without killing animals. Then I came to see that in the “not killing” I should include not only animals but plants as well, to eat only food that will not involve any direct killing, I liked that. I considered including all fruits, seeds and nuts (but not ground nuts), some leaves (when picking them is not obviously detrimental to the plant) and some edible flowers, and also I had no reason to exclude minerals like salt. I was not sure if there could be some grains of which the harvesting did not involve the plant to be killed or get seriously injured. So in the days before I started, I considered what should be excluded: all roots, stems, sprouts, most grains, most leaves that I cannot pick myself, etc… At the same time I decided that all of what I can eat should be eaten in their raw states. So this is how I started, one morning, and it was to be full time. Only gradually did I later eliminate from my diet seeds and nuts, leaves and flowers, and anything not fruits.
When I was vegan I had a lot of energy, I could do most anything for extended length of time, and in the very rare times I got exhausted, a few minutes rest would be enough for me to be ready to get going. Now being fruitarian, I feel as much energetic if not more and I am still almost never sick or suffering physical discomfort apart from some symptoms during the fasts and the occasional stomach discomfort after eating which never lasted more than some minutes. For more details you can check my short diary.
Now having been on a fruit diet for 6 months, I have the strong feeling that the myth that we need large amounts of proteins from outside sources is completely false, most possibly a fabrication from the meat and dairy industry. I have read from an article that human maternal milk has a little less than 3% of protein (another source says 0,9gr./100ml) and that the diet that comes closest to this figure is the fruitarian diet! From only eating fruits I feel no less energetic then when I was eating a higher protein diet… Then, what does prevent people from eating only fruits? Why don’t we see more fruitarians in our society? Although a lot of the people do really care about their health, most of them will still make unhealthy choices when it comes to food. I think the main reason for fruitarianism to be so unpopular lies in this: we have a deeply ingrained habit of mainly eating dead cooked food and this has a very specific effect on the stomach. I have experienced the change, it is so obvious when we stop eating cooked food for a while (say 1 to 3 months), and then eat a cooked meal again. Maybe the stomach when realizing it is full of difficult food to digest, dead cooked food, sends a signal to the brain: «Hey, up there! Enough of that! You think we are a factory down here to process all this stuff?! » Then somehow the brain grows accustomed to associate this particular signal from the stomach with a sense of satisfaction! Well, having a belly full of fruits, the signal is obviously not the same, I do know when I have enough but I do not feel that same sense of ‘satisfaction’ I had with cooked vegan meals. The signal to the brain is different, and in my case, it still hasn’t been linked with a sensation of complete satisfaction, it is probably something that takes time to come. This in my opinion is the greatest obstacle for people to make the switch to a fruitarian diet, not the more common belief that it would be the restraint from a vast array of tastes and textures we use to have as vegan or omnivores (with on top, the vast selection of highly processed variety of snacks and prepared foods that come in ever expanding choices of textures, appearances, tastes and … colours!). However I believe that this restriction would still come as a second deterrent in strength for most people. Perhaps the restriction on the range of food could be the main cause for giving up fruitarianism when this happens in the first weeks, but after that, if we keep going on eating only fruits, the absence of the signal from the stomach we used to have may very well be felt more strongly than the craving for certain tastes and textures.
Types of fruitarians:
There are various reasons to become fruitarian. Some do it for health reason, for others though, it is part of a spiritual path, being considerate to all life, including plants. The main point here is that eating fruits, one do not kill the plant but eating roots and stems, the plant is killed. According to harvesting methods, plants can survive losing some leaves, but most commercial harvesting would tear out the whole plant for their leaves. Some fruitarians may appear as somewhat stricter, they may avoid eating fruits’ seeds and so avoid those that have seeds too difficult to remove; some fruitarians even wait for fruits to fall down naturally from the tree. To those who deem that the seeds should not be killed and who consider that however, swallowing some types of small seeds (those hard to separate from the fruit) without crushing them during mastication, can actually be beneficial for them (the types that survives the digestive process and gets propagated this way), I am wondering how many do take measures to spread the precious digested seeds in an acceptable environment, to give them a chance to sprout and grow and thrive? There seem to be a vast number of people who call themselves fruitarians and yet would include non-fruit ingredients in their diet.
Nutrition is a very subtle science, it is extremely hard to gather clear data and to be sure, to know what our body needs, what our body can metabolize, what things can substitute others, what are the side effects of improper foods, and not talking about the needs of one that may for some reason differ from the needs of another. It gets incredibly complicated in people who are not completely healthy, whose body are not balanced, who have some failures in their internal organs, and so on. Only add stress and the whole system may not react correctly to what so far has been beneficial to it! So we have to be careful in nutrition, not to jump at general conclusions too quickly. I have always felt that we do not need to put our plates on scales before eating. If we eat wholesome food and we feel great all the time, there is no need to count, we can continue this way, staying close to our sensations and responding wisely to any different signs that may present themselves. What is wholesome food then? I would first say that the more a food is processed, the less wholesome it is. Basic health goes with basic food, what Nature first provided us with, and this means uncooked, unprocessed products of Nature. But how to be sure we are not missing on some essential nutrients? This question keeps up coming to us vegans and fruitarians, especially about proteins. Eating a variety of colours daily could very well be enough. Again we should not need to count calories and so on, just eating about 70 to 80% of our fill is enough. One thing I want to repeat is when we change our diet, our body needs time to adapt, it may go through phases with symptoms of unpleasant sensations, but when our health is back and that we gain a certain balance with the nature of our food, then strangely it kind of opens up a space for other types of healing to take place. I cannot say yet if fruits alone are enough, if it is and always has been the ideal food for us, maybe it is a combination of fruits and leaves that are best, not combined necessarily in a same meal but leaves as complement to what is not available in fruits if there is anything essential to us that cannot be found in fruits. There seem to be only one thing that points to fruits not being our natural ideal food, and it is something from Nature’s standpoint: it seems that eating too many fruits is not good for our teeth, that consuming fruits in large quantities is eroding our teeth and creating cavities! Is it true? Is it possible that our new GMO fruits that are invading our supermarkets have a much higher sugar content than their more natural heirloom counterparts?
The things I am sure of is that we are herbivores, cooking food is weird and need not be done and that eating only fruits for 6 months did not create any health problems to me, quite the opposite, I found it an excellent cleansing way, I felt I got a deep detoxification and surprisingly a number of physical problems did start to disappear. To anyone who would like to try being fruitarian for a while and who hesitates, I could only say that all the chances point out on this being a very beneficial experience, there seems to be no risk to do it for a few months. However perhaps one may require a more progressive approach, integrating fruits progressively, it could start with one meal a day, it could start with one day a week, and then you increase slowly, maybe this way you would avoid the 2 or 3 days of fever? However, I tend to believe that doing the jump to being 100% fruitarian from one day to the next is not so hard to do providing you have loads of your favorite ripe fruits at hand all the time. In any case, eating loads of fruits do not seem to create health problems, on the contrary. Some people out there have been fruitarians for 20 years and more, I am inclined to think that they do not have worse health problems than those associated with processed food, they are probably jumping and dancing around.