I’ve always been intrigued by something I’ve heard about raw food diets: the energy and mental clarity people say they experience while eating that way.
I’ve heard similar stories from numerous people over the years about how eating diet of raw foods only, especially fruit only, gives them a high, a mental lightness, extra mental and physical energy, and a deeper way of perceiving the world around them. One person says “the brain-fog lifted” when she switched to a fruitarian diet. Another describes the psychological transformation after going fruitarian is like “living in five dimensions instead of three”.
Raw foodists often say that they lose this mental clarity and perception if they switch back to cooked foods. I think I’ve even witnessed this: one person when I first met her was on a raw foods (though not fruitarian) diet, and she had a bubbly, energetic personality. Later when acupuncturists told her that a raw food diet was bad for her, she stopped eating raw. The change I saw in her was dramatic: after she started regularly eating cooked foods, she seemed almost under the influence of a sedative compared to her previous energy level on a raw foods-only diet.
All this got me curious.
The placebo effect is a powerful thing, and it’s certainly possible as an explanation for what’s going on here. But I’ve heard similar stories from so many different people over the years that I got to wondering if there really is something more than placebo, some real change in human physiology on this diet which improves a person’s energy level and way of perceiving the world while eating this kind of diet.
Basically, I started experiencing FOMO, fear of missing out. I feel like I’ve got pretty good energy and mental clarity on my usual diet of mixed raw and cooked plant foods, but hearing raw foodists and fruitarians talk about the spectacular energy levels and mental clarity they feel, I couldn’t help wondering if I’m missing out on some higher-order mode of experiencing the world I could achieve if I ate a raw foods diet.
So I decided to try it out: a 100% raw fruitarian diet, for one week, to see if I can experience the higher energy levels and mental clarity that raw foodists describe. Why a week? One reason is that when I asked a fruitarian friend what length of time it might take on a fruit-only diet for the extra energy and perception levels to kick in, she recommended a week. She said that she originally tried eating only fruit intending it as a seven day detox, and before the week was up she felt so transformed that she decided to take up the diet permanently.
Another reason for trying it out for just a week is that it seems very unlikely I’d accumulate any serious nutrient deficiencies or imbalances in that short a time. The human body has an excellent ability to manage short term fluctuations in nutrient intake, and a week is likely way too short to run into any significant deficiencies.
(I know people who’ve been on a fruit-only diet for years, and they seem quite healthy.)
But I also had a more practical reason for trying out the diet for a week: fruit supply. Where I live in North Florida is above the winter frost line, so there isn’t a great abundance of tropical fruits. But on a recent trip to the fruit-growing regions of South Florida, I brought back a sizable haul of tropical fruits, including some of the rich, calorically dense fruits of the tropics that I thought might provide enough calories to keep an active person like me going. If I had to depend on the sparse fruit offerings at typical grocery stores, it’d be difficult for me to subsist on fruit, but with dense fruits like mamey and sapodilla and various gourmet varieties of banana available, it seemed a lot more achievable. Looking at this load of tropical goodness I’d brought back, it seemed like as good a time as any to test out how I’d fare on an all-fruit diet.
I understood that sticking to a fruitarian diet over the long term might require some careful nutrient-tracking to insure an adequate balance of nutrition. My plan was to try out a fruit diet for that one week, just to see how I felt, without bothering to track calories or other nutrients. If by the end of that week I’d experienced such a great positive transformation in how I felt that I wanted to continue eating this way, then I’d start weighing and measuring what I ate, tracking it in a nutrition app, and experimenting to see if it’s possible to maintain that higher energy level on a more diverse diet.
So I decided to just go with the fruits I had. Here’s a list which covers most of the fruits I ate that week: mango, jackfruit, lychee, soursop, mamey, multiple varieties of banana, mangosteen, a couple kinds of passionfruit, sapodilla, casimiroa (aka white sapote), jaboticaba, mammee apple, ciruela, chocolate pudding fruit, cacao fruit, dragonfruit, tamarillo, and sprouted coconut (technically not a fruit, but I know fruitarians who eat it regularly and they don’t seem to find it interfering with their ongoing fruitarian high). Which fruits I ate on any day was largely determined by what was ripest that day, as I worked my way through this bountiful fruit stash.
The first few days, much of the fruit I ate was mamey and gourmet varieties of bananas. Partly this was because they were ripest, but also I was thinking that on this kind of diet, I’d need to pay attention to keeping my calorie intake up, and those seemed like a good, calorie-dense foods to eat as a staple.
Right away, I was surprised by how filling these all-fruit meals were. I often found myself feeling satiated after eating a few “Praying Hands” bananas, a mango, and a slice of mamey – less food than I would have expected to eat before feeling satisfied.
On days one thru three, I felt generally really good, and it seemed like I was adapting well to this diet.
But mid way through day four, I had an episode of something seeming off-balance. I couldn’t quite place what it was, but on some deep level I sensed I wasn’t quite getting what I needed from these meals heavy on mamey and bananas. I felt like I just couldn’t stomach eating another banana, even these fantastically delicious gourmet varieties that had been matured properly on the plant. I sat down, trying to pay attention to what my body was telling me, and I considered ending the experiment early. Then I got up and looked at my stash of fruits in the refrigerator, and noticed how enticing the lychees looked. I devoured a bunch of them, one after another, and those juicy sweet-tart lychee fruits seemed to satisfy whatever the imbalance was that I’d been feeling. I remembered that fruitarian Fit Shortie had mentioned numerous times how she felt the need to include lots of “juicy fruits” in her diet. Apparently I’d just run into the same need. From that point on in the week, I made sure to include a balance of juicy fruits (lychees, mangosteens, passionfruits and mangoes) along with the non-juicy bananas and mamey fruits I was eating, and that feeling of something being off-balance did not return.
Overall, I felt pretty satiated on this fruit diet. I had good energy levels and I didn’t feel hungry between meals. At the same time, I sometimes felt something else in the background: it wasn’t actual hunger, but a faint, lingering craving for something else, something more dense. On my kitchen shelf was a bag of pecans and almonds. I found myself eyeing these nuts, thinking how nice it would be to dig into that bag. But I held off, to give this fruit-only thing a full trial, telling myself I could eat the nuts in just a few days.
I made it to the end of the week, the moment I’d set as my big decision time: whether to stay on this this way of eating or not. Adding pressure to my decision, at this point my stash of those wonderful tropical fruits was just about gone.
At that seven-day mark, I had found the answer to the question I’d wondered for years – was I missing out on something big by eating my usual diet of cooked foods along with raw? Would subsisting on a fruit-only diet allow me to experience a higher level of mental clarity and energy level, a deeper perspective on myself and the world around me?
After a full week on a raw fruitarian diet, here is the big result of my experiment: I felt completely… normal. My usual self. No grand change in mental clarity, no boosted energy level. No five-dimensional perception of the world, just the good old regular three dimensions. Other than that brief episode I described on day four, I felt really good while I was eating an all-fruit diet. But I feel really good on my regular diet of both raw and cooked plant foods, and I didn’t notice any particular improvement in how I felt during my fruitarian week.
So after seven days on raw fruit, I declared the experiment complete, and I resumed my usual diet of fruit alongside other cooked and raw plant foods. There are so many outstandingly productive, nutritious, and delicious food plants which require cooking to become edible, like white potato, sweet potato, true yams, lots of leafy green vegetables, and many kinds of beans. To me it seems a pity to deny oneself these excellent sources of nutrition. Yes, cooking can break down some nutrients in some foods, but it can also make other nutrients more available. So I figure it’s best to balance it out with a mix of raw and cooked foods.
I did notice one big change upon my “re-entry” to eating heavier foods: in just one week, my taste buds had gotten WAY more sensitive to fat content in what I was eating. The only significant sources of fat I’d consumed that week were three sprouted coconuts (I only ate the fluffy part, not the fattier coconut meat still clinging inside the shell), and a few cacao beans (eaten along with the cacao fruit flesh). So it was a pretty low-fat diet for that week. Remember that bag of nuts I’d had my eye on all week? I made sure that when I ended the week, those nuts were one of the first non-fruit things I ate. I was shocked when I tasted the pecans and almonds at how intensely rich and fatty they seemed. It was almost too much to handle. I expected to devour much of the bag, like usual. Instead I ate just a few nuts and set the bag back on the kitchen shelf, with no desire to eat any more at that moment. I’ve since re-acclimated to to fatty foods and I no longer have that extreme sensitivity to fat content in foods. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not.
Another change which happened is that I lost three pounds that week. (I’ve since gained them back). I have no idea if those three pounds were muscle, fat, water retention, or what. Normally I eat lots of high-fiber cooked and raw vegetables and beans. It’s possible that my digestive system normally is carrying some of this dietary bulk which it’s processing, and maybe the fruits were so much lower in fiber that a much larger percentage of the mass of the food I ate was getting absorbed by my intestines. With only a seven-day trial and not having done any body mass measurements, it’s hard to say what those three pounds were.
Even though I didn’t notice any boost in energy level or mental clarity, I did experience one curious psychological change while eating all fruit: an increased fascination with the topic of food. Normally food is a pretty interesting topic to me, but things went to another level that week. Previously I had browsed the back catalog of the BBC’s podcast ‘The Food Program’, and had downloaded a few episodes which had sounded interesting. During my fruitarian week I returned to the back catalog, and scanning those same descriptions, suddenly almost every episode sounded utterly fascinating. I downloaded and listened to most of the old episodes of ‘The Food Program’ that week. Admittedly, this sounds like the kind of obsessive behavior that a really hungry person would do, but that’s the funny thing about it: I was not feeling hungry.
What do I conclude from this dietary experiment? The biggest takeaway for me is that I no longer have “fruitarian FOMO”. I just don’t experience those higher mental and physical states which some people say they experience on a raw, all-fruit diet, at least not during a one-week period. Apparently a fruitarian diet affects different people in different ways – or maybe those people are really just experiencing an extended placebo. It’s also possible that my own lack of significant results could be the placebo effect, working the opposite way. But I wasn’t approaching this with the mental attitude of trying to disprove anything, I tried this diet because I really was interested to see if I could experience something new and positive out of it.
Maybe if I tried out a raw fruitarian diet for longer than a single week, I might experience those kind of effects. But for now, my curiosity is satiated. I still eat lots of fruit, but I eat it along with a diverse array of other raw and cooked plant-based foods.
Have you ever experimented with a raw/fruitarian diet, or do you eat that way now? Have you experienced the “fruitarian high”? Please leave a comment describing what you’ve experienced.