Plant-based diets are nothing new in the world of nutrition, so you’re probably pretty familiar with what it takes to be vegetarian or vegan. But here’s something novel: A TikTok trend dubbed the frugivore diet has put its own spin on plant-based eating, suggesting that fruit should be front-and-center on our plates—and that eating this way supports weight loss, helps the body detox, increases energy, decreases inflammation, and more. But does this whole-food, seemingly health-focused diet possess the power to finally bring all your health and weight-loss goals to fruition? (Pun definitely intended.) As a registered dietitian, I have some thoughts.
What is the Frugivore Diet?
Proponents of the frugivore diet refer to it as the “biologically appropriate diet for our species,” the “natural human diet,” and therefore “the healthiest” diet we can eat. They say that since our human biology is most similar to that of natural tropical frugivores (think apes and chimpanzees), we are designed to eat a similar diet.
So what do frugivores eat? They consume foods that can be foraged in nature—mainly fruits, but also some greens, nuts, seeds, and roots. (In some cases, frugivores may eat small amounts of other animal proteins, but this seems to be less common.)
Frugivores are encouraged to eat as much fruit as they need to feel satisfied. A traditional frugivore diet is based on tropical fruits, but most people consume whatever fruits are available to them. These can include some fruits we often consider vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, zucchini, and eggplant. High-fat fruits like avocados and coconut can also be incorporated into the diet.
In the “what I eat in a day” frugivore posts on TikTok, people share diets that involve everything from half a watermelon or a seven-banana smoothie for breakfast, to a liter of orange juice as a snack, to eleven mangoes for lunch, to four sweet potatoes and a large salad for dinner. Yes, really. Frugivore meals include very large portions of ripe fruit, and sometimes some root vegetables, greens, and nuts or seeds.
Should You Try this Fruit-Based Diet?
Ready for a dietitian’s take? I love fruit, and I spend a lot of time encouraging my own clients to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their daily eating routines. However, I believe fruit is meant to be one part of a balanced diet—and consuming excessive quantities could have some serious pitfalls.
Also, just to respond to the notion that we should all be getting back to our roots of eating like gentle fruit-loving apes…I’m guessing the people making this claim have never seen the videos out there of chimpanzees hunting and eating other monkeys. (I don’t recommend looking that up, but you can read more about chimpanzees’ hunting practices here.)
With that in mind, there are some pros and cons of going full-on frugivore to consider if the influencers in your feed are luring you in.
Of course, fruit is chock-full of nutrients! High in micronutrients such as beta-carotene and vitamin C, folate, and potassium, fruits can support healthy immune function, eyesight, blood pressure, and more. Additionally, studies show that a diet high in fruits and vegetables decreases the risk of disease and weight gain.
Fruit is also a great source of fiber, and someone who follows a frugivore diet will likely meet their daily fiber goals (which are 25 grams for women and 38 for men). Fiber contributes to a healthy gut microbiome, increases satiety, helps balance blood sugars, and supports healthy cholesterol levels. So, all good things there, too.
The other benefit I see here is the lack of processed foods. Focusing on consuming whole, real foods is always a plus in this dietitian’s book!
On a very practical level, the sheer cost of a fruit-based diet alone could be inhibiting for many. While buying moderate quantities of in-season fruits can fit into most people’s budgets, purchasing the mass volumes of fruit—and especially specialty tropical fruits—recommended on this plan would add up to a hefty grocery bill quickly. (A single mango costs between one and three dollars; consider eating eleven mangoes for one meal.)
Also, while fruit has numerous health benefits, it still contains sugar—and excess sugar can be a problem, especially for those with blood sugar regulation issues (think diabetes or hypoglycemia). Our pancreas produces insulin that, when released into the blood, helps to regulate the amount of sugar circulating through our system. While someone with a properly functioning pancreas and insulin sensitivity may be able to get away with large quantities of fruit (at least for a while), those with a compromised system likely can’t.
Additionally, while fruit is high in certain nutrients, it’s lacking in others—and a fruit-based diet increases the likelihood of major nutrient deficiencies. For example, most fruits are not good sources of iron, zinc, vitamin D, calcium, iodine, or vitamin B12. Furthermore, fruit doesn’t contain much protein or fatty acids (avocado and coconut are the exceptions on the fat front). If you were really diligent about incorporating nuts, seeds, and roots, you might be able to scrape by and meet your very basic protein needs. However, this won’t be easy or sustainable for most. And if you have higher activity levels or metabolic needs? It would likely be impossible to meet your increased protein needs.
As for the weight loss angle: I don’t see the frugivore diet as a healthy or sustainable way to do it. Might you lose some weight initially? It’s possible. Eating primarily fruit could naturally result in a calorie deficit that produces a lower number on the scale. However, you’ll likely also be losing a high percentage of muscle mass due to low protein intake, which will make it harder to keep that weight off over time. Some people might actually see weight gain with this plan. While fruits aren’t terribly calorie-dense, the calories can really add up when you’re eating massive quantities of them—especially if you start adding in nuts and seeds.
The Bottom Line
Although I can appreciate the desire to eat a more natural diet that includes an abundance of fruits and vegetables, I see the frugivore diet as an unsustainable, and, quite frankly, unhealthy diet to follow for weight loss or overall health. TikTok influencers may have the best intentions, but I would steer clear of this trend.
Rather than going completely (or even mostly) fruit-based, try increasing your fruit and vegetable intake to meet the minimum five-servings-per-day recommendation. Or, if you’re feeling ambitious, aim for six to 12. Doing so will increase your nutrient intake and decrease disease risk. Eating more fruits and vegetables will often reduce your overall caloric intake, as well, because they’ll be crowding out high-calorie, less nutrient-dense foods.
From there, balance out your fruits and veggies at each meal by adding three to six ounces of a protein (chicken, fish, beef, tofu), up to a cup of a high-fiber starch (quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, beans), and up to two tablespoons of some healthy fats (olive oil or nuts). Now that’s a well-balanced meal template I can get behind!
Rebekah Feemster, R.D.N., L.D.N., is a registered dietitian nutritionist with a passion for food and fitness. She completed her didactic degree at Missouri State University and her dietetic internship at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. She also holds a Certificate in Adult Weight Management from the Commission on Dietetic Registration. Rebekah has experience working in a variety of health and wellness settings including hospitals, corporate wellness, fitness and rehab facilities, and holistic health. Rebekah finds joy in sharing her nutrition knowledge and helping others develop a healthy relationship with food and their bodies. When she’s not talking about (or making) food, you’ll find her outside doing yoga, hiking, or tending her backyard chickens.