Tuesday 17 February 2009

Monday 16 February 2009

A Fool For Fruit Pt 2 - 'Too Much Of A Good Thing?'

A few rather vocal people in the raw food world have been warning all raw fooders of the dangers of what they describe as 'overeating fruit'. In general (the advice varies) they feel that we shouldn't be eating more than a piece of fruit a day. One quite well-known raw fooder voiced his opinion that eating 15 bananas was 'crazy'.

Well...the raw food diet itself is 'crazy' to a lot of people out there, so it's interesting to hear one raw fooder telling others that their way of eating raw is 'crazy'.

There are many people thriving on high-fruit diets who believe we cannot 'overeat' on fruit, and, you might expect that, as a fruitie, I'd be giving the same answer. However, my feeling is that it is certainly possible to 'overeat' fruit, in some circumstances. But, equally, there will be instances where eating a large quantity of fruit is very far from 'crazy'.

My Foolish Statement (see Pt I) included the words:

'is attracted to, has desire for, has appetite for, enjoys the taste of'.

And my premise is that we can use these concepts as measures to assess whether or not we are 'overeating' fruit.

But, before going any further, must stress I'm discussing 'overeating fruit' within the context of a raw food diet - that is, a diet where no cooked food is eaten. I've heard several people complain that fruit makes them feel 'bloated', but on investigation have found they're on a high-raw rather than all-raw diet. Now, the cooked food commonly eaten in high-raw diets is baked (starchy) root veg and/or cooked grains. If fruit is eaten with, shortly following, or even within a few hours of this sort of food, there'll likely be problems. Fruit and starch are not a good combination digestively; the starch may be incompletely digested, resulting in discomfort. Also, heavy food in general stays in the digestive system a relatively long time. Fruit digests quickly, wants to exit quickly, but its exit is blocked by the heavy food. Result - fermentation, gas, blow-up, even pain. But it's not the fruit that's the culprit - it's the cooked food! (Note those on all-raw diets may experience similar if fruit is eaten with or shortly after relatively hard-to-digest food, such as nuts.) So, if you hear people warning against 'too much' fruit, do enquire as to their own diets - have they really given fruit a fair test themselves?


That over with, lets say we're on a 100% (or almost...) raw food diet. We're enthused by those waxing lyrical about fruit. And they all look so sparkly-eyed, glowing, healthy, vibrant, and, as we're the type that never does anything by halves, let alone 'gradually' (what's that?!), we...launch right into it!

  • Day 1 We're following a menu plan because we want to do things perfectly - we're a bit anal like that (we ignore the word 'suggested'). Menu says 'kiwi fruit'. We're not that keen on kiwi fruit and would prefer papaya. But the plan says kiwi fruit, so kiwi fruit it is. Kiwis in soup, kiwis in salad, kiwis in smoothies...

  • Day 2 The plan says bananas today. We've had them for breakfast, in lettuce wraps for lunch, and look forward to reporting in to the fruitie forum on how many bananas we've eaten! The triathletes there seem to live on bananas. We run, don't we? But, although bananas were tasting good this morning, they're really not now...So we mix them with strawberries and make a giant smoothie. Six more down the hatch!

  • Day 3 We ditch the menu plan - we're an independent thinker! We see mangoes at the supermarket. They're ripe, look so beautiful -altogether very enticing. And...expensive. We notice nectarines have been marked down. Conscious that our partner has been commenting on the price of 'all this fruit' and that we'll win brownie points if we can show we've 'saved money', we leave the mangoes and buy nectarines. They taste bland.

  • Day 4 The big box of cherimoyas we ordered has arrived. We love cherimoyas and eat four on the trot. We don't have a great desire for any more, but they're quite soft, and will surely go off in a day or two, and we've had it drummed into us that on no account must we 'waste' food. So we eat another four. Then we feel a bit sick.
Spot the error this enthusiastic new fruitie has made?

(Any resemblance to characters living or dead, eg the writer of this blog, is entirely coincidental.)

In each case, we're eating either a large quantity of a fruit that we don't actually desire in the first place, or we're eating way beyond the point at which desire for it ceased. We haven't, to use an oft-misused phrase, 'listened to our body'. Instead we're eating for Other People's Reasons.

About twenty years ago, Severen L Schaeffer wrote a book sub-titled 'A Revolutionary Approach to Nutrition & Health', called 'Instinctive Nutrition'. In fact, the central idea is not so revolutionary. It's basically saying that we will, instinctively, be drawn to the foods that give the nutrients our bodies need at any one time. Schaeffer makes it clear that we can only be confident our bodies are drawing us if the foods we are attracted to are raw foods. If we're drawn to any other sort of food...that's our devious minds getting in the way!

Instinctive eating theory explains why sometimes a fruit will taste delicious to us one day, and perhaps 'so-so' the day after. And why celery may taste good on the first stick, but unpleasant by the third. Some vitamins and minerals can be stored, and our body's storehouses might be so full of a mineral contained in one fruit that we may experience no enthusiasm for it for months, but, when reserves run low, develop a passion.

Schaeffer also tells us to look out for the alliesthetic 'taste change' that occurs when our body has had enough of whatever nutrients a particular food gives us.

Let's say there are 15 bananas in the kitchen. They're very spotty and will be past their best soon. Schaffer's theory says that if we really feel like those bananas we should start eating! But we should stop eating at the point at which the bananas stop tasting good to us. (Note that if we try to disguise the taste of the bananas by whizzing them up in a smoothie with other things, we are unlikely to be able to detect the taste-change point.) If we are still enjoying the bananas after the sixth or seventh, then - sure - eat more! But the theory also says that, if we really don't feel like eating them at all, it's far better to throw them out - put them on the compost - rather than put them into our bodies.

So, we shouldn't be eating large quantities of any fruit (or indeed any raw food) if true desire is not present. One of my favourite books of dietary (and non-dietary) instruction - The Essene Gospel of Peace - says 'for all that you eat...without desire, becomes a poison in your body.'

If we eat large quantities of a particular fruit when our bodies haven't set up any significant desire so to do, we could receive too much of certain nutrients, and not enough of the ones we do need. I'm not suggesting that problems would necessarily be serious, but could be enough perhaps to make us feel a little out of sorts and (incorrectly) deduce that the high fruit diet 'isn't working'.

Some people are concerned that they might obtain 'too much' potassium on a high-fruit diet. Although significant symptoms of potassium overload, even in those on high-fruit diets, are unknown, a fruitie expert told me that it is possible (although rare) that someone making an overnight switch from a diet with added salt to one without any might have a temporary excess of potassium in the short-term while their bodies are adjusting to the change. However, 'instinctive eating' theory does rather come to the rescue here, in that if we eat only those foods for which we truly have appetite, we have a built-in safety valve. As, if the body of a high-fruiter raw fooder really did have too much potassium, then it should set up a desire for, motivate a search for, fruits and other plant foods that are relatively low in potassium, and, say, higher in sodium, and if we follow our true appetites and select fruits we're truly attracted to rather than eating for Other People's Reasons, we should be OK.

A Fairtrade Banana Eating promotion was to have had an event where one million bananas would be eaten by 10,000 people - 100 each. It was stopped by doctors who said that high amounts of potassium from so many bananas could be fatal. I agree with the doctors. This would be a great example (glad it didn't happen) of people eating huge quantities of bananas almost certainly way past the point of true desire, not because they felt like doing so, but...to create 'news' for a promotion. But, if someone genuinely felt attraction and appetite for 100 bananas...

The high-fruit diet should, therefore, work beautifully for us, provided we select only fruits for which we have genuine desire, and stop eating them when that desire is no longer present.

And the good news is that nature has provided us with a variety of fruits from which to choose, and they will contain different levels of vitamins and minerals. And, sure, the majority of them don't grow near me in the UK, and I'm very glad that those living in the parts of the world that we migrated from thousands of years ago are sharing them with us!

Here's a beautiful account of 'instinctive eating' in action:

Victoria Boutenko ('12 Steps to Raw Foods'):

"When my family had been on raw food for two months, my children began craving different fruits. Sergei asked for mangoes and blueberries and Valya asked for olives and figs. The kids' cravings were so strong. I had to hustle to keep up with them. For example, I gave Sergei a mango. He ate it and wanted more. I bought him a whole case of mangoes thinking that would last him a week. He sat down and ate the entire case in a day, skin and all. He then said 'I wish there were more mangoes,' so I bought him another case.

The same thing happened with blueberries. I bought him a two-pound bag of blueberries and he ate it in one sitting. Valya liked figs. She'd ask for fresh figs, dry figs, black figs. She could never have enough figs; she also liked eating olives. During our travels that spring, we visited our friend Marlene. Marlene had a beautiful olive tree. There were olives underneath the tree already starting to rot. Valya said, 'I want to try them. Oh they are delicious.' I tried them. To me they were too bitter. Valya enjoyed the olives so much that she gathered them up in plastic bags to take with us.

The next step on our trip was a visit to Dr Bernard Jensen, a world famous clinical nutritionist. We asked Dr Jensen what Sergei needed to eat for diabetes. He looked in his books and told us that the best thing for diabetes is mangoes and blueberries. Wow. Then we asked him what Valya needed to eat to help her asthma. He said figs and olives."

How sad it would have been if Victoria, as a new raw fooder, had said to Sergei, 'Well, the raw food expert, X, warns that too much fruit isn't healthy, so one mango's all you're allowed.'

If our bodies are telling us, via desire, via taste, via pleasure, that a relatively large amount of a particular fruit is right for us, I suggest we eat in line with their directives. As, if we don't, and stop before their needs are satisfied, we will be dissatisfied. If we obey the diktats of someone else rather than the calls of our bodies, we could run short of certain nutrients. Some theorise that in these instances the body will then set up a search for what's missing. We may prowl around for more food, in a bid to find those missing things, and will be soft targets for the seductive calls of the mind...'aha, the raw food diet isn't satisfying you, is it?'

So, in short, let's eat lots of fruit if we have a genuine desire for that fruit, and enjoy every bite! And, if we don't, let's not.

And that's why I feel it's a pity to hear a raw fooder tell other raw fooders that eating 15, 30, whatever, bananas is 'crazy'. If, say, an active person has a desire to eat that many in a day, then what would be wrong with that? (By the way, a lot of high-fruiters 'mono-eat', that is, eat just one type of fruit in a day, or for several days, until their bodies signal a desire for another food - see 'Mono-eating - Or Just Eat An Apple Or Five'.)

But, the 'fruit warners' say it would be wrong to eat that many bananas (and if anyone's heartily sick of the b-word, substitute any other fruit!). They warn, either explicitly or implicitly, of all sorts of health horrors in store for those 'overeating fruit.' In Pt 3, I'll be discussing further whether there is justification for making healthy people on a raw food diet nervous of eating more than a piece of fruit a day.

Coming next...

A Fool For Fruit Pt 3 - Should Fruit Eating Carry A Health Warning?

Thursday 5 February 2009

A Fool For Fruit Pt I - The Fruit Warners

Too many times now, raw fooders have contacted me via the RawforLife website and said that they are 'eating very little fruit'. Why? Because they've been persuaded that anything more than a small amount of fruit, perhaps a piece a day, is 'over-eating fruit', and will result in all sorts of adverse health consequences.

A few days ago, after encouraging a raw fooder to eat all the fruit she desired, and feeling elated at her evident relief and joy, it was a tad depressing to see a host of messages on raw food forums issuing strong directives not to 'over-eat' fruit, and even saying that high-fruit diets are dangerous. Not even 'can be', or 'in some cases', but 'are dangerous.'

Now, the posts did contain advice (non-fruit-related) that made good sense, and, if acted on, could have a beneficial effect on the health of many reading. But these statements warning everyone about eating what was described as too much fruit run counter to the experience (and that includes long-term experience) of those on high-fruit diets. One poster named three people who shared his opinion and informed readers that 'it is foolish to claim they are wrong.'

Well, throwing caution to the wind...here's my Foolish Claim about fruit:

'If a healthy person (that is, a person without a serious pre-existing health problem*), on a raw food diet, is attracted to, has desire for, has appetite for, enjoys the taste of, what most would consider a large quantity of 'fruit in general', or a particular fruit, then it is healthy (not dangerous) to eat that quantity.'

*and there is evidence to suggest eating lots of fruit will be no problem in at least some of those cases - more in future Parts.

In other words, I'm suggesting that, in the majority of cases...

if someone feels like lots of fruit, and they eat lots of fruit, that's not 'over-eating fruit'.
if someone doesn't feel like lots of fruit, and they eat lots of fruit, that could be 'over-eating fruit'.

Those warning everyone about the (according to them) dangers of fruit-eating have become increasingly vocal. In many cases this is causing unnecessary anxiety to those new (and not so new) to raw food. I especially feel for those for whom the discovery (or rediscovery) of the delights of fresh fruit played a major part in their going raw (and in the transformation of their health), and are now bewildered.

It's sad to see those people drastically reducing their consumption of a food they so enjoyed eating - one of the very best things they can give their bodies - and at the same time spending a fortune on 'superfoods' and supplements (see 2008, August archive).

For the purposes of discussion, I will be using the terms 'high-fruiter' and 'fruit warner'.

Definitions as follows:


Raw fooders for whom at least two-thirds of food (by calories - roughly!) is fruit.

This group includes '811'ers - those who follow the teachings of Dr Doug Graham, who advocates at least 80% fruit. High-fruiters generally also consume high quantities of green leaves (an athletic man might consume several heads of lettuce a day) and a little fat (in the form of nuts, seeds, avocados etc). Note the majority are not fruitarians, or at least not in the sense that the world would understand the word. They don't live on fruit alone; their diet is fruit-based.

Generally, this group believes that the raw food diet can supply all the nutrients needed by their bodies and that, although a few supplement for B12, in general supplementation should not be necessary.

Fruit Warners

Raw fooders who eat very little fruit and warn others not to 'over-eat' fruit.

They also tend to consume lots of green leaves, but generally have more fat than the high-fruiters. Some follow a 'Hippocrates'-type diet, high in sprouts and wheatgrass juice. Some include cooked food, so would be more accurately described as following a 'high-raw' diet rather than a raw food diet.

Generally, this group believes that the raw food diet cannot supply all the nutrients needed by their bodies, and most, if not all, supplement - not only with B12, but also with various green (and white) powders, liquids, dried algae etc.

Note here we have a negative correlation. The more fruit eaten, the less the perceived need for supplements. The less fruit eaten, the more the perceived need for supplements.

Here's another. The more fruit eaten, the fewer supplements taken. The less fruit eaten, the more supplements taken.

Of course, correlation does not imply causality.

Division, unity...

Wouldn't it be great if raw fooders could forget their differences and come together in the interests of unity? Then perhaps the most vocal could focus simply on communicating those things we can all agree on. 'Eat raw!' springs to mind.

In fact, there was a meeting, held at the Hippocrates Institute, with the objective of promoting 'unity' in the raw food world. This is a laudable aim, and hats off to the person who came up with the idea. As the meeting was held in 2006, this is old news, and I wouldn't be mentioning it were it not for the fact that the meeting was referred to in a recent 'fruit warner' post, and those who have gone raw since 2006 might like to know more.

The meeting, billed as a 'historic Summit' included raw food leaders 'from eight countries', and was set up for 'establishing scientifically common standards for optimum health.' At this meeting, various 'standards' were agreed, amongst which were ones we can surely all agree on, eg the optimum diet should be 'high in nutrition', 'provide excellent hydration', etc. But 'standards' also agreed were:

'the addition of superfoods and wholefood supplements is advised', and that (the raw food diet should) 'contain only low to moderate sugar'.

The second of these effectively vetoes the high-fruit diet! And in so doing, is at odds with the teachings of many well-known raw food 'leaders', not to mention the diets of thousands of raw fooders all over the planet doing very well on high-fruit diets.

So I decided to find out a little more about the delegates (or at least the US/UK ones) who 'agreed' these 'standards. I found that several followed the 'Hippocrates' low-fruit diet and that some had businesses selling supplements. Fair enough. However, absent from the delegates list were high-fruiters, who of course by definition would never have given their agreement to the first of the two 'standards' quoted above. Neither did the list include any Natural Hygienists. who favour a high-fruit raw diet, and are also unlikely ever to have agreed (if they had been present) to the second 'standard' on superfoods and supplements either.

Unfortunately, Dr Doug Graham, one of the world's best-known raw food leaders, and an advocate of the high-fruit diet, was unable to attend, as the meeting was held in January, and he holds his Costa Rica retreats in January. But there are many other high-fruiters in the raw food world who surely could and should have been invited. Apologies to the organisers if in fact they were invited, but couldn't attend. (And if so, what a pity).

Now, I'm not sure that that panel of delegates would have been representative of opinion in the raw food world three years ago, and it certainly isn't now. Although I know this wouldn't have been the intention, referring to this meeting in a 2009 'fruit warning' communication does have the potential to confuse, as not everyone is going to notice the small print, eg the date (I missed that first time around!), and it could certainly give the impression to many that these 'standards' are consensus amongst 'raw food leaders' today, when patently they are not.

So, I very much hope that, should this Summit be repeated, the list of delegates can be more representative of the divergence of opinion in the raw food world on fruit (and supplements, for that matter). Dr Doug Graham is an obvious candidate for an invitation. But there are many other names that would qualify and should be considered by anyone planning such an event in the future. Some of them are luminaries, some aren't. Some have letters after their names, some don't. What they all have in common is that they are living testimonies to the high-fruit diet and, whether or not they have businesses, have written books, made videos, are all teaching others in various ways, if only by good example. (And if no one else can make it, I can! Quite fancy a trip to Florida.)


Now, one way in which I differ from certain other fruit enthusiasts is that I believe people can thrive on all sorts of raw food diet, and that high-fruit isn't the only way, or even the best way (is there even a 'best way'?). This is based on my observations of others, and my own experience. I spent the first year of raw very happily on a relatively-high-fat, raw gourmet, raw choc, lowish-fruit sort of diet. I felt healthier than since childhood, all sorts of ailments cleared up, and I had no problems staying raw (certain 811-ers who have difficulty believing that's possible on any diet but 811 will have to decide whether I'm a fibber or an oddity).

My own diet is around two-thirds fruit - on average. Some days I seem to live on persimmons. Other days just a little fruit. But I'm eating a lot more fruit now than when I first discovered raw. Why? Firstly because the longer I've been raw, the more fruit I've desired. Interestingly, it was only after moving from 95% to 100% raw that I fell in love with fruit completely, and my body started singing for it!

Second reason for eating more fruit? Vanity. I noticed that the high-fruiters looked particularly healthy and vibrant. In general.

So - I like lots of fruit. Others I know don't. Fruit doesn't rock their boat. And they're doing fine on that. There are accounts from history that suggest that human beings can thrive on all sorts of plant foods (and even two or three foods only) as long as they're not damaged. So, all sorts of raw food diet can be good. I can think of lots who are great examples of the raw food diet who don't eat much fruit.

Some people start low-fruit and then switch to a diet that includes more fruit, and prefer that - it suits them - that's the sort of diet that keeps them happy on raw. Some people start high-fruit, then switch to a diet that includes less, and prefer that - it suits them - that's the sort of diet that keeps them happy on raw.

But, some people who've chosen to eat very little fruit seem to be so convinced that they are 'doing raw right' and others are 'doing raw wrong' (and, so, might I add, are some of the high-fruiters as well...) that they are expending lots of energy telling those who do have an enthusiasm for fruit that not only should they not 'over-eat' fruit but are warning them either directly, by association or via hints, that all manner of awful things are likely to happen to them if they persist in this unhealthy practice.

I don't think it wise to eat large quantities of a fruit just because someone else has convinced us it's a good idea, or to try to meet a calorie target, if one does not genuinely desire that particular fruit in that quantity (see Foolish Claim earlier). I can see that, in a small minority of cases, an individual's past medical history may 'contra-indicate' the consumption of a large amount of a nutrient in a particular food. I also think it possible that such an individual's body might not set up a desire for large amounts of that food anyway. But - sure, a debatable, and hope you'll stay with me for when I discuss that in future Parts.

But the fruit warners are issuing blanket directives - they are saying 'you should not'. Ever. To everyone. Without knowing anything about the size, energy requirements, nutritional needs, physiological quirks, general state of health, appetites or taste preferences of their 'audiences'. They may have their opinions as to what is or isn't 'the ideal diet' but to start frightening healthy raw fooders who love and are obviously thriving on fruit into 'limiting' their fruit intake, to have people start to feel anxious about eating fruit for goodness sake, and to say that high-fruit diets are dangerous, is going too far.

And, although I'm only a small voice compared with some, I'll not sit back and watch people who do desire lots of fruit, whose bodies are crying out for it, denying themselves fruit, thinking that they 'shouldn't' have more than one mango, finish the punnet of cherries, spend a day mono-eating bananas, whatever, because of the pronouncements of what amounts to a very small group of people, without speaking out.

I've not come across any research yet that persuades me that blanket warnings to everyone saying 'you must not over-eat on fruit' are justified. I've not come across any research that suggests that it is correct to warn people in general not to have more than one piece of fruit a day. I've not come across any research that advises an average, healthy person to limit their fruit consumption, and that 'too much' fruit is 'unhealthy'.

I'll be looking at this in more detail in future Parts, but just a few points about...


If you ever hear someone refer to a 'study' that has linked fruit with such-and-such an ailment, find out if the study was actually about fruit.

Was the study about fruit, or was it about sugar? 'Sugar' covers a multitude of toxic substances, eg sugars extracted from foods (not just fruit of course), that is, stripped of the nutrients and fibre that came with them then heated, sugars processed into syrups, combined with additives etc. I'd guess 95% of the 'sugar' ingested by the average person (on a standard cooked diet) in a scientific study is not going to have been consumed within a fruit.

Was the study about fruit, or was it about fructose? Fructose is the name given to the sugar in fruit. But if the fructose ingested has been extracted from fruit, it has not been ingested in its naturally-occurring form. My googling reveals that fructose as found 'normally', that is, within fruit, is handled easily by our bodies. It's when it's extracted from fruit then added to other foods, usually as a 'sweetening agent' and sometimes as a preservative, that problems arise.

Was the study about fruit, or was it about fruit juice? Fruit juice is a fractured food; it is part of a fruit. And I'd guess that the fruit juice ingested by the people in these studies will have been pasteurised (cooked).

A raw fruit is a package of nutrients, all of which are there in precisely the right proportions to work together well in our bodies. The sugar is part of the fruit, and is there along with all the other vitamins, minerals, other nutrients (including some that scientists might not have even discovered/named yet), and the fibre.

High intake of unnatural substances like refined sugars, fructose (isolated from the fruit) and fruit juice will cause problems for the body.

But if anyone can show me a study that is truly scientific, that is, using good sample sizes, with carefully-matched control and experimental groups, or perhaps a longitudinal study of 'high fruit eaters' v 'low fruit eaters', that supports the idea that high consumption of whole fruit is unhealthy, please let me know; I can easily build it into the subsequent Parts of this article where I will be discussing the various health issues the Fruit Warners would have us believe that raw fooders as a group are going to run into if they 'over-eat' fruit (and if you're a bit late, I can edit).

As, I haven't found one yet.

Disclaimer: Debbie Took is not a doctor. Please assume she is talking out of her bottom. Anyone who is tempted to eat lots of fruit on the basis of this article is advised to consult a health professional first.

Coming up:

A Fool For Fruit Pt 2 - 'Too much of a good thing'?