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, 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?


Liz said...

I read a post last week about someone else pointing out that no, it's really not a good idea to eat 30 bananas in a day just because they're fruit. Made me laugh. How can people be so silly? I was pleased to see you include the Victoria Boutenko article on eating instinctively, because I really admire her and take to heart her advice. She's included in a GREAT book on the raw food diet, Live Food Factor by Susan Schenck. Boutenko wrote the forward. And there's also a forward or testimonial by Dr. Vetrano, who had a healing and fasting clinic for 50-some years. She is now 81 and still roller skates, does ballet dancing, and there is even a photo of her in the book climbing a tree! This book also got an award as "Most Progressive Health Book of the Year." It's really worthwhile.

Debbie Took said...

Hi Liz

Many thanks for your recommendations, although I do in fact have Susan Schenk's very comprehensive book. I'm also halfway through a Natural Hygiene course which includes many articles by Dr Vetrano. I've been trying to get hold of a copy of her book 'Errors in Hygiene?', but US sites stocking it won't ship to the UK. If you or anyone else reading this knows someone who will, please get in contact with me via the site.

Debbie Took said...

To Brebu
Please contact me via the Contact Page on re your recent query.
Love, Debbie