Why the heck are you all afraid of fruit?

by (163) Updated May 06, 2014 at 12:43 AM Created March 23, 2012 at 8:37 PM

One of the biggest arguments for the paleo diet is that humans are genetically the same for about 2 million years and lived off that same diet. Evolution takes a very very long time. For over 90 percent of that time Humans lived in a TROPICAL climate with fruit year round. Humans didnt leave Africa until about 50k years ago.

I dont understand how you can call yourself paleo and not eat fruit, which was one of the main parts of our ancestors diet.

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38 Replies

1602 · March 23, 2012 at 9:23 PM

Because this is paleohacks.

I can't tell whether half these threads are trolls or just mother nature letting her ''special'' children have a place to play.

5115 · March 23, 2012 at 9:12 PM

I didn't know there was a we that were all afraid of fruit. On the other hand, I'm not sure how much time you've spent in Africa, gorging yourself on the wondrous bounties that nature provides. They really are spoiled for food availability over there. On my third hand, I might note that while we may have eaten plankton in our evolutionary past and retain an impressive array of abilities, as a species we were largely genetically selected to survive the ice age hunting mega-fauna. And my fourth hand might remark that fruit today would be scarcely recognisable to our ancient ancestors.

You can argue against all these of course, but just ignoring them doesn't make for a very convincing rant.

4911 · March 23, 2012 at 9:00 PM

I'm not scared of fruit. No sirree, I totally dominate berries and I figure with all my crossfitting I'll be able to take on a grapefruit one of these days. Long term goal: a melon.

4232 · March 24, 2012 at 1:47 PM

For me it's just personal experience, and symptoms like I'm having today.

Yesterday afternoon I was in the grocery store, saw some perfectly ripe mango and thought, why not? It's been two years since I had one back home in California, and about a week since I've had any kind of fruit at all.

I bring one home, peel it, eat it. It's delicious.

By ten in the evening I've got a massive craving for sugar of any kind. ANY kind. I nearly tore into some Larabars but decided to just go to bed instead.

I slept like shit, then I overslept. This morning my joints hurt, my head hurts, I'm ravenously hungry and I never ever wake up hungry, I'm craving the damn Larabars already, I'm stiff, I'm irritable (on a Saturday morning), my eyes are crusty and I have the beginnings of a cystic blemish on my chin. [Edited to add: Also, my tongue is furry and I'm having a hard time waking up even after two hours.]

This particular constellation of symptoms happens to me every time I eat more than a very, very small handful of berries or fresh-juiced lemon (I do lemons pretty nearly every day). Seriously, every time. Bananas, apples, figs, pomegranates, grapes, doesn't matter.

I don't avoid fruits for evolutionary reasons, science reasons or dogmatic reasons. I avoid them because I quite simply don't like how they make me feel after I eat them. Which is pretty "Paleo" by my definition.

20762 · March 23, 2012 at 9:07 PM

I'm not going to comment on the goodness/badness of fruit. But I always cringe when one of these fruit questions comes up. First some statements from "the authorities":

  • Eat your heart-healthy whole grains, they lower cholesterol and protect your heart
  • Stay away from artery clogging saturated fat
  • Don't eat red met, it'll kill you
  • Make sure you eat lots of fruit it's good for you

For some reason, paleo-folk have no problem with ignoring the (bad) advice in the first three, but hold dearly onto #4 (or at least the people asking the "what's bad with fruit" questions over-and-over).

If we can accept that whole grains are bad, saturated fat and red meat are good for you, why do (some of) the paleo folks have a hard time accepting that fruit may be bad for us?

If you want to go all "evolutionary approach" on it, you're only going to have fruit available (in large quantities) at the end of the summer when it's all (naturally) ripe. That's when you stuff your face with it to fatten up for winter.

6849 · March 23, 2012 at 9:04 PM

Er, I'm not. I already ate 3 bananas and an orange today... and it's only 2pm.

1095 · March 23, 2012 at 8:45 PM

Some people have a problem with fructose and the amount of carbs, so I imagine that's why they try to avoid it. I try to make it a treat since I'm trying to lose weight.

But God knows once I hit my target weight, I'll probably eat it every day. :) I kind of agree with you on that. I don't understand why some people say we should only eat fruit in season, when some people have it year-round in quite a bit of the world.

1852 · March 23, 2012 at 9:58 PM

I think it's worth pointing out that if we modern humans tried to eat the fruit that our ancestors were eating "year round" (year round? dubious claim), we would probably have a hard time putting it in the same category as the apples and bananas we pick up at the store. The sugar content of the fruit we eat today is significantly higher than that of the wild fruits that were available back in the day.

That said--I think your premise that all paleo folks are fruit phobic is pretty unfounded.

77338 · March 23, 2012 at 9:08 PM

I don't think there is a conflict between fruit and Paleo. I eat tons of fruit. I think that if you are trying to drop weight as fast as possible you want to avoid it because the fructose will slow that down. However, I think there are so many other foods to avoid that fruit is really the least of my worries.

I think the taste, nutrients and fiber that fruit brings makes it one of the best things you can eat if you are at or near your target body composition.

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10077 · March 24, 2012 at 12:05 PM

I think the major reason is that fructose is easily over-consumed, resulting in obesity and diabetes in modern society. The paleo connection is that our ancestors would only have had fructose-rich foods available seasonally. Affordable access to fresh fruit in temperate climates is very recent - only over the last 50 years - not paleo by any stretch.

77338 · March 24, 2012 at 9:29 AM

I sometimes wonder if the people that ask questions about why some of us rarely eat fruit, think that the tropics look like something from a Del Monte commercial? lol. Do people in the tropics really gorge themselves on fruit every day? Is there that much wild fruit availabe?
I really like fruit but find that I don't do well on it at all, so I tend to not eat any for months on end. I'm sorry if that ruins the day of somebody that insists on getting his or her "5 a day" but I like to suit myself and not some government guideline.
I get a bit tired of hearing about how "fruit is really good or us" when I have never noticed any benefit at all but have noticed belly aches and a sore mouth after eating fruit. I may have mentioned this before but there is a toothpaste commercial in the UK where they talk about people eating a "healthy diet" that includes fruit and that the acid in fruit erodes the enamel off of our teeth. Just how healthy is something that erodes away an important part of our body?

366 · March 23, 2012 at 9:39 PM

For some reason people are very of afraid of carbs and think paleo eating should be low carb eating. Fruits and veggies are the healthiest thing you can include in your diet and should be the focus of your diet, along with a healthy protein source. Dont focus so much on the carb number, rather more on the quality of the food and carbs you are putting into your mouth.

3737 · March 23, 2012 at 9:00 PM

Which ancestors are you referring to? There's not much evidence about consumption of fruit unfortunately. We know that our distant ancestors left the trees where fruit was located to eat more meat however. Molecular biology seems to indicate that fruit in combination with other toxins are ok up to a point but for us it's much lower than other primates because they have larger livers and can detoxify a larger amount than us. That's why PHD recommends consuming up to 1.5 cups of fruit per day.

614 · July 03, 2012 at 2:27 AM

Diets of modern hunter-gatherers vary substantially in their carbohydrate content depending on ecoenvironments: results from an ethnographic analysis

Abstract In the past, attempts have been made to estimate the carbohydrate contents of preagricultural human diets. Those estimations have primarily been based on interpretations of ethnographic data of modern hunter-gatherers. In this study, it was hypothesized that diets of modern hunter-gatherers vary in their carbohydrate content depending on ecoenvironments. Thus, using data of plant-to-animal subsistence ratios, we calculated the carbohydrate intake (percentage of the total energy) in 229 hunter-gatherer diets throughout the world and determined how differences in ecological environments altered carbohydrate intake. We found a wide range of carbohydrate intake (≈3%-50% of the total energy intake; median and mode, 16%-22% of the total energy). Hunter-gatherer diets were characterized by an identical carbohydrate intake (30%-35% of the total energy) over a wide range of latitude intervals (11°-40° north or south of the equator). However, with increasing latitude intervals from 41° to greater than 60°, carbohydrate intake decreased markedly from approximately equal to 20% to 9% or less of the total energy. Hunter-gatherers living in desert and tropical grasslands consumed the most carbohydrates (≈29%-34% of the total energy). Diets of hunter-gatherers living in northern areas (tundra and northern coniferous forest) contained a very low carbohydrate content (≤15% of the total energy). In conclusion, diets of hunter-gatherers showed substantial variation in their carbohydrate content. Independent of the local environment, however, the range of energy intake from carbohydrates in the diets of most hunter-gatherer societies was markedly different (lower) from the amounts currently recommended for healthy humans

77338 · July 03, 2012 at 1:43 AM

Certain gut bacteria love the carbs from fruit, particularly the ones with the short chain fermentable kind.

So it's not a question of fruit but rather of the type of bacteria that have colonised your intestine that you should be afraid/not afraid of. :)

3990 · March 24, 2012 at 8:15 AM

There is nothing wrong with fruits if you are not metabolically deranged or fructose-sensitive. I have written a post about fruits and the Paleo diet here:

1540 · March 24, 2012 at 12:15 AM

Please consider this:

"The Expanding World of Early Homo

As predicted by the variability selection hypothesis, hominins were not found solely in one kind of habitat, but rather in a variety. A major signal of the ability to tolerate different environments was the dispersal of hominins beyond Africa and into Asian environments. After 1.8 Ma, hominins are found in a variety of locations in Asia, including some that are relatively far north. Compare the ranges of Australopithecus afarensis and Homo erectus.

Early evidence of the diversity of Homo erectus environments in Asia includes the following sites:

  • Dmanisi, Republic of Georgia, 1.7 Million years ago. This site has grasslands surrounded by mountains with forests. Hominins had access to lava as a raw material for tools.

    Yuanmou, China, 1.7 Million years ago. This site, located near an ancient lake, had a mixture of habitats with grasslands, bushlands and forests.

    Nihewan Basin, China, 1.66 Million years ago. The Nihewan sites were also near a lake. They experienced many changes in vegetation over time, with habitats ranging from forests to grasslands. This region may have been much more arid than others, and temperatures changed seasonally between warm and cold.

    Java, 1.66 Ma: Hominins here encountered grasslands, rivers and marine coastal environments in a tropical latitude setting.

In these locations, hominin groups encountered distinctly different environments, different plants and animals and foods, and different climatic conditions – both an increased temperature range and wide variations in aridity and monsoonal rains."

We did not all reach our current form in the same environment, or the fantasy environment where Raquel Welch wears fur.

418 · March 23, 2012 at 10:28 PM

I eat fruit. It has great nutrition. I think its silly not to fruit unless you have an allergy.

45 · May 29, 2013 at 8:39 PM

Lol sounds like many of these "fruit phobic" paleo-ers either 1: don't read research, 2: put everything with "carbs" in one box, and/or 3: haven't traveled much.

I lived in Brazil for a year and spent two weeks in the Amazon where I was frequently mingling (i.e., dining, being taken on tours, fishing) with a local tribe. These people live HEAVILY on fruit and fish. Very little vegetables in the Amazon, mainly just leafy greens. So thats it, fruit, fish, and leafy greens. For a population that has almost no contact with the outside world, doesn't farm (so they aren't "selectively breeding" their fruit to be sweet....because its already SUPER sweet), and don't gorge on fat (relatively few fatty sources aside from coconut) they are in fantastic shape. Didn't see any 24H fitness centers or crossfit gyms around the Amazon either, they didn't really seem to do any sprints, did some walking maybe but not hours at a time by any means. They did climb trees though which burns some SERIOUS energy.

So for people that think we didn't eat fruit and that all the fruit available today is genetically modified or selected for their sugar content, look up some of the fruit that available in the Amazon.....wait for it....YEAR ROUND!!! Many of these are far sweeter than the typical apple, orange, pear, and peach we get here in the states.

As far as research related to fruit intake, I thought I'd do a search using Type 2 Diabetics because it doesn't get too much more insulin resistant than T2D lol....except for maybe PCOS. (WORK/FAMILY SAFE) (WORK/FAMILY SAFE)

401 · July 03, 2012 at 9:11 AM

Because many people don't employ 'moderation'. Whether you're climbing trees to pick your coconuts, or busting shells for nuts - you're earning your snack. If you're waddling up to the cashier and unsheathing your Amex card, not much work for 3 days worth of berry picking.

Fructose is what it is, but even Robert Lustig specifies that the obesity promoting variant he speaks on is that found in densely packed formulas like HFCS. The fiber does play a part in fruits, unlike processed sugary foods, in that it signals your satiety, and the vitamins are necessary.

Just gauge your intake and be weary of your satiety. If you're an over-eater, don't keep fruit in the house. After dinner go and forage for an apple at your local supermarket ;)

5323 · July 03, 2012 at 8:54 AM

Two good reasons I can think of :

1) Argicultural fruit is much higher in fructose, which is linked to some very serious health issues like fatty liver.

2) The so called "anti-oxidants" in some plants AKA polyphenols, which demonstrate no anti-oxidant properties in vivo, are 95% eliminated from the body almost instantly like toxins, have been shown to be cancer promoting in large doses. Low doses=cancer prevention, high doses=cancer causing.

They probably act via hormesis, rather than as anti-oxidants, as there is no evidence that they are anti-oxidants, but there is evidence that they are genotoxic. They certainly are nothing like uric acid, q10 or melatonin, which are real human native anti-oxidants.

Black tea for example can cause leukemia in infants (via polyphenols).

Theres no doubt that northern african hunter gatheres ate fruit. But it had less fructose, and they didnt have the confused impression that the more you ate the better your health.

Eating moderate amounts of low fuctose fruit, better emulates paleo man, rather than eating large food pyramid or fruitarian amounts of very high fructose fruit. Some level of fruit/vegetable polyphenols, phytochemicals and vitamins are clearly health promoting. But fructose isnt, in excess healthy. Theres a rate limiting factor on how much fructose you can digest at once, and it puts a heavy load on the liver, because unlike glucose, or starch, which can be digested and absorbed into the blood, fructose must be metabolised in the liver. Hence why an excess causes problems.

Just google "high fructose corn syrup", if your curious about why fructose in excess is a bad guy.

TLDR: the liver doesnt like loads of fructose, and excess polyphenols may promote rather than reduce cancer.

610 · March 23, 2012 at 9:34 PM

Well, I've found that I ALWAYS get acne when I eat fruit, probably the result of dysbiosis. I look forward to the day when I can resolve that and eat fruit again! (I don't eat VLC though, luckily I've found that safe starches do not trigger my acne, so I get moderate amounts of starch instead)

8883 · July 03, 2012 at 9:28 AM

I feared fruit because I felt so weak, cold, depressed and sick on a raw vegan, fruitarian diet. I assumed it was the fructose, now I know better and my diet is 50% fruit.

5888 · March 24, 2012 at 12:18 AM

I have no fear of fruit. I don't go out of my way to eat bananas and grapes because they mess with my blood sugar, but I eat some fruit every day in the form of apples, stone fruits, citrus, cherries, or berries. The carbohydrate I avoid almost completely is starch because it increases hunger, and in sufficient quantity, crashes my blood sugar something fierce.

1244 · May 31, 2013 at 11:27 AM

Do the effects of fructose on the body depend in part on the rest of one’s diet? I'm thinking that certain factors might affect fructose tolerance and how it gets absorbed, for example:

  • interactions between certain nutrients
  • the macronutrient ratios the body is used to

Many people seem to positively thrive on a diets consisting of mostly of fruit, veggies and fish and it seems strange that they would be at serious risk of developing fatty liver.

244 · July 16, 2012 at 1:32 AM

I love fruit! It's just that for me, it's easy to overeat it b/c I used to have a sweet tooth. I try to keep a balance between fruits, veggies, meats, and yummy fats.

25 · July 16, 2012 at 12:38 AM

I'm not afraid of fruit. Something I often wonder about is why I crave carbs before my menses and it dawned on me that maybe its my body telling me to up my fruit intake because I also get very constipated around the same time. If I eat fruit instead of twinkies this isn't as much of a problem. Even upping my leafy greens doesn't help as much as eating some juicy fruit.

30 · July 03, 2012 at 9:23 AM

I think it depends on your goals. I am not at all afraid of fruit, I kind of feel a low level of blasé towards them, unless of course you are talking about durian in which case I get a kind of neurological erection in my excitement levels.

I have felt a little 'burnt out' at times doing low carb eating and find a banana makes me feel like a billion dollars.

953 · May 31, 2013 at 4:43 PM

I love fruit!!! And 100% fruit juices too. Granted, I'm not overweight or watching my carbs or anything like that.

4888 · May 30, 2013 at 7:30 AM

"Humans didn't leave Africa until about 50K years ago" - just plain not so. There's heaps of archeological evidence that humans or pro humans were living here in the temperate UK at least half a million years ago - and butchering meat as a major food source. Yes, there would have been some fruit in season - but not enough to be a year round staple, I'm sure.

If you read "Fair weather Eden" by Michael Pitts and Mark Roberts, that alone will give you heaps of evidence that humans had left Africa long, long before you claim.

4234 · July 16, 2012 at 3:35 PM

Sometimes I feel like more people are trying to cram fruit down my throat than otherwise. It's like fruit and protein shakes are things people just can't let go of and they get really crabby at those who do let go of them. So to try to see if I was really missing something I've eaten a lot more fruit the past few weeks. I've suddenly ballooned in belly fat around my waist and my upper arms. I think I'll go back to eating stricter paleo. Thanks but I'll pass on the fruit for now.

2903 · July 16, 2012 at 2:26 PM

I think the general Paleo rule is not to avoid fruit altogether, but to be smart about consuming fruit. Obviously our ancestors could only consume what was seasonal and available and it's very easy to go to the grocery store and find something completely out of season and say "oh, that looks goooood!". Also, if you are watching your weight and sugars, obviously fruit can be a concern. Having had experience with Weight Watchers when I ate SAD, the encouragement to eat "as much fruit as you want" can really sabotage a weight loss goal, particularly when people are like "bananas fill me up! I'm going to have 30 of them a day!" Er, I digress.

I think a good rule for fruit is to not use it for constant snacking, to eat seasonal and organic and preferably locally grown and to watch the sugar content. Except for pineapple. Because it's delicious.

71 · July 16, 2012 at 1:42 PM

I'm not against fruit either, but I'm not touching it till I hit my hard goal. I'm losing weight at a steady pace right now (fat burner mode!) and I am not going to do anything to mess that up. I could probably slip in some low GI fruits and be ok but I'd rather just do without for a bit longer.

10 · July 03, 2012 at 2:40 AM

I've drank a half gallon of OJ a day, plus other fruits, for the past 6 months and have stayed at a steady 165 pounds at a height of 5'10. I don't know what my body fat percentage is but I can see my abs, so I'm guessing around 10%.

Half my calories come from fructose and I'm leaner than I've ever been. The only "side effect" I've seen so far from so much fruit is just a bit more muscle than I use to have.

18437 · July 03, 2012 at 2:39 AM

Whose afraid? I just don't like the shit.

24412 · July 03, 2012 at 2:37 AM

Some people need to be afraid of fruit because they burned out their pancreases and deeply impacted their livers suckling at the high fructose corn syrup teat for too many years. Some will be able to regain normal digestion and be able to eat as much fruit as they like, but for some the damage will be too severe, and they will not be able to tolerate much more than some sour berries or a little citrus.

10 · July 02, 2012 at 8:33 PM

This is a very interesting thread. I have only been paleo for 9 days now. My goal is to decrease insulin resistance and burn fat, to get my body fat down from my current 33% to something more reasonable for my weight/ht (I am 5'4" and 130 lbs). So, I limit fruit because from what I've read spikes in blood sugar caused by high glucose in the bloodstream lead to insulin resistance, which leads to fat storage (rather than fat burning). This means I eat one or occasionally two pieces of fruit a day, usually berries with cream or whatever is in season (today, melon).

But, I do believe fruit is a healthful food and am sure humans have eaten it whenever they found it throughout history because:

a) it's high in calories b) it's high in nutrients c) it's high in water d) it's sweet

Why would we crave sweet things - that is, why would nature design us with a drive to consume sweet things if that did not serve a purpose? The purpose is to eat, to get enough calories. We have had to struggle for calories throughout most of our history. Of course fat and protein are a more efficient way to get more calories and complete nutrition. . . .

3886 · May 31, 2013 at 5:01 PM

No other reason than pure experience-- Whenever I eat fruit, I get anxious, inflamed, irritable, nervous, etc. Need I say more?

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