By: Herbert M. Shelton
Fruit is food. Indeed, fruits are
among the few substances
produced in organic nature that
seem to be designed specially to
serve as food.
The old medical prejudice against
fruit, so strong during the last
century that cities passed ordinances against
bringing fruits into the cities during the summer months, was hammered down
by Hygienists, and Americans learned to relish fruits.
Unfortunately, in certain Hygienic circles this old anti-fruit prejudice has been
revived. Some of our Hygienists have developed a groundless fear of a
number of wholesome fruits.
Fruits supply the body with an abundance of minerals, sugars, vitamins and,
in the case of some of them, considerable high-grade protein.
The sugar in fruit is ideally associated with minerals and vitamins and need
not be rejected as one does (or should) refined sugars.
Fruit sugar is superior as human nutriment to honey, which is so ludicrously
lauded in many quarters. Indeed, honey, when compared with the sugars of
fruits, ranks about on the level with white sugar.
Most fruits are abundant in minerals, also containing important trace minerals,
so that they form important and vital ingredients in the diet of the growing
child. Most of them are deficient in calcium, but this is easily compensated
from other wholesome sources.
Fruits are commonly rich in vitamin C but contain less of other vitamins. They
are, however, on the whole, excellent sources of vitamins.
They are commonly low in protein, rarely containing over two to two and a half
percent and many of them containing much less than this. The date, banana,
avocado and a few other fruits contain small amounts of excellent proteins.
Supplemented with nuts and green leaves, their proteins become valuable
additions to the diet. A fruit and nut diet is improved by the addition of green
leafy vegetables. A large green salad each day makes such a diet almost
Most fruits contain more or less acid—such as malic, citric, tartaric, etc., being
present. The prejudice that has grown up around fruits is a revival of the
medical prejudice against acid fruits. They were declared to cause "acid
diseases" and were regarded as especially objectionable in rheumatism.
Fortunately, the body is able to oxidize the organic acids of fruits, at least of
those fruits that we commonly use as food. These leave an alkaline ash upon
There is often some difficulty with the acid of prunes, but there is no ground
for the prejudice that has been revived against oranges, tangerines, lemons,
grapefruit, tangelos, tomatoes and similar citric-acid bearing fruits.
The acids of berries are also easily oxidized and these, also, leave an alkaline
ash. The acid radical of organic acids is expelled as carbon dioxide through
the lungs; the alkaline salts left help to alkalinize the blood.
Teeth have been kept uninterruptedly immersed in lemon juice for as long as
six months and the acid had no effect on their enamel. There would seem to
be no foundation for the idea that eating oranges or drinking orange juice
injures the teeth.
It should be generally known that when acids are taken into the mouth there is
a copious outpouring of an alkaline saliva, which bathes the membranes of the
mouth and the tongue.
This secretion of saliva is kept up long after the acid has been swallowed. Any
acid left on the teeth or in the mouth is quickly neutralized by the alkaline
saliva. We are too prone to overlook the body's own provisions for its safety.
In the late spring and summer, when such fruits as peaches, plums, apricots,
nectarines, cherries, the various berries, cantaloupes, watermelons, grapes,
figs, etc., are plentiful, it is well to make a large part of the diet fruits.
In the fall, when pears, apples, persimmons and the citrus fruits come into
season, these should constitute a large part of the diet. Certain of these fruits,
like the tomato, grapes, oranges, and grapefruits are plentiful throughout most
of the year and may be eaten all the time.
The avocado is abundant through most of the year, but is best eaten during
the cooler periods of the year. Such sun dried fruits as figs, dates, raisins,
peaches, apricots, pears, etc., may be freely eaten during the winter months.
The melons make an excellent breakfast during the season of the year when
they are ripening. They are best eaten alone. A large piece of watermelon
makes an adequate breakfast, even for the physical worker.
Cantaloupe, banana melon, casaba, Crenshaw and the Persian melon, in
season, make a delightful and satisfying breakfast. If more food is desired for
breakfast, it should be taken half an hour after eating the melon.
Nearly all of what we see of so-called allergy to fruits is indigestion resulting
from wrongly combining the food eaten. Fruits with starches, fruits with
sugar, fruits with proteins, and similar combinations are prone to decompose,
producing gas, discomfort, and skin eruptions.
Melons with other foods may cause marked distress—eaten alone, they digest
with the greatest of ease. In very young children there may sometimes be a
short period during the development of a child, when its digestive system
cannot handle a certain fruit, for example, an apple. It is well to leave some
fruits out of a child's diet until its development has progressed to a point
where it can easily digest the fruit that gives trouble.
Great improvement in the ability to digest and handle foods follows a fast. It is
no uncommon thing to find that an individual, who has trouble with a
particular article of food, can take it with the greatest of ease after a fast.
If we can learn that what is called allergy is not a permanent possession, but
that when its causes are removed, it ceases, we can understand that it is
possible for us to become able to enjoy any wholesome food.
It amazes those who are "allergic" to strawberries, for example, to see no
trouble develop if they are placed on a strawberry diet.
When fruit is eaten with a meal of bread, flesh, potatoes, butter and the rest of
the usual meal, the fruit usually being taken at the end of the meal, but often at
the beginning, the indigestion and discomfort that result from such combining
of foods will almost certainly be blamed on the fruit, which may be the only
wholesome article of diet in the meal.
The discomforts following such a meal may range all the way from a little gas
formation that scarcely attracts the attention of the eater, to a painful
indigestion accompanied with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
The fruit, kept away from the other foods, and eaten as a fruit meal will digest
easily and result in no discomfort.
Fruits that are peeled and sliced and permitted to stand for long periods of
time before eating are hardly wholesome foods. They change color, lose
flavor, undergo oxidation with resulting loss of food value and tend to
Fruits added to breads, cakes, pies and various other kinds of pastries can
also occasion considerable indigestion and distress. In this latter case, not
only is the food spoiled in preparation and cooking, but the combination is
Fresh fruits, with cleaning as the only preparation, are most easily digested.
The addition of sugar, syrups, honey and other sweeteners to fruits can also
result in indigestion and discomforts.
Fruits have fallen into disrepute with many people for the reason that they find
that they suffer with discomfort after eating them. It was Dr. Dewey who said
that fruits demoralize digestion. He was especially opposed to eating apples.
This trouble with fruits grows out of the practice of wrongly combining them.
Strawberries and melons are commonly singled out as fruits that "I am allergic
to" and these foods are wholesome and toothsome.
If taken alone as in the case of melons, or properly combined as in the case of
strawberries, they almost never cause any trouble. Skin rashes and intestinal
disturbances that often follow the eatings of fruit or that follow a particular fruit
may, almost always, be traced to wrong combining.
In the few cases where this is not so, a correction of the way of life, so that
normal digestive power is reestablished, soon enables the individual to eat
fruit. I do not think that there is anyone who cannot eat freely of fruits if due
care is taken in combining them.
Proteins In The Fruitarian Diet
Can man get adequate protein from a fruit diet? This is to ask: If a man were to
attempt to live as a strict frugivore, could he be adequately nourished?
We put this question in relation to the protein of this diet because there is no
question about the ability of a fruitarian diet to supply adequacies of fats,
carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins.
Many efforts have been made to live upon a diet of fruits only, usually with
only marked degree of success. It has usually been found that such diets are
improved by the addition of green leafy vegetables.
It is probable that this need has resulted from an insufficient variety of fruits.
Certainly when we consider the wide range of food substances included
under the term fruit, there would seem to be no necessity for inadequacies in
the diet of the fruitarian.
Nuts, which are fruits, are nearly all rich in protein of high biological value,
capable of supplying adequacies of all the amino acids essential to growth
The biologist defines a fruit as "a ripened ovary with or without associated
parts." To make this a bit more complete, a fruit is the matured ovary of the
flower, its contents and all intimately connected parts. Fruits are often more
complicated than this description indicates.
In addition to the development of the ovary wall, the calyx may also become
fleshy and envelope the ovary as in the apple and pear; or the end of the stem
(receptacle) may enlarge and form a part of the fruit, as in the strawberry and
Tough shells or rinds may form for protection, as in nuts and lemons; or a
delicious flesh may envelop a hard inner stone, as in the peach and plum.
Some fruits, as the potato and peanut, are matured underground.
All of these developments serve to perform a few simple functions:
They protect the ovules and seed while they are maturing.
They prevent loss of water.
They provide for seed dispersal.
An animal eats the fruit and discards the seed at a distance from the parent
Edible fruits may thus be said to be the coin with which the plant compensates
the animal for services rendered—that of dispersing the seed. A seed is a
matured ovule enclosed in the fruit.
Many fruits are merely mechanical devices to secure seed dispersal and are
not edible. We need not consider these in our discussion of fruits.
A brief glance at the evolution of a fruit may help us in forming a clear picture
of a fruit. The ovary grows as the seed develops, giving rise to a fruit. A fruit,
in this sense, is not necessarily a fleshy edible product, but the seed-carrying
organ of the plant.
It is customary to include nuts in the category of fruits, although, it is the seed
rather than the seed-carrying organ that we eat.
A fruit may consist of a single ovary with but one seed, as in grains, nuts,
cherries, plums and peaches, or it may evolve from a single ovary which has
several seeds, as the bean, pea, apple and orange.
Then there are flowers, which possess several ovaries, which combine to form
compound fruits like the strawberry or raspberry.
With the foregoing explanation in mind, it should not be difficult for each of my
readers to answer himself the question: Is the tomato a fruit or a vegetable?
Fruits are all produced by plants and, in this sense, they are all vegetables.
But they are special parts of plants and are classed as fruits because of this.
The tomato, as the matured ovary of the tomato flower containing seed, is
quite obviously as much a fruit as the apple or orange. The cucumber squash,
pumpkin and similar foods are fruits.
Confining ourselves, in this discussion to edible fruits, and ignoring those
fruits that serve only as seed dispersers and have no food values, fruits are
either dry or fleshy, simple or compound, depending on the character and
development of the ovary, which formed them.
Examples of fleshy fruits are the apple, pear, cherry, peach, apricot, plum,
nectarine, mango, banana, tomato, and gooseberry.
Examples of dry fruits are legumes (beans and peas), acorn, hickory nut,
pecan, walnut and almond.
Thus it will be seen that the term fruitarian may be used in a wider sense than
is commonly thought.
Indeed, in a biological sense, it may be made to include eating practices that
probably should be foreign to man. This is to say that there may be more than
one fruitarian category in nature.
We are justified in classing the grain-eating birds as fruitarian, but it is doubtful
that grains should form a part of the normal diet of man.
There are fruits that are poisonous, some of them poisonous before ripening,
others poisonous after ripening. These latter should be excluded from man's
diet. An excellent example of a fruit of this kind, one that is commonly eaten, is
Sumac berries we refrain from eating, because, although tasty, they are toxic.
Some plant substances are poisonous to some animals and not to others. An
example is belladonna, which, highly poisonous to man, is non-toxic to the
rabbit after it is six weeks old. After this age the rabbit secretes an enzyme
that enables it to digest the two toxins in the plant. Man produces no such
In the same manner a fruit that may be poisonous to man may prove to be an
excellent food for other animals. Nothing seems to eat the sumac berries. It
may be possible that they are toxic to all forms of life. They are regarded as
good herbal medicines, precisely because they are toxic.
My readers should keep always in mind the rule of medicine: If the plant is non-
toxic, it is food; if it is toxic, it is "medicine."
By: Herbert M. Shelton
Article: Fruit Eating