Leanne Ratcliffe—also known as Freelee the banana girl—sometimes eats 51 bananas a day. No, it’s not for some sort of healthier version of the hot dog eating contests you’re familiar with, but part of her social media-famous Raw Till 4 Diet (with 450,000 followers on Instagram alone). The diet is more intense than it sounds: eat only raw fruit until 4 p.m., and a high-carbohydrate vegan meal for dinner. According to Australia’s Adelaide Messenger, Ratcliffe claims to have lost about 40 pounds on this diet. A nutritionist’s take on it? “Worrying,” says the article.
Eating a fruitarian diet or following the banana girl’s regimen isn’t actually that great for you because you miss out on vital vitamins and minerals—plus you’d be getting the sugar equivalent of six cans of Coke a day, nutritionist and food science lecturer Evangeline Mantzioris, PhD, tells the Messenger.
The first issue with the Raw Till 4 diet is that it’s not at all backed by science, Dr. Mantzioris says. It’s essentially a fad diet, which are short lived and generally unsuccessful, she says, adding that while fruit should be a part of everyone’s diet, you only need two pieces to reap the health benefits (plus imagine trying to eat dozens of bananas each day?).
As is the norm with social media trends, it can have a negative effect on adolescents, who often assume what they see online is correct.
“[Adolescents who try this diet are] running a high risk because if they lower their intake (of essential food groups), they reduce their growth rate,” says Mantzioris. “The fruit itself isn’t dangerous, it’s what you’re not eating that’s worrying.”
A few things the bananas-for-bananas diet doesn’t provide: key minerals like calcium and selenium, as well as healthy fats—something we know is essential to a healthy diet and for absorbing nutrients.
“There’s this hype around raw food, but the reality is you need raw and cooked food in your diet because when you cook food, nutrients are released,” Dr. Mantzioris says. So rather than stock up on hundreds of bananas, maybe opt for a more balanced diet full of veggies, protein, fats, and all the other superfoods—we evolved beyond monkeys, after all.