Dr. Herbert M. Shelton


According to an ancient tradition, when man first ap­peared he lived in a beautiful orchard in which grew fruits of many kinds and all of which were pleasing to the eye and good for food. For an undetermined length of time he lived in this beautiful area of the earth and satisfied his physiological needs by trees.


According to this tradition, he was expelled from the garden and condemned to live upon the green herbs of the field. The indications of this story would seem to be that herbs are a second choice as articles of diet for man. It is common to scoff at this ancient tradition and label it a fairy tale, but it may possess more truth than poetry.

The noted anthropologist Edward B. Taylor, in Vol. I of his Primitive Culture, stresses a very important psychologi­cal fact in relation to traditions, legends, myths and folk­lore. Questioning the popular belief that man is possessed of a boundless power of creative imagination, he says, “The superficial student, amazed in a crowd of seemingly wild and lawless fancies, which he thinks to have no reason in nature or pattern in the material world, at first con­cludes them to be new births from the imagination of the poet, the storyteller and the seer.” Then he points out that a more detailed study of such things reveals that there is a cause for each fancy, an education that has led to the train of thought, a store of inherited materials from out of which the fancies and thoughts of poet, seer, storyteller, etc., has taken shape. This is to say,. the human mind works with the materials it has on hand and does not create something out of nothing.’

In this same vein, the author of the article on the myths of Sumer in the Larousse Encyclopedia of World Mythology says, “Sumerian mythology drew its material from the permanent principles of Sumerian culture. … The myth and the form it adopted were a function of the society from which it stemmed. It told of creation in terms of human experience. Its very elements were those at the basis of Sumerian society. . . .”

This statement, that the myths of a people mirror the ways of life of the people, if applied to all mythologies, should prove fruitful in their interpretation. It should not be assumed that a people gather their myths and traditions from thin air or that they are purely imaginative creations.

If we can accept as valid the principle that the traditions, legends, myths and folklore of a people are reminiscences of past experiences, that they mirror for us actual condi­tions through which the people have passed, we are prac­tically forced to accept the ancient and well-neigh universal tradition of paradise as a report, blurred, no doubt, by the passage of time, of a period when the human race resided in some favorable locality and lived upon the “fruits of the trees of the garden.” A tradition that antedates the begin­ning of recorded history and that is possessed by almost all people cannot be lightly cast aside as a figment of the imagination of a poet or of some designing priest-craft.

It is impossible to account for the origin, persistence and widespread existence of a tradition that early man was a frugivore on the basis of the hypothesis now so widely held by anthropologists, that early man was a carnivore and of­fal eater. Such a being should have left us traditions of swarms of locusts, ponds filled with fish, happy hunting grounds· and other rich repositories of their favorite sources of animal foods, with occasional mention of dead elephants or sick horses around which they gathered and feasted. Not fruits, but brutes, not figs, but pigs should be featured in the myths and legends of a carnivore.

It may be objected that tradition and legend constitute a flimsy base upon which to erect a philosophy of human diet. A more scientific basis may be demanded. To this I reply that none of the many scientific bases for correct human dietary practices that have thus far been offered possess as much validity as the paradise tradition. The paradise tradition possesses the virtue of being in conform­ity with the evident dietetic character of man as revealed by comparative anatomy and physiology. It also agrees in principle with the basic eating practices of man throughout history. Man’s diet throughout the historic period in all favorable regions of the earth has been predominantly fruitarian.

Many efforts have been made by men and women in the present century to live upon a diet composed exclusively of the fruits of the trees. These efforts have not been without success, but they have rarely been completely successful. From South Africa comes the news-the Pretoria News, February 22, 1971-that some research has been done into the effects of an all-fruit diet. Under the headline “Fruit diet worked well,” the News summarized the findings of the researchers in the following words: “A team of re­search workers have come to the conclusion that pure fruit diets now receiving wide publicity cause weight to level off more or less at the ‘theoretically ideal’ weight for the sub­ject, according to an article in the latest issue of the South African Medical Journal.”

The item does not indicate the time through which the experiment was carried out but does state that the diet con­sisted of fruit juices, fruits and nuts. It says “a con­siderable number of the subjects claimed their physical condition improved while they were on the diet. Some were convinced that their stamina increased and that their abil­ity to undertake strenuous physical tasks and to compete in sports improved.”

No doubt, in view of the known nutritive values pos­sessed by tree fruits and nuts, which are also fruits, it is en­tirely possible to be well and adequately nourished upon such a diet, providing only that one has a sufficient and varied supply of fruits and nuts. If one lives in a climate where the fruit and nut supply is abundant throughout the year, he should have no difficulty in providing himself with adequate nourishment without eating vegetables and without taking animal foods of any kind. Man’s expulsion from his primitive paradise was probably due to climatic change that reduced his fruit supply and necessitated his constant search for means of survival.

Commenting upon the African experiment, in the July -1971 issue of Health For All (London), Dr. Harry Clements says “It is true that such a diet would be possible in a sub­tropical climate with its abundance of fruits and nuts but it would not be so easy in a climate like we have i; this country, to maintain an all-the-year-round complete fruit diet on indigenous fruits. Of course, we should bear in mind that a limit is set on food by the use we make of it. !her~ is no doubt that the kind and amount of fruit grown In this country could be vastly increased if we saw the need for it and regarded it as an important part of our diet rather than merely as a trimming to a meal. On the other hand, no climate is better adapted than ours for the growth of vegetables and salads which can play so important a part in proper nutrition.”

Dr. Clements further says: “It is interesting to recall that in the latter part of the last century a Natural Food Society existed in this country, its object being stated as follows: ‘The Natural Food Society is founded in the belief that the food of primeval man consisted of fruit and nuts of sub­tropical climes, spontaneously produced; that on these foods man was (and may again become) at least as free from disease as the animals are in a state of nature.’ The main contention of this Society was that the starchy foods especially those made from cereals are ‘unnatural and disease-

inducing foods and the chief cause of the nervous prostration and broken-down health that abound on all sides.’ “

The Natural Food Society to which Dr. Clements refers was organized and spearheaded by Dr. Emmet Densmore and his wife, Helen. This society not only promoted fruitarianism but also propagated Dr. Densmore’s no­starch dietary. Dr. and Mrs. Densmore edited and pub­lished a magazine devoted to fruitarianism and general Hygienic work. Densmore found that the fruit supply in England was not adequate to meet the nutritive needs of man throughout the whole of the year. After some experi­mentation, he suggested supplementing the fruit diet with milk and cheese. He even went so far as to endorse the Salisbury meat diet. Because of his frequent shifts of opinion about diet, he gained the reputation of being ec­centric. When he returned to America he practically retired from active work in this field. When Mr. Carrington was preparing his work, Vitality, Fasting and Nutrition, he at­tempted to engage Dr. Densmore in correspondence about fasting and feeding, but Densmore declined to lend his ser­vices to furthering this work.

Dr. Clements recalls as interesting the fact that in America Dr. John Harvey Kellogg maintained that fruits, with the addition of nuts (which, I should point out, are also fruits), constitute an adequate diet that will sustain human life for its normal lifespan. He mentions what he calls the therapeutic use of fruit by Dr. Tilden and by Kellogg. Dr. Kellogg, Cajori and Ragnar Berg demon­strated experimentally the biological adequacy of the pro­teins of nuts. With the exception of the hickory nut, they all contain an adequacy of amino acids to support growth and reproduction.

In the halcyon days before World War I, a professor in a German university, after much thought and study, concluded that the coconut tree is the tree of life, mentioned in the paradise tradition. Professor Englehart (I have forgot­ten his first name) lectured and wrote on the subject and finally took a group of German men, women and children to a German possession in the South Sea Islands, where they expected to live exclusively upon a diet of coconuts. According to his accounts, the experiment was proving very satisfactory. He wrote very glowingly -upon the suc­cess of the coconut diet. Dr. Benedict Lust published an English translation of Professor Englehart’s book under the title, Cocovarianism. The experiment was brought to an abrupt end by World War I. Professor Englehart and his group of cocovarians were all pacifists and Dr. Lust told me that when the War broke out the Kaiser’s govern­ment had them all shot. In a world dedicated to war, it is dangerous to be opposed to war.

I do not think that there has been a single period of five ­minute duration during my lifetime of seventy-six years that there has not been fighting somewhere in the world. There have been five or six major wars in the world during my lifetime and brush fires innumerable. There may be some connection between man’s choice of war as a way of life and his choice of flesh as a diet. In spite of his constant fighting, all the evidence points to the conclusion that man was originally a peaceable being. European man con­quered America with considerable ease due to the fact that the original inhabitants of these western continents were, for the most part, peaceable peoples who had not learned the arts of war. Many of the tribes refused to fight, even in self-defense, but permitted themselves to be annihilated and driven westward rather than learn the arts of war. Many so-called primitive people, and not merely those in America, have retained their original peaceable character. War is as foreign to man’s original way of life as flesh ­eating.

Someday, after we have abolished social systems that breed war, it may be possible for students of the subject to determine whether or not man learned war at the same time he learned to kill and eat animals. The two practices have much in common, although we do find some flesh ­eating tribes, such as the Eskimo, who have remained peaceable. Certainly the fruit diet, with its cultivation of fruit, is incompatible with human slaughter.

It is doubtful that the fruit diet can ever be entirely satisfactory in those regions of the earth where long and severe winters prevail. Man must, it seems probable, con­tinue to rely heavily upon herbs and perhaps grains and legumes for a part of his diet. This is not to say that fruits and nuts are not suitable for a cold climate, but that the supply of these foods in cold climates is not sufficiently abundant throughout the whole of the year, and, except for nuts, cannot be stored and kept in adequate quantities to meet the needs of a large population through the winter months. There is no food factor in vegetable and animal products that is not also available in fruits. Cold climates are simply unsuitable to the cultivation of fruits. Some nuts do thrive well in climates that are cold much of the year. Although a nut diet has been advocated, it is doubt­ful if such a diet would be ideal. The paradise diet would seem to be an ideal one for a paradisiacal climate.