So, you’ve finally found a diet that’s easy to follow and you’re losing weight.
Great. However, have you ever considered you’re losing more than just the weight and could be harming your health in the long-term.
Unfortunately, many popular weight-loss diets focus too much on controlling the intake of certain macronutrients like protein, fats, and carbohydrates while ignoring their micronutrient content. (Micronutrient quality of weight-loss diets that focus on macronutrients: results from the A TO Z study, Christopher D Gardner et al, 2010).
What are micronutrients and why do I need them?
The World Health Organization refers to micronutrients as the “magic wands” that help your body produce enzymes and hormones, which are necessary for growth, development, and general health. They are called “micro” because you need only miniscule amounts of them.
However, if you don’t get enough of them, the impact on your health is enormous. Iron deficiency, for example, can result in anemia and a shortage of Vitamin D can affect your blood pressure, the functioning of your immune system and nervous system.
Pitfalls of high-protein diets
WebMD reports that dietitians consider many popular high-protein diets to be “imbalanced” because they cut out carbohydrates, the main source of fuel for your body. These diets don’t distinguish between different carbs; they are all bad. However, says WebMD, there is a big distinction between refined sugar and a piece of fruit.
As a result, people on a high-protein may be missing out on:
• Fiber, which helps digestion and combating heart disease
• Your ABCs and an E. Many high-carb fruit and veggies are packed with these vitamins, which are important for the proper functioning of your immune system among many other benefits.
• Folic acid, found in fortified cereals, which is so important for pregnant women
• Phytochemicals, like the flavonoids in fruit, and antioxidants, both of which help prevent heart disease and cancer
• Water, believe it or not. Most carbs contain a lot of water so you may be dehydrated without knowing it
Pitfalls of the Paleolithic Diet
Also known as the Caveman Diet or Stone Age Diet, the Paleo diet is based on the idea that we’ll lose weight and curb disease if we eat as our ancestors did thousands of years ago. That means cutting out anything that was not available to our caveman ancestors, such as grains, dairy and legumes.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics acknowledges that the diet does encourage you to eat more fresh vegetables and fruit, which is a positive. However, it says, cutting out grains, legumes and dairy can be dangerous too. It may result in a deficiency of calcium and Vitamin D.
A lack of Vitamin D, the Mayo Clinic warns, can cause your bones to become brittle. It may also play a role in insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and immune function. The FDA says both calcium and Vitamin D are “nutrients of concern for most Americans.”
Of course, the absence of whole grains in the Paleo diet, as with the high-protein, low-carb diets, can also result in a lack of dietary fiber.
Pitfalls of Vegetarianism and Veganism
Vegetarianism has the opposite problem to high-protein diets. WebMD says the problem is many new vegetarians cut out meat but they forget to replace it with something else. If you’re still eating eggs and dairy products, you should be okay.
However, if you’re a strict vegan, you’re likely to miss out on some essential minerals and vitamins such as zinc, iron, and B12. Without B12 and iron, you’re more susceptible to anemia and zinc is important for growth and development and immune function.
Most dietary advice now says that healthy fats are essential to your wellbeing for a variety of reasons. According to the American Heart Association, dietary fat supports cell growth and gives you energy. It also plays a role in nutrient absorption, produce vital hormones and helps protect your organs. It also helps keep your body warm.
But that doesn’t mean you can binge on full-cream desserts.
There is a distinction between bad fats and good fats. Both provide nine calories per gram, but the bad fats can be harmful to your health while good fats, eaten in moderation, can be beneficial to your health.
Bad fats are:
• Trans fats like the partially hydrogenated oils found in many processed food
• Saturated fat like lard, cream, and the fatty skin on chicken
Good fats are:
• Monounsaturated fats like olive oil, fatty fish and nuts
• Polyunsaturated fats found in nuts and seeds, soybean and tofu
An easy answer would be to take a handful of supplements to fill the nutrient gaps in your diet. However, dietitians tell WebMD that you should be suspicious of diets that call for supplements. Supplements may seem like a quick fix but researchers still haven’t been able to isolate and replicate the nutritional goodness available naturally in foods.
The answer is to eat, in moderation, a variety of foods to get the full range of nutrients and try to avoid diets that cut out an entire food group.
As a representative for the American Dietetic Association told WebMD, “All foods can fit into a healthy diet, as long as you exercise and practice moderation.”