I think if we are all honest we will have ditched something from our diet at one time or another. Whether it be in an effort to lose weight, help our planet, or improve our health, literally millions of us have maybe stopped eating dairy, cut out carbs, gone vegan or removed red meat from our diet.
Had you ever considered though that the very thing you are cutting out could cause a overall deficiency in your diet? Research published by the Health and Food Supplements Information Service, says yes as, based on official data, it would seem that many of us now lack key minerals such as magnesium, copper and potassium which are vital for bodily functions such as energy and regulating blood pressure.
It’s a difficult one, isn’t it? Because what if you actually feel healthier and have more energy? What if you have lost weight or feel that it is necessary to help save our planet? What if there is a medical reason for omitting something from your diet such as celiac disease or you are lactose intolerant?
Here’s some information that may help.
The great news is that non-dairy alternatives all contain less saturated fat than full-fat cow’s milk. However, almond, oat and soy milk don’t contain as much calcium. You will often find that many brands are fortified but organic brands tend not to be. So if you are going organic, it would be worth adding a calcium supplement to your diet.
Almond and oat milk also have less protein than cow’s milk (0.5g per 100ml vs 3.3g protein in full fat cow’s milk.) Therefore choose milk alternatives which are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Other ways of increasing calcium in your diet is to eat plenty of green leafy vegetables such as kale, almonds and fish, tahini and pulses. Remember also as we age and during our growing years calcium is vitally important for the health and development of our bones.
Plant-based milks contain less iodine than their dairy counterparts so if you are feeling tired have muscle weakness, breast pain or suddenly experience weight gain then you may be lacking Iodine so you should think about adding fish or shellfish to your diet at least twice a week.
CUTTING OUT RED MEAT
Plant-based proteins such as beans, pulses and nuts are more environmentally friendly and your bank balance will thank you as meat is expensive.
Red meat is a good source of iron. You may be surprised to learn that approximately a quarter of women and nearly half of teenage girls suffer from low iron levels. A deficiency can leave you feeling lethargic and you may suffer with hair loss and be more susceptible to colds and flu.
Meat is also a good source of zinc, which is needed for the immune system and thyroid to function properly. Therefore, if you definitely believe you are healthier without eating red meat then eat a breakfast cereal high in bran, drink a small glass of orange juice at the same time and you will help your body absorb the iron. Eggs and vegetables such as kale also contain iron.
To replace the protein you’re not getting from meat, add nuts, seeds, beans, pulses and products made from them like tofu and tempeh to your diet.
As being vegan is pretty mainstream these days there have been a growing number of studies performed to find out the health benefits associated with this way of eating. They have revealed that a vegan diet offers several important health benefits which include a reduced risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer. Other studies show than vegans are less likely to be overweight with a reduction in body fat which ultimately will reduce their risk of many diseases related to high body fat.
Vegans will mostly eat fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, beans and pulses which are of course naturally healthy foods. However, start to process these foods or add sugar, salt and fat and whilst they may still be vegan foods, they suddenly become very unhealthy.
Vitamin B12 is only found in animal foods, so vegans need to ensure they eat foods that are fortified with B12 or take a supplement. Also ensure that you are eating enough calcium via almonds, oranges, kale, red kidney beans, chickpeas and tahini.
Omega-3 supplements made from seaweed and algae are also a good addition to a vegan diet.
CUTTING OUT GLUTEN
Celiac disease is a growing concern affecting around one in 100 adults in the US and UK. Celiac disease is a reaction of the immune system to gluten which is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. While people with celiac disease have to cut gluten out of their diet completely, there are some people with a gluten intolerance who are able to eat small amounts with no effect.
Unfortunately avoiding gluten has started to trend and so many people are restricting their diet totally unnecessarily. Just taking out gluten because you think it is healthier for you is not necessarily true. However if you do have symptoms you should make an appointment with your health care provider and ensure you continue eating gluten prior to the appointment as gluten has to be present for six weeks prior to the test for celiac disease otherwise you could get a false negative result.
Cutting out gluten can often mean that you will be eating less fiber-rich foods, such as bread, wholegrain pasta and cereal. Obviously fiber is extremely important in the diet to reduce the risk of constipation, hemorrhoids, painful digestive conditions such as diverticular disease and also heart disease. To combat this ensure you eat beans and pulses, fruits and vegetables, gluten-free oats, brown rice and quinoa.
HIGH PROTEIN, LOW CARB DIET
This is a popular one these days, in fact, protein seems to have become the hero and carbohydrates the villain. Protein is definitely filling and helps you feel fuller for longer, which ultimately does help with weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight. Also cutting out high fat and sugary carbs is never a bad thing, however, severely restricting carbs or cutting them out completely is definitely not a good thing.
Ensure you do not cut out fruit and vegetables from your diet, the fiber is needed for the reasons mentioned above.
Very high protein diets can also put extra strain on your kidneys because they are responsible for excreting the waste products once protein is broken down. Therefore, you could be increasing your risk of kidney problems later in life.
Keeping to a diet low in saturated fat is a positive step forward and, over time, will assist in the prevention of heart disease. Low fat diets also tend to be lower in calories so once again a healthy weight can be managed more easily.
Unfortunately following an extremely low fat diet can interfere with the absorption of some vitamins. Fat has to be present for vitamin A, D, E and K to be absorbed. Aim to include good fats like nuts, olive or rapeseed oil and avocados every day, even if dieting.