Do Special Diets Put You at Risk of Nutritional Deficiencies?
Whether it’s due to an allergy, a desire to lose weight, or ethical reasoning, many people choose diets that avoid specific foods. While it’s possible to get a wide variety of nutrients when eating this way, removing a food group from your diet can result in deficiencies of necessary nutrients. If you’re currently committed to one of these diets or simply considering one, here are some things your diet might lack and how you can correct it.
One of the nutrients that people on a dairy-free diet might lack is calcium. But they could also experience a vitamin D deficiency, as many companies fortify dairy products with this essential nutrient. The good news is that you can find vitamin D and calcium in a variety of foods, including soy and almond milk, leafy greens, mushrooms, fatty fish, and eggs.
Companies that produce food items with gluten tend to fortify these products with a variety of nutrients. However, their gluten-free counterparts typically don’t contain added vitamins and minerals. This means people on a gluten-free diet might lack thiamin, riboflavin, iron, calcium, folate, vitamin D, and magnesium. Try adding foods like black beans, lentils, leafy greens, mushrooms, fatty fish, and almonds into your diet to up your vitamin intake.
If you’re on a gluten-free diet due to celiac disease, you might not receive the full amount of nutrients from the foods you eat due to poor absorption. Once you are on a strictly gluten-free diet, the malabsorption issue typically goes away. If you have removed gluten from your diet and think malabsorption might still be an issue, speak to your doctor about your concerns.
If you don’t eat meat, you might be at risk of iron, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) deficiencies. You can find several plant sources of vitamin D and iron; however, the versions that come from plants, vitamin D2 and non-heme iron, respectively, do not absorb as easily as the versions that come from animal proteins. Incorporate plant-based sources of these nutrients, such as walnuts, chia seeds, nori seaweed, mushrooms, soy milk, lentils, cashews, and leafy greens. Speak to your doctor about taking supplements to receive some more potent forms of these nutrients, as well as vitamin B12 (which isn’t found in any plant foods) and DHA.
People on the keto diet eat very few carbs per day to enter a state of ketosis, which allows their body to burn fat. However, this means keto dieters can miss out on a variety of vitamins and minerals found in starchy vegetables, legumes, and fruits. Some of these nutrients include zinc, potassium, magnesium, and beta carotene. To ensure you’re getting these essential vitamins and minerals in your diet, try eating foods like spinach and other leafy greens, avocados, greek yogurt, asparagus, broccoli, and nuts.
Before jumping into a special diet, speak with your Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group primary care physician for more information about maintaining a healthy life while abstaining from certain foods. Regardless of your dietary restrictions, eating a wide range of nutrients from a variety of sources is key to achieving better health.
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