Every day I come across people confused by conflicting nutrition information, which isn’t surprising. We’re bombarded with a vast number of dietary trends making it increasingly difficult to navigate the nutritional landscape. Some of the most popular nutrition trends include paleo, ketogenic, macrobiotic, IIFYM, gluten-free, lectin-free, low-FODMAP, Atkins, AIP and the list goes on.
It’s all so confusing! Right?
Most of the diets listed above recommend the removal of one or more food groups based on a number of purported health benefits. So more and more people are eliminating whole food groups from their diet as part of what they perceive to be a healthy lifestyle. But it’s important to be aware that long-term removal of entire food groups carries the risk of nutrient deficiencies, especially in growing and developing children.
For example, many individuals choose to remove gluten from their diet not because they have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, but because they believe it is healthier. In doing so, they introduce a variety of processed gluten-free alternatives that have less fiber and tend to have a higher glycemic index resulting in a more rapid increase in blood sugar levels.
In fact, according to researchers, people following a gluten-free diet generally do not consume adequate amounts fiber, vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin D, vitamin B12, folate, iron, magnesium, calcium, and zinc. This is partially true because many people simply trade processed wheat-containing foods for processed gluten-free alternatives, most of which lack the fiber and vitamin/mineral enrichment we find in their wheat-containing counterparts.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s possible to have a nutritionally dense and well-balanced gluten-free diet, but it may require additional education, guidance, and planning, and perhaps a yearly micronutrient assessment. Trading one processed food for another isn’t the way to better health. But if wheat removal results in eating more fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds, then most vitamin and mineral deficiencies can be kept at bay.
If you don’t have a medical condition like celiac disease or a food intolerance that requires a specific dietary restriction, a whole-food diet based on minimally processed foods is an excellent place to start. An overly restrictive diet can be stressful and difficult to maintain long-term. It’s the small, consistent changes that can lead to major transformations over time. Sustainability is key!
Dialing in on what works best for you and your body can be difficult with all the confusing nutrition information coming from Dr. Google. If you want or need help, a qualified nutritionist/dietitian can be there to guide and support you on your journey to better health. Let me know if I can help.
1. Igbinedion, S. O., Ansari, J., Vasikaran, A., Gavins, F. N., Jordan, P., Boktor, M., & Alexander, J. S. (2017). Non-celiac gluten sensitivity: All wheat attack is not celiac. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 23(40), 7201–7210. http://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v23.i40.7201
2. Vici, G., Belli, L., Biondi, M., & Polzonetti, V. (2016). Gluten free diet and nutrient deficiencies: A review. Clinical Nutrition, 35(6), 1236-1241.