Special Diets and Nutrition –
Are You Missing Nutrients?
Do you eat fish? Do you enjoy fresh vegetables? Do you eat a “special” diet, in an attempt to eat healthy? There is so much dietary advice floating around in the ether right now. Some of the advice comes from “official” sources, some of it seems to make a lot of sense, and some of it seems just plain crazy. This article explores what your dietary choices do, and don’t, give your body nutritionally.
Links in this article will lead to additional resources for further information.
Starting with the End—The Result of Lack of Nutrients
The natural diet of a salmon is rich in vitamins, making the flesh red. When farm-raised salmon are fed corn, which is devoid of the nutrients salmon need, the flesh is a much paler, pink color. Corn is not “salmon-food” and it isn’t all that great for cows, pigs, or chickens either. The pale flesh of corn-fed salmon is the result of it's nutritional deficiency.
|There is a reason why vegetables are colored – the colors contained in them actually have important nutritional value: –
Why does this matter? Our bodies run on calories – proteins, carbohydrates, fats –but we also must have specific minerals, vitamins and other nutrients for everything to work well. 40 of these elements must be obtained through either food or nutritional supplementation. Calories may be obtained from anything including beer and pastries. But nutrition comes from whole foods.
When we lack nutrients in our bodies, our immune, digestive, and other systems simply cannot function as well as they are designed to work.
We Eat Differently Today.
Let’s review some basic facts. Our society has shifted far away from the “agrarian” lifestyle we once led. With about 85 percent of the population now living in urban areas, most of us are not old enough to remember the times where we lived on farms or in small communities. Because we didn’t.
When the agrarian lifestyle existed, it was a short distance from harvest to table. It gave us foods that were fresh, naturally grown, and free of hormones and GMO’s. Food came right out of the yard, or the farm, just a few miles away.
There wasn’t a lot of “pre-packaged” food unless your grandma made too much on Sunday and brought it over in a casserole dish, or you ate home-canned peaches in January. Fresh, naturally grown food is inherently better for you – and we will get to that in just a bit.
Contrast that with today where over 80 percent of the people live in urban areas – which only cover about 25 percent of the geographical land mass of the U.S.
Our farmland is not close to our population centers and much of it has been taken over by big corporate farming. Animals are crowded together in feed lots or chicken houses, fed hormones and antibiotics. Our fields of vegetables and grains are grown with GMO seeds, hosed with chemicals, harvested early, and often shipped miles away to your grocery market or some processing plant to make products that simulate food but often lack much actual nutrition.
|Even seemingly “good” advice, hasn’t made things better. As an example, a couple of decades ago the “experts” of the USDA introduced the “food pyramid” where over half of your daily calories were supposed to come from carbohydrates. This was in part based on the theory that “dietary fat makes you fat.” But since then we have gotten fatter.
Fat adds flavor, so to replace that flavor they added more sugar, which is a simple carbohydrate. Fake butter and low-fat products which are high in carbs have made us fatter. The Adkin’s diet did nearly the opposite of the high carb / low-fat diet, with virtually no carbs…but because it also eliminates complex carbohydrates it can still be lacking in a lot of nutrients including B vitamins thiamin and folic acid, vitamins C and E, iron and magnesium.
Compare a home garden tomato grown from heirloom seeds to a grocery store tomato. Compare the color, the texture and the taste. The difference is simply amazing. Compare a yard egg to the regular egg from the grocery store; compare grass fed beef or salmon from the wild to that grown in feed lots or fish farms.
This is a major reason why some people, those who can afford it, go organic. Even so, and even with a “stamped certification” there is no iron-clad guarantee that it is grown under the “best” conditions. You might get close at the farmer’s market, but then again you might not. To complicate the issue most Americans don’t take the time or the effort to seek out “good food”. Most of us skip out on vegetables, fruit, farm fresh eggs and meat and wild caught fish. Most of us eat a lot of processed and packaged foods such as fast food. Even when we eat at home, we go for convenience with chemical and calorie stuffed foods that have never been “alive”.
Today we have even more diet trends. Detox diets, paleo diets, gluten-free diets, egg and dairy free diets, vegan diets…and each one has its own nutritional implications. Following a “diet” of any type may leave you deficient in one or more areas.
The SAD Diet
Let’s start with the most common diet. Many Americans eat what is called the Standard American Diet – or SAD. Really, that’s what it is called and it is sad. Sadly devoid of nutrition. Fast food, boxed food, and yes junk food are the staples of many Americans and, increasingly, other countries as well. Doughnut for breakfast, fast food for lunch, pizza for dinner, and if fresh vegetables are bought they usually “go bad” rather than be eaten.
What nutrients are deficient in the SAD diet? Too many. The result of eating the SAD diet includes fatigue, illness, missing work, indigestion, intestinal disorders, and contributes to the lack of desire to exercise and follow other healthy guidelines such as drinking pure clean water instead of soda and coffee all day long.
Because our diet is so SAD, nearly all of us are lacking in nutrients, but the problem is compounded when specific elimination diets are followed. People who follow--
Dairy and egg free diets may be lacking in:
Gluten-free diets may result in a lack of:
- B vitamins including pantothenic acid
- vitamin K
Vegetarian diets have these 5 common deficiencies:
Vegan diets, a more strict form of vegetarian, are often additionally deficient in:
Lest we forget, people who “won’t eat” vegetables or fish can be deficient in a multitude of vitamins and nutrients including essential fatty acids and fiber. Essential fatty acids are critical for skin and brain function, while fiber is essential for proper functioning of the digestive system and regulation of blood sugar.
Most people can benefit from a quality multi-vitamin, but those who avoid certain foods may risk health problems without replacing nutrients that normally would have come from food. Careful evaluation of foods that you do and don’t consume can help you replace those nutrients with supplements.
Even if you choose to follow a particular way of eating such as vegan, vegetarian, or gluten free, you can look for quality supplements that meet your needs. You will find some supplements are available in gluten-free, soy-free, dairy and egg-free, and vegan formulations.
Following a specific diet poses challenges. Failure to address those challenges and potential deficiencies can have serious health consequences but a concerted effort to learn about your diet can easily prevent future diseases and disorders.
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