Dieting and eating healthy is deeply personal and different approaches work for different people. However, your weight management regimen may be limiting certain nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. Subsequently, recognizing potential gaps and using appropriate foods and diet supplements to fill them can support wellness during your weight loss efforts.
The Atkins Diet
Sure, going low-carb means you’re eliminating diet antagonists like pizza and pasta, but what you may not realize is that you may also be saying goodbye to those key vitamins and minerals that you would have found in healthier carbs like fruits, whole grains and veggies. Reducing your intake of these can limit your intake of fiber, vitamin C, magnesium and potassium, all nutrients essential for good health.
How to help be sure you’re getting what you need:
Take vitamins: A daily multivitamin supplement will cover your nutritional bases, particularly during Atkins’ first phase of induction, when nutrient-rich fruits and veggies are even more restricted.
Eat more good fats: Eating fat with the intention to lose fat certainly sounds counter-intuitive, but a certain amount of fat is essential. It provides energy and enhances the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. It is also important for healthy skin and hair. The trick is to stick to healthy fats, like those found in foods like avocados, nuts, fish and olive oil. These healthy fat sources provide essential fatty acids, which cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained from diet. In addition to being an energy source, these fats are used in the body to provide structure to cell membranes and create key chemical messengers.
Supplement with fiber: If you’re thoughtful about it, you may be able to get the fiber you need from low-carb fruits and veggies; however, it can be tricky to do so within a carb-restricted diet. Regularly incorporating high-fiber grains, like flax or bran cereal, into your diet can help close the gap, or you can simply take a high-fiber supplement that may help you meet your need within your program.
Vegan or Vegetarian
Eliminating all animal products from your diet can be a challenge because it requires you to plan your intake more carefully to ensure adequate amounts of key nutrients, like protein, iron, iodine, omega-3s and vitamin B12. And, if you’re looking to lose weight by going vegan, there are also things to keep in mind to avoid filling up on unhealthy refined carbs like cookies and white bread. The key to maintaining proper health as a vegan is to keep your diet based in whole foods (as opposed to processed food), varied and nutrient-dense.
Add vitamin B12: Since it’s found almost exclusively in animal products, most omnivores don’t need to think too much about this necessary vitamin. B12 is hugely important for nerve and blood cell health and production. Because your body needs B12 to make red blood cells, inadequate B12 intake over time can lead to anemia. It can also cause nerve damage. Many vegans rely on fortified foods and supplements to get their daily dose.
Be smart about protein: Plant-based diets can provide sufficient protein in a variety of different foods, without the saturated fats and cholesterol found in animal products. Vegans and vegetarians alike can easily find protein-packed soy products in most grocery stores, and can enjoy varied diets by incorporating nutrient-rich foods like legumes, quinoa, lentils, beans, seeds, grains, nuts, etc. into daily meals for a boost of protein. Vegan-friendly protein shakes and protein supplements are also a great way to get in your recommended daily intake without consuming too many calories.
Pump up your iron intake: Foods like lentils, peas, whole grains and dark leafy green vegetables are plant-based iron sources. The problem then becomes that vegans have to consume almost twice as much iron as non-vegetarians, because plant-sourced iron, called non-heme iron, is harder for the body to absorb than the heme iron found in red meat. Consider opting for an iron supplement or increasing your intake of iron-rich foods. Vitamin C is also involved with iron absorption and can be consumed around the same time to support absorption.
Commonly referred to as the “Caveman diet,” Paleo eliminates all processed, unnatural foods in favor of lean meats, fish, nuts, fruits and veggies—food groups presumably relied on by early hunter-gatherers. That means saying so long to dairy and wheat products, and hello to a full-on lifestyle shift. Positioned as both a healthy alternative diet and a weight loss method, the Paleo trend has gained considerable popularity over the past few years, particularly among athletes who enjoy the strong emphasis on protein. Eliminating dairy from your diet limits key sources of calcium and vitamin D
Pay attention to riboflavin: Also known as vitamin B2, riboflavin is a particularly crucial metabolism-booster and energy producer. Look to foods like lean meats, eggs, almonds and spinach for natural sources of B2 and get an extra boost from a B2 supplement.
Vitamin D: A key player in bone health, immunehealth and calcium absorption, vitamin D can be made by the body when the skin is exposed to direct sunlight, or absorbed when consumed in food or vitamin D supplements. Paleo dieters can find ample supply in fatty fish like salmon or in soybeans.
Calcium: The health benefits of calcium are abundant. Calcium plays an active role in bone health, and is essential for proper heart, muscle and nerve function. And while dairy has long been celebrated as a natural source of calcium, that isn’t to say that it’s the only one. Turn to foods like spinach, collard greens, bok choy and edamame as calcium-rich alternatives, and take a vitamin D supplement for added support.