These days, it can be really hard to understand what a 'healthy diet' really means. I mean, we live in a world where ticks of approval can be purchased and so called 'healthy' brands are the major sponsors of certain events.
Firstly I need to make this clear - if you NEED to eliminate certain foods for diagnosed allergies or intolerances, this article does not apply to you. I am a Coeliac (have been for 15 years) and I know what it's like to read articles that make us feel like we have a choice in the matter...
This article is here to showcase why it's not a good idea to cut out entire food groups for reasons such as weight loss, perceived 'nutritional benefits', increased energy levels, clearer skin and even behavioural management for children.
When questioned about whether wiping out entire food groups is ever a good idea, Helen Bond, a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association has stated "If it's medically necessary, yes, but if it's not, then you're veering into faddy eating". Each of the food groups - fruit and vegetables, starchy carbohydrates, protein, dairy and unsaturated fats - contain both macro and micro nutrients which are absolutely essential to health. They exist for a reason.
So, before you take drastic action in eliminating entire food groups from your (or your families') diet - read this article.
What happens if I cut gluten from my diet?
Think twice. For example, bread and pasta can be fantastic sources of fibre, vitamins and minerals (if you opt for the Wholegrain varieties). Other gluten free foods often have increased levels of fat or sugar added to them to replace the gluten, so unless you've done your research - it may not be a healthier option at all.
Some of the vitamins absorbed through wholegrains include Thiamin, Folate & Riboflavin and minerals include Magnesium, Selenium & Iron. Other health benefits of incorporating wholegrains into your diet include, associations with reduction in heart disease, prevention of neural tube defects during fetal development and improved bowel function.
What happens if I cut dairy from my diet?
Calcium is something that can be absorbed from leafy green vegetables, certain fruits, nuts and tofu, however you need to know your portions to ensure you are getting enough. Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth and not absorbing enough may lead to early arthritis and osteoporosis. For growing children, calcium intake is pivotal to creating and maintaining bone strength and for the prevention of fractures and breaks.
If you are concerned about the type of dairy you are consuming, do a review and where possible make substitutes. For example, ice-cream can be replaced with yoghurt, replace soft cheeses such as Camembert and Brie with hard cheeses including Cheddar or Parmesan (30gm of hard cheese provides 240mg calcium, whereas 30gm of soft cheese only provides 120mg calcium), if you struggle with digesting lactose, make a swap to soy or almond milk - just make sure they are fortified with calcium and not sweetened.
What happens if I cut fat from my diet?
Well it all depends where the fat comes from firstly.
Unsaturated fats (in moderation) from plant sources such as olives, avocado, grapeseed, sesame and flaxseed are essential to a healthy diet.
Fat is a component of every cell in our body and for the cells to metabolically do their job - fat is a requirement. Foods like nuts, seeds and fatty fish are a great source of heart- and brain-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
The fallacy is that if you cut fat you will lose weight. That may be true if you're eating unhealthy saturated forms of fat (deep fried foods, takeaway, animal fats & palm oil), however fat is especially important at each meal if you are trying to lose weight or as part of a weight management program.
The unsaturated fats that I mentioned earlier will help you stay fuller for longer. If you were to cut all the fat from your diet, your blood sugar won't stay stable for long periods of time and you may find yourself feeling hungry again sooner.
Choose your fats wisely!
What happens if I cut sugar from my diet?
Just like fats - it all depends on where the sugar comes from which will make all the difference to your diet.
All carbohydrates, including fruits and vegetables, are broken down into glucose in the body which is essential for energy. If you remove carbs, fruits and vegetables from your diet, all to avoid sugar - you can see for yourself that you're not actually living a healthy or nutritious lifestyle at all.
Processed foods normally contain sugars which have been added by the manufacturers and eating these types of food in excess is linked with obesity, diabetes and dental decay. These are the types of sugars to avoid.
Natural sugars found in fruits, vegetables, honey and coconut palms are the best sources to keep your blood sugar levels in check and your energy levels up. They're also lower on the Glycemic index which means you won't have those nasty energy spikes and crashes!
So with all of this knowledge it's important to follow up with a healthcare professional if you feel as though you do have a food intolerance.
Signs to look out for include:
Changes in usually consistent bowel habits
Skin, energy or weight issues
Extremely brittle nails
If you do decide you want to try a process of elimination to see how you feel - don't cut out everything at once! If you can, keep a detailed food, symptom and mood journal for at least 4 weeks while you are trialing the changes to your diet.
If you start to see a difference and are feeling better, you may have a sensitivity to that particular food. The key is to eliminate that food but replace its nutrients.
As I always say, moderation is the key. I ask myself frequently 'is this food fighting disease or causing it?' If, for the majority of the time the answer is the latter, it's definitely time to make some healthier food and lifestyle choices - you just don't need to take drastic measures to reap the benefits!
Love & Light
xx Sandra Stoitis xx