What's Your Diet Deficit?
Many fad diets leave out more than the carbs, fat, or extra calories.
Anyone who's on a fad diet is painfully aware of some things now missing
from the dinner plate. Oh, how you yearn for the simple things you took for
granted -- the burger with the bun, the fast food bagel that didn't require
your scraping three-quarters of the cream cheese off with a napkin, the
simplicity of pouring a container of half-and-half into your coffee instead of
letting the mug grow cold while you wait for the waitress to bring the pitcher
of skim milk.
But not everything that your diet plan prohibits leaves such an obvious hole
in your life. That may not be a good thing. Without your noticing it, your fad
diet may be cutting out foods that give you important vitamins and nutrients
you really need.
While losing weight is obviously great for your health, it isn't the only
thing you need to worry about. But that's all any fad diet is designed to do.
Good nutrition is often beside the point.
"I think people lose sight of nutrition when they're dieting," says
Elisa Zied, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "But
if you're not getting good nutrition, you're not going to feel well."
So besides those much-missed french fries and ice cream, what might you be
leaving out of your diet? WebMD talked to some experts to find out what's
missing from fad diet plans. In some cases, it may be quite a lot.
Do I Really Need to Worry About Nutrition?
High-Protein DietsObviously, we don't mean to overstate the
problem. You won't drop dead from a nutritional deficiency after a few months
of following a fad diet plan. Our nation's emergency rooms aren't flooded with
fad dieters laid low by scurvy and rickets.
But it's easy to underestimate the problem, too. Chronic nutritional
deficiencies can make you feel rundown and unwell.
"I definitely see people who have nutritional problems from
dieting," Zied tells WebMD. "You need to get laboratory tests to make
sure. But sometimes it's obvious. Their skin is sallow, their lips are
cracking, or they have bad breath."
Nutritional deficiencies can lead to more serious problems too, especially
for people who already have other medical conditions. Many vitamins and
nutrients have been shown to help prevent serious diseases, like cancer and
heart disease. Sticking to an imbalanced diet for a long time may lead to
High-protein/low-carb fad diets have come under some heavy criticism from
Zied speaks specifically about the Atkins diet, although many high-protein
diets are what she calls "imbalanced diets." "By cutting out
carbohydrates, it eliminates the food that is supposed to be the main source of
fuel for your body," says Zied.
Many of the high-protein diets ignore the nutritional differences between
different kinds of carbohydrates, experts say. But there's a world of
difference -- nutritionally speaking -- between carbohydrates like refined
sugar and a kiwi, says Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, the "Recipe Doctor" for
WebMD's Weight Loss Clinic and the author of Fry Light, Fry Right.