Is the elimination of any nutrient ever good?
Myth: Diets that include complete macronutrient elimination are superior to other diets or nutritional habits. Examples include the keto diet (eliminates/lowers carbohydrate intake), low fat or no-fat diets, veganism (eliminating all animal-based protein options), and more.
Truth: The diets above do have a purpose but they are not a “one size fits all” diet that everyone should be latching themselves onto, nor should the be promoted by fitness/wellness professionals as a total solution to losing weight, building muscle, or achieving the status as the “perfect human specimen.”
Below we will analyze the history, purpose, and what each of these common diets above entails.
Elimination of Animal Products
Veganism is the practice of cutting out animal products from the diet. According to an article from Time Magazine, the word “vegan” was coined by a British woodworker named Donald Watson. He chose to live this lifestyle and to promote it, he used the fact that tuberculosis was found in 40% of cows. Therefore, telling the public that veganism can protect people from tainted meat. Watson was a member of the Vegan Society and published articles within their newsletter. Watson died in 2005 and their newsletter went from 25 subscribers to now around 250,000, leaving a lasting impression on the ever growing vegan community.
In the early 2000s, veganism started to rise as a way to oppose pollution in agriculture. Animal-based agriculture takes up approximately 77% of the world’s agricultural land but only provides 17% of our food; moreover, the vegans contain a sound argument when trying to fight overall waste and pollution caused by animal-based agriculture.
When looking at veganism from sustainability and pollution-fighting standpoint, it is a great nutritional option! However, if none of those reasons appeal to you and you’re just looking to optimize your overall nutrition, then you do not need to be a vegan to achieve your goals. Animal-based proteins have more of a variety of essential amino acids that vegans and vegetarians alike miss out on and have to supplement in most cases.
Low Fat/No Fat Diets
Beginning in the 1980s and 1990s, the idea of reducing fat intake or completely eliminating it from the diet was being endorsed by the government, prescribed by every doctor, found in an abundance of mainstream media, and every health professional was exclaiming this was the end-all-be-all diet of choice. La Berge, author of How the Ideology of Low Fat Conquered America, explains that this fad blew up and is based on 4 elements: weight reduction, the “diet-heart” hypothesis followed after WWII, politics of low-fat/no-fat diets, and promotion by mainstream health media.
Low-fat diets are prescribed by registered dietitians in a variety of ways for patients that may struggle with, for example, high cholesterol, chronic pancreatitis, gallbladder disease, or more.
Unless recommended by a registered dietitian, excluding or eating immensely low amounts of fats within the diet is completely unnecessary. Fats assist in absorbing fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, E, D, & K. Vitamin and mineral absorption is so important when trying to achieve fitness or wellness goals so don’t follow the fad!
The most well-known fad diet associated with carbohydrate elimination is the “keto” or ketogenic diet. The ketogenic diet came into play as a way to combat epilepsy and it was introduced around the 1920s. As epilepsy medicine has evolved, the ketogenic diet is not as popular as it was in the early ’90s, and dietitians and practitioners have strayed away from relying on it as a means to combat epilepsy. The ketogenic diet has also been used by dietitians as a means to lessen PCOS symptoms as well as helping patients that have diabetes or metabolic syndrome.
The ketogenic diet has now made its way into mainstream media as a popular fad diet that is a part of the massive weight loss phenomenon. The concept behind the ketogenic diet is that as you take away or lessen your carbohydrate intake, your body will “switch” into ketosis which is burning fats for fuel, not carbohydrates. Another unwanted side effect or idea that others tend to promote while trying to follow keto guidelines is that they can eat whatever fats they want. This turns into greasy bacon, heavily buttering items, extra cheese, and more. Now, all these items are OK but in moderation! Intaking a heavily greasy and fatty diet is not beneficial. If you think a diet sounds too good to be true in this sense, it probably is.
When partaking in this nutritional change up, there tends to be rapid weight loss, however, it is extremely hard to maintain. It is not an effective means for weight loss due to the body “switching” back to burning carbohydrates as you start to incorporating carbohydrates again. No one wants to gain back all the weight they just worked so hard to lose, so don’t! Unless you have a medical condition that will become more bearable when lessening carbohydrates, you do not need to follow in on this fad. The unwanted effects of partaking in a ketogenic diet include brain fog, fatigue, bad breath, moodiness, and more.
It is important to understand the role of diversity within the diet to achieve proper vitamin and mineral absorption and not associate negative connotations with a certain macronutrient! There is no reason to avoid proteins, fats, or carbohydrates unless a registered dietitian has told you so based on a current health condition. And even then, there is never complete elimination, only lessening and those amounts are usually not extremely restrictive. So, enjoy your foods in moderation! There are usually just better habits and nutritional concepts that need to be understood and implemented when it comes to revising your diet to better yourself!
John, J. (2019, August 01). Just How Sustainable Is Plant-Based Meat? Retrieved July 28, 2020, from https://www.gfi.org/sustainable-meat-fact-sheet
JW;, W. (2008). History of the ketogenic diet. Retrieved October 21, 2020, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19049574/
La Berge, A. F. (2008). How the Ideology of Low Fat Conquered America. Retrieved October 21, 2020, from https://academic.oup.com/jhmas/article/63/2/139/772615
Suddath, C. (2008, October 30). A Brief History of Veganism. Retrieved October 21, 2020, from https://time.com/3958070/history-of-veganism/