6 Common Diets That Can Be Harmful


Before you start your drive of totally going off fat, carbohydrates and other such food constituents, you should pause to think whether this action of yours would be truly beneficial. This article is an attempt to examine some of the common pitfalls associated with six of the more popular weight loss programs.

So whether you are following doctor’s advice or trying to do this on your own, it is worth looking at the down sides of such programs as well and then take an informed decision so that you do not have any regrets later on.

1. The Low – Fat Diet Program

While reducing fat intake is good, it should not be done in isolation and you should also reduce calorie intake for it to be effective. Reducing fat intake would help people who have problems with gallstones, gastrointestinal issues and any other problem that inhibits proper fat absorption.

The Pitfalls – If you keep away from fat, then it will affect your body metabolism and its ability to absorb certain vital vitamins like A,K, E and D. The body does require fats to absorb these vitamins and other phytochemicals to do its function properly.

In fact a study carried out in 2004 and mentioned in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed how people who partook of a salad consisting of spinach, lettuce and tomatoes were not able to absorb much of essential phytochemicals like beta-carotene, lycopene and alpha-carotene.

You also need to be careful about not taking much of cookies or desserts. Though they may claim to be fat free, they do contain calories.

Your strategy – All you need to do if you are looking for a plan that is low in bad cholesterol and beneficial to the heart is to avoid foods rich in saturated and trans fats. You can instead take good amounts of fish, avocados, olives, nuts and prepare food out of vegetable oils like olive, sesame or canola. Just make sure you do not consume too much of them.

Another recommendation is to keep away from animal products like cheese, salami, and corned beef and so on. Stick to lean meat like chicken and fish. You should also remember that though you are following a low-fat diet, you would still need the same number of servings and should not compromise on that as you could experience weakness.

2. The Gluten-Free Diet Program

It has become a trend to avoid glutens as some of the people believe it is the protein content inherent in certain grains that is responsible for diseases like autism, arthritis and even depression. However, studies have not proved this beyond doubt. Some studies conducted on autism affected individuals and put on a gluten free diet did not throw up any findings to suggest that this impression is correct.

Only those who are very sensitive to glutens found in rye, wheat and barley and also suffering from celiac disease should restrict intake of glutens. Others would find that they are not getting the required amount of iron or crucial vitamin B constituents.
The Pitfalls – Many of the gluten-free products do not have adequate alternate fortification of nutrients and tend to be high in sugar as well as fat. It has been found that cookies, hamburgers and muffins that are supposedly gluten-free have high levels of sugar and that is not good for your health.

It has also been found that people following a gluten-free diet usually take more of rice in the form of rice bread, plain rice and leave out whole grains that are quite rich in healthy fiber.

Moreover a gluten-free diet is expensive and you have to be prepared to shell out more for such a diet.

Your Strategy – Ensure that if you are indeed following a gluten-free diet, you take in more servings of whole grains and this could be in the form of brown rice, sorghum, quinoa, millet and amaranth. This will help compensate loss of fiber to some extent and keep you healthy.

3. The Low-Sodium Diet Program

Cutting down on salt intake is good especially if you are suffering from hypertension or any kidney related ailment. Though the clear limit is 1500 milligrams of sodium, majority of the Americans consume more than 2500 milligrams of sodium and that is equal to one teaspoon.

The Pitfalls – Eating a lot of restaurant food and ready-made food will lead to increased intake of sodium and you therefore have to start cooking yourself so that you can exercise control on this intake of sodium. You also need to increase your intake of potassium.

Your Strategy – Increase potassium intake so that some of the harmful impact of sodium is negated. You can find potassium in broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, salmon and oranges. Of course you need to take the advice of your doctor before doing so as if you have any kidney related ailment then potassium intake too could be dangerous.

Potassium does control hypertension as well as the negative effects of too much sodium.

4. The Vegetarian and Vegan Diets Program

It is well known that a diet that is primarily plant based is very advantageous as it can lower cholesterol levels, reduce chances of heart disease, diabetes and prostate cancer and can generally lead to good health. Dietician Mark Rifkin who is the President at the Preventive Nutrition Services at Baltimore opines that all the above benefits can be obtained from a diet that is devoid of animal flesh, but which includes eggs, milk and cheese. It is well known that Vegans avoid even eggs and cheese in addition to the animal products.

The Pitfalls – You could develop a deficiency of important minerals such as calcium, iodine, iron, zinc, proteins as well as of omega -3 fatty acids and even of vitamins such as D and B12
The other downside is that many of the vegetarian diets have typically high concentrations of fat and sugar which are not good for the body at all.

Rifkin goes on to substantiate his point saying that food items such as French fries, pizza, ice cream, cheese balls and soda are all vegetarian but highly detrimental to good health over a period of time. He sums up saying that merely being vegetarian does not guarantee good health and it is a matter of eating the right food.

Your Strategy – The only way to get vitamin B12 normally found in animal food is through supplements and fortified food. Vegans as well as vegetarians who eschew fish from their diet can face a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and iodine and this shortage can only be met through supplements.

The recommended dosages of such vitamins are as given below:

  • Vitamin D: Adults need at least 400 IUs and those over the age of 70 would require 600IU. Considering that higher dosages of vitamin D has been found to be effective for prevention of cancer as well as heart disease, Rifkin says that an intake of even 800-1000IU would not be excess and would in fact be ideal to combat these ailments.
  • Vitamin B12: at least 2.6 mcg (micrograms)
  • Iodine: A minimum of 150 mcg
  • Omega-3: A quantity of 1,500-2,000 mg if the diet is plant based and 500-1,800 mg if the diet includes fish

It is advisable therefore to consult a dietician who is well versed with vegetarian meals and knows how to plan the diet such that you get your daily intake of vitamins.

5. The Low-Carbohydrate Diet Program

The Atkins diet has enabled many people to shed excess weight and also control appetite. However, like any other low-fat diet, they are effective only if you also reduce calorie intake. This diet program brings immediate short term results but over a period of time, unless you can control calorie intake, you could lose the advantage.

The Pitfalls – If you have the habit of feasting on junk fast food like bacon, burgers and large steaks, you are in for trouble as these foods are rich in cholesterol and bad fat.

In addition, foods that are rich in carbohydrates like yogurt, juice, fruits, milk, cereals, corn and oats are very essential to give you the energy to go about your daily routine. They are also useful to provide the roughage needed by the body for effective colon and bowel cleansing.

A diet that is a balanced one and contains enough carbohydrates helps in cognitive functions, improves memory recall and promotes learning. A study conducted in 2008 by Tufts University revealed that those on a low-carb diet tested poorly on cognitive tasks as compared to those on a balanced diet and containing adequate carbohydrates.

Your Strategy – You should choose healthier carbohydrates and keep away from refined sweets, cheese balls and the like. Substitute with whole oats, sweet potatoes, wheat pasta and fruit to get the best benefits from carbohydrates.

6. The Diabetic Diet Program

It is a fact that most of the diabetic diet programs concentrate on lowering the intake of carbohydrates since they lead to increase in blood sugar levels. The recommendation is that even if you are not diabetic, you must reduce your intake of white flour items as well as white sugar in any form.

The Pitfalls – It is essential to control level of blood glucose in order to prevent some of the debilitating after effects of diabetes on the kidney, nerves and eyes. You must consult your doctor to find out what level is suitable for your health and body and accordingly make dietary adjustments to ensure that level is maintained.

You must also focus on preventing heart ailments by addressing the causative factors of cholesterol and hypertension adequately. This is important since heart ailments are responsible for causing death in a person who is already suffering from diabetes.
You also need to go slow with the sugar-free products that are being advertised very actively. That is because many of them are artificially sweetened with Sorbitol, Maltitol as well as Mannitol and these are things that your body cannot always absorb totally. The result can be cramps, formation of gas and a bloated feeling.

Your Strategy – You should be concentrating on your total diet rather than just on foods with high carbohydrate content. Do not cut off carbohydrates totally but spread the intake through the day so that you avoid sudden spurts in your blood sugar levels. This way you will be able to enjoy good healthy food from each category.

Ensure that you restrict your intake of processed foods and do not eat out at restaurants too often. This will keep the sodium as well as cholesterol levels down. Consult a dietician regularly so that he or she can guide you on the kind of meals you should be having to prevent any sudden surge in your blood sugar levels.

Finally, you need to make sure you are eating the right kind of food.

Though many individuals think they are eating healthy food, they will realize that they are actually doing their bodies a disservice only when they take a healthy food quiz. This quiz will present to them the true picture.