You can eat a whole food diet, count your calories, limit carb and sugar intake, eat less fat or follow your diet regime to the letter and still don’t see the expected results on your scale. The answer could lie not in what you have limited in your diet but what you’re not giving your body so it’s malfunctioning. Taking care of this malfunction before you even begin losing weight is crucial for your success.
Modern diets and eating plans often lead to deficiencies of certain nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Your body depends on those essential nutrients to regulate metabolic processes, appetite, energy levels, moods and strength.
If you’re ‘stuck’ with your diet the reason probably lies in nutrient deficiencies. These deficiencies can slow your metabolism and undermine your ability to burn fat.
What are dietary deficiencies?
To function properly our body needs macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fat as well as micronutrients: vitamins and minerals. If we lack intake from any of these groups a nutritional deficiency occurs. The fact is that it is very hard to eat all the needed nutrients through a well balanced diet. That’s why nutritional deficiencies are very common and the possibility that you have one is very high. Usually we don’t even notice the signs of different nutrition deficiencies, but when pushing your body, like with weight loss, they simply become more obvious.
How common nutrient deficiencies are among the US population shows the chart below.
Dr. Loren Cordain – chart on American’s Nutrient Deficiency
In a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition daily menus from four popular diet plans (Atkins for Life diet, The South Beach Diet, the DASH diet, the Best Life diet) were evaluated. The researchers found that all four diets “failed to provide minimum RDI (Recommended daily intake) sufficiency for all 27 micronutrients analyzed”. Six micronutrients (vitamin B7, vitamin D, vitamin E, chromium, iodine and molybdenum) were identified as consistently low or nonexistent in all four diet plans. This proves that it is hard to meet the RDI of micronutrients just by consuming food. There is a high possibility that micronutrient deficiencies will occur, which are linked to obesity and many dangerous health conditions and diseases.
How to identify nutritional deficiencies
The first step to getting your diet on the road again is to identify your nutritional deficiencies. This can be done in several different ways:
- Visit your doctor and ask for a blood test to check for nutrient deficiencies. Beyond the basic CHEM-20 test you can ask for a vitamin and mineral status test. There are many more blood tests that can be done to check your health but this solution can be costly. Check if you’re covered for these kind of tests.
- Keep a journal of what you eat and drink for a week and analyze it with an online nutrient calculator like Fitday. This takes a little bit more time but can show you if you have a major nutrient deficiency.
Most common nutritional deficiencies
When your body lacks any nutrients it will change the way your metabolism works. What different kind of deficiencies are causing is the subject of many researches. We are just beginning to understand how seriously nutritional deficiencies can impact our health. They definitively can hinder weight loss and that’s why it’s important to take care of the five most common dietary deficiencies before you start a diet:
- Water – most people don’t drink enough water causing dehydration
- Omega-3 fatty acids – (95% of the population is deficient)
If you don’t eat fatty fish at least twice per week the possibility you’re deficient in omega-3 fatty acids is quiet high. Up to 95% of the US population is deficient in this very important nutrient that fights inflammation and is essential for cardiovascular health.
- Protein deficiency – specially common with women
Although the western diet is quite high in meat and dairy protein deficiency is often noticed with women.
- Various vitamin and mineral deficiencies
This really depends on the food, fruits and vegetables you eat. Depending on what you eat in abundance and what you lack in your diet different micronutrient deficiencies can occur. The most common micronutrient deficiencies are:
-Iron – specially for woman
How to fix those deficiencies
Although you can address every single nutrition deficiency as it occurs a broader approach will give you immediate results and will help you to avoid deficiencies in the future as well. By taking care of the four deficiencies mentioned above you will supply your body with very important nutrients taking care of most deficiencies
Drink 2 l of water every day. That’s about 8-9 cups of water every day. The easiest way to ensure you’re drinking enough is to keep a 2 l bottle next to you. Drink the whole bottle by the end of the day and you’ll be sure you’ve had enough water. In summer time you can drink even more. If you’re not used to drinking plain water put some drops of lemon juice inside to give it some taste.
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Use a two-gram fish oil supplement every day. The important ingredients in fish oil are omega-3 fatty acids which are polyunsaturated essential fatty acids. This means that our bodies can’t produce omega-3 fats, we must get them through food.
Fish oil intake in healthy adults has minimal risk and no side effects but fish oil can increase your risk of bleeding and interact with some medication like aspirin and blood thinners. Before adding this supplement to your diet please consult your doctor.
- Protein deficiency
Eat protein rich foods with every meal. It’s best to get your proteins from food sources. If you eat a lot of lean meat, chicken and fish adding a protein supplement isn’t really necessary. But if you don’t eat protein with every meal add a protein supplement like whey powder to your diet once a day.
- Various vitamin and mineral deficiencies
You should aim to eat a balanced diet rich with fresh fruit and vegetables. This way you will take a lot of vitamins and minerals from whole foods which is the best. But since it is very hard to meet the RDI of all vitamins and minerals through food alone the recommendation of the Linus Pauling Institute is to take a multivitamin/mineral supplement (MVM) with 100% of the Daily Value (DV) for most vitamins and essential minerals. Just choose a brand you like and take the doses recommended on the label. Since micronutrient deficiencies are very common it is better to take any supplement than none.
By taking these steps you’ll cover most deficiencies and be on the right track for weight loss.
Will it help jump-start weight loss
Giving your body what it needs to function well is powerful. A study from the Sansom Institute for Health Research in Australia has shown that children who were nutrient deficient when supplemented with vitamins and omga-3 fatty acids improved cognitive and behavioral functions.
Simply said our bodies can not do the work we ask for without feeding them all the ingredients they need. By taking care of nutrition deficiencies you will boost your metabolism into starting weight loss the right way.
Photo credit: Scheveningen 2014 by Maurice