If you have an allergy or intolerance, cutting out problem foods will make you feel better. But it’s important to ensure you’re not missing out on essential vitamins and minerals. Read on for our nutrition checklist to see if your body’s getting everything it needs when you
follow a restricted diet.
Your diet: Gluten-free
Nutrient watch-out: Fibre
Most people in the UK don’t eat enough fibre. According to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey of Adults, women consume on average just 12.6g of fibre a day – well below the recommended 18g. And if you’re avoiding cereals, crackers, bread and the like due to their gluten content, you’re likely to be even more short of your fibre target.
Try these: So how can you get more from a gluten-free diet? Chia seeds contain one of the highest fibre contents on the planet (check out our article, What can I do with chia seeds?) while pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds are also high in fibre. Beans are a good choice too – or you can take a supplement.
Your diet: Egg-free
Nutrient watch-outs: Protein, omega 3s, selenium
Eggs are a great source of protein – two for breakfast will provide 12g – plus omega 3 fatty acids, which help keep cholesterol levels and heart function normal. Selenium is another key nutrient found in eggs – it’s useful for your immune system and thyroid function as well as healthy hair and nails.
Try these: A little chicken is a good protein substitute and oily fish is high in omega 3s. In fact, oily fish is far richer in DHA, the omega 3 linked to brain function and vision. It’s also a good source of selenium, as are Brazil nuts and sunflower seeds.
Your diet: Dairy-free
Nutrient watch-out: Calcium
Those with lactose intolerance may be concerned about getting enough calcium if they’ve cut out dairy. The mineral is also essential for muscle function, healthy teeth and digestion. Our diet should provide around 1000mg of calcium.
Try these: One small handful (30g) of almonds contains nearly 80mg of calcium compared to the 122mg of calcium found in 100ml of milk. One serving of sardines (with bones) contains another 325mg.
Your diet: Nut-free
Nutrient watch-outs: Calcium, magnesium
As well as providing calcium, nuts are also a rich source of magnesium. This key mineral contributes to normal nervous system function, healthy bones, energy production and also plays a role in mood.
Try this: Spinach and lentils are both rich in magnesium – try making a sag dhal.
Your diet: Vegetarian
Nutrient watch-out: Vitamin B12
Meat is the richest source of B12, the only vitamin we can’t obtain from plants. B12 is crucial for mood balance, reduction in fatigue, and contributes to the normal function of the nervous system. Inadequate amounts can leave you feeling tired with reduced immunity to illness.
Try these: So what are the best meat-free sources? Eggs and seafood contain B12; however, if you eat a completely animal-free diet you might want to consider a supplement as tests have shown 83% of vegans are deficient in B12. Some milk substitutes, soy products and breakfast cereals are fortified with B12.