If you haven’t eliminated at least one food group in your life, you are a rare creature! So many diets focus on excluding one or more food groups. But should you eliminate foods from your diet? This is how I view it as a qualified nutritionist.
Should you eliminate foods? The argument for yes
There are some cases where food elimination can be beneficial. The most obvious one is that you may alleviate some of your symptoms if you eliminate the food group that is causing or exacerbating that symptom.
You’re also more likely to restrict less healthy foods on an elimination protocol – think processed foods and refined sugars. So you’re likely to replace these with healthier food options, which has plenty of other benefits!
When you remove foods from the diet, particularly more than one food group, you’re likely to learn more about food. For example, people who follow a vegan diet have to learn about iron, vitamin B12, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids to stay at optimal health.
Finally, you’ll become more aware of how you feel when you eat specific foods. You’ll notice not only the physical effects, but often the mental and emotional impacts. Mindful eating is the best kind of eating there is!
Should you eliminate foods? The argument for no
Like anything, there are downsides to cutting foods out. Let’s look at some of the risks you might be taking.
First up, if you eliminate foods without balancing your nutrient intake, you can become deficient in essential vitamins, minerals and other beneficial nutrients. This can cause far more problems that the problem you had in the first place! But it’s one of the most common side effects of an imbalanced elimination diet.
If you’re eliminating foods left, right and centre, you might end up eliminating foods that aren’t even causing issues. I often see this with people who follow a restrictive FODMAP diet for years, instead of reintroducing each group to test which are ok to include!
Eliminating foods can often restrict your social life. Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to eat out if you’re gluten-free, dairy-free or vegetarian. But the most complex and numerous your restrictions, the harder it is to eat out or even have a meal at a friend’s place.
Finally, eliminating foods can trigger disordered eating patterns in those who are vulnerable or have a history of eating issues. This is one of the reasons that I never follow a restrictive form of eating such as keto or Paleo for more than a few months at a time.
The best option
As we’ve seen, eliminating foods can have drawbacks that can cause more problems. If you eliminate foods that aren’t causing issues but are nutrient-dense, you could make yourself sicker.
Does that mean that should never ever cut out a food group? Not at all! But if you do want to eliminate foods, do it under the supervision of a qualified nutrition professional. They can monitor your normal food intake and help you avoid deficiencies.
If you want to DIY your diet approach, I encourage you to focus on what you can add into your diet, rather than what you eliminate. So instead of getting rid of the bad guys, you focus instead on adding in good guys.
The foods I encourage people to add in are those that are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and packed to the brim with nutrition. It might include:
- High-quality proteins (can be animal or plant-based)
- Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Green and herbal teas
- Herbs and spices
Of course, not all of these will always suit everyone. If you know you have a dietary requirement such as low fibre, keep to that! But there are still healthy options for almost every dietary need out there. So if you’re in doubt, add in more wholefoods, instead of eliminating foods.
Is it time to bring someone on board as you eliminate foods?
I’m here to help. Learn more about my nutrition approach here.