The Downfall of Elimination Diets

Elimination diets are becoming so trendy, they often have little to do with a person’s weight or health needs.

Avoiding certain foods with weight loss and healthy eating in mind is not new.  But so-called “elimination diets” are becoming so trendy, they often have little to do with a person’s weight or health needs.  Many health-conscious eaters are now using elimination diets in an effort to cure everything from headaches and insomnia to skin irritations and digestive difficulties.

For people with true food allergies or intolerances, elimination of certain things can be crucial. But just because something has redeeming value for some does not mean it is a solution for all.

A dietitian or physician generally prescribes a true elimination diet, and specific foods or ingredients are removed because you and your medical provider think they may be causing allergic reactions. But many people are eliminating foods without a professional opinion in attempts to lose weight (40%), according to an online survey. What are people eliminating? Most said it was more than one thing (35%). Gluten and sugar (17% each) are among the top things people are eliminating specifically, followed by dairy and alcohol.

Many people, including celebrities, have jumped on the gluten free bandwagon because they think it’s healthier, but it might not be. A gluten free diet can lack vitamins, minerals and fiber just as easily as a diet with processed grains. In fact studies show that whole grain foods (providing fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals, and more) as part of a balanced diet, may help lower the risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer.

Others have begun to completely eliminate the various forms of sugar and simple carbohydrates (some of which, like fructose and lactose are naturally found in plants and milk). Eliminating sugar altogether is an example of trading moderation for obsession and restriction.  And any dieter knows that the more you restrict something, the more you obsess over having that something.

Do elimination diets even work? Of those surveyed, one-third said it didn’t work for them. If the goal is to be healthier, simple changes to your diet are easier to maintain than eliminating certain foods or ingredients altogether. This means it’s okay to have some of your favorite foods, whether they are French fries, a piece of cake or a soda, in moderation on occasion.  If food allergies are not a factor, it creates a much healthier relationship with food if you allow yourself to be inclusive of all foods and beverages in your diet and not focused on eliminating any one in particular.

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