All dieters know that success is about preparation—penciling in workouts and grocery store trips, and of course, meal and snack prep. But there’s one thing that often doesn’t get much thought: all the things your diet doesn’t allow for. And that could spell major trouble for your health. Whether you’re on a dairy-free diet or a juice cleanse, you could be missing out on nutrients your body needs to stay healthy as you eat your way to a leaner physique. Though you may not notice the effects immediately, skipping out on important nutrients like iron, vitamin D, and B vitamins can eventually affect the health of your bones and brain and zap your energy levels.
Sure, you could simply pop a vitamin to make up for any deficiencies, but that’s not the most effective way to nourish your body. Nutrients from whole foods like fruit, nuts, and veggies, for example, are far easier to absorb. Thankfully, it’s possible to get the vitamins and minerals you’re missing without going off of your diet. It just takes a bit of planning—something you’re likely a pro at if you’ve been following your diet for a while now. So, before you continue to press “juice” on your Vitamix or eat like the cavemen, read on to learn how to stay safe while working toward the body you’ve always wanted. And while you’ve got your better-body goals on the brain, be sure to skim over these 20 Weight Loss Tricks You Haven’t Tried to amp up the effects of your go-to diet plan!
You’re likely missing: fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins
The fruits, veggies, and protein powders you’ll blend for your juice cleanse can give you a variety of vitamins, but you’ve got to consume fatty acids if you want to absorb them. Fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K, need healthy fats to work their health-boosting magic. In his book “The Fats of Life: Essential Fatty Acids in Health and Disease,” author Glen D. Lawrence suggests incorporating milk (cow’s, almond, and coconut varieties) or a teaspoon of coconut oil into your juices to amp up the fat content and improve the healthfulness of your overall diet. And most importantly, don’t stick to a juice cleanse that’s free of solids for more than three days. That’s straight up dangerous.
You’re likely missing: vitamins B5 and E
If you eat a low-carb diet, you’re likely not getting much vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) or vitamin E in your diet, according to a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Vitamin E has been shown to ward off numerous chronic diseases, ranging from cancer to age-related macular degeneration, so consider this a serious concern. To get more of the health-protecting antioxidant—without straying from your low-carb plan—consume things like hazelnuts, peanut butter, spinach, and wheat germ oil. Vitamin B5 is found in low-cal fare like cauliflower, kale, and chicken. We know, we know, chicken can be a bit boring, but these healthy chicken recipes are all super flavorful so you’ve got no excuse but to add the protein into your plan.
You’re likely missing: thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin
They may have followed “superior” diets, but cavemen were missing out on some key B-complex vitamins. Since they’re primarily found in grains (a major paleo no-no), those who follow the diet plan don’t consume enough thiamine, niacin, or riboflavin, according to Harvard University experts. The goods news is you don’t have to stray from your diet to up your intake of these nutrients. To ensure you’re consuming enough thiamine, make sure you eat plenty of trout, pork chops, and acorn squash throughout the week. Get your daily dose of niacin with spinach, kale, and broccoli and up your riboflavin with crunchy almonds, lean grass-fed beef, and whole eggs.
You’re likely missing: calcium and phosphorus
So, this may not be a surprise, but you miss out on bone-strengthening calcium if adhere to a dairy-free diet. You’ll also be coming up short on phosphorus, another mineral your body needs it for strong bones. Non-dairy sources of calcium and phosphorus include calcium-enriched soymilk, almond milk, white beans, dried figs, almonds, and tofu, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation. Even more delicious sources can be found in our special report, 20 Calcium Rich Foods That Aren’t Dairy.
You’re likely missing: iron and zinc
It may benefit the planet but following a vegan plan doesn’t always benefit the dieter. When you eat only plant-based foods, you can miss out on nutrients like iron and zinc, which are both abundant in meat sources of protein, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Thankfully they’re also present in things like legumes, nuts, seeds, oatmeal, broccoli, tofu and other soy-based products.
You’re likely missing: vitamin D
The “sunshine” vitamin, AKA vitamin D, is a nutrient that many Americans don’t get enough of, which is why it’s often added to processed foods like cereal and juice. Since those who follow a clean eating plan often steer clear of processed fare, they have an increased risk of deficiency. If that sounds like you, you’ll need to make an effort to include things like egg yolks, tuna, and wild salmon in your diet so you don’t develop a deficiency.
You’re likely missing: iron, folate, and calcium
Whether you’ve given up gluten in an attempt to lose weight or you actually have a gluten intolerance, you likely have a tough time getting enough iron, folate, and calcium in your diet. The reason: these nutrients are often found in things like cereals and bread, which are no-nos for those on a gluten-free plan. Increase your intake of lean red meat, poultry, beans, and dark, leafy green vegetables, which are all high in iron, folate, and calcium, to stay safe and healthy.
RELATED: 35 Gluten-Free Questions Answered in Five Words or Less
You’re likely missing: vitamins A and D
While a Mediterranean diet gets high marks for its inclusion of healthy fatty acids and B vitamins, some iterations of the diet miss out on vitamins A and D, according to a study published in the journal Nutrients. No matter what your approach to the diet may be, remember to incorporate colorful fruits and veggies like sweet potatoes (we love these mouthwatering sweet potato recipes), butternut squash, and kale to ensure you’re consuming adequate amounts of vitamin A. Foods with vitamin D include canned tuna in water, vitamin D-fortified milk, and egg yolks.
You’re likely missing: vitamin C
It’s a great goal to reduce your intake of added sugars, but skipping out on the naturally occurring kinds, like those found in fruit, can be a nutritional misstep. Many fruits are rich in vitamin C, a nutrient that can delay the development of certain cancers and cardiovascular disease so you shouldn’t be kicking them to the curb. Fruits that are low in sugar, but high in vitamin C include cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries. Be sure to stock up!
RELATED: 25 Popular fruits—Ranked By Sugar Content
You’re likely missing: biotin and chromium
According to a Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition study, followers of the South Beach Diet, a modified and flexible low-carb plan, don’t typically meet the daily recommended intake of chromium or vitamin B7 (sometimes referred to as biotin or vitamin H). Why’s that matter? Your body needs chromium to maintain a healthy blood sugar and biotin for healthy skin, hair, and nails. The nutrient also helps give your mood a boost, so it’s not a nutrient you want to skimp on. To maintain your zen and a full, shiny head of hair, incorporate foods like almonds, sweet potatoes (they’re Phase 2-friendly), broccoli, and tomatoes into your diet. And for even more things that will keep your mane looking strong and shiny, don’t miss these 30 Best and Worst Foods for Healthy Hair.