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Five key nutrients you may be missing on a diet

Restricting calories could mean you’re missing out on important nutrients, too. Find out what to eat to stay nourished – while still shifting the pounds

When you’re trying to manage your weight, cutting calories is one of the easiest ways to do so. But limiting what you eat can also limit the number of essential vitamins and minerals you’re getting.

Discover the nutrients you may not be eating enough of – and where to find them.

Vitamin B12

This nutrient, important for nerve and blood cells, is only found naturally in meat – such as beef – and dairy products. So, cutting back on these foods to lose weight or because you’re cutting down on animal-based foods can mean you don’t get enough vitamin B12. In fact, a 2018 US study reported that people following a vegan weight loss plan were only getting 45% of their recommended nutrient intake (RNI) of vitamin B12.1

Where to find it: Flexitarians should include eggs, dairy, fish, meat and poultry in their diets. For vegetarians and vegans: choose plant milks and breakfast cereals fortified with vitamin B12, or take a vitamin B complex supplement.

Vitamin D

We need vitamin D to support our bones. Emerging evidence suggests it may also offer a range of other health benefits, including keeping the immune system healthy.2 Sunlight provides as much as 90% of our vitamin D requirements, but there are only a few foods that contain it. If you’re cutting calories – especially over the winter months – you could end up severely lacking. The above US study also found that on some diets, people got as little as 9% of their recommended intake of vitamin D.3

Where to find it: Tweak your diet to include more egg yolks, fortified plant milks and cereals or oily fish. The government also recommends taking a daily vitamin D supplement.

Vitamin B7 (biotin)

Cutting down the range of foods you eat can also restrict your intake of vitamin B7, or biotin, a nutrient that helps our bodies break down food into proteins, fats and carbohydrates. A 2010 study of several popular diets found that followers only consumed a fraction of the biotin that their bodies need.4

Where to find it: Biotin is found in small amounts in peanuts, eggs, wholemeal bread, oats, almonds, avocado, raspberries and salmon.

Chromium

Chromium is essential for processing fat and carbohydrates, and also helps control our blood sugar levels. It’s found in a range of foods, but the above study reported that limiting calories severely limits your intake of chromium, too.5

Where to find it: Tuck into lots of broccoli – one of the best sources of chromium – plus lentils, mashed potatoes, wholemeal bread and meat.

Fibre

While it’s not strictly speaking a nutrient, fibre is on this list because cutting out high-fibre foods to save calories can be counterproductive; US researchers found that just eating 30g of fibre-rich foods a day could help you shed extra pounds.6 Upping your intake of fruit and veg can help too7 – plant foods contain soluble fibre, which forms a slow-moving gel inside your gut, helping you feel fuller for longer.8

Where to find it: You can find fibre in fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and wholemeal foods like bread and pasta.

Handpicked article: Why fats don't need to be the enemy

Shop Vitamins & Supplements Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies. Written by Carole Beck on November 15, 2018 Reviewed by registered nutritionist Fiona Hunter on November 28, 2018

Sources
1. Engel MG, et al. Micronutrient Gaps in Three Commercial Weight-Loss Diet Plans. Available from: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5793336/
2. Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. Vitamin D and Health. Available from: www.assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/537616/SACN_Vitamin_D_and_Health_report.pdf
3. As Source 1
4. Calton JB. Prevalence of micronutrient deficiency in popular diet plans. Available from: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20537171
5. As above
6. McCarthy M. High fibre diet may be good alternative to complex weight loss regimen, US study finds. Available from: www.researchgate.net/publication/272518461_High_fibre_diet_may_be_good_alternative_to_complex_weight_loss_regimen_US_study_finds
7. Champagne CM, et al. Dietary intakes associated with successful weight loss and maintenance during the Weight Loss Maintenance Trial. Available from: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3225890/

8. Chambers L, McCrickerd K, Yeomans MR. Optimising foods for satiety. Available from: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0924224414002386

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