The dark side of popular diet trends

I love vegetables. Arguably, more than most people.

But you probably know how I feel about the rising popularity of so-called “plant-based” diets.

This way of eating is becoming yet another fad, getting destroyed by Big Business with the only goal of monetizing the trend. (They did it to the low-fat and low-carb movements. And they’ll do it to any “hot” item to make more money.)

In fact, just the other day, I was in the grocery store when I saw a wheat cracker emblazoned with the words, “plant-based.” Huh!? It’s a cracker! What else would it be? Grain is a plant the last time I checked.

But the real focus of today’s discussion is how this plant-based diet frenzy has a dark side.

For some, it may even be negatively affecting your relationship with food. (Plus, eating disorders are skyrocketing since the pandemic, so it’s high time to address these challenges.)

Let me explain…

Plant-based diet dangers

Vegetarian diets are climbing higher in popularity. But this can mean many things.

Lacto-ovo-vegetarian is where you eliminate meat, fish, and poultry but still consume dairy. “Dirty” vegetarians eliminate the same groups, yet turn to many boxed, Frankenfoods (this is the most typical type I see).

Vegan is more restrictive, where any foods derived from animals, like dairy, are eliminated. “Raw” veganism means foods are raw, unprocessed, and don’t need to be cooked.

Then you have the pescatarian diet which excludes meat and poultry (but not fish). Fruitarians, where only plant products that don’t cause damage to the plant (think apples and nuts, but not carrots or potatoes) are consumed.

And the orthorexia diet, where you force yourself to eat healthy food and are genuinely afraid to get sick from unhealthy choices. Of course, what makes this way of eating even more dangerous is the fact that many define for themselves what is and isn’t healthy. This is particularly common in young men and women who exercise a lot.

So with all of these popular food movements on the table, how can you be sure that your food choices are coming from a healthy place?

Well, only you can decide. And I encourage you to seek help from a professional if you need insight and support.

In the meantime, I can at least explain some of the nutritional deficits that come together with these overly restrictive diets…

Don’t miss out on key nutrients

First and foremost, if you read my A-list Diet book, you know that vegetarian sources of protein do not have the necessary combinations of amino acids to be healthy. (You need anywhere from 0.5 grams to 1 gram of amino acids per pound of protein, as what’s typically found in animal-based protein sources.)

But these plant-based diets lack other key nutrients, too. Including the following:

Vitamin B6. This is important for hormone development, such as serotonin. Studies suggest that B6 deficiency could lead to depression, increased irritability, nervousness, and loss of libido. I recommend 55 mg daily.

Vitamin B12. This is one nutrient that is completely missing from a plant-based diet because it’s primarily found in meat and dairy. (And the body has a difficult time using B12 from algae, seaweed, and fungi.)

That’s why it’s important to have this level checked routinely by your doctor to decide if B12 supplementation is needed. I often recommend 2,000 mcg of B12 daily.

Vitamin D. This nutrient is important for nearly all aspects of health, as I routinely report. And it’s really only available in tiny amounts from food sources, like mushrooms. That’s why I recommend D supplementation to everyone, regardless of their eating habits, to the tune of 250 mcg (10,000 IU) daily.

Calcium, iodine, iron, selenium, and zinc are also lower in plant-based diets—all of which can have can have negative effects on bone health. In fact, one study found a 43 percent higher fracture risk compared to women who ate meat.

In the end, plant-based diet just can’t offer all that you need. That’s why I stand behind a balanced diet, full of nutrients and protein, from a combination of plant and animal sources.

In fact, Mediterranean-style diets focus on high-fat, low-carb foods—like lean protein (from grass-fed and -finished meat, organic poultry, and wild-caught fish and seafood), fresh produce, and nuts. These foods provide a vast array of vitamins, polyphenols, carotenoids, and protein.

They also carry a uniquely therapeutic fatty acid profile—filled to the brim with monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) from sources like olive oil, avocados, and macadamia nuts.

You can learn more about the importance of this healthy diet in the January 2022 issue of my monthly Logical Health Alternatives newsletter—or, for step-by-step guidance, I encourage you to order yourself a copy of my A-List Diet book.

Until next time,

Dr. Fred