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Filling Nutrient Gaps in Specialty Diets

How consumers can make sure they get the nutrients they need

by Institute of Food Technologists
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vegan dishWhile the latest specialty diets have their benefits, consumers need to be aware of the nutrient gaps of each.Photo credit: rusvaplauke, Wikimedia CommonsCHICAGO – Paleo, high-protein, low-carb, gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan eating lifestyles have all exploded in popularity in the last few years. Whether people adopt these diets in order to lose weight or maintain overall wellness, consumers that follow them may be missing out on some essential nutrients.  In the April issue of Food Technology Magazine, Linda Mila Ohr writes about the nutrient gaps in these various diets and how consumers can make sure they get the nutrients they need.

Vegetarian and Vegan

Vegetarian consumers form a significant and growing part of the consumer base worldwide, compromising as much as 20 percent of the global population (DSM 2013). The 2015 U.S. Vegetarian Healthy Eating plan includes more legumes, soy products, nuts, seeds, and whole grains compared to the standard Health U.S. Style Eating Pattern. It contains no meats, poultry, or seafood. Due to differences in the foods included in the protein foods group, specifically more tofu and beans, the vegetarian diet plan is somewhat higher in calcium and dietary fiber and lower in vitamin D (HHS/USDA 2016). The Mayo Clinic recommends that vegetarians pay special attention to eating foods that contain calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and zinc. 


High-protein/low-carbohydrate diets, carbohydrate-free diets, and gluten-free diets put a major emphasis on eliminating or reducing carbohydrate consumption and often whole grains from the diet. Gluten-free diets are essential for those diagnosed with celiac disease, but the gluten-free lifestyle has a growing following among those who feel they are sensitive to gluten, think gluten is bad for them, or want to reduce carbohydrates in their diets. A person who opts for one of these diets may be missing out on B vitamins and dietary fiber due to lower consumption of whole grains. However, they can get these nutrients by eating foods such as quinoa, brown rice, and sweet potatoes.


Based on the eating habits of cavemen, this diet consists of lean meat, fish/seafood, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and healthful oils. It excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, and foods high in refined sugar and salt. According to Innova Market Insights, the use of the word “paleo” at product launches has surged in the last five years.  Nutritionists recommend supplementing the paleo diet with folate, B vitamins, calcium, and vitamin D.