Without carbohydrates, are you putting yourself at risk of nutrient deficiencies?

You may hear people say that if you exclude foods like bread and cereals from your diet, you may be missing out on essential nutrients. Let’s explore the facts, and see whether this has any basis in truth.

The most common micronutrient deficiencies in Australia are calcium, iodine, iron, zinc, and vitamin D. Unfortunately, it’s very possible to be deficient in these nutrients and not have any symptoms. As you get older, however, your health can suffer – so it’s important to be meeting nutrient requirements each day to prevent chronic disease.  

Here are some comparisons between a variety of low-carb foods and commonly consumed carbohydrate ‘staples’. We have chosen foods that are commonly recommended to increase the intake of each nutrient (even including foods that are fortified with that nutrient).  

We’ll let you decide if low-carb leads to nutrient deficiencies.  

Calcium   

Low levels of calcium can lead to osteoporosis – causing brittle bones later in life, making it easy for breaks and fractures to occur. Calcium and vitamin D tend to work together, and low levels of these nutrients are linked with increased risk of high blood pressure, colorectal and breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis[1]. 

In Australia, our recommended daily intake (RDI) of calcium is approximately 1200 mg[2]. 

Parmesan cheese

(1 serve = 28 grams) 
Tinned salmon

(1 serve = half a cup) 
Calcium-fortified orange juice

(1 serve = 100 ml) 
Calcium-fortified breakfast cereal  

Calcium – approx. % RDI per serve 26% 33% 6% 16% 

Iodine  

Low levels of iodine can lead to hypothyroidism, which disrupts the body’s metabolism – including growth and energy use. Low levels can lead to fatigue and weight gain. Low levels of iodine in pregnancy can cause severe birth defects and learning difficulties.  

In Australia, our recommended daily intake (RDI) of iodine is approximately 150 mcg[3]. 

Seaweed (nori)

(1 serve = 1 sheet) 
Cod

(1 serve = 85 grams) 
Iodine-fortified bread

(1 serve = 1 slice/30 grams) 
Milk

(1 serve = 100ml) 
Iodine – approx. % RDI per serve 26% 53% 10% 9% 

Iron  

Low levels of iron can cause fatigue, dizziness, and breathlessness. Over time, low iron levels can impair immunity, growth, and cognition.  

There are two types of iron: haem and non-haem. Haem iron is found in animal products and is better absorbed than non-haem iron (found in plant foods).  

In Australia, our recommended daily intake (RDI) of iron is approximately 18 mg for females and 8 mg per day for males[4].

Chicken liver

(1 serve = 100 grams) (haem iron) 
Beef

(1 serve = 100 grams) (haem iron) 
Iron-fortified weet-bix

(1 serve = 30 grams)(non-haem iron) 
Iron-fortified bread

(1 serve = 30 grams)(non-haem iron) 
Iron – approx. % RDI per serve (for females) 61% 20% 25% 33% 

Zinc  

Low levels of zinc can impair growth and reproduction. Zinc deficiency can lead to impaired wound healing, rashes and mouth ulcers, weight loss, and fatigue.  

Zinc is generally better absorbed from animal products. This is because much of the zinc found in plants is bound to substances called phytates. These are like magnets to minerals, strongly binding them so they end up passing right us into our bowel actions, rather than being absorbed. 

In Australia, our recommended daily intake (RDI) of zinc is approximately 8 mg for females and 14 mg per day for males[5]. 

Oysters

(1 serve = 100 grams) 
Lamb

(1 serve = 100 grams) 
Chickpeas

(1 serve = 1/2 cup) 
Cashews

(1 serve = 28 grams) 
Zinc – approx. % RDI per serve (for males) 493% 51% 9% 11% 

Vitamin D 

Low levels of vitamin D can impair bone and muscle strength. Low levels can cause rickets (softening of the bones) and impair immunity. Vitamin D is mostly obtained from the sun – but small amounts can be obtained from foods.  

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin – which means it is most readily absorbed when consumed with fat. Fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the body (in the liver and fat tissue) more easily than water-soluble vitamins.  

In Australia, our recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin D is approximately 5 micrograms (for women) and 10 micrograms (for men)[6]. 

Herring

(1 serve = 100 grams) 
Egg

(1 serve = 1 egg) 
Vitamin-D fortified margarine

(1 serve = 2 teaspoons) 
Vitamin-D fortified milk

(1 serve = ½ cup) 
Vitamin D – approx. % RDI per serve (for males) 115% 10% 10% 7% 

Hopefully, you can see that low-carb eating encourages a variety of foods that can help to address Australia’s most common nutrient deficiencies.  

Low-carb eating is about maximising nutrient density through whole foods – with no need for nutrient fortification, supplementation, or processed foods.  

References 

  1. Peterlik, M., Boonen, S., Cross, H., & Lamberg-Allardt, C. (2009). Vitamin D and Calcium insufficiency-related chronic diseases: an emerging worldwide public health problem. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 6(1), 2585-2607. doi:10.3390/ijerph6102585 
  2. Department of Human Services. (2013, April). Calcium. Retrieved from BetterHealth Channel
  3. Department of Human Services. (2014, June). Iodine. Retrieved from BetterHealth Channel
  4. Department of Human Services. (2014, September). Iron Deficiency in Adults. Retrieved from BetterHealth Channel
  5. National Health and Medical Research Council. (2015, September). Zinc. Retrieved from Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand
  6. National Health and Medical Research Council. (2014, April 09). Vitamin D. Retrieved from Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand

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ABOUT DIABETES REVERSAL

Although there is no universally agreed upon definition for the reversal of type 2 diabetes, Diversa uses HbA1c to assist in defining diabetes and pre-diabetes reversal.

Type 2 diabetes reversal is when a patient who previously had an HbA1c in the diabetic range (>6.5%) returning an HbA1c in the non-diabetic range (<6.4%) (along with the absence of medications used to manage diabetes). Pre-diabetes reversal is when a patient who previously had an HbA1c in the pre-diabetic range (5.7-6.4%) returning an HbA1c to the non pre-diabetic range (less than 5.7%).

It is important to recognise that although not everybody may be able to completely reverse type 2 diabetes, partial reversal, the reduction of medication dosages, along with the simultaneous lowering of HbA1c, will unquestionably achieve a better quality of life and improve health outcomes for those living with type 2 diabetes.

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