Elimination Diets

Elimination Diets Have It All Wrong

Executive Summary

What do the following eating styles have in common:

  • Gluten-Free,
  • Vegan and
  • Paleo?

They’re all so-called elimination diets; diets that promise better health by eliminating certain foods from your repertoire (which I believe is French for “stuff that you do”). The problem is they focus so much on what not to eat that devotees lose track of the most important aspect of any nutrition plan, what to eat.

In this post, I explain why they may work and how to make sure they work.

Elimination Diets – The Gist

Elimination diets, as the term relates to this post, is any nutrition plan that defines itself by foods you should stop eating.

Example – Gluten-Free

A gluten-free diet is one that prohibits you from eating any foods that contain the protein, gluten. When you decide to go gluten-free, you no longer consume foods that contain wheat, barley, rye and, depending on how sadistic your gluten-free muse is, oats. There are other highfalutin grains that also get kicked off the list but most of them are “ancient grains” (which I believe is big-food-speak for “old school”) that are closely related to wheat.

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Example – Vegan

Vegans avoid all food (and sometimes other products) that exploit animals. It’s a broad definition that covers eating any part of an animal (e.g., meat, eggs, organs, etc.) as well as products animals make (e.g., milk, honey, cheese, etc.).

Many vegans adopt this lifestyle for reasons other than or addition to promoting health. These include respect for all living creatures and for the environment. It’s a fascinating conversation that isn’t as clear cut as it seems (I talk about it in this episode of The Foodcast).

Example – Paleo

People who follow the Paleo diet believe that the human form is optimized to eat like our ancestors did 10,000 years ago. It’s a diet that avoids many of those trendy foods that became so popular with those crazy kids of early biblical times. You know, grains, dairy, sugar and bacon-and-cheese-flavored-chocolate-covered-cheese-puffs.

Okay, that last one doesn’t exist, but Paleo fans do have their own versions of junk food.

As do vegans.

And Gluten-Freebies.

Example – THE Elimination Diet

There is a specific eating style that goes by the name “Elimination Diet.” This usually involves eliminating a whole seemingly random set of foods from the diet and seeing how you feel. Little by little you add back one of the items you eliminate and observe how that affects you mentally and physically. Over time, this kind of diet helps people identify foods that don’t agree with them, are perhaps sensitive to or may even be allergic to.

Usually, the foods eliminated are some combination of:

Alcohol Berries Caffeine
Citrus Fruits Dairy Fatty Foods
Fish/Seafood Grains Legumes
Meat Nightshades Nuts/Seeds
 Processed Foods Soy Sugar

This pretty much leaves you with eating water and kohlrabi.

The so-called Whole 30 Program, a diet that’s very popular around New Year Resolution time is an example of The Elimination Diet. Instead of it providing a list of foods that are verboten (which I believe is German for “fugetaboutit”), the Whole 30 Program gives you list of the thirty foods you’re limited to. If it’s not on the list, it’s eliminated.

There are many other diets that fall in the category of elimination diets. These include but are not limited to low/no carbohydrate diets, anti-inflammation diets and so on. Any diet that includes a list of foods you can’t eat, fits.

The Problem With Elimination Diets

The success or failure of an elimination diet for reaching a health goal depends on many factors.

This makes it difficult for even the most accomplished expert to predict success. However, there is one sure fire way to predict failure and it has nothing to do with what you’re not eating and everything to do with what you are eating.

The biggest challenge with elimination styles of eating is that they focus so much on what’s forbidden that people lose track of the elements that actually comprise a healthy diet. This is why people who choose to:

  • Be gluten-free often are deficient in essential vitamins and minerals (e.g. vitamin B6, folate). In the modern diet, the grains that gluten-freebies no longer eat are often the main source of these nutrients.
  • Become vegans sometimes feel less energetic and become skinny-fat. By eliminating animal products from the diet, a person might lack sufficient protein, iron and vitamin B12.
  • Adopt a Paleo lifestyle become constipated. One word…fiber.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to make sure your diet remains balanced and provides the nutrition you need even when you start to drop whole categories of food from your palette. Simply follow the five mantras of The Karma Sense Eating Plan.

Those mantras are:

  1. Eat Slowly and Stop Before You’re Full
  2. Eat Protein in Every Meal
  3. Eat More Vegetables and Fruits
  4. Eat Whole Food Carbohydrates
  5. Eat Good Fats Daily and Balance a Variety of Good Fats

Along with these, minimize your intake of processed foods. Also, be more adventurous about the foods you can still eat. Try new vegetables and other foods to make sure you’re exposed to a broad range of nutrients.

If you follow these mantras, you can be confident that you’re doing everything you can to maximize the success of your new program.

Of course there are more details you can geek out on if you roll that way and I’ll help you with that next but for now, just remember that if you’re thinking of adopting a new dietary lifestyle in hopes it will help you reach some goal, don’t let the loss of the foods you’re no longer eating make you lose sight of the foods you are eating.

Because in the end, you are what you eat, not what you don’t eat.

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I donate all profits from the sale of The Karma Sense Eating Plan to Alice’s Kids.

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