Special diets. Health or hokum?

Special diets. Health or hokum?

Are you revamping eating habits for the New Year? January is a popular time to think about adjusting what we eat. Human beings have got where they are because we evolved to eat a wide range of food. So no special diet can be justified on the basis of ‘humans aren’t meant to eat x, y or z’. But is it still worth cutting out some items?


Many people opt to stop eating meat and fish for ethical or religious reasons. The human body can survive quite happily without animal-sourced foods, as long as a good variety of food is eaten. This means a wide range of fresh vegetables with particular attention to sources of protein and iron.


Vegans avoid not just meat and fish but all animal products, and so need to ensure they get all their nutrients by careful meal planning. One important point is that the essential vitamin B12 is only found in foods from animal sources. Hence vegans need artificial supplementation of B12.

Vegans and vegetarians eating a varied and well-planned diet can sometimes be healthier than meat eaters. They may even live longer


Gluten is a protein found in grains including wheat, rye and barley. Those with coeliac disease (diagnosed under medical supervision while still eating gluten) are unable to tolerate gluten.

If you are not a gluten-sensitive, there is an argument that going gluten-free has no benefit. A gluten-free cake or doughnut has just as much sugar as the normal kind. Losing wholegrains can result in too little fibre, so again extra care is needed in food intake.

In short – some restricted diets can be healthier, but they all need us to pay conscientious attention to nutrition. Even the omnivores amongst us should resolve to do that.

The Author

Jessica Ambrose

Jessica is a fitness writer who loves long distance running, yoga, strength training and healthy eating.


Olga N.
6 February 2015

Olga N.

I struggle to understand how anyone can eat vegan food and survive! Surely essential things our bodies need are missing? I know this is probably something vegans hate to hear time and again but I can't get my head around it.

Emma C.
31 January 2015

Emma C.

I am sure veganism is very healthy, but I know I would be miserable - and probably too skinny - on a diet like that. So I would rather be happy and enjoy eating healthy meat and dairy.

Phillip H.
29 January 2015

Phillip H.

I am trying to cut down red meat as I think there may be other health benefits. As far as I know no-one ever got ill from too many vegetables!

Clare R.
28 January 2015

Clare R.

some people do indeed get bloated after eating wheat. The concern is that people cut it out but eat too much of the wrong stuff as a substitute.

Mike D.
27 January 2015

Mike D.

I am not gluten senstive but would argue that I feel better - and look better - when I don't eat wheat.

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