Nutrition Advice

Can You Be Overweight & Malnourished?

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By Bethany Thayer, MS, RDN

People often equate weight with nourishment. Waif-like and thin? You must be malnourished. Pleasantly plump or rotund? You clearly have all the nutrients you need.

The truth: While people – and even health professionals – tend to emphasize weight, the reality is, even folks who meet the recommended body mass index (BMI) could be missing out on needed nutrients.  In fact, people who are overweight or obese may be more likely than their slender counterparts to be lacking in important nutrients. And that’s a problem since the food we eat affects everything from our ability to focus to our physical performance.

Here are 5 reasons why you may be lacking critical nutrients – no matter what your size:

  1. You’re eating processed foods. Unfortunately, many products you’ll find on grocery store shelves are processed in such a way that vitamins and minerals have been stripped out. Take wheat, for example: Most manufacturers process out everything but the starch. Sure, they may add back key nutrients like folate and iron, but the exact nutrient mix that’s best absorbed by the body has been manipulated.
  1. You’re stuck in a cycle. When your body is lacking nutrients, one of the ways it fights back is by shutting down satiety mechanisms – the signals that tell you you’re full. So even though you’re eating enough carbohydrates, fat and protein (and calories), you may still feel hungry. The reason: You need vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that are not being supplied by the foods you’re eating.
  1. You’re not building muscle. Micronutrients play a key role in muscle development and maintenance. If you’re not ingesting enough nutrients such as B Vitamins, you will not able to build new muscle. The greater your muscle mass, the higher your metabolic rate, and the better equipped your body is to burn calories and maintain a healthy weight.
  1. You aren’t getting enough fiber. Fiber not only fills you up, it also keeps blood sugar levels steady and ensures things don’t get stuck in the digestive tract. Sadly, even though it is widely available in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole unprocessed grains, most Americans get very little – a paltry 14 grams of fiber per day, compared to the recommended 25 to 35 grams.
  1. Taking supplements won’t solve the problem. Unfortunately, you can’t compensate for a crummy diet by popping supplements. Nature packages nutrients in whole foods in such a way that ensures you get exactly what you need without overdosing on any one nutrient. In fact, supplementing the diet with specific vitamins and minerals can create imbalances. If you take zinc to help fight a cold, for example, you may cause a copper insufficiency. Plus, there are countless phytochemicals and nutrients in food that scientists haven’t identified yet. The only way to get those gems is to eat a variety of whole foods.

To ensure you get the nourishment your body needs, eat a variety of minimally processed whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein. Your best bet: Fill half of your plate with produce and split the other half with equal parts whole grains and lean protein (including low-fat dairy). Then pay attention to how you feel. If you’re low on energy, you’re having trouble concentrating or you’re not healing from an injury as quickly as expected, you may be malnourished.

Related Topic: What Do Nutritionists Keep in Their Kitchens?

Think your diet is sub-par and you may be missing needed nutrients? Visit www.henryford.com or call 1-855-434-5483 to make an appointment with a registered dietitian. He or she can help you ensure you’re meeting your nutrient quota.

You can also read more nutrition and fitness advice in our EatWell and MoveWell sections, so subscribe to get all the latest tips.