The one diet that’s sending social media into a frenzy is the Whole30, but what exactly is this “diet,” is it good for you, and what’s the point?
What is the Whole30 Diet?
The Whole30 diet is based around a concept that certain food groups could be affecting your health. You feel rubbish and suspect intolerance, but you don’t know which food is actually causing a problem.
The Whole30 solution is to ban a lot of food groups and then slowly reintroduce them one at a time until you find which is making you ache, feel lethargic, have stomach pains, break out in spots, or put on weight.
The food groups under suspicion are soy, dairy, grains, alcohol, legumes, and added sugars, so these foods are out the window for 30 days in order to let your body recover from the negative effects.
Whole30 diet creator Melissa Hartwig says that in effect you’re pushing the reset button and giving your body a chance to start again. She and the many Whole30 converts believe the process changes your relationship with food.
Given that many of us eat too much fat, salt, and sugar—and there’s a worldwide obesity epidemic—this may be a good thing.
On paper, Whole30 sounds like a good idea, but in reality, it’s very restrictive and cuts out some of the main food groups needed for a healthy mind and body.
What Can You Eat on the Whole30 Diet?
This is probably the strictest diet you’ve ever encountered, even more so than Atkins, Paleo, Keto, or clean eating.
Let’s start with what is on the Whole30 menu—essentially non-processed food.
- Vegetables – as many as you want; there’s no restriction on veggies
- Fruit – but not too much, because fruit contains sugar
- Meat – that’s not been processed such as a cut of steak
- Seafood – shellfish, and fish are just fine
- Eggs – you can do a lot with eggs if you’re creative in the kitchen
- Nuts and seeds – but not peanuts because they’re a legume (mind blown!)
- Olive oil, coconut oil, and ghee – helpful for cooking meals
- Coffee – thank heavens, but it has to be black and sugarless
The list of acceptable food seems quite large for a diet that promises to cut out allergies and bad reactions, but here’s what you can’t eat.
- Dairy – no butter, cream, cow’s milk, cheese, yogurt, or sour cream
- Grains – no wheat, rye, rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, or sprouted grains
- Alcohol – no booze of any type
- Legumes – legumes are beans or peas that grow in a pod
- Added sugar – say goodbye to granulated sugar, honey, maple syrup, and added sugars in processed meals
- Carrageenan, MSG, and sulfites – these are usually additives found in processed foods
- Junk food – that’s the processed snacks you enjoy and ready meals that save time in the kitchen
A typical meal might include roasted chicken with rosemary and lemon or grilled salmon with vegetables.
Breakfast, however, is trickier because we rely on toast, cereal, and porridge, which are all on the no-go list, but plain scrambled egg is acceptable.
Should I Try the Whole30 Diet?
Whole30 is a cleansing diet that promises to restart your body and find out what’s making you feel unwell, so if you’re aren’t feeling up to snuff, it may be worth eliminating the no-go Whole30 foods as an experiment.
Many people report weight loss even though they’re eating enough to fill them up, have clearer thoughts, and experience better energy levels.
What Do the Experts Say?
As with all fad diets, experts are divided. The main problem is that Whole30 cuts out major food groups.
Milk and cheese, for example, are good sources of calcium—and going dairy-free means you miss out on the vital bone-strengthening mineral. Legumes are full of fiber and great for heart health, and grains are a low-fat source of slow-burning energy.
In The U.S. News & World Report, a panel of doctors, academics, and dieticians publish an annual ranking of diets, and the Whole30 has landed in the last place. Comments made included “nonsensical claims, extreme, and restrictive.”
But supporters of the Whole30 diet say this is unfair, as the restriction is temporary—30 days, in fact, before you can reintroduce the food groups.
Are There Any Side Effects on the Whole30?
One of the major problems with sticking to the Whole30 diet is the restriction.
It’s very easy to stray from the rules and end up feeling bad, especially when you have to rethink food shopping and read every single food label.
Aside from the difficulties of sticking to it, the Whole30 creates these side effects.
- Sugar addiction makes us vulnerable in the first week when we crave sugary, sweet food and bread. Going sugarless leads to irritability and emotional shifts, but it will eventually pass.
- Emotional swings and sluggishness can be caused by ketosis as your body starts to burn fat instead of its usual source of carbohydrate.
- A certainly unwanted side effect is excess gas. Eating lots of vegetables can create wind that passes through your digestive system, causing discomfort and embarrassment.
- Many people report feeling hungry despite the fact that Whole30’s acceptable foods are unrestricted.
This is because we’re used to filling up on pasta, bread, cheese, and processed snacks. The hunger may pass, but for some people, a psychological block remains and they stay hungry for the duration.
These side effects can be enough to stop the Whole30 diet in its tracks even if you are committed enough to stick with the acceptable foods.
Who Can’t Do the Whole30 Diet?
Anyone with a medical condition should speak with their doctor before trying the Whole30 diet. Diabetics, for example, and people with Crohn’s, celiac, or autoimmune diseases should seek medical advice.
Although it’s not considered off-limits to children, pregnant women, or people with restricted immune systems, medical advice is best to be safe.
Weight Loss Diets and the Whole30
Fad diets frequently come and go. The Paleo diet, for example, when you eat sugar-free like our Paleolithic ancestors on grass-fed meats, fruit, vegetables, and whole foods was all the rage once, but it’s fallen out of fashion alongside the Keto diet that minimized carbs and upped fat intake.
Essentially, the Whole30 diet is about clean eating, leaving trigger foods in the supermarket, and concentrating on your body’s response. It’s tough and restrictive but may help if you’re not feeling great.
Some experts suggest that if you like the idea of eliminating trigger foods, do it one food group at a time over a longer period instead of going cold turkey over 30 days.
This tactic will help keep you on track and probably unearth a better result in the long run.