On paper, Whole30 looks pretty similar to the Paleo Diet—you’ll eliminate all ingredients that weren’t available before our modern industrialized food system. This includes added sugar of any kind, including maple syrup, agave nectar, coconut sugar, Stevia, xylitol, and other artificial sweeteners; alcohol; grains (including corn and rice); legumes; beans; all soy; dairy; and additives like carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites. That leaves a handful of whole, unprocessed foods: meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, vegetables, some fruits, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils. Unlike the Paleo Diet, however, followers are encouraged not to make junk foods or baked goods with the approved ingredients.
The diet is designed as a short-term reset or elimination diet, allowing you to see how the foods you were eating and got rid of may have been impacting your health. Proponents of the diet say that many of the forbidden foods wreak havoc on your hormones, disrupt gut health, and promote systemic inflammation, causing symptoms like fatigue, breakouts, mental fogginess, and stomach troubles. The program promises a laundry list of benefits, including improved energy and mental clarity, better athletic performance, better sleep, and a happier disposition. Weight loss actually isn’t a focus: on Whole30, you’re not allowed to weigh yourself.
In terms of cost, you can follow the diet at home using the website or book as a guide, or you can sign up for monthly, quarterly, or annual packages that include the Whole30 Setup, new meal plans each month, and access to recipes.
If you are suffering from any sort of food sensitivity or intolerance, Whole30 can be a great way to determine which foods are causing symptoms (as long as you introduce them back into your diet one at a time instead of all at once on day 31). Whole30 focuses on limiting processed ingredients, which is a great step in the right direction for anyone who wants to start eating healthier. Bonus: you won’t have to count a single calorie or carb on this diet!
The diet seems overly restrictive, even if only for a month. Eliminating entire food groups like dairy, legumes and beans, and grains means that you might miss out on key nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and B vitamins as well as fiber. And there’s really no reason to ban such foods if they’re not causing you any problems to begin with. Despite thousands of followers claiming that Whole30 “cured” their symptoms or disease—from allergies and asthma to infertility and depression—no studies have investigated such claims. The cost of food can also be prohibitive—even though you’re not paying for prepackaged meals, the reliance on animal proteins can make it expensive.
Why it’s not a top diet
It’s unsustainable and it relies on personal anecdotes and testimonials instead of research and clinical trials to support its claims.