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The Whole30: A 30-Day Diet for Better Health?

The Whole30 diet is a viral health movement that’s increasing
in popularity.

It encourages followers to cut out alcohol,
sugar
, grains, legumes, dairy and additives from their diet
for 30 days, and is advertised as a total lifestyle change.

Followers rave about its health benefits, while critics claim
that it’s just another unsustainable diet fad. So does it work
and should you try it?

This article explains everything you need to know about the
Whole30 diet.

Hands Holding a Bowl of Freshly Made Salad

What Is the Whole30 Diet?

The Whole30 diet is a month-long clean-eating program that
promises a variety of health and emotional benefits.

It was developed in 2009 by two certified sports nutritionists
who promoted it as a way to reset your metabolism and reshape
your relationship with food.

The diet focuses on the idea that certain food groups may
negatively affect your health and fitness.

Therefore, eliminating these foods from your diet is supposed
to help your body recover from the negative effects and promote
long-term health.

Most people seem to follow this diet in hopes of
losing weight
.

However, some may also use the program to identify food
intolerances or achieve some of its proposed health benefits.



Summary: The Whole30 diet is a month-long
eating program that aims to help you lose weight, improve
your relationship with food and achieve long-term health.

How to Follow the Whole30 Diet

Desktop Calendar

The idea behind the Whole30 program is simple — just completely
cut out foods that may harm your health for a period of 30
days.

After the initial 30 days, slowly reintroduce the foods you
miss, while monitoring the effects they have on your body.

The diet has a strict set of rules.

It also provides you with a list of allowed foods, as well as a
list of off-limit foods. During the month-long elimination
period, no cheating is allowed.

Going off-track entails starting the challenge over from day
one.

The founders claim that strict adherence allows your body to
reset in isolation of certain foods that may cause
inflammation, gut disruptions or hormone imbalances.

Unlike other diets, there is no need to track calories,
measure portions or count points. Also, weighing yourself is
strictly reserved for days 1 and 30 of the program.

Summary: Following the Whole30 diet involves
eating as much as you’d like, while avoiding certain foods
for a period of one month.

Proposed Benefits of the Whole30 Diet

Following the Whole30 diet perfectly for 30 days is said to
have many health benefits.

These include fat loss, higher energy levels, better
sleep
, reduced food cravings and improved athletic
performance.

What’s more, the diet’s founders promise it will change the way
you think about food, as well as your taste.

Proponents of the diet further claim that it can alter the
emotional relationship you have with food and your body.

Although these claimed benefits may appear very attractive,
it’s worth keeping in mind that there are currently no
scientific studies backing them up.

Summary: The Whole30 diet is claimed to
provide you with physical and psychological health benefits
above and beyond simple weight loss.

Foods to Eat

Bacon Wrapped Asparagus

Foods allowed on the Whole30 diet consist of minimally
processed foods, including:

  • Meat and poultry: Beef, veal, pork, horse,
    lamb, chicken, turkey, duck, etc.
  • Fish and seafood: Fish, anchovies, shrimp,
    calamari, scallops, crab, lobster, etc.
  • Eggs: All types, as well as foods made from
    them, such as homemade mayo.
  • Fruits: Fresh and dried fruits, although
    fresh is preferred.
  • Vegetables: All types of vegetables.
  • Nuts and seeds: All types of nuts and seeds
    besides peanuts, which are technically a legume. Nut milks,
    nut butters and nut flours are also allowed.
  • Some fats: Healthy plant oils, coconut oil,
    duck fat, clarified butter and ghee.

When minimally processed foods must be used, the diet
encourages you to opt for those with the shortest ingredient
lists that only contain ingredients you recognize.

Summary: The Whole30 diet encourages the use
of fresh, minimally processed foods.

Foods to Avoid

During the 30-day diet, certain foods must be completely
eliminated. These include:

  • Sugar and artificial sweeteners: Raw sugar,
    honey, maple syrup, agave syrup and all products containing
    these sweeteners, as well as artificial sweeteners.
  • Alcohol: All types of beer, wines, liqueurs
    and spirits.
  • Grains: Regardless of their degree of
    processing, all grains, including wheat, corn, oats and rice,
    are to be avoided.
  • Pulses and legumes: Most peas, lentils and
    beans, including peanut butter, should be avoided. Green
    beans, sugar snap peas and snow peas are exceptions.
  • Soy: All soy, including tofu, tempeh,
    edamame and all products derived from soy, such as miso and
    soy sauce.
  • Dairy: Including cow, goat and sheep’s milk,
    yogurt, cheese, ice cream and other products derived from
    dairy. Clarified butter or ghee is allowed.
  • Processed additives: These include
    carrageenan, MSG or sulfites. Any food or beverage containing
    these ingredients should be avoided.

In addition, the diet recommends that you avoid recreating your
favorite baked goods, snacks or treats — even with
Whole30-approved ingredients.

Thus, foods such as cauliflower pizza crust and paleo pancakes
must be avoided.

There’s also no such thing as a
cheat meal
on this diet. Instead, you’re encouraged to
adhere strictly to the guidelines all the time. If you do slip
up, the diet’s founders strongly encourage you to begin the
whole program again from day one.

Summary: The Whole30 diet eliminates sugar,
alcohol, grains, legumes, soy, dairy and processed foods for
a 30-day period.

A Few Additional Rules

Cigarette Butt

The Whole30 diet encourages some additional rules that are not
related to diet.

For instance, smoking is forbidden for the duration of the
diet.

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You’re also not allowed to step on the scale on any days other
than days 1 and 30, or partake in any form of body
measurements.

The justification behind these additional rules is that the
Whole30 program is about more than just weight loss.

Following these rules is promoted as a way to change your
mindset and promote long-term health.

Summary: The Whole30 diet is promoted as
more than a simple weight loss diet. Therefore, you are
encouraged to avoid smoking and weighing yourself for the
duration of the program.

Life After Whole30: The Reintroduction Phase

Once you’ve successfully completed the Whole30 program, it’s
time to focus on step 2 — the reintroduction phase.

In this phase, certain foods will be slowly reintroduced to
evaluate how they make you feel in regard to your healthier
metabolism, digestive tract, immune system and relationship
with food.

The suggested way to reintroduce off-limit foods is to add back
only one food group at a time. For instance, milk can be
reintroduced on day 1.

You are then encouraged to return to the Whole30 diet and avoid
milk on days 2–4, while paying attention to any potential
symptoms.

If all goes well, a different food group can be reintroduced on
day 5, repeating the process.

Reintroducing only one food group at a time while keeping the
rest of the diet the same is promoted as a way to better
identify which foods cause negative symptoms, such as
bloating
, skin breakouts or achy joints.

Once all food groups have been individually tested, those that
were well-tolerated can be added back into the diet.

Naturally, individuals are not required to reintroduce all
foods. In fact, they’re strongly encouraged to avoid
reintroducing foods that they do not miss.

Summary: After the initial 30 days, you may
slowly reintroduce off-limit foods to see how they affect
health and fit into your new eating pattern.

A Weekly Sample Menu for the Whole30 Diet

Spinach Frittata

Those interested in giving the Whole30 diet a try can start
with the following week-long menu suggestions.

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

  • Breakfast: A butternut, cinnamon and date
    smoothie.
  • Lunch: Zucchini patties and a side salad.
  • Dinner: Sweet potatoes stuffed with chili, veggies and avocado slices.

Thursday

  • Breakfast: Soft-boiled eggs and asparagus wrapped in
    prosciutto.
  • Lunch: Ground pork served in cabbage.
  • Dinner: Cod topped with bruschetta and a side of
    broccolini.

Friday

  • Breakfast: Smoothie made with pears, plums, apples,
    bananas, avocado and parsley.
  • Lunch: Frittata made with smoked salmon and asparagus.
  • Dinner: Roasted chicken served with cranberries and
    winter vegetables.

Saturday

Sunday

  • Breakfast: Stuffed avocados containing crab, shrimp and red
    peppers.
  • Lunch: Baked zucchini halves stuffed with ground beef
    in a tomato sauce.
  • Dinner: A stew made with beef, butternut squash, onions
    and mushrooms.

If you’d like more recipe inspirations, make sure to check out
the Whole30 website and Instagram account.

Remember to vary your sources of protein and vegetables
throughout the day to provide your body with all the vitamins
and minerals it requires.

Summary: The recipes above are a good
introduction to the Whole30 way of eating. More recipes can
be found on the Whole30 website and Instagram.

Whole30 Snack Ideas

Snacks
are a great way to stay energized throughout the day and keep
hunger between meals at bay.

Interesting Whole30-approved options include:

Mulberries and Smoothie

  • Plantain chips with salsa or guacamole
  • Apple with hazelnut butter
  • Banana ice cream made from blended frozen bananas
  • Seaweed snacks
  • Trail mix (without peanuts)
  • Almond milk latte
  • Prosciutto and melon
  • Carrots with almond butter sprinkled with cayenne pepper
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Walnut-stuffed figs
  • Frozen fruit and coconut milk smoothie

Summary: These Whole30-approved snacks are
convenient options aimed at keeping your energy levels up and
minimizing hunger between meals.

Potential Negative Effects of the Whole30 Diet

Several aspects of the Whole30 program are in line with a
nutritious diet.

For instance, the diet promotes consuming minimally processed
foods and a high intake of fresh
fruits
and vegetables.

However, avoiding nutrient-rich foods like legumes, soy and
dairy may make it more difficult to meet all your daily
nutrient recommendations (1).

This may create negative health effects if the diet is
continued for more than 30 days.

In addition, although rigid rules can be a good way to reset
eating habits for some people, restrictive diets with no
allowance for indulgences are generally not sustainable over
time (2).

Those contemplating following this diet in the long term are
encouraged to record their meals for a couple days in an online
diet journal such as Cronometer.

This can help ensure that daily nutrient recommendations
continue to be met.

Summary: The restrictive nature of the
Whole30 diet may make it difficult to meet daily nutrient
recommendations or sustain the diet in the long term.

Should You Try the Whole30 Diet?

It’s a well-known fact that a calorie deficit is needed for
weight loss (3, 4, 5).

Because of its restrictive nature, the Whole30 diet will likely
help create the calorie deficit you need to shed some extra
pounds.

However, unless the food choices you make on this diet become a
habit, the weight loss you experience may not be sustainable in
the long term (2).

As for the supposed benefits, there are no scientific studies
available to support the claims. There’s also no strong reason
to restrict dairy, grains or legumes (6, 7, 8).

Nevertheless, it is true that some people may unknowingly
suffer from food intolerances, which the diet’s reintroduction
phase can help identify (9).

Overall, this diet may be helpful if you want to completely
reset your eating habits.

But if you’re simply looking to improve your diet and overall
health, you’re better off trying a whole foods diet like
this one
instead.

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