Whole30 Diet: Is It Really Worth Your 30 Days?

With the growing trend of various health diets, the Whole30 diet is not only the latest, but it also seems to be of the select few that actually makes sense. It encourages you to avoid alcohol, sugar, grains, legumes, dairy and additives in favour of whole, unprocessed foods for a total of 30 days. By eliminating these foods from your diet, the proponents of the Whole30 diet believe that both your health and fitness will prosper.

Reading that, it would make absolute sense for you to begin following this diet – correct? Possibly. Let’s find out to be sure.

Breakdown of the Whole30 diet.

Essentially, with this diet, you stay clear of any foods that may be detrimental to your health, be it refined, drenched in sugar or inflammatory. Two ways in which this diet differs from others is that, firstly, you’re not allowed to count calories, measure portions or even weigh yourself. The originators of the diet believe that, aside from weight loss – the diet is also about changing your relationship with food. Furthermore, you’re also forbidden from smoking.

Secondly, there are not cheat days. Plenty of us may look forward to this day, but the Whole30 diet makes zero room for this. In the case that you do cheat, you would then be strongly advised to start over – from day one (There is actually a strong following on social media in the form of a built-in support system that encourages accountability)

Eating during the 30 days

Whole foods that you can enjoy during your 30 days include fish and seafood, meat and poultry, eggs (including foods made from them such as homemade mayo), fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds (excluding peanuts which are technically legumes) and certain fats (healthy plant oils, coconut oil, duck fat, clarified butter and ghee).

As for the foods that cannot be consumed throughout the 30 days?

These foods include sugar and artificial sweeteners (including raw sugar, honey and maple syrup), alcohol, grains (this includes ALL grains -regardless of their degree of processing. You’re advised to steer clear of wheat, corn, oats and rice), pulses and legumes (green beans, sugar snap peas and snow peas are exceptions), soy, dairy (ranging from cow, goat and sheep’s milk to yogurt, cheese and ice cream) and additives (avoid all foods listing carrageenan, MSG or sulphites as ingredients).

Registered dietitian from Nutritional Solutions, Monique Piderit, gives her take on these restrictions.

“Here’s how they describe these foods: “Craving-inducing, blood sugar disrupting, gut-damaging, inflammatory foods.” In fact, this is far, far from the truth,” she explains. “Already I have alarm bells going off in my head at the sensationalistic use of words (plus they push the sale of their books on the website – two alarm bells when spotting a fad diet)”

The next step

Once your 30 days have ended, you are then required to focus on the reintroduction phase. The reintroduction phase requires you to slowly reintroduce the off-limit foods back into your diet in order to properly deduce which ones affect your health (including your metabolism, digestive system and immune system). This step is endorsed as a technique to better recognise which foods are responsible for any negative symptoms you may be experiencing such as bloating and skin breakouts.

The recommended way in which to reintroduce the foods is by adding back one food group at a time. An example would be by reintroducing yoghurts to your diet on Day 1. You would then return to the Whole30 diet whilst avoiding yoghurts on days 2–4, paying close attention to any potential symptoms. If there are none, a different food group can be reintroduced on day 5, repeating the process. Once you’ve individually tested all the food groups, you can re-add the well-tolerated foods back into the diet.

It’s important to note that you need not reintroduce all foods – it is advisable that they do not reintroduce or test out any foods that you do not actually miss. Benefits of the diet that have been promoted include weight loss, higher energy levels, better sleep, reduced food cravings, an improved emotional relationship with food as well as improved athletic performance.

Although these benefits seem great, there is also the fact that none of the benefits have been scientifically proven, which brings us to the next point.

Is it worth the 30 days?

The Whole30 diet encourages the consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables and minimally processed foods whilst cutting out processed foods, baked goods and added sugars. Furthermore, it provides a calorie deficit which is important when it comes to weight loss. Also some people may, unbeknownst to them, suffer from food intolerances (such as gluten) and the diet can help them identify any intolerances.

However, although it can help you reach your weight loss goal, its harsh and constricting guidelines might make that weight loss anything but long-term. Also, due to its restrictions, there is a lot of food prep that is required and some people may experience difficulties in keeping up with all the allowed foods. Moreover, its zero tolerance policy for slip-ups or failures might seriously affect your relationship with food (which the diet claims to better).

There are also slight contradictions in the foods that are allowed. As Piderit noticed, “Fruit juice is apparently an exception (now THAT is a craving-inducing food that disrupts sugar when consumed on its own) and butter is allowed (of which the largest ingredient is milk, a dairy product). I can’t help but brush off such fad diets when they contradict themselves without realising it.”

And then there’s the fact that the diet encourages you to avoid nutrient-rich foods like legumes, soy and dairy.

“Sure, excess sugar in the diet is not a good idea,” Piderit says. “We all know that. No one disputes that. But legumes as gut-damaging foods? Legumes are rich in fibre which promote and protect good gut health. And grains are blood sugar disrupters? Wholegrains are low GI to help stabilise blood sugar levels, and contain fibre for gut health. Dairy induces cravings? Research has shown how dairy can assist in keeping fuller for longer and actually helping with weight loss.” Click here to find out which low-GI principles Harvard Health promotes as in the quest for healthy blood sugar levels.

With the continuous growth of various health fads and diets, it seems that the Whole30 approach of eating isn’t the only one we need to stay clear of.

“We should always be eating healthy, not only for 30 days, 80% of the time lots of nutrient-rich food and 20% allowing ourselves some leeway with treats. At the end of the day, we must simply go back to basics with our nutrition. Follow a healthy and balanced diet but eating more of the good stuff (veggies, fruit, plant-based protein, 100% whole grains) and less of what we know is not good for health. Moderation is key. Balance is key. This diet mentality has to go.”

Want more tips on how to achieve this balance and incorporate it into a healthy lifestyle – not a diet? Click on the link to discover our best lifestyle tips that will help you in this quest.