The Whole30 diet – a whole lotta hype?
If you thought low-carbing was a challenge – think again! The latest diet to hit the headlines is a 30-day eating plan based around healthy whole foods that’s so draconian you have to reset the clock if you lapse. It’s gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, sugar-free, soy-free and alcohol-free diet. And you’re not even allowed to weigh yourself.
The Whole30 diet is based on the “Paleo” or Palaeolithic diet tend where people eat what they assume our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate. That means no grains, dairy or processed foods, and plenty of pasture-raised meat, eggs, nuts, vegetables and berries.
But Whole30 takes this a step further. It also bans:
• any kinds of sweetener, artificial or natural, that includes honey, stevia, agave syrup and coconut sugar
• legumes are forbidden including all kinds of beans, chickpeas, lentils and peanuts
• soy products such as soy sauce, miso, tempeh, tofu and edamame are all banned
• zero dairy but you can have clarified butter (ghee)
• avoid white potatoes, sweet are fine
• no carrageenan, MSG or sulphites
The rules are so tough that most people give up scouring food labels and stick to whole and unprocessed foods instead, which is partly the point. It’s intended to be a total “nutritional reset”.
The rise of gluten-free has a seen a whole industry develop around delicious, gluten-free baking and healthy sweet treats. But that’s all banned on Whole30.
You eat three meals a day, you don’t snack. You’re not allowed to make desserts or gluten-free baking or ice-cream with whipped coconut cream and banana: if something isn’t part of your main meal, it’s forbidden. As the programme says: “Don’t try to replicate junk food during your 30 days!”
It’s about mindset
The idea behind the Whole30 plan is to fundamentally change our relationship with food, and that’s why no treats and snacking are allowed. If a lapse occurs by accident – for example someone serves you food containing soy – that’s ok. But if you consciously choose to eat a sauce with a trace of carrageenan, you have to go back to scratch and start your thirty days all over.
The good, the bad
Three of Whole30’s benefits include:
• You will be eating healthy, natural food and cutting out junk.
• There’s no calorie counting. And it’s only thirty days, making it easier to stick to and less of a concern if you are missing a certain nutrient.
• It should have a longer term impact because you are changing your mindset to choose better foods and wean yourself off sweet treats.
Some adherents claim a wide range of “miracle” benefits, from clearing up skin problems to improving sleep. But the people behind Whole30 caution that your underlying health and genetics will likely remain a strong influence than any food changes.
The downside is the time and even cost of doing the diet, as well as the near-fanaticism required to stick to it.
You may also miss out on important nutrients such as calcium. Using a food intake tracker (online or via a mobile app) can help you keep an eye on what your levels of different vitamins and minerals are.
As always, check with your doctor before trying a radical new eating plan. But Whole30 certainly looks like a safer way of getting healthy in a month than doing a juice fast or the “baby food” diet or another short term food fad.
Chloe Quin is wellness expert with online health insurance provider Health.com.au, whose mission is to help Australians access affordable healthcare that’s easy to understand. Also a qualified yoga instructor, Chloe is passionate about empowering women to boost their health and fitness in fun, family-friendly ways.