The Truth About the Whole30 Diet
Whole30 is trending as the latest diet craze. Consumers are trying this 30-day whole foods diet intended to “reset your health,” combat sugar cravings, restore a healthy metabolism and balance the immune system. Before you dive into this month-long challenge, you should know that this program is not beloved by nutritionist and medical experts.
Essentially, this diet is an overlap between the Paleo and FODMAP elimination diet. Similar to Paleo it includes meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruit and healthy fats such as oils, nuts and seeds, and prohibits alcohol, dairy, legumes, grains and sugar. After the 30 days are up, similar to the elimination diet, you slowly integrate the banned foods back into your diet to see if you experience any food sensitivities. Participants need to cook every meal and carefully check food labels for hidden sugars and other processed items such as carrageenan, sulfites and MSG.
While the diet encourages people to be mindful of what they’re eating and promotes eating whole foods, health professionals are wary of its restrictive nature. Eliminating sugar and additives can improve health, but diary, grains and legumes (beans and lentils) can be part of a balanced diet. Dieters could easily get the wrong idea about these food groups and eliminate them from their diets, thereby missing out on essential vitamins and minerals such as calcium and vitamin D. Dr. Mullin, director of Johns Hopkins Celiac Disease Clinic, says eliminating these foods could also shift your gut microbiome in an unfavorable direction.
The Whole30 diet promotes balancing the immune system and reducing inflammation in the GI tract. However, according to Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital, thirty days is not enough time to turn off systemic inflammation. In the clinical setting, patients with GI disorders are on restrictive diets for three months, which is the time it takes for the immune system to shut off.
Lastly, with the Whole30 diet there is little room for error. If you cheat during the 30-day period, you are advised to start over again in order to see any benefits. Diets that punish people for slips-ups set them up for failure, making them think a healthy lifestyle is unattainable. It reinforces a cycle of yo-yo dieting instead of implementing positive, long-term lifestyle changes.
Written by: Amanda Pelletier, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern. Learn more about the Wellness Workdays Dietetic Internship.