Could you give up sugar, alcohol, grains, dairy, legumes and soy for an entire month? It may sound extreme, but that’s precisely the premise behind the Whole30 – the diet plan taking the wellness world by storm. Promising to reset your metabolism and reshape your relationship with food, found out all you need to know about this viral health movement…
What exactly is The Whole30?
In a nutshell, the Whole30 is a month-long plan in which you give up all added sugar, alcohol, grains (even gluten-free grains such as quinoa), dairy, soy and legumes. At its core, the Whole30 is a combination of a strict Paleo diet and an elimination diet that focuses on slashing inflammation-promoting foods from your diet. After the 30 days are up, you slowly reintroduce foods that were off the plan. Much like an elimination diet to detect food intolerances, the idea is that the Whole30 gives you a good picture of what your body likes and doesn’t like during this reintroduction phase.
What makes it different to other diets?
Unlike the overwhelming majority of diets, the Whole30 advises against counting calories or weighing your food. As the website explains, “The Whole30 is about so much more than weight loss, and to focus only on body composition means you’ll overlook all of the other dramatic, life-long benefits the plan has to offer.” Due to its restrictive nature, it’s also not designed to be a long-term plan, merely a 30-day reset. Those who are willing to sign up must also be committed (forget an 80/20 mindset) – you’ll need to stick 100% to the plan, and if you slip up, the rules state you’ll need to go back and start again at day one.
Why has it become so popular?
Stick with the plan for 30 days and studies suggest you could benefit from higher energy levels, better quality of sleep, improved athletic performance, and a reduction of food cravings, particularly when it comes to sugar and carbs. Advocates have chimed in with impressive testimonials, crediting the programme with everything from clearing up acne to complete elimination of autoimmune disorders. Beyond the physical benefits, the plan also claims to reshape your relationship with food and body image.
What’s off the menu?
A lot. On the plan, you can’t eat: dairy (say goodbye to any form of cheese or milk), legumes (so no beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils or peanut butter), grains (wheat, rice, oats and even gluten-free grains like quinoa and buckwheat are banned), added sugars, alcohol, junk foods or baked goods. The founders of the regime claim its these foods that can wreak havoc with your hormones and gut as well as cause inflammation, leading to everything from acne to poor energy levels.
So what can you eat?
The Whole30 diet wants you to focus on ‘real foods’, which translates as lean proteins such as meat, seafood and eggs; vegetables (including potatoes); some fruit; natural fats like avocado; and herbs, spices and seasonings. An easy breakfast on the plan could be some form of egg with veggies or a plant-based smoothie made with almond and coconut milk, chia seeds and protein powder. Lunch could be a salad with a lean protein (complete with an olive-oil based dressing) while dinner should focus on healthy proteins and plenty of vegetables.
Do you have to do it for 30 days to reap the benefits?
Yes and no. While the founders claim you’ll need to see the 30 days through to see maximum results, some nutritionists claim it is possible to follow a ‘Whole30-esque’ regime, forgetting the more restrictive parts of the diet and embracing its core principles. Think upping your protein intake (aim for 1.6g of protein per kg of bodyweight, spreading it out to around 25-30g per meal); avoiding added sugar; cutting back on alcohol and cooking more meals from scratch.
What do the experts say?
Despite its alleged health-boosting credentials, health experts remain at odds over the Whole30. While some say it’s the ultimate dietary reset, prime to transform the way you feel and respond to food, others believe cutting out entire food groups – namely grains, legumes and dairy – is overly restrictive and could lead to nutritional deficiencies. Others have highlighted the lack of independent research conducted on the regime, with some saying a protein-rich diet could potentially be high in cholesterol and sodium. And while the founders claim it’s the high protein consumption that will keep you full – some say this isn’t necessarily a balanced approach to nutrition.
Who’s the diet for?
Having to eat, cook and prepare real food every single day for a month means those who struggle with food prep and pre-planning may find it difficult. At the same time, the Whole30 is notorious for its tough-love approach – if willpower isn’t your strong point or if you’re easily swayed by post-work prosecco at the pub, then this isn’t the one for you. However, if you’re on a mission to get to the root of food sensitives or ready to make real changes to your diet, it could be worth giving the Whole30 a go.
To find out more, visit Whole30.com