Written by: Kelley R. Hill, MSN, RN-BC
In a Nutshell
- Giving up certain foods for one month
- Claims to “change your life in 30 days” by way of significantly improved health
- Extremely restrictive during that 30 days
The Whole 30 diet claims that after 30 days of giving up certain foods, you will experience a strengthened immune system, repair digestive issues, improve existing medical conditions, correct hormone imbalances, and eliminate cravings. The diet excludes the following foods:
- Whole grains
- Legumes (soy, lentils, peanuts, etc.)
- Food additives
- Processed foods
If you deviate from the diet, even for one day, or even on day 29, you are directed to start the 30-day count over again.
As the diet is only 30 days, eating out as well as socialized eating with family and friends may not present a challenge. It’s simple enough to take appropriate foods to others’ houses for socializing. Should you decide to dine out, however, you’ll likely find most restaurants cannot accommodate the diet requirements.
While it generally takes more than 30 days for health benefits from any diet to manifest, unfortunately health detriments can occur in that short period of time – such as vitamin deficits, gut problems, tiredness and weakness – and while they may not be permanent, it can take time to recover.
There are many ready-made, readily available dietary supplements to prevent nutritional deficits while on certain diets; however, replacing the phytochemicals, resistant starch, and fermentation agents provided by whole grains and legumes takes a considerable amount of shopping, spending, and calculating… And you should plan to add powders into or on top of your food dishes (like raw potato starch).
Scientific & Expert Support
Consuming too few calories in itself can lead to hormonal imbalances, as can essential nutritional deficits, and both are possible – even likely – on this very diet that claims to be able to correct hormone balance.
Experts do agree that reducing caffeine, refined and added sugars, fast-acting carbohydrates, and alcohol also reduces insulin level, though there is no evidence that this diet will affect hormone levels overall.
Some research directly suggests that a vegan diet may reduce risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Vegans also appeared to have the lowest rates of cancer of any diet. Bear in mind, however, these studies are on the vegan diet, not paleo diets. There is also an abundance of evidence on the benefits of eating more plant foods to reduce disease risk, as well as improve immunity and gut health.
Experts are greatly concerned about potential health issues resulting from the restriction of the healthful food groups grains and dairy, which have been shown to not only benefit modern humans but play an essential role in maintaining basic health.
Repeatedly restarting the 30-day count on an imbalanced, nutritionally deficient diet could result in significant health issues and potentially long-term or permanent damage.
You should not consider this diet if you are prone to or have a history of eating disorders.
You should not make assumptions about hormone imbalances. Discovering if your hormones are imbalanced in the first place requires working with a physician; your levels cannot be determined through signs and symptoms or from a checklist.
Healthful and essential food groups that provide necessary nutrients are missing, which can result in nutritional deficits with serious health impacts. A lack of whole grains for example, which have beneficial actions in the gut, actually doubles the risk for heart disease rather than reducing it.
You should always consult with your physician, and ideally a registered dietician (RD) or nutritionist, before radically changing your diet or eating habits. Especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, are taking prescription medications, or have existing health conditions. Fitness experts are not a reliable dieting resource.
STRENGTH OF EVIDENCE: D
While there is evidence supporting limited individual claims within the Whole 30 diet, there is no evidence directly supporting the diet itself. Likewise, even the support for the individual claims are over periods longer than 30 days.
Healthful dietary change should be a target behavior within larger, long-term lifestyle improvement. As it takes just under 7 weeks to form a habit, it is unlikely that 30 days on a highly restrictive diet will be beneficial. There are many other balanced and scientifically supported diets.
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