Paleo vs. Whole30: Which Diet Is Best For You?

Social media is filled with people gushing about the Paleo diet and Whole30, and for good reason. Due to their emphasis on eating “clean,” or limiting processed foods and sticking to lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats, both healthy eating philosophies have amassed hordes of followers. But how precisely do these two diets differ, and how can you decide which one to adhere to?

Although each diet has advantages and disadvantages, the one that is best for you will depend on your personal health objectives. Here is an explanation of how each diet works along with advice on choosing which one to try.

What is Paleo diet?

The goal of the Paleo diet is to eat similarly to how our 2.5 million to 10,000 year old Paleolithic ancestors did. According to the diet’s proponents, eating only food groups that cave people could have obtained through hunting and gathering is more in line with how humans should still eat today. That means staying away from foods derived from modern agriculture, such as dairy, grains, and beans, as these are thought to encourage inflammation.

Fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, seeds, nut and seed oils, and trace amounts of honey are all acceptable foods. You are allowed to occasionally indulge in an alcoholic beverage.

What you can’t eat: Highly processed foods like refined sugar and artificial sweeteners are also off limits, as are dairy products, grains, beans, and legumes.

The Paleo diet has a low carbohydrate content, which some people find to be beneficial for weight loss.

Additionally, studies imply that it might support healthier cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Additionally, the eating style eliminates processed and packaged foods while offering a simple framework for eating a balanced diet in general. Some advocates of the Paleo diet also claim that it has improved their ability to control gastrointestinal or autoimmune disorders, as well as food sensitivities to dairy and gluten.

What is the Whole30 Diet?

A 30-day elimination-style diet called Whole30 forbids dairy, grains, beans and other legumes, sweeteners, and alcohol. The diet’s developers assert that these foods can cause cravings, blood sugar problems, gut damage, and inflammation.

Since Whole30 is one of the strictest diets out there and requires consistency (no cheat days), if you err and eat something that’s forbidden, whether on purpose or by accident, you have to restart the diet from scratch. Advocates claim that by following this diet for 30 days, you can get rid of your body’s cravings for unhealthy foods and allow it to completely reset and recover from inflammation.

What you can eat: On Whole30, the majority of Paleo foods are also acceptable. In fact, many Whole30 adherents switch to the Paleo diet after the 30-day period. Lean proteins, fresh produce, nuts, seeds, and nut and seed oils are all options.

What you can’t eat: Similar to the Paleo Diet, processed foods, dairy products, grains, beans, and legumes are not permitted. Alcohol and natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup are not allowed during the Whole30 diet, though.

Why people love it: According to many Whole30 devotees, the diet helped them identify their food sensitivities and control their sugar cravings. Others see it as the food equivalent of Dry January, where strict rules force them to eat more healthfully for a predetermined amount of time.

For some people, it’s also satisfying to finish a really restrictive and challenging diet. According to Georgie Fear, RD, CSSD, author of Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss, “the idea of doing something very difficult for 30 days is often chosen because people want to see just how hard they can push themselves.”

Which low-carb diet is better?

You will eat generally more wholesome foods if you follow either the Paleo or Whole30 diets. According to registered dietitian Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD, “They both encourage the consumption of more fruits, vegetables, and whole foods, which most Americans are lacking in.” And followers of both diets claim that eating this way makes them simply feel better, which is fine and good, but if you’re looking to accomplish a particular goal, one diet may be superior to the other. Which one should you try if…?

You want to make a healthy lifestyle change:

The Paleo diet might be a wiser option. A healthy way to eat well over the long term is to eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins. Additionally, there is still room for infrequent treats, so if you choose to indulge in a piece of dark chocolate, you won’t feel deprived or like your diet is ruined.

To fully comprehend the long-term health effects of the Paleo diet, some experts contend that additional research is necessary. Fear asserts that “the rigidity and black-and-white thinking of Whole30 are definitely flaws, and I feel it further distances people from a lifelong healthy relationship with food.”

You’re looking to identify food intolerances or just need a reset:

Trying Whole30 might be worthwhile. You can determine whether a specific food (like wheat or dairy) doesn’t work for you by eliminating potential offenders for a full month before gradually reintroducing them one at a time.

If you think more moderate steps, like reducing portions or having dessert only once a week, wouldn’t work, you could also try going cold turkey without grains, sweeteners, or alcohol for a month. According to Fear, “people frequently opt for this approach if they feel out of control around sweets or processed foods, or they simply want to take a break from these foods to break a cycle of overeating and feeling guilty.”

You’re trying to lose weight:

Low-carb diets, like the Paleo Diet and Whole30, can help you lose weight because they limit the amount of carbohydrates you consume. The Paleo Diet, however, is likely the better option if you want to lose weight permanently. It may feel less restrictive because it permits Paleo-style treats and natural sweeteners, according to Jones. This can make it simpler for you to follow and lower your risk of bingeing on sweets.

However, this does not imply that in order to lose weight, you must eat like a caveman. Whole food group elimination diets are simply not suitable for everyone, especially if you have a history of disordered eating, warns Fear. She says that either of these programmes “can set off binges, food obsession, food anxiety, or low mood.” Additionally, cutting out entire food groups can result in nutritional deficiencies.

What are the drawbacks of the Whole30 and the Paleo diet?

Both diets have a few disadvantages. First of all, according to Fear and Jones, avoiding dairy, legumes, and whole grains increases your risk of deficiency in vitamins and minerals like calcium and fiber. Again, the lack of flexibility may make both diets difficult to maintain, even for a short period of time like 30 days.

Importantly, experts do not believe that either diet is the most effective way to identify food intolerances. You might eliminate foods you don’t actually need to avoid if you try to self-diagnose a food problem, according to Jones. For instance, just because brown rice upsets your stomach doesn’t mean all grains should be avoided.

The diets might not be the best for dealing with GI or autoimmune problems either. Working with a gastroenterologist and a dietitian who can guide you through an elimination diet that is medically appropriate is important if someone has digestive issues, the expert says.

The bottom line: Before beginning a new diet, consult with your doctor or a dietitian to determine which eating strategy will best serve your nutritional needs and health objectives. They can assist you in choosing the Paleo Diet, Whole30, or another eating regimen that would be most beneficial for you.

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