April 7

Paleo Versus Whole30: Understanding Each Diet, Similarities and Differences

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by Rob Baker

Two of the most popular dietary programs are paleo and Whole30. At first glance, each diet seems similar. Both promote eating minimally processed whole foods and advocate the avoidance of heavily processed foods rich in salt, sugars, and fat. In addition to the straightforward guidelines, each diet claims to improve health and promote healthy weight loss.

With so many things in common, what makes Whole30 different from paleo? Additionally, what are the health benefits of following either program?

A Closer Examination of Paleo

The paleo diet assumes that a diet structured similarly to human hunter-gatherer ancestors is healthier and may protect against modern diseases. Dieters are encouraged to choose organic, grass-fed products over other options. The paleo diet also encourages the avoidance of processed foods, trans fats, added sugar, some vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners, grains, dairy, and legumes.

While the diet does allow for some luxuries, primarily wine and dark chocolate, in moderation, there is some concern over the elimination of entire food groups or categories, such as grains and dairy. However, practitioners argue that dieters still receive all essential nutrients.

A Closer Examination of Whole30

Whole30, as the name implies, is also a diet that focuses on eating whole foods but for only 30 days. Practitioners claim that the diet resets the metabolism and can reshape an individual's relationship with food. They also suggest the program improves sleep, boosts energy levels, heightens athletic performance, and helps identify food intolerances.

Like the paleo diet, Whole30 dieters will need to avoid added sugars, artificial sweeteners, grains, dairy, and legumes. However, they will also need to avoid alcohol and soy.

After the initial month, participants can begin to reintroduce restricted foods slowly. The reintroduction of prohibited foods can help people identify potential intolerances.

Assessing the Differences

While each diet seems strikingly similar, they differ in sustainability and focus. Whole30 is structured as a 30 day or one-month reset; it is not intended as a lifestyle change. Because the diet only lasts one month, it is considerably laxer and more adaptive than the paleo diet.

The paleo diet is strict, despite appearing more lenient in the beginning because of the allowance of dark chocolate and wine. Additionally, the diet is primarily marketed as a lifestyle, not something temporary. 

The adherence to such strict rules for the long term might hold some consequences, especially if you are not careful about nutrient management. While Whole30 is less likely to affect your health because it is a short-term diet, paleo can have significant consequences if you are not careful. However, because Whole30 is more restrictive initially, many dieters may abandon it before completing the month.

Selecting a Diet

The proper diet for you might be one of these two or something else entirely. Before starting a new diet, you should talk to your primary care physician. Every person is unique and has specific nutrient and caloric needs. Your doctor can help you find the best diet for you, and you can speak with a nutritionist for additional guidance.

Do you have any experience with the Whole30 or Paleo diet? What are your feelings about each?


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