While the Whole30 diet, the popular 30-day elimination diet that bans alcohol, sugar, legumes, grains, dairy, and processed foods, has helped some followers lose weight, it has its shortcoming like any restrictive diet, falling flat on a various fronts.
“While I like the fact that the diet focuses on whole, minimally processed foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, it eliminates many healthful foods like grains, soy, beans, and lentils,” says Sharon Palmer, RDN, nutritionist and author of The Plant-Powered Diet.
Here are three potential dangers of stubbornly sticking to the Whole30 diet:
Messing with digestion
“The science on the health benefits of soy foods and pulses like beans, lentils, dried peas is overwhelming,” says Palmer. “They’re packed with high-quality nutrients, such as protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.”
Legumes are your gut’s best friend, critical for its health and for good bacteria to find your intestines. Yet the Whole30 diet bans legumes.
The theory is bains contain ‘anti-nutrients’ like phytates, which blocks the body’s intake of essential minerals like magnesium, iron, and calcium. But in reality, the health benefits of legumes far outweigh this one ‘positive’; phytates are largely destroyed by food prep methods like soaking anyway.
“This is one of my key issues with Whole30,” says Palmer. “There is no science to support eliminating these foods.”
Inducing food sensitivities
Once dieters finish the Whole30 month-long challenge, they enter the reintroduction phase, where they add the foods they’ve avoided for 30 days back into their diet. This is to find which food groups are doing the most harm to their bodies. For example, if you’ve eliminated yogurt from your diet, then suddenly feel extra bloated reintroducing it to your diet, it’s a sign that you may want it out of your diet for good. Sounds good, right?
Not so fast. Once foods are cut from your diet for a period of time, you may react to them when they’re reintroduced, sensitive to them or not.
Related: 3 Risks of Going on the Keto Diet
“There is some evidence to show that when you shift your diet, your gut microbiota composition and enzymes shift too,” says Palmer. So if you cut out dairy, you may reduce the enzymes you once had to break down the food group properly, thereby creating food sensitivities you didn’t originally have.
“Our bodies are wonderfully adaptive, but sometimes this has consequences.”
It’s just not sustainable
This diet isn’t meant to be a long-term solution. Even the website’s tagline states, ‘It’s only 30 days’.
But Palmer says the 30-day program is problematic anyway, as it fails to impart sustainable healthy habits.
“A diet needs to be a way of eating that you can maintain for your whole life,” she says. “It should set you up for a healthful, more vibrant life, not just for a period of time of weight loss.”
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