You might have heard that Whole30 was ranked as the worst fad diet of the year by US News & World Report鈥榮 annual diet report. But you probably also have *lots* of friends who swear that the 30-day elimination challenge聽changed the way they think about food. If聽so many people聽rave about it, why are the experts less than supportive? We checked in with nutritionists about their thoughts on Whole30聽in general, as well as the pluses and minuses for people who end up trying it, so you can figure out whether or not to ditch that diet.


The Pros

1. The rules are extremely clear.聽One of the most challenging things about any new diet is learning what you can and can鈥檛 eat. Figuring out proportions of different types of food like carbs, fat, and fiber 鈥斅燼s many diets require 鈥斅燾an be really confusing. Whole30 has no formulas or percentages to deal with. Registered聽dietitian and Certified Nutrition Support Clinician聽Lisa Mikus聽thinks聽鈥渃ertain people are attracted to this diet because it is a challenge and it provides very black and white rules. Some people feel they will be more compliant or confident with a structured set of guidelines, or feel like it is a competition with their friends to see who can stay in the program the longest.鈥 If you happen to have a rule-following personality and love order and structure, the clarity of Whole30鈥檚 guidelines can be a major plus.

2. It could help with certain digestive issues.聽鈥淭o me, a diet is synonym to 鈥榳ay of life鈥 鈥 an eating approach that鈥檚 sustainable, fluid, and easy to follow,鈥 shares聽Shahzadi Devje, a registered dietitian-nutritionist. 鈥淚nterestingly, the creators of Whole30 themselves don鈥檛 claim it to be a diet. It鈥檚 a short-term elimination regimen.鈥澛燬o what is an elimination diet? Mikus explains, 鈥淒ieticians and other health professionals use these diets to help patients with food allergies, intolerances, and diagnosed gastrointestinal issues such as IBS or Crohn鈥檚 disease to help manage symptoms and inflammation, which certain foods can exacerbate.鈥 If you do have a food intolerance, allergy, or some other digestive issue going on that鈥檚 related to foods you skip under Whole30, the diet *might* help with it.

Also, Mikus remarks that some people who are lactose intolerant may feel better and see fewer stomach issues while on聽the plan.聽鈥淭he fact that they are learning something about their body is a good thing,鈥 she agrees. 鈥淏ut this does not at all mean that they should restrict themselves from all types of dairy. Most yogurts and harder cheese are well tolerated in people with lactose intolerance.鈥 Yay for cheese!

3. The emphasis on wholesome foods is awesome.聽鈥淎s a registered dietitian, I appreciate the emphasis on incorporating more whole foods into your daily intake such as fruits and vegetables versus highly processed foods,鈥 concedes Mikus. Plus, she points out the meal planning and prep are pretty necessary on Whole30, so it encourages people to learn how to get more involved with their food than they may have been聽before: 鈥淪omeone on the Whole30 will likely end up trying more vegetables than previously and may try new recipes and cooking techniques.鈥 Those are definitely major pluses.

4. You鈥檒l see the effects fast.聽Being forced to cut out all processed foods can deliver results, especially if you really stick to the plan. 鈥淚 can see why some rave about it,鈥 admits Devje. 鈥淚t鈥檚 punchy and promises extraordinary results 鈥斅燼ll in 30 days. Anybody who goes into this regimen and follows through would see results. By eliminating sugar, alcohol, and processed food, and emphasizing vegetables, you鈥檙e bound to lose weight, be energized, and feel great!鈥 That being said, she notes that the plan鈥檚 鈥渟ensationalized marketing tactics鈥 may do more harm than good and that overall she does not agree with Whole30鈥檚 approach. Which leads us to鈥


The Cons

1. It eliminates a lot of foods.聽Probably too many. 鈥淚 strongly believe that all foods can fit into your lifestyle,鈥 says Mikus. 鈥淚 never recommend that my clients dramatically restrict entire groups of food from their daily intake, even if just for a temporary period. Grains, legumes, and dairy 鈥 which are prohibited on the Whole30 鈥 provide an incredible variety of nutrition for us, including B vitamins, fiber, iron, magnesium, and calcium, among countless others.鈥 While the Whole30 creators claim you can get all the nutrients you need from properly following their plan, not everyone eats the required range of foods, instead only eating their favorites out of those that are plan-approved (hello, bacon!).

2. The health claims are not supported by research (yet, anyway).聽鈥淥ne of the reasons that it鈥檚 rated so poorly is that it boasts multiple health claims with no evidence of peer-reviewed independent research,鈥 Mikus points out. She observes that on the Whole30 website, it claims the聽plan is 鈥渄esigned to change your life鈥 and acts as a 鈥渟hort-term nutritional reset鈥 with the intention to end 鈥渦nhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.鈥 Hmmm. None of those things is actually proven, though, and Mikus expresses her disapproval of the way they鈥檙e casually thrown around: 鈥淚t is unethical to boast extreme health claims without evidence-based research.鈥 The diet is also touted as a 鈥渄etox鈥 from things like alcohol and sugar.聽鈥淲hat people don鈥檛 realize is that your body is already detoxing; it鈥檚 one of your liver鈥檚 main functions,鈥 Mikus explains. 鈥淭hank your liver 鈥斅爄t鈥檚 detoxing for you right now, as you read this!鈥

3. It could worsen聽metabolic, digestive, and heart conditions.聽According to Mikus, people with diabetes, thyroid issues, or gastrointestinal issues such as Crohn鈥檚 or IBS should聽definitely聽check with their doctor before starting it. She also cautions聽that if you鈥檙e looking to improve your cardiovascular health or if you have heart disease, Whole30 is definitely not for you, because it recommends foods that are high in saturated fat, like coconut milk and cream. 鈥淪aturated fats have been long associated with cardiovascular disease. According to the American Heart Association, on an average 2,000 calorie diet, only five to six percent of calories from saturated fats is recommended, which is about 13 grams total or聽equivalent to the saturated fat in about only four tablespoons聽of coconut milk.鈥 Yeah, four tablespoons isn鈥檛 going to get you very far. Plus, oats and grains 鈥 which you can鈥檛 eat on the diet 鈥斅燼re also known to protect against heart disease. 鈥淭he fact that this diet prohibits foods which are聽protective against cardiovascular disease, while promoting foods rich in saturated fats, such as red meat and coconut-based products, is very concerning,鈥 concludes Mikus.

4. It鈥檚 got a bad attitude.聽There鈥檚 a tough-love element to Whole30 that can sometimes聽come off as promoting deprivation. Obviously, this is something that health professionals worry about. 鈥淭he punitive approach of Whole30 can be risky psychologically and lead to an unhealthy relationship with food,鈥 explains Devje. She especially notes that if you鈥檙e at risk of or have a history of disordered eating, a strict plan like this can be detrimental to your mental and physical health.

5. The results won鈥檛 last.聽It鈥檚 true that you鈥檒l probably lose some weight and maybe even feel better on the Whole30, but once you start eating normally again, you鈥檒l be back where you started. Mikus also shares that when you lose weight too rapidly, you鈥檙e聽at risk for gaining back even more than you lost.鈥滻f you aren鈥檛 careful about getting enough energy through nutrition during these 30 days, you could put your body in a hypo-caloric state, which could slow down your metabolism,鈥 she explains. Basically, if a diet tricks your body into thinking there鈥檚 not enough food because you鈥檙e taking in too few calories, your metabolism is going to switch to storing (as fat) more of the energy you take in to help you survive聽in case food becomes scarce again. Helpful when our ancestors聽had to worry about a failed mammoth hunt, but not so much when we鈥檙e just making different choices at the grocery store.


The Bottom Line

All in all, it seems that experts agree that while there are some great things about Whole30 (everyone could use more vegetables!), none of them require you to be on the Whole30 to put them into practice, and there are a lot of drawbacks to the diet. 鈥淭o anyone considering the regimen, I would say: Be kind to yourself, because Whole30 isn鈥檛,鈥 shares Devje. 鈥淭hink beyond the 30 days, and cultivate an eating philosophy while you learn what foods work for you.鈥 Seems like a pretty reasonable idea to us!

Have you tried Whole30? What did you think? Tell us about your experience @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)