Should You Try the Whole30 Diet?

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The Whole30 diet is like a weed wacker. Instead of pinpointing foods that could be causing skin issues, allergies, bloating, fatigue or other issues, Whole30 removes almost everything. It’s a classic elimination diet. Get rid of fried wings, potato chips and sweet tea and chances are you will lose weight and probably feel better. This isn’t rocket science. But, Whole30 won’t get rid of your nagging symptoms if they are due to food allergies or food sensitivities.

This blog post will cover:

  • What is the Whole30 diet?
  • Whole30 Nutrition Rules that Make no Sense
  • Who is this diet good for?
  • Who should avoid it?

What is the Whole30 Diet?

On the Whole30 diet you can eat meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, natural fats, herbs spices and seasonings. They tell you not to eat anything you can’t pronounce (this rule defies nutrition logic). Also, you can’t eat the following for 30 days:

Sugar of any kind. Honey, maple syrup, table sugar etc. 

Artificial sweeteners. If you don’t have an adverse food reaction to these, there’s no reason to avoid them.

Alcohol. Okay, I’ve got nothing here. Alcohol isn’t good for you and it raises risk of hormone dependent cancers (like breast cancer) and stroke. 

Grains. Grains are an important source of fiber and vitamins and minerals.

Legumes. By the way, the healthiest people on earth eat lots of legumes! Legumes are full of fiber, protein, magnesium and other nutrients as well as plant compounds important for good health.

Dairy. There goes most of my protein in addition to calcium, vitamin D, magnesium and other nutrients.

This includes most of your grocery store.

Whole30 Nutrition Rules that Make No Sense

Stupid nutrition rules that have no scientific basis or purpose bother me. They really really bother me. Here are foods you can eat from Whole30 in blue and my feedback in black:

Ghee or clarified butter. Though clarified butter has less saturated fat than butter, it still has saturated fat. Liquid oils are a better option.

Fruit juice. This should say 100% fruit juice. Otherwise it may be flavored sugar water with no helpful plant compounds or vitamins.

Certain legumes. WT*. So they are randomly deciding which legumes are good for you? My eyes are rolling.

Coconut aminos. This is a substitute for soy sauce? I’d rather use GF soy sauce.

Iodized salt because it has sugar. I’m not sure what iodized salt they’re talking about because I’ve never seen one with sugar in it.

Who is this Diet Good for?

Someone who wants a challenge and a diet that is simple but not easy. Your choices are yes or no (mainly no). You won’t have to count points or log your food intake. It’s simple to grasp. However, it isn’t easy. You’ll end up cooking or assembling your own meals and avoiding many restaurants. Plus you might miss some of your favorite foods and dishes.

If you want a challenge and think you can stick to Whole30 for 30 days you may  notice you feel better. In fact, when people go on an elimination diet, or simply cut out certain foods for a while, and then they reintroduce these foods, they discover something that can change behavior moving forward. Fried foods make their bodies feel bad. A diet full of typical fast food makes them tired. Who wants to go back to feeling that way? It isn’t worth it.

If you have any symptoms related to food sensitivities or allergies these probably won’t go away. My top 2 food sensitivities are broccoli and carrots – 2 foods allowed on Whole30. Plus there are a number of ingredients that may be causing issues (some are in the coatings on medications or supplements). You need to get tested if you have potential symptoms related to food allergies or sensitivities and LEAP is the only food sensitivity test I recommend (more on this in an upcoming post).

What do you do after the 30 days? Whole30 is not a sustainable way of eating. They have a website devoted to reintroducing foods and maintaining healthy habits after you finish Whole30. Yet, every single person I know who has gone on this diet resumed their old eating habits as soon as the 30-day period was over. Whole30 doesn’t teach you how to live with donuts, sugar and fried foods. Their post diet guidelines tell you “no guilt, no shame” but their approach to food is full of guilt by labeling foods dirty and clean and talking about food as something one should control. When controlling one’s weight and food becomes obsessive, disordered eating or an eating disorder may result.

Who Should Avoid this Diet?

  • Yo-yo dieters
  • Those with a history of disordered eating or an eating disorder (including chronic overeating and bingeing)
  • Anyone interested in finding out the true cause of their migranes, IBS, hives, or inflammatory issues
  • Someone who loves food and often eats out with others

Bottom Line

You’ll probably feel better on this diet if your current diet isn’t full of healthy foods. In addition, if you are overweight, you will likely lose weight if you can follow this program for 30 days. That’s a big if after talking to more people today who “fell off” the diet after 5-10 days. Whole30 is an elimination diet. Elimination diets followed by reintroducing foods one-by-one may help determine foods that are causing certain issues. However, if you suspect you are having an adverse food reaction, quit looking for a needle in a haystack and get tested for allergies or sensitivities.

Whole30 cuts out  a number of healthy, nutrient-packed foods including legumes, grains and dairy. There is no reason to cut these out unless you have an allergy or sensitivity to one of them. Also, it is not a sustainable way to eat over a long period of time and lacks a sound transition plan back to a more normal way of eating.

Food Fraud: Is Your Food Adulterated?

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By: Gisselle Marie Rosa, UGA MS student & Dietetic Intern

As consumers, we put our trust in food companies to be honest about their food products. You go to the grocery store and spend and exorbitant amount on 100% pure Italian olive oil expecting that it comes from the finest olive crops in Italy. Yet that dark glass bottle with the scenic picture of an olive farm in Tuscany may contain olive oil mixed with lower quality vegetable oil. Then you see news reports bombarding the media about honey that is diluted with less expensive syrups and “wild” salmon that was actually farm-raised in another continent. It makes you wonder why food companies would risk lying to their consumers about the quality of the food they are selling and how you can avoid buying these products at all.

Food Adulteration for Economic Gain (Saving Cash)

Food fraud, or economically motivated adulteration, refers to defrauding buyers of food or ingredients for economic gain. There are generally three types of fraud: complete or partial replacement of a food or ingredient, the addition of a substance to mask the quality of the food product, and removal of a component of the food product. Unfortunately, no one really knows exactly how common these practices are. Most instances of food fraud do not pose a public health risk, so they are easy to get away with. There are some instances, however, where certain foods or ingredients are adulterated with potential allergens or toxic ingredients that could harm the consumer. Some examples are as benign as injecting shrimp with gelatin, while others are as dangerous as adding melamine to infant formula to make the protein content of the formula seem higher. The latter example led to thousands of infant illnesses and the death of 6 infants in China.

Unintentional Food Adulteration

However, not all cases of food adulteration are intentional. An example is selling bruised fruit, where mishandling could have led to decreased quality of the produce item and potential exposure to contamination.

It is pretty evident that food fraud can be deceiving and even dangerous. So how can you become a more informed consumer?

The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) has an online database that provides food ingredient fraud reports. In this database, you can find past reports from the media and scientific journals about food fraud cases. Additionally, the United States Department of Agriculture website  posts the most recent food recalls, many of which are due to food adulteration.

According to the Congressional Research Service, some of the most common food categories with reported cases of food fraud include: olive oil, fish and seafood, milk and milk-based products, honey, fruit juice, coffee and tea, spices, and organic foods. Curious to see how these foods have been adulterated in the past? If you are curious about food fraud, check out this Food fraud database.

Just remember: a smart consumer is a safe consumer. While there is no need to be skeptical about every food product you buy, it is important to understand that food fraud exists. So the next time you go to the store to buy fresh red snapper, make sure that the fish you are buying is authentic and not a cheaper, lower quality fish.

Resources:

Johnson, R. Food Fraud and “Economically Motivated Adulteration” of Food and Food Ingredients. Congressional Research Service 2014. Internet: https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43358.pdf

U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention. USP’s Food Fraud Database 2015. Internet: http://www.usp.org/food-ingredients/food-fraud-database

United States Department of Agriculture. Recalls and Public Health Alerts, 2014. Internet: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/recalls-and-public-health-alerts/