You Asked: Should I Try the Whole30 Diet?

The Whole30 Program is a popular new diet that advocates cutting all added sugars, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy and several common food additives from your diet for 30 days. Instead, you’ll fill your plate with meat, seafood, eggs, “tons of vegetables,” fruit and healthy fats from oils, nuts and seeds. (If that sounds a lot like some other popular diet programs, you’re not crazy. There’s a good deal of overlap between Whole30, Paleo and FODMAP-excluding diets.)

Follow through with the Whole30, and its creators say the diet will “put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.” Those changes could lead to weight loss, higher energy levels, better sleep, improved focus and mental clarity and even “a sunnier disposition,” they say.

Nutrition experts don’t disagree. There’s no question many, many Americans would feel better if they stripped out added sugars and refined carbs from their diets. Some experts believe sugar is toxic, and it's been shown to promote inflammation and has been linked to depression. Some of the other foods on the Whole30 list of no-nos have also been linked to inflammation and its associated health harms.

“[Whole 30] is, essentially, an elimination diet,” says Dr. David Katz, founding director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. By cutting out certain foods or food groups (as Whole30 does) and adding them back in one at a time (something Whole30 is less clear about), you can identify triggers of food sensitivities or allergies and calm their symptoms, from bloating and body aches to fatigue, he says. “It’s a time-honored, clinical approach, and certainly can work.”

So what’s not to like? A lot, say some nutrition experts.

For one thing, the 30-day diet period doesn’t make any sense, says Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. “In a clinical setting, we put patients on these sorts of restrictive diets for three months, because the immune system needs three months to shut off,” he explains. “Thirty days isn’t enough time to turn off systemic inflammation.”

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