What’s the Difference Between Paleo and Whole30?
The paleo diet is all about eating natural, whole foods that are nutrient-dense and avoiding processed ones. The emphasis is on protein, fat, carbohydrates, and micronutrients found in foods rather than macronutrient ratios or specific food combinations.
Whole30 is also a nutritional program based on whole, natural foods, but it differs from paleo in three critical ways:
1) There’s no focus on eating natural, organic, or grass-fed foods.
2) It allows for a total intake of certain dairy products like butter, ghee, or heavy cream (limited or eliminated during paleo). Heavy cream is not permitted during paleo because it contains too much sugar and dairy is a common allergen.
3) There’s an elimination phase where participants remove specific foods from their diet for 30 days, including added sugar, grains, legumes, and alcohol. At the end of each stage (elimination and then reintroduction), they assess how it made them feel and any change in symptoms or how they look and feel.
I’m currently on day 6 of the Whole30, and I love it. Not only do I feel great (my stomach doesn’t hurt every time I see food), but my skin has improved so much since starting this new 30-day challenge.
This is not some crazy ten-day detox diet that will have you feeling horrible at the end! Suppose you are looking for a cheap way to improve your overall health, energy levels, self-esteem, and life. In that case, Whole30 is worth trying- be careful because this is an elimination diet which means, by definition, it can be tough to do if you are not committed!
Whole 30 eliminates all dairy except ghee or butter. Paleo allows some dairy, including cream.
While both diets encourage you to avoid processed foods, paleo allows fermented soy like tamari and miso (soy products). In contrast, Whole30 does not (since soy contains phytoestrogens which mimic estrogen in the body). *Please note that a small amount of naturally occurring soy lecithin is allowed on Whole30 in the form of peanut butter.*
Whole 30 does not allow any grains, including quinoa or rice, so it can be challenging for an active person who wants to have some carbs post-workout. Paleo recommends eating a large serving of vegetables with each meal, allowing healthy servings from starchy veggies such as sweet potatoes and squash.
You can see now that there is overlap between the two diets, but they are not the same. Most importantly, paleo encourages an overall healthy lifestyle. At the same time, Whole30 focuses on short-term health gains like weight loss or feeling better (which is why Whole30 people do it only twice per year).
Paleo vs. the Mediterranean:
There are essentially two types of diet that have been widely recommended for optimal health; the Paleo Diet and the Mediterranean Diet.
The Paleo Diet is based on what humans ate during the Paleolithic times, which was thought to be about 2.5 million years ago. The diet consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture-raised meats, vegetables, fruits, and nuts with moderate dairy products like cheese, butter, and cream.
It excludes grains, legumes (beans), refined sugar, potatoes, and processed oils like canola or soybean oil. Until recently, these foods were nonexistent in human diets in evolutionary terms when modern agricultural methods made them widely available.
The rationale behind this type of eating pattern is to optimize your weight and reduce the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
On the other hand, Mediterranean Diet is based on what people living in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea (like Greece) typically eat. It consists mainly of vegetables, fruits, whole grains (like brown rice and millet), legumes (beans), nuts, seeds, moderate amounts of fish or meat with minimal dairy products, or processed food. The rationale behind this type of eating pattern is to lower your risk of obesity while optimizing your weight and reducing your risk for diseases like heart disease and cancer.
However, there are some critical differences between these two diets.
The first significant difference is the amount of processed food allowed on a Mediterranean Diet compared to a Paleo Diet. The Mediterranean diet allows much more substantial amounts since it includes whole grains and legumes, which have been found to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, among other things.
Some people have accused the Paleo Diet of being too high in protein which can cause health problems such as osteoporosis or kidney stones, but this has not been proven as long as you stick to healthier sources like fresh fish instead of processed meats like bacon.
You may also find it easier sticking with a paleo diet rather than a Mediterranean one because most Americans already eat way more carbs than they should through processed foods, so it might be harder to reduce the number of carbs in your diet gradually.
Some people have also accused the Paleo Diet of being too high in saturated fat, which can also cause health problems since studies have shown that saturated fat raises LDL or harmful cholesterol levels while lowering HDL or good cholesterol.
While this may be true, you should never forget that not all fats are created equal; healthy fats like Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish and plant sources like avocados and nuts. The Mediterranean Diet includes plenty of healthy oils like olive oil and moderate servings of other healthy sources of fat like cheese and yogurt (a much better alternative to ice cream).