Paleo and Whole30 are among the most popular diets today. Both are considered restrictive as they promote eliminating processed foods, refined sugars, additives, and many ingredients you would normally find in your everyday meals.
Both Paleo and Whole30 aim to improve your health and make you feel better about the foods you eat, and can also expect weight loss as a direct consequence of changed eating habits.
But, since Paleo is so similar to Whole30, many people wonder what the differences are.
This article should help you learn about all similarities and differences between Paleo and Whole30 diets while highlighting their good and bad sides. It will also help you learn about potential health benefits, and whether either eating plan is worth it.
What is the Paleo Diet?
Paleo is also commonly known as “The Caveman Diet” as it follows the possible eating habits of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. The idea is that diet is closely related to many chronic conditions we see today. By eating like our ancestors, we should see a decrease in the prevalence of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart-related diseases, and other chronic conditions.
Paleo diet eliminates all processed ingredients and forces you to base your diet around whole foods.
As you can see, there are many foods you cannot eat on a Paleo diet. But hey, our ancestors didn’t have access to most of these foods, and everything turned out fine.
Paleo diet focuses on natural foods, and you should always try to consume seasonal produce, grass-fed meats, wild-caught seafood, and locally grown food without any processing. This eating plan results in high-protein, low-carb intake, which could lead to potential weight loss.
You can occasionally enjoy small amounts of alcohol and dark chocolate, but you should keep it to a minimum.
Consider paleo meal delivery to help you navigate the diet.
What is the Whole30 Diet?
“What is a Whole30 diet” is a question many people wonder. Simply put, the Wholesome 30 diet is an elimination diet where you restrain from eating certain foods for 30 days. This program is designed to restart your metabolism and change your relationship with food.
This “non-diet” was created 11 years ago, when Melissa Hartwig Urban, current CEO of Whole30, realized certain foods made her feel worse than usual. She then decided to self-experiment with one of her friends, and eliminate specific food groups from her diet to better understand what was disturbing her health balance. The results were amazing, and she decided to share her discoveries by creating a new eating program.
Similar to Paleo, many food groups are restricted from eating.
As you see, the Whole30 diet is even more restrictive than paleo. But the good news is it’s only supposed to last for 30 days. If you want to make it easy on yourself, consider getting whole30 meal delivery.
But what after that, what is Whole30 diet trying to accomplish?
After a month, you slowly start to incorporate banned foods back into your diet. You do it one-by-one so that you can observe the effects and realize what is hurting your body. That way, you can eliminate specific foods, and bring your diet to the next level.
The whole point is to identify your food sensitivities. As Melissa Hartwig Urban stated:
It’s a self-experiment, after which there is an entire outlined plan to take what you learned and to make it into a sustainable lifestyle.
Paleo vs. Whole30 –Differences and Similarities
Both Paleo and Whole30 diets are based on eating whole foods and eliminating highly processed foods. Since both eating patterns cut out similar ingredients, while focusing on fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, and seeds, you can expect similar effects and health benefits.
The main difference between Paleo and Whole30 is their duration. Paleo is designed to be a long-term solution, while Whole30 lasts 30 days. Even though Whole30 is more restrictive during this first phase, it becomes easier to follow once you start incorporating everything back to your diet.
However, Whole30 is pretty rigid, and you have to stick to it for the whole 30-day duration. One sip of beer or a spoonful of ice-cream, and you are back to day one and have to do it all over again. That is why some people find it harder to stick to Whole30 compared to Paleo.
Paleo focuses on a long-term lifestyle changes. Experts have found that if you are looking to lose weight, these sustainable changes are better than quick diets that may show short-term weight loss results, but you end up gaining all weight back once you stop dieting.
Paleo and Whole30 – Benefits and Downsides
Both diets have certain health benefits and risks, and you should learn all about them before trying either one. Whole30 is not as researched as the Paleo diet, but since it follows an almost identical eating pattern, we can assume similar effects.
Both Paleo and Whole30 remove processed foods, refined sugars, and ingredients linked with weight gain. That is why you can expect a significant weight loss when following a Paleo diet (1). Although losing weight is not the focus of the Whole30 plan, you can expect to lose a few pounds while practicing it. Remember, carbs contain many calories, so even though you won’t watch your calorie intake, you can expect a reduction that could lead to weight loss (2).
High-protein diets also reduce your appetite and prolong the feeling of fullness, which is another important thing for weight loss (3).
Studies looking at the health benefits of the Paleo diet show that it could improve insulin sensitivity and regulate blood glucose levels, which are relevant biomarkers of type 2 diabetes (4,5).
Paleo diet could also reduce risk factors for heart disease, including blood pressure, bad cholesterol, and triglycerides (6,7,8)
Both Whole30 and Paleo diets eliminate the intake of dairy, grains, and legumes. Those food groups are rich in many healthy nutrients, including fiber, complex carbohydrates, proteins, magnesium, selenium, iron, and many vitamins like vitamin B. It can disrupt your nutrient balance, and make you rely on high-protein foods.
Low-carb and high-protein diets are excellent for losing weight, but they aren’t suitable for everyone. For instance, athletes performing high-intensity activities rely on carbohydrates, and by limiting their intake, these athletes’ performance will likely drop (8,9).
High-protein diets may also not be the best option for people with kidney stones or kidney disease, as they can worsen these conditions (10,11,12).
Since both diets restrict eating legumes and whole grains, it significantly lowers the intake of plant-based proteins. That means that most protein comes from animals, which can be problematic as the consumption of red meat has been linked with increased chances of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and colorectal cancer (13).
Legumes and grains are also excellent sources of dietary fibers, essential for gut health (14,15).
Since dairy is out of the picture as well, people following both diets could face calcium deficits. Plant-based and non-dairy sources of calcium are sufficient, but you have to make sure you are eating calcium-rich food to meet recommended daily intake.
Depending on your goals, you can choose either one. Whole30 is useful for discovering your food intolerances and learning how to make smarter food choices. On the other hand, Paleo is more sustainable and could be a better option if you are thinking long-term.
As you’ve seen, Whole30 and Paleo are similar. Both rely on cutting out specific food groups and eating a natural, unprocessed diet.
Eliminating grains and legumes from your diet means losing significant sources of minerals, vitamins, plant-based protein and dietary fiber. It could lead to higher red meat intake, which could have adverse effects on your health. Dietary fiber is essential for gut health, and you may experience gastrointestinal issues on Paleo. Additionally, eliminating dairy means you must eat plenty of non-dairy calcium to maintain healthy levels of this mineral.
Yes, you can eat potatoes while practicing Paleo. Although, some stricter versions of Paleo permit eating potatoes, and some allow only sweet potatoes. We say go for it, as long as it makes you feel good, and you eat these starchy tubers in moderation.
Whole30 vs. Paleo – Which One to Choose?
If you are looking to learn more about your relationship with food, and improve your well-being while eliminating foods disturbing your balance – Whole30 may be for you. On the other hand, Paleo is more lenient and could be a better long-term solution.
However, on the 2020 US News’ Best Diets list, both diets rated poorly.
Whole30 had a 2.1 out of 5 overall score and finished 33rd out of 35 different diets. The report stated:
The Whole30 diet landed near the bottom again this year. The diet has been docked for an absence of scientific support; its severely restrictive nature; its elimination of whole grains, legumes and dairy; and its short-term approach and long-term promises.
Paleo was rated slightly better, with an overall score of 2.4 out of 5, claiming 29th spot. Experts had similar remarks; Paleo is too restrictive for most people, it could lead to nutrient deficiencies, and it’s most likely not sustainable in the long run.
If you are trying to eat healthily, we suggest giving the Mediterranean diet a try. It claimed the first spot for the best overall eating pattern, and its health benefits are widely recognized by scientific research and experts (16,17).