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Nearly 10 years later, it’s back in vogue— but what is the Whole30 diet?

Baked salmon garnished with asparagus and tomatoes with herbs is an example of the of healthy foods (unprocessed and prepared with minimal ingredients) you can enjoy The Whole30 diet. | stock.adobe.com

Baked salmon garnished with asparagus and tomatoes with herbs is an example of the of healthy foods (unprocessed and prepared with minimal ingredients) you can enjoy The Whole30 diet. | stock.adobe.com

If you’ve been seeing the term Whole30 around and have no idea what it means, welcome.

It’s 2019 and we have no shortage of trendy diets, so it can be a little hard keeping up. Although the Whole30 diet was first created in 2009, it has been gaining a lot of traction recently – the diet saw a spike in Google searches around the new year.

We’re here to help you get in the know, so the next time one of your Instagram friends is hashtagging their badly-lit meal photo #Whole30, you’ll know exactly what they mean.

What is Whole30?

Whole30 is a nutrition plan co-created by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig that requires a 30-day commitment. It’s not meant to be a diet you stick to forever, but rather a formula to help people clearly see how certain foods affect their health and offer a way to revamp daily dietary habits.

The plan focuses on unprocessed foods and foods with very minimal, or, better yet, no added ingredients. Whole30 requires dieters to cut out a lot of items — “trigger foods” — including sugar, dairy and legumes, and then slowly reintroduce these food groups back into their diets after the 30 days. The purpose of the reintroduction phase is to see if any of the foods cut out are the culprit for any health issues.

The Whole30 diet specifies you can't eat beans of any kind, soy (including tofu, soy sauce, miso, edamame), chickpeas, peas, lentils or peanuts for 30 days. | stock.adobe.com

The Whole30 diet specifies you can’t eat beans of any kind, soy (including tofu, soy sauce, miso, edamame), chickpeas, peas, lentils or peanuts for 30 days. | stock.adobe.com

The diet isn’t so much focused on weight loss as it is more about resetting your system and getting people on a healthy lifestyle track. One of the rules of Whole30 is to stay away from a scale: There’s no weighing yourself during these 30 days.

What are the Whole30 rules?
First and foremost, you have to commit to 30 days, and there are no “cheat” days.

Whole30 asks that you cut out added sugars, alcohol, dairy, grains, legumes and junk and processed food. You are allowed to eat whole foods, including meat, vegetables, natural fats, seafood and some fruit.

Eggs are allowed while you're navigating your Whole30 meal options. Try them fried, scrambled or hardboiled, but skip all "extras" including bacon or sausage, butter, milk and cream or sauces. | stock.adobe.com

Eggs are allowed while you’re navigating your Whole30 meal options. Try them fried, scrambled or hardboiled, but skip all “extras” including bacon or sausage, butter, milk and cream or sauces. | stock.adobe.com

There are some exceptions to these rules. Although salt contains sugar and vinegar has alcohol, those items (salt and vinegar) are allowed, for instance.

You’re also not allowed to recreate your favorite treats so that they’re Whole30 compliant. So no making brownies from avocados or cauliflower-crust pizza.

Ali Webster, a registered dietitian and Associate Director of Nutrition Communications at International Food Information Council Foundation, says the Whole30 plan is not a surefire way to fix anyone’s diet, and it may affect people’s relationship with food.

“I don’t advocate for someone to strictly follow it forever, but it may be an option for people who want to refocus their diets on whole foods or figure out if there are specific foods that may be behind some of the physical or emotional issues that they’re struggling with,” Webster told USA Today.

What are the Whole30 benefits?
Hartwig claims that the majority of Whole30 participants, 95 percent of 2,000 people surveyed, reported weight loss.

The main benefit of Whole30 though is to see how certain food groups affect your body. If you normally eat everything, you’ll never really know if dairy may be making you bloated or if grains may be upsetting your stomach. By cutting out most of the food groups and processed foods for 30 days and slowly reintroducing them into your diet, you’ll be able to spot which foods are doing what to your body.

Webster recommends that the reintroduction portion of the diet be done with a registered dietitian who is experienced in elimination diets. They can help with analyzing your results and advise you on the timing and order of introducing food groups back into your diet.

“This approach can make it easier to identify which foods can cause physical or emotional symptoms and which do not, therefore diversifying the diet but still pinpointing which foods a person can or should eat less of or eat only on special occasions,” said Webster.

The advantages of the diet may extend beyond the physical though. Whole30 creators claim that you can improve your blood pressure, improve your mood and gain self confidence by committing to the program.

Rasha Ali, USA Today

Note: Always consult your health care provider before trying any new diet plans.