The Whole30 and paleo diets are two of the most popular eating patterns.
Both promote whole or minimally processed foods and shun processed items rich in added sugars, fat, and salt. Moreover, both promise to help you lose weight and improve your overall health.
As such, you may wonder what their differences are.
This article outlines the similarities and differences between the paleo and Whole30 diets, both in terms of their structure and potential health benefits.
What is the paleo diet?
The paleo diet is patterned after what human hunter-gatherer ancestors may have eaten in the belief that these foods protect against modern diseases.
Thus, it’s based on whole, minimally processed foods and promises to help you lose weight without counting calories.
- Foods to eat: meat, fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, and certain vegetable oils, such as coconut or extra virgin olive oil — plus, wine and dark chocolate in small amounts
- Foods to avoid: processed foods, added sugar, artificial sweeteners, trans fats, grains, dairy, legumes, and some vegetable oils, including soybean, sunflower, and safflower oil
Additionally, you’re encouraged to choose grass-fed and organic products whenever possible.
The paleo diet is based on foods that distant human ancestors may have eaten. It promises to prevent modern diseases and help you lose weight.
What is the Whole30 diet?
The Whole30 diet is a month-long program designed to reset your metabolism and reshape your relationship with food.
Like paleo, it promotes whole foods and promises to help you lose weight without counting calories.
The diet also aims to increase your energy levels, improve your sleep, reduce cravings, heighten your athletic performance, and help you identify food intolerances.
- Foods to eat: meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and some fats, such as plant oils, duck fat, clarified butter, and ghee
- Foods to avoid: added sugars, artificial sweeteners, processed additives, alcohol, grains, dairy, and pulses and legumes, including soy
After the first 30 days, you’re allowed to slowly reintroduced restricted foods ⁠— one at a time — to test your tolerance to them. Those foods that you tolerate well may be added back into your routine.
The Whole30 diet aims to help you identify food intolerances, improve your relationship with food, lose weight, and achieve long-term wellness. Its initial phase lasts 1 month and focuses on whole foods.
What are their similarities and differences?
The Whole30 and paleo diets are very similar in their restrictions and health effects but diverge in their implementation.
Both cut out the same food groups
Nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables are plentiful on the paleo and Whole30 diets.
That said, both diets limit your intake of grains, dairy, and legumes, which boast an array of beneficial nutrients, such as fiber, carbs, protein, iron, magnesium, selenium, and several B vitamins (
Cutting these foods from your diet tends to reduce your carb intake while boosting your protein consumption, as you start relying on more high-protein foods.
However, low-carb, high-protein diets may not suit everyone, including athletes who need a higher carb intake. A high protein intake may also worsen conditions for people who are susceptible to kidney stones or have kidney disease (
What’s more, unnecessarily restricting your intake of grains, dairy, and legumes may make it more difficult to meet all of your daily nutrient needs.
Both aid weight loss
What’s more, paleo and Whole30 are rich in fibrous fruits and vegetables. Diets high in fiber can help reduce hunger and cravings while promoting feelings of fullness — all of which can help you lose weight (
In addition, by cutting out grains, dairy, and legumes, these eating patterns are lower in carbs and higher in protein than the average diet.
That said, paleo and Whole30 may be difficult to maintain because of these restrictions. Unless your food choices on these diets become a habit, you’ll likely regain the weight you lost as soon as you go off the diet (
Both may promote similar health benefits
Paleo and Whole30 may provide similar health benefits.
This may be because they’re rich in fruits and vegetables and discourage highly processed foods that are often laden with sugar, fat, or salt (
Although the Whole30 diet hasn’t been as extensively researched, it may offer very similar health benefits due to its resemblance to paleo.
May vary in focus and sustainability
Although both diets aim to help you lose weight and improve your health, they differ in their focus.
For instance, Whole30 claims to help you identify possible food intolerances, requiring you to cut out slightly more foods than the paleo diet — at least initially.
Plus, Whole30’s initial stage lasts just 1 month. Afterward, it becomes considerably less strict, allowing you to gradually reintroduce limited foods if your body tolerates them.
On the other hand, the paleo diet first appears more lenient. For instance, it permits small amounts of wine and dark chocolate from the onset. However, its list of restricted foods remains the same whether you follow it for 1 month or 1 year.
As such, some people find the Whole30 diet more difficult to follow initially but easier to stick to over the long term (
Nonetheless, the risk of abandoning the diet may be much higher on Whole30 because it’s so strict upfront.
The Whole30 and paleo diets likely offer the same health benefits, such as weight loss and a lower risk of diabetes and heart disease. Yet, Whole30 becomes gradually less strict after its initial stage, whereas paleo maintains the same regimen throughout.
The bottom line
The Whole30 and paleo diets are similarly structured around whole foods and offer comparable benefits, including weight loss.
That said, they may also limit your nutrient intake and be difficult to sustain.
While Whole30 is initially stricter, its first phase is time-limited and soon eases in its restrictions. Meanwhile, paleo keeps the same limitations throughout.
If you’re curious about these diets, you can try them both to see which works best for you.