In the era of fad diets and nutrition information overload, it can be hard to figure out what works for you. We’re here to help you sort through the noise. Today, we’re here to break down three popular eating patterns: Paleo, Whole30, and Keto. We’ll give you an overview of each one to help you figure out which might work best for you!
While the paleo lifestyle (sometimes referred to as “the caveman diet”) is nothing new, it gains new devotees each year, and for a good reason. Paleo focuses on avoiding commonly inflammatory foods, arguing that modern food production and processing systems damage our health. Foods that are off-limits while the following paleo include:
- vegetable oils
- refined sugar
When most people begin the paleo diet, they are increasing their vegetable and fiber intakes, which are important for gastrointestinal health and overall inflammation levels.
While there are many anecdotal testimonies that speak to the benefits of a paleo eating pattern, studies are only in their preliminary phases and more research will need to be done in order to completely understand the effects of a paleo lifestyle. There are, however, positive studies on the various foods that paleo eating include. See the section on Whole30 below for more on that research.
Paleo is especially great for those who suffer from autoimmune conditions, thyroid issues, diabetes, digestive issues or just want to feel better! Common benefits include improved digestion, better sleep, clearer skin, improved blood sugar control, and improved mood.
A step beyond paleo is the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP for short) — particularly helpful for those with autoimmune conditions. AIP includes the same guidelines as paleo but also omits eggs, nightshade vegetables (like peppers and tomatoes), nuts, and certain spices. If symptoms have improved/resolved after 6-8 weeks, you can slowly reintroduce foods one at a time (The Paleo Mom has a great AIP reintroduction guide that you can find here).
Though the ketogenic diet (keto for short) has been around for decades as nutritional therapy for epilepsy and some cancers, it’s recently gained popularity in the wellness space.
Keto is a very low carb (typically 30 grams of carbohydrates per day to start), high fat, and moderate protein diet. The focus is on:
- healthy fats
- non-starchy veggies
- high-quality protein
Done correctly, the keto diet promises weight loss and blood sugar control, among other benefits. This may be a great option if you have issues with blood sugar regulation or want a weight-loss jumpstart. A word of caution: if you currently eat a standard American diet (lower in fat & higher in carbohydrates), it’s best to slowly ease yourself into keto. Spend a few weeks eating low carb (around 100 grams of carbs per day) first to see how your body responds.
Other benefits include improved heart health, reduced cholesterol, reduced inflammation, and improvement of chronic symptoms.
For some people, keto is a lifestyle, but others like to take advantage of the metabolic flexibility that keto lends by cycling between keto & low carb eating.
At any time during the keto diet, but most often, in the beginning, individuals have noted experiencing adverse side effects that many people refer to as “keto flu.” Symptoms include constipation, fatigue, low blood sugar, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and a low tolerance for exercise. Making sure to consume enough water and enough electrolytes (we love the LMNT brand!) makes a huge difference in the potential for the “keto flu.”
It’s imperative to consult with your doctor when transitioning to a ketogenic lifestyle in order to properly monitor your body’s response and ensure it is benefitting from this lifestyle change.
The Whole30 is a 30 day reset designed to improve your health, your habits, and your relationship with food. For 30 days, the diet requires the elimination of foods that scientific literature and clinical experience have shown to be commonly problematic in one of four areas — cravings and habits, blood sugar regulation and hormones, digestion and immune system, and inflammation.
Think of Whole30 as a slightly stricter version of paleo that also cuts all added sugar and alcohol. Your plate will revolve around:
- high-quality protein
- healthy fats (like avocado, extra virgin olive oil, olives, nuts/seeds, coconut oil, and grass-fed meats)
After 30 days, you reintroduce one food at a time to see how different foods impact you. If you’re new to healthy eating, just need a reset, or just received a new diagnosis, Whole30 can help.
While the Paleo diet is super similar, Whole30 has the added bonus of community support. Plus, the program is highly regimented and includes a nuanced reintroduction. This means that once you’ve finished reintroduction and you know how different foods impact you, you’ll have your own perfect dietary fit.
This program is popular because, like paleo and keto, it emphasizes eating whole foods. This can be especially beneficial if you’re living with chronic health issues, as it will help you understand how your body reacts to certain foods.
The potential benefits of completing a Whole30 are vast, including less joint pain, improved digestion, better sleep, clearer skin, more balanced blood sugar, decreased LDL cholesterol, and so much more. It can also encourage people to eat more whole, nutrient-rich foods.
There are no significant, downsides since this is a short-term way of eating. But even if it wasn’t, you can get all the nutrients you need from a well-balanced paleo or Whole30 way of eating. Like with the paleo and keto diet, make sure to consult with your physician or even a nutritionist or dietitian before you begin to ensure your game plan is lined up and you have spent an adequate amount of time prepping for this commitment. Read our top five tips for rocking the Whole30 program here.
This really depends on your goals! The Whole30 can be a great healthy jumpstart that helps you figure out what foods work best for you. From there, you might transition into a paleo or keto diet. If your main goal is decreasing blood sugar, keto or low carb eating may be the best option for you. If your goal is overall health and vitality, paleo is for you.