Whole30 vs. Paleo: Which Should You Choose?
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Whole30 vs. Paleo: Which Should You Choose?

By Megan Patiry, Contributor
December 12, 2020
Pexels.com/ Photo by Alexander Grey
Pexels.com/ Photo by Alexander Grey

If there’s one thing most of us can agree on, it’s that diet fatigue is real.

Even if you’ve been Paleo for a while, you might remember the days of “diet hopping,” which were spent trying one diet after another, chasing promised results.

While it’s not a bad thing to try different diets to see what works best for you, it’s not a sustainable path to long-term health.

Which brings us to the latest trend in dieting: Whole30®. If you’ve been thinking about giving it a try to see if it could be for you, first let us dive into exactly what Whole30 is and what it offers in comparison to the standard Paleo Diet®.

We just might be able to save you from another diet hop.

What is Whole30?

Think of the Whole30 program as a shorter but stricter version of The Paleo Diet. The idea is that you address food sensitivities, intolerances, and other gut or health issues, while also “resetting” your relationship with food and helping kickstart weight loss.

Because of this, the first 30 days of Whole30 are very strict, focusing only on foods such as meats, fish, bone broth, low-sugar fruits, nuts, and veggies. After this first month, other foods are slowly introduced back into the diet, one at a time, in order to see if they cause issues and need to be eliminated entirely.

Whole30 is also sometimes used to address autoimmune issues, since various foods have been shown to cause immune reactions, and skin and digestive issues. In addition, it has become fairly popular as a short-term weight loss diet. [1]

Whole30 vs. Paleo

While Whole30 and The Paleo Diet are very similar on the surface—both promote vegetables, fruits, meats, fish, and nuts while eliminating inflammatory foods like grains, simple sugars, and dairy—Whole30 is designed to be a short-term reset only.

The Paleo Diet, on the other hand, is a long-term, sustainable lifestyle change. The goal with Paleo is to follow the ancestral way of eating and living, with loose enough guidelines that make it easy to follow for the long haul.

For example, Paleo is more lenient when it comes to things like having the occasional treat or a glass of wine—both are frowned upon during Whole30.

It is also worth noting that in both his books and on The Paleo Diet website, Dr. Loren Cordain wrote about an elimination approach for people suffering from conditions like autoimmune diseases—before Whole30 was invented. His elimination diet is remarkably similar to Whole30, and involves a strict Paleo Diet for approximately a month, followed by the re-introduction of eliminated foods to see which trigger the condition.

Which is Better?

The short answer? It depends on your goals.

Let’s start with the positives of Whole30, and why it might be a good idea to try.

When Whole30 Might Be Worth a Try

If you’ve been dealing with digestive or autoimmune issues that you can’t seem to shake, a stricter approach may be just what you need to “reset” your body. In this way, Whole30 may be a good challenge.

In addition, Whole30 can also be a good kick-start to weight loss—as long as you plan on continuing to eat a version of the diet after the initial 30 days. This is especially true if you like a “cold-turkey” approach to things, and your ideal path to lasting change is to build habits (or in this case, food patterns) all at once, rather than bit-by-bit. For instance, you may have an extreme sweet tooth you need to kick, and you might do better to avoid it entirely to break the addiction.

In other words, taking your personal psychology into account is a good way to determine if doing something like Whole30 will be beneficial for you.

As for the downsides, many people dive into very strict elimination diets like Whole30 thinking that it’s going to be the magic pill that they can take once, and then go back to living and eating “normally.”

This would mean going back to eating things like dairy, grains, and sugar, which have been shown to cause digestive, autoimmune, and other health issues. [2-3]

Or, they go into a diet like this in an attempt to sustain it, quickly realize they can’t, and then swear off all “diets.”

Why Paleo is Best for Long-Term

Unless you’re dealing with sensitivities or are using Whole30 as a kick-start, the Paleo Diet is a much more sustainable option.

Paleo is not meant to make you feel deprived. Instead, we encourage Paleo eating just 85 percent of the time—the rest of the time, we encourage you to eat the snacks and desserts you crave as an occasional treat to keep you on track.

The Paleo Diet allows you more variety within its template, which would also have been a key factor in the Paleolithic human’s diet.

For instance, if a hunter-gatherer came across a spot of honey, they wouldn’t shun it—they would indulge in it. But coming across that honey was an infrequent thing. They couldn’t simply buy concentrated honey off the shelf the way we can today.

In other words, they would have had it once in a while.

The thing that our Paleolithic ancestors had going for them was that they couldn’t give up on eating the way they were designed to eat because there wasn’t an alternative. We do have choices. As such, you may also end up giving up by trying to use crash diets or other extremely restrictive diets to substitute for what is meant to be a lifestyle of healthy choices.

Our advice?

Instead of using Whole30 for short-term gains, try going Whole Life with Paleo, and reap long-term, sustained health.

Whole30® is a registered trademark of Thirty & Co, LLC.


  1. Aaron Lerner, Yehuda Shoenfeld, and Torsten Matthias. “Adverse effects of gluten ingestion and advantages of gluten withdrawal in nonceliac autoimmune disease.” Nutrition Reviews. 2017 Dec 1;75(12):1046-1058. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nux054. <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29202198/>
  2. Karin de Punder and Leo Pruimboom. “The Dietary Intake of Wheat and other Cereal Grains and Their Role in Inflammation.” Nutrients. 2013 Mar 12;5(3):771-87. doi: 10.3390/nu5030771. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705319/>
  3. Manzel A., Muller DN., Hafler DA., Erdman SE., Linker RA., and Kleinewietfeld M. "Role of ‘Western diet’ in inflammatory autoimmune diseases.” Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2014 Jan;14(1):404. doi: 10.1007/s11882-013-0404-6. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4034518/>

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