Paleo and Whole 30

The Paleo Diet? The Whole 30?

The Paleo diet is often called the Paleolithic, caveman, stone age, or hunter-gatherer diet. The idea of the paleo diet is to stop consuming our agriculture-based diet and only consume foods our Paleolithic ancestors ate. However, it is impossible to eat the exact foods our ancestors ate because they are not available today. Domesticated agricultural animals, fruits, and vegetables have changed drastically through hundreds of years of agriculture and selective breeding. The Whole 30 and Paleo Diet are very similar. The Whole 30 is more restrictive than the paleo diet. For example, no sugar is allowed in the Whole 30 but only refined sugar is cut out of the Paleo diet. The Whole 30 is meant to be consumed for 30 days, whereas the Paleo diet is designed to be a long-term diet. Both diets focus on eliminating grains, legumes, and dairy, processed foods, sugar, and salt. Both diets promote meat, fish, vegetables, some fruits, and nuts.

Paleolithic Humans & Chronic Disease

The Paleo diet claims it can protect against chronic disease, which is very common in our society today. The Paleo diet bases this claim off of the low rates of chronic disease in Paleolithic humans. Diet could have been a factor in the lack of chronic disease in Paleolithic humans.  There was no high added fat, processed, and high sugar foods available in the Paleolithic period. These foods are often associated with chronic disease risk in humans today. However, Paleolithic humans may have also had reduced levels of chronic disease due to the high amount of physical activity, infectious disease rates, and shorter life expectancies. Ancient humans did not live long enough to develop chronic disease or have the means to diagnose them.

The Legume Controversy

A legume is a seed, pod, or edible part of a leguminous plant.  Common legumes include beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, and peanuts. The Paleolithic diet views legumes as ‘toxic’ due to their lectin content which can cause GI symptoms. However, cooking legumes reduces or eliminates lectin. Legumes have been used as staples for centuries in various cultures without any complaints of toxicity. In fact, legumes are very nutritious options as they are high in fibre, B vitamins, iron, and protein.  There is scientific evidence suggesting legumes can reduce the rates of heart disease, which is a chronic disease. Legumes are a healthy option and should not be avoided.

The Grain Controversy

The Paleo Diet eliminates grains because ancient humans did not consume them. However, there is tool evidence of grinding seed and grain from the Paleolithic period. There is also evidence of legumes, grain, and barley from dental investigations of Paleolithic humans. Whole grains are a healthy option. They are high in fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Whole grains may reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke. diabetes, and some cancers and therefore should not be avoided.

The Dairy Controversy

The Paleo Diet eliminates milk, butter, cheese, and yogurt because Paleolithic humans did not consume dairy. However, human populations have evolved the capacity to digest dairy. Dairy is an excellent source of calcium, which is extremely important for bone health. The Paleo diet promotes the idea that osteoporosis rates are lower among Asian populations because they consume fewer dairy products. This in an inaccurate statement as urban Asian populations and urban Caucasian populations have the same fracture rates. This suggests there are other factors involved such as physical activity levels, life-expectancy, and genetics. Dairy products are a great source of many nutrients and are an excellent nutritious option.

Sticking to the Diet

The Paleo and Whole 30 diets are extremely restrictive and difficult to stick with. This could result in fast weight loss followed by fast weight regain following the diet. This is extremely common among fad diets and is referred to as ‘yo-yo’ dieting. Rapid weight loss and regain is hard on your health and can result in poor cardiovascular health, high blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose, lipids, and insulin. Because of the restrictive nature of the Paleo and Whole 30 diets, a poor relationship with food is often created. These diets place great pressure on weight loss, which can have a poor effect on your mental and physical well-being. Following these diets, many individuals experiences feelings of failure but, in fact, it is not a failure of the individual but a failure of a restrictive and unrealistic diet plan.


Both the Whole 30 Diet and the Paleo Diet restrict entire categories of food. A healthy diet involves a variety of different foods not limiting types of food; therefore, I would not recommend the Paleo Diet. It has not shown long-term benefits of chronic disease risk. The Paleo Diet does not provide easy weight loss or any health advantages.

Questions about your diet and nutrition needs? All University of Guelph students have access to Student Wellness Services nutrition services (free and fee-based options are available). Students can access these services in three ways: