Just Say No to the Whole 30 Diet

The vilification of whole grains (and other healthy complex carbohydrates) has gained a lot of steam the past few years with the more popular recent diets, particularly the “PALEO”, and “The Whole 30,” diets.

What’s wrong with the vilification of whole grains and other complex carbohydrates?

Where to start..

Perhaps most importantly, the “health” information coming from these books is rarely rooted in science or even quality evidence, but instead is often hand picked, usually from questionable sources, not to mention the authors of these books are rarely, if ever experts in the field of nutrition.

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Their “evidence” usually goes something like this; “I cut out (fill in the blank) and I feel so much better!” Not exactly empirical evidence, but sadly it’s enough to sell legions of followers to the latest diet fad.

You might ask, why do people just blindly read and believe the information these books are touting, rather than spending a few minutes online looking towards reputable sources, (who have spents years studying the subject of nutrition,) like a university or dietitian to see if the material is true?

It’s not like were living in caves and don’t have access to quality information.

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Yet that seems to be the one shared trait of cavemen of long ago, and PALEO and Whole 30 followers of today-not a similar diet, but a shared gullibility in belief without good evidence.  Instead of serpents lurking unseen, or the Earth being flat and ending in a waterfall, the modern day monster (at least for now, before the next diet fad comes and goes) is carbohydrates.

It’s befuddling.

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As mentioned in, “Why all diets work temporarily,” the reason all diets work is that they vilify one member of a food group, and thus overall calories are reduced, and weight is temporarily lost.

With whole grains and carbohydrates in particular, this is an especially errant decision to make as carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel for the body and brain.

You’ll find opinions disputing that biological truth online, but a quick check of their credentials (that would qualify a validation of the opinion) is always lacking, and their “evidence” is suspiciously thin-and easily discarded when compared against reputable sources.

Let’s go over the most common low carb myth’s being parroted today, and then look at the reality.

1. The most common reasoning for going towards a low carb diet is that our ancient ancestors, the cavemen ate a diet that consisted largely of meat.

This is completely bunk information.  It’s almost as if the creator of the PALEO diet had an image of a caveman spearing a wooly mammoth, and assumed that was the common meal, and then wrote a diet book about it.  An examination of the reality is the complete opposite.

In fact, you were to go by the experts who actually study the diet of our ancient ancestors, you would find that “Human Ancestors Were Nearly All Vegetarians.

Furthermore, the reasoning is often that grains are relatively new to the human diet, being only 10,000 years old (at least,) while meat has always been a part of the human diet.  That’s not close to true either, as chickens were only first domesticated 10,000 years ago, cattle 8,000-10,000 years ago, whereas there’s evidence neanderthals ate grains at least 44,000 years ago.

2.  Here is another common myth touted by the anti carbohydrate establishment; “carbs make you fat.”

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Simply put, excess calories of any kind lead to weight gain, and it doesn’t matter if it comes from carbs, fats, or proteins; if you consume more calories than you expend, then weight will be gained.

Last point to make is though there is a definite excess when it comes to simple carbohydrate consumption for most people (flour, corn, and sugar being the worst offenders,) to lump healthy complex carbohydrates like whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, etc. into the same category is a nutritional crime.

Also, just on a common sense functional level, if fat and protein could be used for fuel to the same degree that carbohydrates are, then you would have seen athletes long ago, particularly Olympic speed and endurance athletes, practicing a low carb diet, and touting the benefits.  They would know more than anyone, as there is no substitute for application.  Yet, looking at the opinion, (and research) on the Team U.S.A. Website, from, ahem, registered dietitian Nancy Clark, those who engage in low carb consumption have diminished performance as a result.

Conclusion:

So what diet should one be one?  None.  They’re all fad diets that will come and then go, unsustainable long term, so the best course of action is a diet with a wide variety of healthy, whole foods consumed, with a consistently healthy caloric balance, and an allowance for some unhealthy foods.  It’s the overconsumption of any one food that is unsustainable in the long run.

 

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22 thoughts on “Just Say No to the Whole 30 Diet

      1. I know! It drives me nuts when people think I’ve chosen not to eat dairy and gluten and then they start talking to me about their dairy free gluten free diet. Mines not by choice and I still ensure I get carbs and dairy substitutes!!
        I’m starting to think everyone should have a magical water bottle that starts full in the morning and you can’t drink anything else until you’ve emptied that water bottle- would solve a lot of problems!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That would be maddening! I feel ya!

        Haha! That water bottle idea would be great! You hear a lot of reliable health advocates saying exactly that; to drink a glass of water upon waking.

        It would help a ton for calorie reduction for so many people, as you well know thirst is so often mistaken for hunger. That’s something I’ve been a lot more aware of the past few years, (always drinking plenty of water, and staying hydrated,) and even now and again I’ll still sometimes mistake hunger for thirst.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh yeah, that’s right lol, you were having the chapped lips issue! I had that super bad a year or two ago, but seemed to have avoided it; I swear the oil pulling has made a part of the difference. Also, I know it doesn’t add moisture to the air, but running the diffuser every night seems to lend to better sleep.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. What a coincidence, just finished reading your article on Afghanistan, always learn something, those are so well put together!

      I woud say don’t deprive yourself of foods you like, because that just makes it harder. Drinking lots of water and eating plenty of vegetables seems to help the most for avoiding overeating as both of those fill you up, but are calorie poor, and then avoiding sugar as much as possible, as it’s so addicting, but still having an allowance for those yummy foods too : )

      Exactly what you say I’ve read is what happens though when people try to avoid a food too much (it just makes the cravings worse) so it seems to be about balance, and making small positive changes with the diet that can be built upon. Especially upping the vegetable intake seems to help more than anything!

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      1. Really good!! Knew a little bit about the history, but not all of the factors within the Afghanistan leadership changing. Really informative, and easy to read without causing confusion (which can often happen when reading about conflicts like that).

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  1. We are typically well aligned in nutritional philosophy. I will have to (respectfully) disagree with some commentary here. First, I agree with you (in general) about the carbohydrate category. It is often given a bad rap based on (some) poor science. There are many qualified experts (ex. Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Perlmutter, Dr. David Jockers, Chris Kresser, etc…), however, that effectively defend Ketogenic diets with with good scientific studies. It should also be noted that Ironman athletes have followed ketogenic dieting and modified it during the event itself.

    In general, I argue against this type of diet because science doesn’t take into account human behavior frequently. My philosophy is based on REALITY. I suggest people follow dietary habits that satisfy BOTH NEEDS and WANTS of the body. The goal is patterning oneself to make nutritional habits sustainable throughout life.

    Some of the complicating factors associated with starchy carbs and (some) fruit and vegetables deals with the growing of these crops. Massive pesticide, herbicide, fungicide, etc… spraying along with genetic engineering has complicated the metabolic process. There are also issues regarding lectins and their glycosolation effect altering the permeability of the intestines. This is NOT a problem for all people, but plays a role when determining health complications from a doctor’s perspective.

    The bottom line is no one has discovered THE DIETARY PLAN that satisfies everyone’s health needs. Each type of plan offers a benefit the individual must decide for him or herself. My slant (taking into account human behavior and the clearly growing trend of type 2 diabetes) is to limit starchy vegetables to as small a quantity as possible to satisfy one’s “wants.” I believe in consuming large quantities of (daily) mixed types of vegetables and 1-2 servings of (preferably) quality colorful fruit (ex. mixed berries). Removing processed foods including SUGAR from the diet (as much as possible) plays an important role as well. Quality proteins (both plant and animal) and quality fats (approximately 30-40% of each daily) leaving carbs to between 30-40% total (inclusive of vegetables and fruits) has produced excellent clinical results for patients. It has provided a reasonable compromise in eating style while significantly improving lab results.

    Good science does exist for nearly ALL styles of dietary planning. The science, however, is useless if people are unwilling to abide by the required guidelines.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Some very good points Doctor J!

    Definitely agree about some of the starchy carb concerns, and definitely keeping the fruit consumption lower, with the emphasis on the more nutritionally dense fruits like berries. There’s definitely an excess of simple carb intake for most (especially sugar consumption,) and just plain overeating of most types of foods where the health problems always result. Seems like a healthy balance (with not too much emphasis on any one group) along with reduced caloric consumption, would be optimal for most who are needing to lose weight.

    I think where these diets can be helpful for people more than anything is that they’re lowering overall calorie consumption, and teaching less food intake, which is never a bad thing!

    Much appreciate your input as always!

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