ketogenic and Paleo diets aid weight loss

Dietary fat has long been blamed for causing obesity, but experts now say high-fat, low carb diets such as the Paleo, Atkins and ketogenic plans beat low-fat diets for weight loss because eating fat can make you skinny.

“The medical establishment got it wrong,” cardiologist Dr. Dennis Goodman told Men’s Journal. “The belief system didn’t pan out.” According to a recent study from the National Institutes of Health, low carb, high-fat diets (LCHF) are significantly more effective for weight loss and preventing heart disease than low-fat diets.

Researchers at Tulane University tracked 148 obese men and women for one year. The subjects ranged in age from 22 to 75 and did not have heart disease or diabetes. The participants were divided into two groups: One group followed a low-carb, high-fat diet that limited their daily carbohydrate consumption to about 40 grams, or 28 percent of their daily calories.

The low-carb dieters consumed about 40 to 43 percent of their daily calories from fat. Their daily menu was similar to the Paleo, ketogenic and Atkins diets, and included eggs, butter, fish, chicken and some red meat and generous portions of healthy fats such as olive oil.

In contrast, the low-fat group consumed 40 to 55 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrates, and their fat intake was limited to less than 30 percent.

Low-Carb Dieters Lost Three Times More Weight Than Low-Fat Group

The results were stunning: The low carb dieters lost about 12 pounds, while the low-fat dieters lost only four pounds even though both groups consumed the same calories. What’s more, the low carbohydrate dieters lost more body fat and scored better than on a test that measured their chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke within the next 10 years.

Physician Dr. Lydia Bazzano, the lead study author, was stunned that a low-carb, high-fat diet could prevent heart disease better than a low fat diet, which has long been prescribed for heart patients.

These results aren’t surprising to Jeff Volek, a leading low-carb researcher and professor at Ohio State University. Volek said high-carb diets cause blood sugar spikes, which fuel inflammation. Inflammation is what causes weight gain, as well as diabetes and cancer.

In contrast, dietary fat has a negligible effect on blood sugar and insulin, which is why eating fat aids weight loss. More importantly, we don’t fuel inflammation, which leads to heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer, say experts.

While the idea of consuming more fat may sound shocking given the low-fat diet mantra that has dominated the standard American diet (SAD), Volek said we actually evolved to thrive on a low carb, high-fat diet. “For about 98 percent of human history, we’ve been eating low-carb,” Volek told me in an exclusive interview. “We evolved in a state of nutritional ketosis.”

Low carb diets accelerate weight loss by forcing the body to burn fat for fuel in a metabolic state called ketosis, explained obesity expert Dr. Eric Westman, co-author of Keto Clarity. Westman, who has helped hundreds of morbidly obese people lose thousands of pounds on the high-fat Atkins, Paleo and ketogenic diets, said there’s no evidence saturated fat causes heart disease.

“The evidence for that has really disintegrated,” said Dr. Westman, a bariatric surgeon and director of the Duke Lifestyle Medicine Clinic.

The American Heart Association now concedes that refined carbs such as sugar and flour are what cause weight gain and has backed off its longtime stance of recommending low-fat diets to prevent heart attacks. “We no longer think low-fat diets are the answer,” said Dr. Linda Van Horn of the AHA Nutrition Committee.

Many celebrities have hopped on the low-carb bandwagon. Kim Kardashian famously lost 56 pounds on a low-carb ketogenic Atkins diet that limited her daily carb intake to less than 60 grams. Similarly, Tim McGraw lost 40 pounds after adopting the Paleo diet, and is fitter than ever at age 47.

In addition to aiding weight loss, experts say the ketogenic and Paleo diets can prevent Alzheimer’s. Groundbreaking research also suggests the ketogenic diet prevents cancer and starves cancer cells. “The ketogenic diet is a single metabolic approach to a multitude of different diseases,” cancer scientist Dr. Thomas Seyfried of Boston College told me.

Samantha Chang

Paleo diet optimized for weight loss

Chomp, chomp. A new study has revealed that Neanderthals consumed meat and plants, supporting previous theories that their diets featured protein, reported Businessweek on Wednesday. And although there are similarities, the modern Paleo diethas been modified to boost weight loss and health, say experts.

After finding evidence of metabolized plant products in fossilized feces, researchers have more knowledge about precisely what Neanderthals ate, said Ainara Sistiaga, the study’s lead author. And although meat appeared to provide them with most of their fuel, the plant poop proves that veggies “were ingested as part of the diet.”

However, when it comes to percentages, the Neanderthals consumed more meat than greens. That conclusion stems from the discovery that the samples contained high concentrations of broken-down cholesterol similar to modern humans, said Sistiaga.

The poop study provides a new slant, indicating that Neanderthals were omnivorous rather than carnivorous, reported Slate magazine on Wednesday. It’s also one of the most in-depth reports thus far, since other studies were based more on speculation.

Scientists also are intrigued by what happened after they discovered fire, estimated to be two million years ago. Researchers theorize that event resulted in a boost in meat intake. “They probably weren’t prepared for such a high meat intake,” speculates Sistiaga.

So how does this study compare with what modern Paleo dieters eat? They both are low carb diets, and both eliminate dairy and grain. However, Paleo gurus emphasize that caveman dieters can customize the plan to enhance their health.

In an exclusive interview, Robb Wolf, author of “The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet,” told me that many people don’t understand the caveman concept approach, which emphasizes quality over quantity. The “calories in, calories out” concept has failed to reverse the rising rates of obesity and its accompanying diseases such as cholesterol.

Insisting that humans need grains and dairy implies that “all food is equal,” says Robb. “The ‘everything in moderation crowd’ (which refers to mainstream medicine and dietetics) has had the last 50 years to preach this message and it has been a complete failure.”

And the Paleo diet today is not limited to meat and veggies. Robb’s research shows that the healthiest approach for dieters is to create a diet “built around fruits, veggies, lean meats, nuts and seeds.”

After numerous studies, Robb feels it is clear that a Paleo diet not only “provides all the nutrients for health, but that the Paleo diet is, calorie for calorie, the most nutritious way one can eat. This position that removing grains and dairy is inherently unhealthy is not based on science.”

Expanding on the omnivorous low carb diet approach, Robb notes that the use of resistant starch in modern Paleo diets highlights “the bigger topic of the human gut biome.” In contrast, consuming refined carbohydrates “appear to feed bacteria in the small intestine leading to a condition aptly named ‘small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.’ This bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine is now being linked to a remarkable number of health issues, from cardiovascular disease to autoimmunity.”

The recognition of the role of fiber has grown, and “it has only been recently that we have understood the mechanism to be that of feeding our beneficial gut flora. A Paleo diet built around fruits, veggies, roots, shoots, tubers nuts and seeds provides an enormous variety of fermentable carbohydrate to keep our gut bacteria healthy,” Robb added.

Taking the omnivorous concept one step further, Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet have created a modified Paleo diet that includes fish, meat, vegetables, fruit and what they call “safe starches.” The latter includes rice and potatoes, which they emphasize as key to health and weight loss. It’s all detailed in their book “Perfect Health Diet: Regain Health and Lose Weight by Eating the Way You Were Meant to Eat.”

As Robb notes, a significant body of science supports the theory that by avoiding foods toxic to humans, dieters can both shed pounds and avoid disease. The “Perfect Health Diet” avoids grains, legumes, refined sugars and processed oils.

Another advocate of resistant starch is blogger Richard Nikoley. Author of “Free The Animal: Lose Weight & Fat With The Paleo Diet,” he emphasizes that enhancing the traditional Paleo diet in this way can provide benefits ranging from improved sleep to a boost in weight loss.

CSU professor dishes on writing ‘The Paleo Diet’

CSU professor dishes on writing ‘The Paleo Diet’

Josie Sexton, FTC 12:16 a.m. MDT May 5, 2014
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Loren Cordain, Ph.D., a retired CSU professor who authored ‘The Paleo Diet,’ poses for a portrait in his office Friday in Fort Collins.(Photo: Erin Hull/The Coloradoan)

Loren Cordain, Ph.D., retired in December after 32 years as a professor at CSU, where he specialized in nutritional anthropology. He lives in south Fort Collins with his wife and youngest son, and from his home office, he works with his last graduate student at CSU and with a handful of scientists from around the world who have asked him to co-author their publications.

Cordain is still in high demand following his 2002 book “The Paleo Diet,” in which he recommended that modern humans eat like their Paleolithic ancestors, with meat and fish, fresh vegetables, fruit and nuts. That book’s publication spawned a devout following, three more books and a website that attracts 1 million visitors each month. Cordain has already sold more than 500,000 copies of his first four publications, and he is working on another cookbook, set to publish in 2015.

The Coloradoan sat down with Cordain in his Fort Collins home, where he showed us a few of the most recent scientific papers on the topic, as well as his own research … and even the contents of his refrigerator.

In his basement “man cave,” Cordain keeps 25 years of research on his caveman diet, all of it still in paper boxes following retirement. In the corner of the den is a large freezer filled with cuts of bison, deer, elk, blue grouse and pheasant and their organs — liver and tongue. Meat is one of the staples of the paleo diet Cordain writes about and practices at home.

Coloradoan: What else does paleo entail?

Cordain: What we’re trying to do is to mimic the food groups that our ancestors ate: fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, nuts.

If you were to go back here to Colorado 200 years ago, everybody ate in a similar manner. … They didn’t have cereal grains, they didn’t have any refined sugars, and they had no processed foods. When you think about that, 70 percent of the calories in a typical U.S. diet come from four foods that hunter-gatherers never ate: refined sugars, refined grains, refined vegetable oil and dairy products.

Coloradoan: Essentially, processed foods. But what about legumes?

Cordain: Legumes are not part of (the paleo diet), and the reason for that is because legumes are inedible unless they’re cooked. We simply can’t assimilate the starch, because it has to be broken down … also legumes have considerable toxic components, for instance raw red kidney beans will make you very, very ill.

Coloradoan: How do celiac disease and gluten intolerance play into paleo?

Cordain: Now, we’re looking at a relative epidemic of people who don’t do well with wheat and gluten-containing grains. So why is that? Because we simply as a species have not had sufficient time evolutionarily to adapt to a non-traditional food. … I think it lends support to the idea that we don’t have a (nutritional) wheat requirement. When you look at wheat or any grain and compare it to fresh fruits or vegetables or fish, it comes out almost at the bottom in the 13 vitamins and minerals that are most lacking in the U.S. diet. Why would you want to deliberately eat a food that dilutes the vitamin and mineral content of your diet?

Coloradoan: (Cordain initially read about paleo nutrition in an article published by Dr. Boyd Eaton in the New England Journal of Medicine.) What was so novel about Eaton’s concept?

Cordain: He wrote that in 1985, and I got around to reading it in ’87, and I thought, this is just about the best idea I’ve seen on diet and health. (Before paleo), what we had thought about what was healthy eating came from humans, so “experts” who knew what we should and should not be eating … that’s where the information had always come from. And humans are fallible.

(The paleo) diet is based on our genes, and so the concept that Boyd had brought up is that if you go backward in time, it’s kind of like peeling an onion, you get to a point where everything we eat now and consider normal didn’t exist. And if you can appreciate it on an evolutionary timescale, 10,000 years ago seems to be historically remote, but it’s only about 300 human generations ago. Once you go back 10,000 years, everybody on the planet was a hunter-gatherer and had been for 2.5 million years. Even though my name is associated with it, I didn’t invent this diet. What we did was simply uncover what was pre-existing.

Coloradoan: You didn’t set out to create a diet craze. What did you consider the paleo diet?

Cordain: A lifetime program of healthy eating to reduce your risk of chronic disease.

That’s one reason why it’s gained so much traction, is that it works. I think it’s the 21st-century version of what we now believe to be one of the healthiest ways to eat. Back in the ’70s and ’80s when I was growing up, we thought it was a vegan/vegetarian diet. And I think there will never be agreement on what people should and should not eat … but this is an idea whose time has come, and we now have experimental confirmation.

More information




Why dieting doesn’t work

In the US, 80% of girls have been on a diet by the time they’re 10 years old. In this honest, raw talk, neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt uses her personal story to frame an important lesson about how our brains manage our bodies, as she explores the science behind why dieting not only doesn’t work, but is likely to do more harm than good. She suggests ideas for how to live a less diet-obsessed life, intuitively.

Sandra Aamodt explores the neuroscience of everyday life, examining new research and its impact on our understanding of ourselves.

[ted id=1900]

Removing gluten from your kid’s diet?

If, after ingesting food containing gluten, your child exhibits symptoms of a gluten intolerance, it is a good idea to see its doctor and have a panel of tests performed which will confirm or exclude a diagnosis that might spell a gluten free lifestyle from thereon out.

In that case it’s not just “a good idea” it’s a medical necessity that, while impacting your child’s quality of life in some areas, will ensure it will not suffer from the consequences of its illness.

In all other cases, “gluten free” is not a good dietary choice.

Standard Response to All Gluten Question follows:

Gluten is the product of two grass proteins, glutenin and gliadin, who – combined with water – when experiencing shear or pressure form into a mesh that lends springiness to doughs and traps air for leavening.

On its own, it’s utterly, completely, and totally, harmless. It does not lead to weight gain and does not help you lose weight because even in high gluten concentrations it doesn’t comprise more than a trace of the whole. Furthermore, gluten is enriched in the amino acids glutamine and proline, which actually renders it biochemically difficult to digest. Gliadin peptides are resistant to degradation by gastric, pancreatic, and intestinal brush-border membrane proteases, and thus remain in the intestinal lumen after gluten ingestion.

In the ~1%[1] percent of Americans who have a light to severe allergy to gluten it will cause inflammation and malabsorption.

Gluten is vilified by some who just don’t like grains or want you to eat them. Again, there’s nothing wrong with eating grains, like everything else (from bacon to soy, from beef ribs to celery stalks) it’s the amount that can make a difference and hurt you or make you obese.

But the notion that a no-gluten diet is “a good idea” as a general practice is nonsense.

[1] Per a review article about Celiac in the New England Journal of Medicine….

For those interested in the genetics: Celiac disease doesn’t develop unless a person has alleles for HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 proteins. Even so, studies in siblings and identical twins suggest that the contribution of HLA genes to the genetic component of Celiac disease is <50%, meaning that these genes are necessary, but not sufficient, to cause symptoms.

Jonas M Luster

The Paleo diet is LAST?

According to US News and World Reports latest rankings of the top 31 diets…

The Paleo Diet is DEAD LAST.

In other words, there are 30 other diets they consider to be “healthier” than the one based almost entirely on organic vegetables, free range and grass fed meats, no grains, chemicals, preservatives or additives.


A diet that literally consists solely of EATING REAL FOOD is outranked by diets that consist of drinking shakes that have ingredients that sound more like a chemistry set than a food item?.

Why sugar makes you tired

Those sugar highs you think you get are likely a figment of your imagination. In reality, they’re more like sugar sedatives. Jonah Lehrer, writing for Wired, points out that orexin — a brain chemical that keeps you feeling awake — is inhibited when you consume sugar. Fortunately, there’s a fix.

Lehrer points out a study looking at the effects of different foods on orexin that discovered that while sugar lowered orexin levels in the brain (which creates a tired feeling), protein excited the orexin cells into production mode (generating a feeling of alertness):

The last sequence of experiments explored the impact of different nutrient combinations on the orexin system. Although the scientists assumed that the inhibitory presence of glucose would more than compensate for the excitatory influence of protein, that hypothesis turned out be incorrect.

Instead, consuming even a little protein cancelled out the curse of sugar, especially when the foods were consumed simultaneously. (When the animals ate protein first and then swallowed a chaser of glucose, orexin neurons still showed a decrease in activity. So make sure your dessert has some protein in it.)

This research is just further evidence suggesting that what we eat isn’t about calories in and calories out. The content of our meals really matters. Furthermore, it’s worth noting that sugar isn’t a great substance regardless of the presence of protein. We’ve taken a close look at sugar and how fructose isn’t digested like normal food. You’re better off staying away from the stuff in general, but at least you can deter some of the negative effects by including a little protein in the mix.

Adam Dachis

How to fight everyday food guilt

If you started the year with the resolve to lose weight, then right about now your good intentions are most likely a distant, unwelcome memory.

And good on you! Because diets are bad for you.

But don’t just take my word for it.

“Almost everyone who goes on a weight loss diet puts the weight back on sooner rather than later,” says author of If Not Dieting, Then What? Dr Rick Kausman.

“One-third to two-thirds of people end up heavier than before they started the diet. Weight loss dieting is also the commonest pathway towards developing an eating disorder,” says Dr Kausman who is also a director of the Butterfly Foundation and has 25 years experience running a weight management and eating behaviour clinic.

Instead of embarking on another year of dieting deprivation and inevitable failure Dr Kausman prescribes an alternative solution.

1. Don’t blame yourself for past dieting failures

Diets are marketed as a quick-fix solution not just for losing weight but also for solving all of our life’s problems.

“It’s incredibly seductive and I don’t blame anyone for getting on the diet wagon”, says Dr Kausman. “But you are not to blame for all these years of dieting and failing when it is the process of dieting itself that has failed you.”

“The first thing is to get people to start being a bit more gentle and kind to themselves.”

2. Practice mindful eating

We live in an environment that’s designed to encourage eating, even when we’re not hungry.

Dr Kausman advises people to assess where they are on a ‘hunger-fullness scale’ before and after they’ve eaten to become more aware of what and how much food their body is really hungry for.

The hunger-fullness scale is a zero to 10 scale. Zero is starving, eight is overfull and ten is stuffed full. The ideal for eating is a two, says Dr Kausman.

“Two is nicely hungry. It’s when our physiology is turned on really beautifully for food to be entering into our body and all the hormones and chemicals are working in our favour. Aim to stop at about five which is nicely full and satisfied.”

The other part of mindful eating is becoming aware of why you’re eating when you’re not hungry.

“It might be for difficult life reasons. But even if people do have difficult life issues that are causing them to eat when they are not hungry, we can still work on the less difficult reasons and then people can quite quickly start to feel empowered in an area of their life where they normally feel disempowered.”

3. Eat without guilt

One reason people develop a dysfunctional relationship with food is because it’s often served with lashings of guilt.

This is particularly the case for women, especially if their natural body size and shape is different from the current cultural ideal. To stem the guilt, we often eat more quickly so as to hide our shameful appetites.

“If we eat quickly we end up eating much more than what our bodies really want,” says Dr Kausman

“Many of my patients will say that they will wait until their partner is out of the room and then they will gobble food down quickly because they have been made to feel guilty about eating,” says Dr Kausman.

“This isn’t helpful because often they are not even tasting their food. People need to work on not feeling guilty about eating so then they won’t have to gobble it down. They can then enjoy it and then be more aware about when they are full.”

4. Prioritise self-care

Most diet and exercise advice focuses on the physical. When people reach a point of physical exhaustion they are allowed to rest and recuperate. This is not usually the case for emotional exhaustion.

“As a society we have been focusing on the wrong “W”‘, says Dr Kausman. ‘We need to shift the focus from ‘weight’ to ‘wellbeing’.”

“We have a finite amount of emotional energy. If people are pushing themselves too hard they can run out of spare emotional energy. That makes it harder for them to look after themselves in a whole range of ways – including when it comes to eating.”

“Food is the quickest, simplest, easiest way for us to take care of ourselves if we don’t have the time and emotional energy to look after ourselves in other ways.”

5. Any movement is good movement

The biggest fitness trends of the minute share one thing in common: extreme exercises, often in extreme conditions.

This is disempowering argues Dr Kausman.

“The diet model in general is the unhelpful Biggest Loser-style no-pain-no-gain message’, he says. ‘That is wrong, unhelpful and disempowering.”

And no, before you CrossFitters/Tough Mudders/HIIT devotees and Bikram Yogis go ballistic in the comments, this isn’t a personal attack on you.

“If you like to push yourself hard then there is nothing wrong with that”, says Dr Kausman, “But to think that this is the only way we can be fit for life is wrong. Whatever we can do is worthwhile and we need to look for opportunities where we enjoy moving our bodies.”

6. Focusing on positive body image

“Our culture doesn’t support it, but we all come in different shapes and sizes. It is the beauty of human diversity”, says Dr Kausman. “That’s what we are meant to be like.”

A better resolution for the New Year instead of the deprivation of weight loss dieting, according to Dr Kausman, is to become aware of the negative self-talk – and the unrealistic expectations around body shape that are so prevalent in our culture. We need to practice letting go of the negative commentary rather than dwelling on it and believing it.

“It’s a bit scary to give up on the idea of the bikini body but it’s about being brave enough to allow your weight to settle where it is meant to be for you.”

“It’s a trade off but after a long history of dieting failures, most of my patients are prepared to give it a go.”


The fat revolution

America has been on a low fat diet for decades now and the results are in. We are fat, sick and cranky. Plenty of studies have shown the pointlessness and even danger of lowfat diets. Why haven’t we heard about them? In 1972, a cholesterol-lowering diet was proved to increase mortality. The study and its results were never published. When Gary Taubes asked the leader of the survey why not, he got a revealing answer: “We didn’t like the results.” At least we find an element of honesty there. When results from science disagree with what the scientific priesthood has been preaching, you don’t need to know. To be fair, in some cases the contradictory evidence is made public, as in the Women’s Health Intervention study in 2006. Yet in almost the same breath the experts brush it aside saying it doesn’t change their recommendations.

The Fat Revolution is packed with information about what studies have been done and what they really say. Some might think this could get a little boring but Christine Cronau spices it up with things like quips from funny-man Tom Naughton. Tom points out that no matter what T. Colin Campbell says, feeding rats isolated dairy proteins proves nothing “because most rats don’t milk cows. The ones who do don’t have the technology to separate the proteins.” Cronau goes on to look at why the real science is suppressed or twisted and comes face to face with the same answer as everyone else who does this exercise. Some call it the universal motivating force. The symbol for that force looks a little like this: $$.

The soy industry at some point must have realized that soy-based food won’t have much fat in it, so they worked hard to convince everyone that fat is dangerous. The rest of the processed food industry has its financial motives for withholding fat from their customers. This works out well for the pharmaceuticals because the result of a lowfat paradigm is a lot of sick people with suboptimal brain function who can easily be convinced that there is a drug for every ailment.

Don’t the doctors know better? The one or two nutrition classes they take in medical school should make them experts, right? Well, they’re on the same lowfat diet as everyone else. One researcher has estimated that 90 percent of the published medical information is false. These data points should give you a hint (if you’re not on a lowfat diet) at what your doctor knows.

The real effects of saturated animal fat in the diet for adults and children are covered in detail. Cronau makes some controversial observations about exercise. The bottom line is that exercise has little effect on weight. She doesn’t say exercise isn’t good for you. Moderate exercise is healthy but isn’t the key to losing weight. In 2006, data collected on thirteen thousand runners indicated that while long-distance runners are leaner, they still got fatter every year. Experts concluded that they needed to get more exercise. I didn’t carefully do the math on this but my impression is that by the time you are fifty years old you would need to run half-way around the planet to stay thin. Some people might have a problem with that. I have no problem giving this book a thumbs UP.

This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation

Christine Cronau and Tim Boyd

Taking the fear out of eating fat

For many years we have been told over and over again that fat is unhealthy, and most people actually do believe it. Therefore, in an attempt to be “healthy,” many people avoid eating fat.

When I work with clients who claim they eat “healthy” I always ask them to explain what that means. The typical responses I hear are:

  • “I never eat fatty red meats, only chicken or fish once or twice a week.”
  • “I don’t use butter or eggs because I’m watching my cholesterol.”
  • “My doctor told me to use margarine to avoid the heart disease that runs in my family.”
  • “I’m trying to lose weight so I count fat grams, and buy everything fat-free.”

I have to give my clients some credit because they are simply doing what they have been told to do. The only problem is that what they have been told to do just doesn’t work. In fact, the clients I see who eat low fat diets are usually the most unhealthy people that I work with. They typically suffer from symptoms of depression, fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, hypoglycemia, insulin resistance, constant and insatiable hunger, gall bladder problems (gas, bloating, “acid-reflux,” loose stools), hormonal imbalances, and even lack of menstruation in young women. Women on lowfat diets especially complain that their hair is dry and brittle and falls out easily and their skin is dry and wrinkly. And, as crazy as it sounds, they almost always want to lose weight!

Even though most people on low fat diets don’t feel healthy, they still believe that somehow avoiding fat will make them healthier. The medical community, junk food industry and the media have done an incredible job convincing the American public that fats are bad for us. Fats have been blamed for everything from clogging our arteries to causing cancer. And fats are definitely the most popular scapegoat for our national health obsession—obesity!

But is fat really to blame?

Is Fat Fattening?

Despite the fact that tasteless, fat-free foods are being shoved down the throats of the American public, our country keeps getting fatter and fatter. Yet the TV keeps trying to convince us that fat-free foods make us thin and healthy. So in the futile attempt to do the “right” thing, most people are cutting all the fat out of their diet and wondering why they aren’t losing weight. There are a few reasons for this.

Low fat Diets Make You Hungry

Have you ever tried a low fat diet and felt like you were starving to death? Fat actually sends a signal to your brain to tell you when to stop eating. So, if you don’t get enough fat in a meal, you will never feel completely satisfied and will usually end up overeating. I’ve had clients admit to eating a whole box of fat-free cookies, and then say it was OK because the cookies were fat-free! This type of binge eating is very common for people on low fat diets, and can essentially lead to more weight gain. Including good fats when you eat helps to control and regulate your appetite so you don’t have to eat as much to feel satisfied.

Low Fat=High Carb

Another problem with low fat diets is that low fat means high-carb. And high-carb eventually leads to low blood sugar. When your blood sugar drops, your body goes into a storage mode and your metabolism slows down. Also, when you eat high-carb foods you trigger the release of insulin, which tells your body to store fat. Not to mention that your energy level drops with your blood sugar, so if you eat a high-carb diet you will most likely lack the energy you need to exercise. Including good fats with every meal helps to keep your blood sugar stable. This maximizes your metabolism by providing your body with a steady supply of fuel to burn throughout the day.

Low Fat=Low Protein

People on low fat diets typically avoid protein foods from animal sources because they contain saturated fats. This is not a very wise choice for most people because the only complete source of protein found in nature comes from animals. Not getting enough protein in your diet can lead to symptoms like weakness, fatigue, dry and brittle hair and nails, slow wound healing, chronic infections and sugar handling problems.

Another sign of protein deficiency is poor muscle tone. Often people on lowfat diets find it nearly impossible to lose weight or build muscle, no matter what they do. Even though they work out two hours a day four times per week, many dieters complain that they still fail to see the results of all their hard work when they look in the mirror. The reason for this is that they simply lack the protein they need to build strong muscles.

Also, the amino acids that we derive from protein are used to make neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that actually help to control our appetite, reduce cravings and balance mood swings. The best way to overcome intense cravings for sweets and starches is to eat three balanced meals at regular intervals throughout the day. A balanced meal is protein-based and includes natural sources of carbohydrates and plenty of good fats!

So you’ve probably figured out by now that avoiding fat in your diet doesn’t make it magically melt off your body. The truth is that eating fat does not make you fat. In fact, you don’t even have to feel guilty when you eat fat because fat is essential to our health. The human brain is over 65 percent fat, our hormones are made from fat, and so is the outer layer of every single cell in the body. Fat keeps our skin healthy, enhances our immune system, stabilizes our blood sugar and prevents diabetes. Good fats benefit our heart, normalize our blood fats and cholesterol, and even prevent cancer! Here are a few steps to help you add good fats to your diet:

1. Avoid Reduced-Fat Products

Our media-induced fear of fat in this country has created a market for over 15,000 reduced-fat products! These products completely fail to live up to their claims, not to mention that they don’t even taste good. Have you ever had a fat-free product that tasted better than the original? The fact is that when they remove the fat, they have to put something back in, and that “something” is usually more sugar, sodium, artificial flavourings, binding agents and other chemicals.

Don’t be afraid to eat real food. The closer to nature, the better it is for you. Choose foods in their whole state. Do your best to avoid processed, pre-packaged foods, especially those that are reduced-fat products.

2. Replace Margarine with Butter

We have been told to eat margarine because butter raises our cholesterol and is bad for our heart. The truth is that margarine eaters have twice the rate of heart disease as butter eaters (Nutrition Week 3/22/91 21:12).

We’ve also been told that saturated fats, the kind that are in butter, clog the arteries. But according to a study published in The Lancet (1994 344:1195), the fatty acids found in artery clogs are mostly unsaturated, not saturated, as we have been led to believe.

Butter is a natural fat, made from cream. Margarine is an artificial concoction of chemicals. Not only does butter taste better, but it’s good for you. Butter is a source of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and important trace minerals magnesium, zinc, chromium, selenium and iodine. Purchase organic butter produced without the use of hormones, steroids and antibiotics. Raw butter from pasture-fed cows is even better.

3. Replace Processed Vegetables Oils with Traditional Fats

For many years the media have told us to replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats, like those from vegetable oils. This advice does more harm than good. In the process of producing vegetable oils, toxic chemicals and high temperatures are used to extract the oil from the seed or bean. In this process virtually all of the nutritional value has been destroyed, not to mention that the high temperatures turn the oil rancid before you even bring it home.

Even worse, most of the vegetable oils that end up in packaged foods have been partially hydrogenated, a process that rearranges the fatty acid molecules, turning them from the natural cis configuration into trans fats, most of which do not exist in nature. Not only are trans fats difficult to digest, they have been implicated as a cause of both cancer and heart disease.

According to Dr. John Lee, MD, of California, “Trans fatty acids enter our metabolic processes but are defective for our bodily uses. Our cell membranes, our hormone synthesis, our immune system, our ability to deal with inflammation and to heal, and many, many, other vital systems all become defective when trans fatty acids substitute for the health-giving  fatty acids. Unknowingly we are poisoning ourselves.”

The best fats for us to eat are those that generations thrived on before Quaker and Nabisco became household names. These traditional fats include butter, lard, tallow, olive oil, coconut and palm oils—fats that you don’t hear about too often on TV!


Butter is a rich source of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. The saturated fat in butter actually enhances our immune function, protects the liver from toxins, provides nourishment for the heart in times of stress, gives stiffness and integrity to our cell membranes, and aids in the proper utilization of omega-3 essential fatty acids. Butter will add extra nutrients and flavour to your vegetables, whole grain breads, and sautéed dishes.


Lard is a traditional fat, the mention of which causes us moderns to cringe. Yet lard is a healthy, natural fat. Lard is rendered fat from pork and is mostly mono unsaturated. Lard can be a wonderful source of vitamin D. Traditionally, lard has been used and enjoyed for pastries and frying potatoes—until the vegetable oil industry took over. Don’t be afraid to experiment with lard in your kitchen, it will add lots of flavour to your food.

On a side note, I worked with a client from Mexico who was here visiting her daughter over the summer. The mother was 85 years old, very strong and healthy, and had not one wrinkle on her beautiful face. Her skin was incredible! It was so soft and silky, not at all dry, scaly or wrinkly like the skin I’m so used to seeing with most of my clients. I just had to ask her what kind of fats she eats. Her daughter translated my question to her mother and then replied, “She said she eats mostly lard. I can’t believe it! I keep telling her that’s not good for her, but she just won’t listen!” Us silly Americans!


Tallow is used in traditional cultures for its health benefits. Tallow is rendered beef fat and is a very stable fat for frying.

Olive Oil

Olive oil has been used for thousands of years for its many health benefits. Olive oil is a rich source of antioxidants, relieves the pain and inflammation of arthritis, normalizes blood fats and cholesterol, stimulates strong gallbladder contractions and is known for increasing longevity. Olive oil can be used for sautéing at moderate temperatures and is a perfect base for salad dressings. However, it is important not to use olive oil as your only fat—you need the nutrients found exclusively in animal fats and too much mono unsaturated fat without a balance of saturated fats can cause problems.

Coconut and Palm Oils

These tropical oils are rich sources of saturated fat, especially lauric acid, which has strong antifungal and antimicrobial properties. They are extremely stable and can be used in baking, frying, sautéing and especially for making popcorn!

My favourite way to eat popcorn is the following: Melt 1 tablespoon coconut oil in large pot over high heat, add 1 cup organic popcorn and cover. Once popcorn starts to pop, shake pan over flame until all the kernels have popped. Melt 1 stick of organic butter in small pan, crush 2 cloves garlic into the butter, add ¼ cup naturally fermented soy sauce and 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Pour evenly over popcorn. Then sprinkle ½ cup of grated “stinky” cheese (asiago, romano, or parmesan) and Celtic sea salt (to taste) on popcorn. Serve with chunks of salami or sausage from the farm.


Priming Your Gallbladder for Fats

Is your gallbladder ready for fat? If you’re an American, chances are you’ve experienced problems with your gall bladder at one time or another. Typical gallbladder symptoms include: gas (especially burping after meals), a full or heavy feeling after meals, bloating, “acid reflux” (after meals and at night when lying down), pain in right side radiating into right shoulder blade, loose or light coloured stools that float.

Two things that the gallbladder doesn’t like are bad fats and no fats. Bad fats, like processed vegetable oils, are difficult to digest and put a lot of stress on the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a little sac that sits along side your liver. The liver produces bile, a substance made from cholesterol that emulsifies fat and makes it easier to digest. The gallbladder stores and concentrates bile, then secretes it into the small intestines when fats are present. If you don’t eat fat, the gallbladder won’t get any exercise and can begin to atrophy.

If you’ve eaten mostly bad fats in your life or have spent many years on a low fat diet, chances are your gallbladder will need a little work before you will be able to completely digest generous amounts of good fats in your diet. Start by practising good digestive habits (discussed in the Spring 2002 issue) and enhance your digestion with raw apple cider vinegar. Mix 1 teaspoon with 2-4 ounces water and drink with meals. A nice acid environment in the stomach stimulates the gallbladder to do its job.

Other helpful remedies include Swedish Bitters, 1 teaspoon in water taken just after meals, and lacto-fermented foods such as saurkraut and beet kvass.

Coconut oil is very easy on the gall bladder because the preponderance of short- and medium-chain fatty acids it contains do not require bile salts for digestion. If you are just beginning to add fats to your diet after many years of low fat foods, your best choice in the start is coconut oil.

Lori Lipinski

The Official “Can I have…” Guide to the Whole30®

One of the most active sections of our free Whole30® Forum is the “Can I Have…” section. This is where Whole30’ers ask about ingredients that they wish to include as part of their Whole30 program—things like bee pollen, mesquite flour, or banana almond pan-fried discs.*

Sometimes, we wonder if people really want to eat these things, or if they’re just trying to stump us.

The forum is a great venue for these kinds of questions, but it can be a bit cumbersome to search, and as new people are joining every day, the same questions are asked over and over again. So today, we’re going to give you all of the most common “Can I have…” questions and answers all in one place, along with our most helpful tips to maximize your Whole30 success.

Note, anything in italics below are not official “rules” of the Whole30—they’re just suggestions from us to you, based on our experience, and the experience of the 100,000+ people who have done our Whole30 program in the last four years. So, you know, you don’t have to accept our helpful suggestions… but you probably should.

*Yes, yes but only if you’re not baking with it, and every time you ask us about pancakes on the Whole30, Ryan is sad. 

Before You Ask, “Can I Have…”

Before you even read this list, please make sure you’ve done the following: 

Read the Whole30 Program details.

No, really read it. Don’t ask if quinoa is okay, because we spell it out clearly right there in the rules.

Read your labels.

Before you ask whether Cholula hot sauce, Tessemae’s balsamic salad dressing, or a  banana über bar* is compliant, read the ingredient list! If all of the ingredients are okay, the food is okay. If it contains an off-plan ingredient, then it’s out for your Whole30.

*Yes, yes, and no, because of the added sugar.

Remember, added sugar is about the ingredients, not the nutrition label.

The amount of sugar listed on the nutrition label has nothing to do with whether something is Whole30 or not. Nutrition labels round to the nearest full digit, so just because something says “0 grams” next to “sugar” doesn’t mean there’s no added sugar! Look for any form of sugar (real or artificial) in the ingredient list. If it’s there, it’s out for your Whole30.

On the Whole30, Can I Have…

Almond Flour: Yes

Yes, you can have almond flour, but it’s context-dependent. You can use it in place of breadcrumbs in your meatballs, to dredge a piece of chicken, or to thicken a sauce or stew.  You may not use it for Paleo baking—to make muffins, pancakes, bread, cupcakes, cookies, pizza crust, or anything of that nature. We call those recipes Sex With Your Pants On foods, and they are expressly off-limits during your Whole30.

Almond Milk: Make your own

Though it may exist somewhere, compliant commercially-produced almond milk is hard to find.  Ingredients  like sugar (in any form) or carrageenan will render store-bought almond milk off-limits for your Whole30. The alternative is to make your own—but remember, no added sweetener!

Tip: Nuts and seeds aren’t your best fat choice, in general, and drinking your food is always less healthy than eating it. So when it comes to almond milk, even if you make your own… we’d rather you just eat the almonds once in a while!

Arrowroot powder: Yes

Arrowroot powder is a fine choice as a thickener and can be especially helpful in sauces and gravies. Like almond flour, though, it’s not appropriate for use in baked goods.

Bacon: Read your labels

It’s really, really hard to find bacon without any added sugar, but if you can, you’re in the clear. We’ll even help you out—you can order Whole30 Approved bacon from US Wellness Meats, check with your local natural foods store, or (even better) ask a local farmer or butcher shop.

Tip: Factory farmed pork is one of the unhealthiest and most mistreated animals in our farming system, and these animals tend to store toxins from their environment and feed in their fat. Since bacon is more fat than meat, that grocery store bacon is really not a healthy food choice. Want more info? We dish the details in our Bacon Manifesto.

Bean Sprouts: Yes 

The plant part of the bean is fine to eat. The problematic compounds are found in the seed (bean) itself.

Bragg’s Amino Acids: No 

Bragg’s Amino Acids are derived from soy, and all forms of soy are out for your Whole30. A great Whole30-compliant substitute, however, is Coconut Secret’s coconut aminos. Tastes just like soy sauce!

Buckwheat: No

Buckwheat falls into the category of plants that we call pseudo-cereals. These products are not botanically grains, but contain compounds that may cause similar problems, which is why we rule them out for your Whole30.

Cacao (100%): Yes

Cacao (or 100% cocoa) is great when used as a savory spice (our Mocha Steak Rub, found in It Starts With Food, is a great example), but you can also feel free to add it to your coffee or tea, or brew it Crio Bru-style. But per the rules of the program, it’s not okay to add cocoa to dates and other fruits to make chocolate-y confections. Read our Great Cocoa Debate for details.

Canola Oil: Yes, reluctantly (because sometimes, you have to dine out)

While we don’t think vegetable oils are a healthy choice (understatement of the century), we don’t expressly rule them out on the Whole30. If we did, you’d never be able to eat outside of your own kitchen, because all restaurants use them in cooking. We wanted to create the healthiest program possible, but we also need it to be do-able for those who travel for business or pleasure, or simply want to dine out during the month.

Tip: Eliminate the consumption of vegetable oils at home, even if you’re not on the Whole30, and make sure the rest of your diet is focused on the most nutritious choices possible, especially if you dine out frequently.

Carob: Yes 

While Carob is technically a legume, carob powder is generally made from the pod of the plant and not the seed. Since all of the potentially problematic parts are contained in the seed, it’s A-OK to eat parts of the plant other than the seed during your Whole30.

Chia: Yes

These “seeds” aren’t the same botanical family of seeds that we eliminate with grains and legumes, so that makes them fine to eat during your Whole30.

Tip: Chia isn’t likely to cause you any serious trouble, but it’s not the omega-3 super-food it’s made out to be, either. We explain why in It Starts With Food, but in summary, chia should be treated like any other nut and consumed in limited quantities.

Citric acid: Yes

This is a common and acceptable additive in canned or jarred foods, like tomatoes or olives.

Coconut flour: Yes

Yes, you can have coconut flour, but it’s context-dependent. You can use it in place of breadcrumbs in your meatballs, to dredge a piece of chicken, or to thicken a sauce or stew.  You may not use it for Paleo baking—to make muffins, pancakes, bread, cupcakes, cookies, pizza crust, or anything of that nature. We call those recipes Sex With Your Pants On foods, and they are expressly off-limits during your Whole30.

Coconut Water: Read your labels

Most coconut waters are technically compliant, containing only natural sugars from the coconut. However, some brands add sugar to their ingredients, so read your labels. Anything with added sugar is out for your Whole30.

Tip: Coconut water is essentially a “light” fruit juice. If you’re involved in endurance athletics, work in a profession that leaves you prone to dehydration, or just want a refreshing treat, coconut water can be a fine choice for rehydration. Just don’t let coconut water take the place of plain old water in your daily routine.

Coffee: Yes

Yes, you can have your coffee. You’re welcome. You can drink it black, add compliant coconut milk or home-made almond milk, or add cinnamon or vanilla beans to the brew.  But remember, Whole30 guidelines exclude milk, cream, non-compliant milk substitutes, and added sweeteners—including stevia (more on that below). For more of our recommendations regarding your coffee consumption, read our Coffee Manifesto.

Tip: Regarding “Paleo” coffee creamer… sigh. We know there’s a recipe out there where eggs, coconut milk, dates, and some voodoo magic are combined with prayers to create a thick, creamy concoction that can take the place of your cream and sugar (or Coffeemate) and once again transform your undrinkable black coffee into sweet, creamy caffeine. Technically, we suppose, you could do this and still stay compliant, but we really wouldn’t recommend it. Instead, we’d encourage you to take a look at why you need this at all. Do you really like coffee, or are you drinking it for the hit of sugary flavor?

Chips: We’d rather you didn’t

It’s possible – some might even say easy – to find sweet potato, beet, or vegetable chips that meet the Whole30 ingredient standards. It is not easy, however, to consume those chips in a way that’s true to the spirit of the Whole30. It’s pretty hard to find a suitable place for them in our meal planning template (no, half a bag of ‘Sweets and Beets’ is not an appropriate way to “fill the rest of your plate with vegetables”), and even harder to stop yourself from eating them when the designated serving comes to an end. In fact, for most of us, chips of all kinds are a bonafide food-with-no-brakes. So these chips fall into that deep, dark area of less-healthy foods with technically compliant ingredients. Eater beware.

Dark Chocolate: No

Anything less than 100% cocoa (cacao) is off-limits during your Whole30. Even the really dark chocolate is still candy.

Dates: Yes

Dates are a great way to add that hint of sweetness to a sauce (like the Char Siu pork from Well Fed), or stuffed with almonds and wrapped in (compliant) bacon as a fancy-schmancy appetizer.

Tip: These little sugar bombs pack a big punch—they’re as close to candy as you can get on the Whole30. We recommend against using them as a “treat” to feed your sugar dragon.

Flax Seeds: Yes

These “seeds” aren’t the same botanical family of seeds that we eliminate with grains and legumes, so that makes them fine to eat during your Whole30.

Tip: Flax isn’t likely to cause you any serious trouble, but it’s not the omega-3 super-food it’s made out to be, either. We explain why in It Starts With Food, but in summary, flax should be treated like any other nut and consumed in limited quantities.

Fruit Juice: Yes, preferably just in small quantities to flavor dishes

Fruit juice is the only acceptable added sweetener on the Whole30. (We had to draw the line somewhere.) Use it to flavor sauces, soups, or entrees.

Tip: While drinking a glass of fruit juice may be technically compliant… we really, really wouldn’t recommend it, even if you juice it yourself. Juicing strips many of the nutrients out of the fruit, but still leaves all of the sugar. We’d much rather you just eat the fruit.

Guar Gum: Yes

This is a common and acceptable thickener, often found in canned coconut milk.

Green Beans: Yes

The problem with legumes comes when you consume the seed. As with snow peas or sugar snap peas, green beans contain a tiny, immature seed, and a big, green pod. As such, we’re not worried about the potential downsides—and if green beans are the worst thing in your diet, you’re doing okay.

Gum: No

All chewing gums contain some form of added sweeteners (including xylitol) that aren’t acceptable under Whole30 guidelines.

Tip: Chewing sends a message to your body that food is coming. If you spend a lot of time chewing, but not eating, your body is going to get quite confused in its responses. Consider brushing your teeth more frequently or chewing on mint leaves or fennel seeds as a fresh-breath alternative.

Hemp Seeds: Yes

See chia and flax.

Hummus: No

Traditional hummus is made from garbanzo beans, which are a legume. However, there are some really yummy hummus-like dip recipes out there, like this one from Jennifer at Living Grainlessly.

Kombucha: Read your labels

We like the probiotic benefits of ‘booch, and we think it makes a fine addition to your Whole30 menu. Just read your labels carefully—sugar listed in the ingredients generally means that it was added after fermentation, and that’s a no-go.  Some varieties, like GT Dave’s Enlightened flavors, have fruits and fruit juices added, which are just fine.

Larabars: Read your labels, and use with caution

Most (but not all) varieties of Larabars are acceptable during your Whole30, so read your labels. (The Peanut Butter and Jelly bar is out for obvious reasons.)

Tip: We recommend using Larabars as emergency snacks, or fuel during endurance athletics. They’re as close to candy as you can get on the Whole30 (with dates as a binder), so don’t use them to satisfy sugar cravings. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between a Snickers bar and a Larabar!

Mayonnaise: Make your own

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a commercial mayonnaise that doesn’t contain off-plan ingredients—generally, added sugar. (Even the “olive oil” mayo is mostly soybean oil!) The good news is that making your own compliant mayo is easy! Check this how-to video from Melissa Joulwan, author of Well Fed.

Mustard: Read your labels

Mustard is a fine choice, just read your labels carefully. French’s Yellow is compliant, but beware your Dijon—it often contains white wine, which rules it out during your Whole30.

Nutritional Yeast: Yes

Just consider your source carefully and make sure the option you choose is gluten-free. Also, please don’t use it to make vegan cheese.

Paleo Bread: No

What we actually wanted to say here was, “Hell, no.” Buying (or baking) Paleo Bread during your Whole30 is an exercise in missing the point. We’re asking you to change your food habits, here, not just the ingredients. Bread is as SWYPO as it gets, and is still a nutrient-poor food choice, pushing more nutritious foods off your plate. Finally, bread (even if it is made from coconut flour) is the very definition of “food with no brakes!” Just say no, and sandwich your meat in a lettuce leaf, portobello mushroom caps, or toasted sheets of nori instead.

Paleo Ice Cream (YoNanas): No

This. Is. Ice. Cream. Unlike plain frozen fruit, or fruit blended into ice cubes, the only purpose of this confection is to replicate the taste, texture and reward sensation of ice cream. (Don’t tell us you’d get the same satisfaction from a frozen banana because we call your bluff.) Plus the addition of cocoa, nut butters, nuts, or other fruits to your creamy concoction… this is straight SWYPO, and it’s off-limits during your Whole30.

Pancakes: No

Sometimes, we feel like if we have to have one more conversation about pancakes, we might explode. No, you can’t have pancakes. Yes, even if they’re just bananas and eggs. First, they are explicitly ruled out in the Whole30 program guidelines. This should be enough of a reason, but in case you’re still wondering why (they’re just bananas and eggs!)…

Pancakes in any form do not encourage success with the Whole30 program. Reaching your health goals depends on committing to both the rules and the spirit and intention of the program. The Whole30 is designed to change your relationship with food, first and foremost. And the psychological impact of eating pancakes as part of your healthy eating, life-changing plan cannot be ignored.

Eating eggs, a banana, and some olive oil is not the same as combining those ingredients into a pancake. There are studies that show that how your brain perceives the food influences satiation. This is often cited with liquid food (smoothies or shakes, as we reference in the back of It Starts With Food), but experientially we see this with whole foods as well, depending on how they are combined. Pancakes bring up a totally different psychological response than frying some eggs and eating a banana. And it’s that psychological response that we are trying to target with the program.

You may not have an affinity for pancakes, but we find that most people who complete our program do best without any of these comfort/trigger/reminiscent-of-the-SAD-stuff-you-used-to-eat foods. So, because we need to create one program that applies to as many people as possible, we rule these Paleo recreations out. In our vast experience, this sets everyone up for the best Whole30success possible. And, of course, what you choose to do after your 30 days are up is entirely up to you.

Protein Shakes: Almost Always No

Almost all protein powders (like whey, casein, soy, or pea) contain off-limit ingredients. Besides, anything you can get from protein powder (except maybe chemical extractives, added sweeteners and strange-sounding isolates) you can get from whole foods during your Whole30. In addition, formulated and processed meal-replacement shakes like Shakeology or Visalus are always off-limits. These products don’t even come close to our definition of real, whole food—and they’re packed with off-plan ingredients like pea protein and stevia.

However, protein powder from approved ingredients like crickets (in Chapul bars) or 100% egg white are allowed on the Whole30, provided they contain no sweeteners. As always, though, liquid food is still not encouraged. Got it?

Tip: We want you to spend a month learning to appreciate real food, how it tastes, the work it takes to prepare, and how it works in your body. You can have your shaker cup back in 30 days; for now, focus on starchy veggies and lean protein after a workout. Hard-boiled eggs, compliant deli meat, smoked salmon, or tuna are easy, portable protein sources to take with you to the gym.

Quinoa: No

Quinoa is another one of those pseudo-cereals. While it might not technically be considered a grain, it contains properties that could be similarly problematic to your body, which makes it off-limits for your Whole30. The same guideline applies to buckwheat, amaranth, and other gluten-free grain substitutes.

Safflower/Sunflower Oil: Yesreluctantly (because sometimes, you have to dine out)

While we don’t think vegetable oils are a healthy choice (understatement of the century), we don’t expressly rule them out on the Whole30. If we did, you’d never be able to eat outside of your own kitchen, because all restaurants use them in cooking. We wanted to create the healthiest program possible, but we also need it to be do-able for those who travel for business or pleasure, or simply want to dine out during the month.

Tip: Eliminate the consumption of vegetable oils at home, even if you’re not on the Whole30, and make sure the rest of your diet is focused on the most nutritious choices possible, especially if you dine out frequently.

Salt: Yes

First, salt makes your food delicious. Second, when you cut out processed and packaged foods, you remove the vast majority of sodium from your diet. Adding salt to your Whole30 plate won’t push you over reasonable sodium limits, and if you avoid salt altogether, you run the risk of an electrolyte imbalance (not to mention serious food boredom). We encourage a mix of iodized table salt and sea salt.

Smoothies: We’d rather you didn’t

This is a very popular question, with a very unpopular answer. Smoothies (generally made using lots of fruit) are technically compliant on your Whole30, but we strongly recommend against it. Food that you drink sends different satiety signals to your brain than food that you chew. So when you drink your meal, your brain isn’t getting the feedback it needs to tell your body that it’s had enough of what it needs. Plus, smoothies are generally really fruit-heavy, and starting your day off with a liquid sugar-bomb sets you up for cravings, hunger, and volatile energy levels throughout the day. In summary, we’d rather you just eat the food, and skip the smoothie.

Snap/Snow Peas: Yes 

Snow peas (and snap peas, and green beans, and romano beans) are fine during your Whole30 – even though they’re botanically legumes. The problem with legumes comes when you consume the seed. Snow peas contain a tiny, immature seed, and a big, green pod. As such, we’re not worried about the potential downsides of consuming these “veggies.”

Stevia Leaf: No

While it’s not highly processed like its liquid or powdery cousins, the only purpose of stevia leaf is to sweeten something that was not already sweet. This is something we want you to avoid during your Whole30. Instead, learn to appreciate the natural flavors of your foods, and don’t rely on sweet tastes to prop up sugar cravings.

Sweet Potato Fries: Make them yourself

While you could technically eat sweet potato fries at a restaurant (as long as they were fried in compliant oil, and not doused with sugar and cinnamon), that’s really missing the point of the Whole30. (And anything deep-fried in vegetable oil is be default unhealthy.) A better, more compliant alternative is to make “fries” at home, using coconut oil, duck fat, or ghee, and baking them in the oven instead of deep-frying them.

Tahini: Yes

Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds. Sesame seeds are compliant with the Whole30 program, so  tahini paste is too, if all the other ingredients in the paste are compliant.

Vanilla Extract: No

Honestly, we think this ruling is kind of silly (nobody uses vanilla extract for the buzz), but we must be consistent with the guidelines to avoid confusion. The vast majority of vanilla extracts you can purchase for home use (in-store and online) contain alcohol, and the rest contain sugar alcohols. And, since we ask you to exclude alcohol and all forms of sugar from your Whole30, vanilla extracts are non-compliant. (If you see vanilla extract listed as an ingredient, you can count that product out for your Whole30, too.)

Tip: You can  use 100% vanilla bean powder in place of vanilla extract. We use it in a 1:1 ratio in recipes (1 tsp. vanilla extract = 1 tsp. vanilla bean powder).

Water Kefir: Yes

Following the same logic as kombucha, we’re okay with water kefir.  If you’re making it yourself, do what you can to ensure that the sugar is used by the bacteria (appropriate fermentation time). If you’re buying, avoid those brands with added sugar in the ingredients list.

See more at:

30 Reasons to do a Whole30®

These are the things that I’ve experienced myself and loved about the Whole30®. Not everyone’s experiences are the same, and you might not enjoy all of these things during your month (and I can pretty much guarantee you won’t experience them every day of the month… some days are just hard). But I can pretty much promise you, if you tackle a Whole30 and really commit to the spirit of the whole endeavor, it will change you and your perceptions of yourself and the world for the better. That’s a tall order, I know! But it’s also drenched in truthiness.

In no particular order…

1. You’ll sleep longer & more soundly.
When sugar is out and protein/fat is in, you sleep the sleep of the righteous.

2. You’ll enjoy consistent energy.
Forget energy that peaks and drops like a roller coaster, you’ll become a bullet train.

3. You’ll wake up feeling optimistic and alert.
There is nothing, and I mean nothing, better than waking up with a smile and open heart.

4. You’ll say goodbye to digestive distress.
Forget about farts and tummy rumbling and… let’s call them “uncomfortable bathroom experiences.” You might have a little discomfort at first if you’re not used to eating lots of veggies, but after that, it’s smooth sailing.

5. You’ll be happier.
No joke. When blood sugar is stable, life is happier. Period.

6. You’ll be more peaceful.
The swirly thoughts and anxiety that can be brought on by the sugar joyride vaporize and leave calm in their wake.

7. You’ll be more clear-headed.
Goodbye, brain fog and tip-of-the-tongue syndrome! Hello, Mensa!
In no particular order

8. You’ll drink more water.
Sugary drinks are out, so you’ll naturally find yourself drinking more water – which is a brilliant thing for making your body function at optimal capacity.

9. You’ll eat more vegetables.
Get ready to eat like a bunny! You’ll be eating about two to three cups of veggies per meal. Per. Meal. Think of all the nutrients!

10. You’ll savor your food more.
For me, shining the spotlight on quality food makes me appreciate its nutritive power and flavor more than usual. I slow down, enjoy every bite, and think about how it’s making me strong while it tastes so damn good.

11. You’ll feel the difference between emotional appetite and real hunger.
You know that mindless eating that happens when you’re stressed or distracted? That’s emotional appetite, and it’s junky. During the Whole30, as your body gets off the sugar high and settles into better insulin management, your appetite starts to diminish, but real hunger – the need for quality food that signals when it’s time to eat – kicks in. It feels so good.

12. You’ll find new favorite foods.
Who knows which vegetables, spices, and meat preparations will become your favorites?! It’s exciting to think about, no? There’s so much room in your kitchen and on your plate for new taste sensations when you banish the grains, beans, and dairy.

13. You’ll have fun experimenting in the kitchen.
The Whole30 is essentially what got me into the kitchen and playing with recipes. I was inspired to see what I could do with veg+meat+fat, and I encourage you to do the same. Let the Whole30 and Well Fed 2 help you play with your food!

14. You’ll become more organized.
To some degree, the Whole30 requires you to embrace planning to ensure your success, and that level of organization can trickle into other areas of your life, too.

15. You’ll Know True “willpower.”
Most of us tend to blame ourselves for “lack of willpower,” but the truth is that much of our mindless eating is driven by our hormones. When we manage our hormonal response by eating the right foods, the correct messages about hunger are delivered through our bodies. No superhuman, self-control required!

16. You’ll learn about yourself.
By focusing on your habits for 30 days, you’ll learn all kinds of things, including what triggers your appetite, who’s part of your support system, what you need for self care, what time of day you go to the bathroom, and more!

17. You’ll slay the Sugar Demon.
Vanquish that bad guy! And then, later, if you tangle with the Sugar Demon again, you’ll know that it’s within your power to take a sword to his carotid when the time comes.

18. You’ll make new friends.
There’s a huge community of Whole30 participants online and offline, and during your Whole30, you can tap into their support, knowledge, sense of humor, successes, and challenges.

19. You’ll positively influence others.
Yes, you’ll inevitably get the “You need to eat whole grains.” argument from some well-meaning acquaintances, and that will be annoying. But if you quietly stick to your program, you’ll also have a positive impact on the people around you when they see your results. I can’t tell you how many people were envious of my Whole30 packed lunches in my office, and that’s a non-combative way to open the door to a great conversation.

20. You’ll learn more about how your body works.
This is a two-fold win. First, by understanding the principles of the science behind the Whole30, you’ll learn a bit about how human bodies function, and second, you’ll learn how you – a special, special snowflake – work in particular.

21. Your skin will be brighter.
Sleep + water + vegetables + fat + protein + no sugar = clear, younger-looking skin.

22. Your hair will be shinier.
Sleep + water + vegetables + fat + protein + no sugar = glossy hair. (And stronger nails, too.)

23. Your tummy will be flatter.
The end-of-day bloat from dairy and legumes is gone, baby, gone!

24. Your workouts will feel invigorating.
Workouts fueled by real food are the best.

25. You might get a PR.
PR stands for “Personal Record,” and it’s cause for celebration. Sleep + water + vegetables + fat + protein + no sugar =
a physically stronger, faster you.

26. You’ll feel accomplished (Or maybe even smug).
I’ve stopped pursuing discipline for discipline’s sake, but
I wholeheartedly believe that committing to a short-term program like the Whole30 helps develop mental toughness that is valuable in all aspects of our lives. And yes, I do enjoy feeling smug about that once in a while.

27. You might lose weight. or gain muscle. Or both.
If losing body fat is your goal, a Whole30 can be a great way to start that process. Just don’t cheat yourself out of a lot of joy by making that your only focus. Look for the fresh glow on your skin, the smile on your face in the morning, the disappearance of afternoon headaches – as well as looser jeans and the return of cheekbones.

28. Your body image will improve.
There is an undeniable connection between treating ourselves well and how we feel about our bodies. If you look at the Whole30 as an act of self care, then affection, love, acceptance, and celebration of your body – how it feels, what it can do, the amazing things it carries you through every day – will surely follow.

29. Food will become both more important and less important.
I used to be very attached to food. I was sad at the end of the
day when eating was over until tomorrow, and when faced with my favorite foods, I wanted to eat them until I was stuffed, just
in case I never saw them again. But when I got my blood sugar under control with the Whole30, that changed. Food is both more sacred: It nourishes and sustains us. And less sacred: We get to eat again in a few hours! The emotional triggers attached to the food on my plate are gone. Don’t get me wrong: I still feel deep affection for favorite foods, and I love to eat, but now I feel that there’s a world of abundance out there. Fear of food – and fear of not having favorite foods – is gone.

30. You’ll stop dieting and just eat.
This might be the best reason of all. When you take out the non-food food and replace it with real food, you can stop over- analyzing how much you eat, when you eat, and where you eat. Yes, quantities still matter to some degree, but you can throw off the shackles of calorie counting and denial, and just eat. Peacefully. Healthfully. Robustly. With joy and pleasure and laughter. And cumin.

Melissa “Melicious” Joulwan