Difference between Paleo and Whole30

Posted 5 months ago by Prakhar Parihar in

People's health is not in the best shape nowadays. But it should be by all accounts due to the immense technological advancements have been made by humans in the last few decades. Now, we know more about food and diet than ever before and how it relates to and affects our body. Still, millions of people all over the world are plagued by obesity, malnutrition, nutritional deficiencies, food allergies and health issues due to not eating right. Every day people come up with new diets in hopes of finding the perfect one for health and wellness. Paleo and Whole30 are two such diet plans which claim to be incredibly healthy for the body. When looked at broadly, these two diet plans are quite similar actually. In fact, some people claim Whole30 to be a stricter version of the paleo diet as both have overlapping and synonymous ethos regarding what the body needs and what the approach should be to keep it healthy and fit. Both these diets have gained a massive following of late and people claim these to be the solution to all their health issues. They claim these diets to be a boon for people looking to lose weight in a healthy way and way in which it is not fickle or temporary. Both of these diet plans urge people to give up processed junk food as much as they can and develop healthier and more natural and real eating habits. Other than that, both diets have a list of prohibited foods which it instructs to avoid at all costs. Since, both the diets are so similar, they can be confusing to people looking to understand them or people who are searching for a healthy diet to help them lose weight. If you are also doubtful regarding these diets, worry not, we are here with this post which will detail the differences between these two diets and try to figure out which one would be the most suitable one for you. Now, without further ado, let us dive in in the nitty-gritty of this topic.

Difference between Paleo and Whole30

All About The Paleo Diet

First of all, we will learn about what the Paleo diet[1] is and how it works. The idea of the Paleo diet is to eat foods like our ancestors did thousands of years ago when humans were at the beginning of evolution to the modern homo sapien[2] and were living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The foods that they ate, which were available to them allowed them to live healthily and that is how we got to where we are as a civilization[3]. Consequently, the Paleo diet comprises of simple and hearty foods which are quite basic but provide the body with all the essential nutrients[4] which it needs and thrives on. Even its name is derived from the Paleolithic era which was the time period when humans were stepping out of the previous animal-like living to a more modern and human way of living. It is also commonly known as stone age[5] as that was the time when stone tools were developed and which gave rise to civilizations and ingenuity which humans are known for. The foods which human ate then were obviously not processed in any way. They ate real foods which they sourced from the environment around them. They followed a hunter-gatherer lifestyle so their diet comprised of those things like meat[6], fruits[7], and veggies, nuts, fish, etc. Hence, this diet is also sometimes termed as the Caveman[8] diet due to obvious reasons. Now, let us look at the variety of foods which you can eat if you want to follow the Paleo diet.

The foods of Paleo Diet

Paleo diet has become quite popular among the masses looking for alternatives ways to lose weight healthily and live a better lifestyle. This diet has been around for longer than you would expect but it just recently shot up in popularity when many athletes[9] started following it and endorsing it for a fit and healthy lifestyle. It is also quite appealing to people as it is not overly restrictive with the types of foods it allows to be consumed. Paleo diet, as mentioned previously, follows the blueprint[10] of a diet which our ancestors followed. Hence, it is quite simple and straightforward and eliminates a few modern inventions. Any foods which are processed are prohibited in this diet along with refined sugars[11] too. This diet has low carbs and high proteins foods mostly. This diet is supposed to be followed indefinitely to keep living a healthy life and not for a limited time period just to lose weight. The foods under this contain the essential sustenance that the body requires to stay in top shape and nothing more. Moreover, Paleo is more of a guideline than a strict diet. It instructs people to eat healthy plant and lean meats[12] and avoid any processed stuff. But it does not prohibit anything. It recommends against eating gluten[13] but you can eat it every once in a while. The following are some of the staples of a Paleo Diet:

These are some of the foods which are included in the Paleo diet. These are considered healthy for the body and helps keep it on a proper weight. Now, the following foods are the ones which are prohibited in this diet and are a big no-no if you want to stay healthy following this diet.

All About The Whole30 Diet

Whole30 is based on the Paleo diet and may even seem like a stricter version of it on the first glance. But the truth is that the whole30 diet serves quite a different purpose and whereas the Paleo diet is more of a diet to follow forever, the whole30 diet is just supposed to be followed for 30 days. This diet helps to lose weight but more importantly, it helps you to figure out foods which are troublesome to your particular body so that you can avoid them in the future and live a healthier and relatively problem free lifestyle. In the 30 days that you have to follow this diet, you will remove various foods from the diet[14] and then they will be added back one after one later. This allows us to extract some detailed information about various foods and how they relate to our individual body. This allows us to pick and choose our diet afterward and any problematic foods, which cause issue and is incompatible with your body can be eliminated from the diet. Hence, as is apparent, the diets, however, may seem similar where the foods allowed and prohibited are concerned, but serve quite different purposes and structure. Whole30 is what is known as an elimination diet, and these diets help people with chronic body and health issue to find out if the culprit behind there issue is one of the common foods that they consume. Consequently, this diet can help people figure out if any food group is the reason behind their excessive acne or persistent stomach ache[15]

The foods of Whole30 Diet

As mentioned previously, Whole30 is an elimination diet which is supposed to run for, you guessed it, 30 days. Several foods are eliminated from consumption for 30 days and this diet is more restrictive than Paleo even. In the regulated 30 days, you will have to eat just the foods which are allowed and you can not have any cheat day or the likes. If you somehow slip up or eat any of the potentially doubtful food then the whole diet comes crashing down and you will have to begin again with the first day of the next thirty.  Also, smaller food servings, snacks, and desserts meant to satiate in the intermittent periods of time between the meals. After the 30 days are over, the users are allowed to add some foods back to their dietary rotation. This helps the users to figure which foods are liable to cause an issue with your health and body. And then such foods can be eliminated from the diet forever. Now, let us learn about the foods which are allowed for consumption first:

As you can see, it has many similarities with the Paleo diet but with even more restrictions for the 30 day time period. The main foods which you can not eat at all during the 30 days are:

Differences Between Paleo and Whole30 - A Detailed Comparison

Now, in this section, we will look at the differences between these two diet plans in detail, one by one. So, the field of comparison which is first up is:

  1. Foods
  2. Ease and Flexibility
  3. Weight Loss
  4. The Final Verdict


Both diets urge people to give up processed foods. However, both differ slightly in the selection of foods which have been made available for consumption. The full list of foods is provided in each of the diet's sections. But basically, most of the foods in Whole30 also fall under the umbrella of being Paleo but the reverse is not necessarily true. So, in a way, the purview of foods in Whole30 can be considered a subset of Paleo. Since Paleo is considered to be an enduring way of life, it is a bit more lenient in allowing non-Paleo foods too, every once in while for satiating the taste buds if you wish to do so. In a paleo diet, you can customize it according to you but generally, you can eat 3 meals in a week which are not Paleo. So, this diet will help make you healthy and lose weight but you won't have to give up your favorite foods completely.

Whereas, in the Whole30 diet, you have to stick with it no matter what. That is because it is just supposed to be followed for 30 days at a time to figure out the culprit foods. You will have to start again with day 1 if you mess up your diet. The diet is more restrictive than Paleo in those 30 days then the reintroduction phase of Whole30 comes into the picture. In the reintroduction phase, you add the restricted food items into your diet one by one. This method will help you pinpoint which foods have been causing you pain and problems over the years.

All in all, both encourage consumption of unprocessed whole foods and both have separate purposes for the body too.

Ease and Flexibility

Paleo is clearly the easier method to follow however with one critical difference which places both pretty far apart. Paleo is meant to be lifestyle change towards healthier eating while Whole30 is a 30 diet program designed to suss out the body's allergies to different problematic foods. Paleo is not as restrictive as Whole30 which makes it easier to follow and it is more of a guideline than a set of strict rules which Whole30 certainly is, so there is not much room for flexibility there.

Weight Loss

Both diets aid in healthy weight loss. However, Paleo is the better one here too as you are supposed to follow this forever if you want to eat healthily as our ancestors did. Paleo will also help with noticeable weight loss in the 30 day period but it does not provide as healthy or as sustainable weight loss as Paleo as it is too restrictive when compared to Paleo.

The Final Verdict

So, ultimately, both the diets are different and serve different purposes, even though it may seem like they are quite similar. So, which is one is better for you will depend totally upon your needs and what you are looking to get out of the diet and how long you are willing to follow it. The intended result of this write up would be that by this point your mind should be made up about which one you want. All the best to you.

This article has been medically reviewed by Dr.Geeta Sundar on 06/06/19 

Difference between Paleo and Whole30

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