People eat the way they do for many different reasons. Some eat with health in mind, some eat a certain way to lose weight, some eat with abandon and some eat to optimize their athletic performance.
When people change their eating habits temporarily for whatever reason, we tend to call this a “diet”. Merriam-Webster even goes as far as to define a diet as “a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight”.
Best Diets 2017
Each year, the U.S. News and World Report puts together a ranking of what they consider the best diets of the year. They take into account many different factors and use input from a variety of experts within the health and wellness field including medical professionals, nutritionists and professors. They base their rankings on a few different things — “short- and long-term weight loss, ease of compliance, safety and nutrition,” are among the categories according to the U.S. News and World Report site. The site also sums up their findings with this simple statement — “The best diets are easy to follow, nutritious, safe and effective for weight loss and preventing diabetes and heart disease.”
You may have heard of some of the diets they include — everything from Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig to the Mediterranean Diet and Paleo. Here at FitnessHQ, we’ve made it pretty clear where we stand on eating. We don’t endorse any particular diet, but are fans of things like The Zone Diet, the Paleo Diet and Whole30 — otherwise known as programs that encourage participants to eat whole, real foods and avoid processed and “junky” type foods.
So you can imagine our surprise when we found the Whole30 diet plan and Paleo at the bottom of the U.S. News and World Report’s list — ranking 36 and 38th on the list, respectively.
A Defense of Paleo and Whole30 Diet Plan
The criticisms of both programs were harsh. Some experts referred to the programs as nutritionally incomplete, saying it was difficult to get all the nutrients you need when restricting whole food groups.
We found this claim to be a little outlandish — if you’re eating whole, real foods, what nutrients are you not getting? What can be found in dairy or bread that can’t be found in dozens of other foods? Worried about calcium? Luckily for you, broccoli, oranges, almonds and greens are packed with calcium, just to name a few. Benefits of whole grains include fiber, vitamins and minerals. You know what else is a gold mine for vitamins, minerals and fiber? VEGETABLES.
Another pretty outlandish claim made by the “expert panel” is that these type of programs could even be dangerous. That’s right, dangerous.
” You also might boost your risk for cancer, according to a 2015 report from the World Health Organization that found processed meats cause colorectal cancer and red meat probably causes cancer,” the site says. “In other words: Going Paleo isn’t a healthy move – and could even be a deadly move – if all you do is swap bread for bacon, beef jerky and hot dogs.”
Woah, I feel like we’re being a little dramatic here. Are we going to completely ignore one of the main premises behind eating Paleo — AVOID PROCESSED ANYTHING INCLUDING PROCESSED MEAT? It really isn’t fair to go as far as to call a diet dangerous if you’re not going to brush up on the key principles… In fact, Paleo goes as far as to encourage people to only eat grass-fed meat. When’s the last time you saw a grass-fed hotdog? We’ll wait.
Both Whole30 and Paleo also favor lean meats over everything else, so there goes the whole red meat causing cancer thing. Unless you eat it in moderation, which we should mention — even the World Health Organization doesn’t discourage.
Difficult to Follow?
Another reason Paleo and Whole30 rank so low is because they’re apparently difficult to follow. First of all, anyone who’s ever completed a Whole30 or practiced Paleo for any significant amount of time can chime in here — duh. That’s kind of the point. You’re not just trying to lose a few pounds, you’re trying to make drastic changes in your life to protect and enhance your health.
I personally find it much more difficult to believe I’ll achieve my fitness goals and ideal body shape by living off of sugar-laden processed weight loss shakes for the rest of my life, but maybe that’s just me.
Apples to Oranges
My last defense of the Whole30 and Paleo diet, before I rest, is that neither program ever set out as a weight loss method. Remember back to our Merriam-Webster definition — eating sparingly to reduce weight. This implies a temporary eating pattern and although the Whole30 program is technically only 30 days, both Whole30 and Paleo encourage you to eat healthy as a lifestyle, not to lose weight or to look a certain way.
How can you compare something like Weight Watchers or The Atkins Diet to Paleo or Whole30 when they have completely different goals and visions for the clients and followers? Weight loss is a pleasant side effect of Paleo and Whole30, but not the ultimate goal. Neither were ever intended to be quick or even long-term weight loss tools. And as far as preventing disease, there may be no formal studies to account for the benefits of changing your diet to a whole food diet, but there’s thousands of anecdotes that lead us to believe it’s quite possible Whole30 and Paleo are definitely good for your health.