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Whole30 vs. the Mediterranean Diet

Whole30 vs. the Mediterranean Diet: What's the Difference Between These Trending Plans?

Top view of two raw salmon steaks ready for cooking. Some ingredients for cooking salmon like salt, pepper, rosemary, chive, lime and olive oil are all around the frame. DSRL studio photo taken with Canon EOS 5D Mk II and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

If you've recently committed to overhauling your eating habits — and maybe shedding a few pounds in the process — figuring out exactly which approach to take can be daunting. But it doesn't have to be that complicated. Here, dietitians share the differences between two of the most popular diets right now: Whole30 and the Mediterranean diet. Read on to learn if either of them is right for you.

What Sets Whole30 and the Mediterranean Diet Apart?

For starters, one is considered a lifestyle and the other a brief reset, Annessa Chumbley, RD, nutrition consultant for Premier Protein, told POPSUGAR. "The Mediterranean diet is inspired by the eating habits of traditional Mediterranean countries and includes lots of vegetables, fish, olive oil, whole grains, fruits, and legumes," she said. "Whole30, on the other hand, is meant as a reset for your body and all its systems, including your taste buds, gut health, energy levels, and sleep."

Whole30 works by eliminating foods that can cause inflammation and drain your energy, such as refined sugars, grains, dairy, and legumes. And while many people make adjustments to Whole30 so they can follow a similar plan after the month is through, adhering to its strict rules over the long term is extremely difficult and not recommended.

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Both diets emphasize whole foods over processed goods, but there are distinct differences in what's allowed on each plan. Whole30 restricts legumes and can be heavier on meat, while legumes are a staple of the Mediterranean diet and proteins are more likely to include fish and chicken, Annessa explained. "There's no alcohol on Whole30 (not even for cooking), and on the Mediterranean diet red wine is a pillar," she said.

Do the Diets Have Anything in Common?

While what you eat matters on both Whole30 and the Mediterranean diet, neither plan requires calorie counting. "Because you're eating a lot of plants for fuel on both diets, quantity is not limited," Annessa said. The outcomes for each diet can also have similar effects depending on the person. "There's been evidence that the Mediterranean diet might lower the risk of cancer and heart disease and overall mortality rates," Vanessa Rissetto, RD, told POPSUGAR. Whole30 can have similar benefits, Annessa noted, including lowering cholesterol, improving heart health, and increasing energy levels.

Which One Should You Try?

There's no clear-cut answer for this, and it largely depends on your lifestyle and the likeliness of being able to stick to a restrictive eating plan like Whole30. For example, "a mother with four kids and a full-time job with no time for herself can't also be tasked with a restrictive diet that doesn't allow for flexibility," Vanessa said. It's important to take a look at what's on your plate (no pun intended) and determine if you'll see the most success on Whole30 or perhaps a more flexible, long-term approach like the Mediterranean diet, even if that means progress is slower to start.

Annessa agreed and said another option is to modify Whole30 based on your dietary needs. "If you know your body handles legumes well, then don't feel the need to eliminate them. This is not a cookie-cutter process, and each person is different," she said. But what Whole30 might be beneficial for is a taste bud reset, especially if your sugar cravings have gotten out of hand. "Getting off sugar will often lower your threshold of sweetness and put an end to the constant cravings," Annessa said.

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