Eating by the numbers for the Whole30 diet

You must adhere to the Whole30 diet for 30 straight days. Any lapse and you start again, but this popular high-protein/no grain programme may not be for everyone.

THE Whole30 diet, a high-protein/no grain programme, has a following among celebrities, athletes and those convinced by its health benefits.

The couple who devised it, sports nutritionists Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, say it is a “powerful, 30-day nutritional reset” that improves health and reduces food cravings.

Their book, It Starts with Food, spent weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

The Whole30 website claims to get one million hits a month from people in 100 countries, including Ireland.

So what can you eat? The good news is that you can eat as much as you need to stay strong and active, but you must choose from a menu that includes meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, healthy oils (coconut, olive or avocado oil), nuts and seeds.

Sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes and dairy are all strictly off limits for 30 days. No treats are allowed. Not a single one.

The diet works only if you avoid the “hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups” on the banned list.

The programme rule book is clear: “You need such a small amount of any of these inflammatory foods to break the healing cycle.

“One bite of pizza, one splash of milk in your coffee, one lick of the spoon mixing the batter within the 30 day period and you’ve broken the reset button, requiring you to start over again on Day 1.”

Impossible?

Not so, says Denise Keane (29), who has done a number of Whole30 cycles and says she has reaped a lot of health benefits.

“The cycles are challenging, but very achievable. They teach me a lot about my eating habits and you learn to think outside the box and create meals from 100% real, nourishing ingredients,” she says.

Denise, who is studying nutrition and also writes the Irish Paleo girl blog, started to explore different diets when she found that she still had bloating and low energy, despite following a low-fat, wholegrain diet.

Since switching to the Paleo diet, in 2011, and doing regular Whole30 cycles, she has noticed a radical improvement in her health — higher energy levels and zero bloating.

So is there a downside? Last month’s study on the dangers of eating too much animal protein will give fans of high-protein diets, like the Whole30, Atkins and the Dukan, pause for thought. Researchers at the University of Southern California tracked more than 6,000 adults for nearly two decades and found that those who got at least 20% of their daily calories from protein were four times more likely to get cancer than people who ate a lower protein diet.

They recommended consuming 0.8 grams of protein per kilo of body weight, per day.

That finding, though, was turned on its end for the over-65s.

Eating plenty of meat, eggs and cheese in that age group was found to lower the risks.

nFor more recipes and support, see Whole30.com

The Whole30 in the palm of your hand

¦ Three meals a day based on 1 to 2 palm-sized amounts of protein.

¦ As many vegetables as you fancy.

¦ A serving of fruit, occasionally.

¦ 1 to 2 thumb-sized portions of ‘good’ oils.

¦ A handful of nuts or seed

¦ 7oz of coconut milk.

TUMMY TROUBLE?

It’s IBS awareness month and sufferers will be interested to note that onion and garlic have been identified as two of the biggest triggers of the debilitating condition. The low-Fodmaps diet, first introduced in Australia in 1999, has pinpointed a series of short-chain carbohydrates that are particularly hard to digest and recommends eliminating or limiting them from your diet for six to eight weeks.

Dietician Elaine McGowan has used the diet to treat more than 2,000 IBS patients who report improvement in up to 75%of cases. She advises doing the diet under the guidance of a qualified dietician.

APPY DAYS

Next time you have a headache, instead of reaching for the paracetamol try downloading a new app that recommends a food to help every ailment. If you key in, say, ‘pain relief’ and specify that you’d fancy something fresh to eat, it will direct you to a recipe for beetroot and horseradish relish, which can be found in Joanne Faulkner’s new book, Shiatsu and the Art of Conscious Cooking. Beetroot contains betaine which helps to relax muscles, while the leaves of horseradish contain a natural analgesic to ease pain. The app is free but the cookbook costs €15. For more on both, see www.joannefaulker.org

ICE DREAM

A food supplement that comes in the shape of ice cream? It sounds too Willie Wonka to be true, but dieticians at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin are using a new Irish protein-enriched ice cream as an alternative food supplement.

FitFuel Nourish has 10g of protein per portion and was developed by Wexford diary farmer Tomas Murphy and his award-winning company, Paganini, to help people in need of a protein pick-me-up. It’s available in Spar, some speciality outlets and online. Home delivery is free. See www.fitfuel.ie

HERB HIT

You might not have considered dried herbs as a source of calcium but many of them contain the vital mineral. They include dill, basil, marjoram, thyme, oregano, sage, parsley and rosemary.

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