FOOD & DRINK
01/12/2018 05:46 am ET Updated Jan 18, 2018

Whole30 Food List: 3 Of The Diet Plan's Most Confusing Rules

Did someone say ghee?
Whole30 rules forbid dairy products — except ghee and clarified butter.
subodhsathe via Getty Images
Whole30 rules forbid dairy products — except ghee and clarified butter.

Whole30 is 30-day healthy eating plan that has become increasingly popular since it was launched in April 2009. The plan’s namesake book has skyrocketed to the top of the best-seller list, and the diet’s popularity as a New Year’s resolution has all but banned cupcakes from existing during the month of January.

Whole30 claims to change your relationship with food by eliminating specific food groups from your diet that could have a negative effect on your health and fitness. It cuts out sugar, grains, dairy and legumes entirely, suggesting that you’ll be able to figure out which groups are holding you back if you strip them from your diet.

Here’s what you can keep eating, according to the Whole30 site: “Eat moderate portions of meat, seafood, and eggs; lots of vegetables; some fruit; plenty of natural fats; and herbs, spices, and seasonings. Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re whole and unprocessed.”

But the list of restrictions is longer ― much longer ― and requires serious dedication to commit to memory. Even after searing the “no” list into your brain, you may still have questions. We’re here to clear up three common points of confusion.

Don’t eat legumes

The Whole30 plan clearly says “do not eat legumes,” but the truth is that most of us don’t know what legumes are. Whole30 clarifies that the plan does not allow “beans of all kinds (black, red, pinto, navy, white, kidney, lima, fava, etc.), peas, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts. No peanut butter, either. This also includes all forms of soy – soy sauce, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame, and all the ways we sneak soy into foods (like lecithin).”

However, the plan has one caveat: “Green beans, sugar snap peas, and snow peas are allowed. While they’re technically a legume, these are far more ‘pod’ than ‘bean,’ and green plant matter is generally good for you.”

You can eat tree nuts like almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pistachios and walnuts. It also means you’re free to eat and drink butters and milks made from those nuts, provided they don’t include other ingredients from the banned list.

That’s a lot to remember. But if you take away anything from that, remember that peanuts aren’t allowed because they’re legumes, not tree nuts.

Don’t eat carrageenan

While we’re on the topic of banned ingredients: Skip the carrageenan ― another food most of us don’t fully understand. What’s it even in, anyway?

Carrageenan is a carbohydrate extracted from red seaweed that’s used for its gelling, stabilizing and thickening properties. It’s found in many products you might assume are Whole30-friendly, such as almond milk, vegan ice creams, vegan yogurts, coconut milk, vegan coffee creamers, deli meats and even juices. So even when a food looks Whole30-friendly, always be sure to read its ingredients label.

Don’t eat dairy — unless it’s ghee or clarified butter

All dairy, with two exceptions, is banned from the Whole30 plan. Those exceptions are clarified butter and ghee. But what are they, exactly?

Clarified butter and ghee are both made of butter that’s been cooked over low heat until its milk solids separate and sink to the bottom of the pot, allowing them to be strained out. 

Whole30 claims that “milk proteins found in non-clarified butter could impact the results of your program.” Removing those proteins from butter helps you get around that.

Ghee and clarified butter are similar, but ghee is cooked slightly longer. Its milk solids are browned, giving it a nuttier flavor. (Alton Brown has a helpful guide for making your own clarified butter and ghee.)

As always, you should consult your doctor before beginning any diet plan. But if Whole30 is something you decide to give a shot, remember these three important points of clarification.

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