The Science Behind the Plant-Based Whole30
The Plant-Based Whole30

The science behind the Plant-Based Whole30

The Plant-Based Whole30 is for vegans and those exploring a plant-based lifestyle.

What is the Plant-Based Whole30?

What is the Plant-Based Whole30?

The Plant-Based Whole30 is a 100% plant-based version of our original 30-day reset, designed for vegans, vegetarians, and anyone curious about adopting a plant-based diet. The program combines the proven benefits of an elimination diet with the science of behavior change. Since its launch in March 2022, the Plant-Based Whole30 has helped thousands of people just like you identify food sensitivities, create new habits, restore a healthy relationship with food, and build self-confidence.

The Plant-Based Whole30 is the first whole-food, plant-based elimination and reintroduction protocol that thoughtfully prioritizes protein and supports metabolic health, gut health, and a balanced immune system. The program also offers two structured reintroduction options: one including only plant-based foods, and another including the reintroduction of animal protein and/or dairy.

The program is meant to be a short-term experiment, not a prescriptive, long-term diet. We don’t believe everyone needs to (or should) eliminate all of these food groups forever. Through elimination and reintroduction, you’ll gain valuable insights into the foods that work best for you. You’ll then use those learnings to create your own balanced, sustainable, joyful diet—what we call your ”food freedom.”

Elimination diets

Elimination diets

Elimination diets have been used by medical professionals since the 1920s. To this day, they remain the gold standard for identifying the foods that work (or don’t work) for your individual body. Elimination protocols can be an effective and accessible tool for identifying food sensitivities (undesirable symptoms after eating certain foods) and intolerances (the inability to process or digest certain foods). Elimination diets are completed in two parts:

In the first phase of an elimination diet—like the Plant-Based Whole30—you’ll eliminate food groups that are commonly problematic (to varying degrees). These foods may be having a negative impact on your cravings, metabolism and blood sugar regulation, digestion, or immune system. This phase lasts for 2-6 weeks. During elimination, the body can heal and repair from the effects of these foods.
After elimination, you’ll reintroduce each food or food group one at a time, on a carefully designed schedule. This allows you to observe your body’s reaction to specific foods, and compare your experience. The reintroduction period will help you identify the foods or food groups that may have been negatively impacting you.
The goal of an elimination diet is to:

The goal of an elimination diet is to:

  • Remove food components that may be causing issues
  • Improve blood sugar regulation and metabolism
  • Heal your gut
  • Calm your immune system (systemic inflammation)
  • Identify foods causing negative responses or unwanted symptoms.

Your Plant-Based Whole30 road map

What to expect during your Plant-Based Whole30 elimination and reintroduction.

Take it slow

Elimination Phase

The first phase of the Plant-Based Whole30 is elimination, and lasts for 30 days

Elimination Groups

You’ll completely omit added sugar (real or artificial), alcohol, all forms of grains, and all animal products
Plant-Based Program Rules
The Pancake Rule

The Pancake Rule

You’ll also eliminate all forms of baked goods, sweets, and other comfort foods—even those made with technically compatible ingredients
The Pancake Rule
Take it slow

Reintroduction Phase

Following elimination, you’ll spend 12 to 30 days reintroducing those foods

Reintroduction Groups

Following one of two schedules (one with and one without animal products), you’ll reintroduce food groups one at a time to evaluate their impact
Learn More

Food Freedom

After reintroduction, you’ll know which foods work best for you, and can use those insights to create your personalized, sustainable dietary plan.
Learn More

Plant-Based Whole30 benefits

The Plant-Based Whole30 was designed by a registered dietitian and endorsed by a diverse team of healthcare providers. The program was built on an anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense framework, and designed with blood-sugar regulation in mind. For some, this program is a more budget-friendly, ethical, or culturally appropriate option compared to the Original Whole30 (which contains animal products).

The Plant-Based Whole30’s unique elimination and reintroduction protocol can help you identify food sensitivities quickly and effectively. The program will also help you clearly connect the dots between specific foods and food groups, and the negative symptoms they may be provoking in your body. The program is also designed to facilitate new habits with food, and encourage you to discover new tools to effectively manage stress, discomfort, or negative emotions.

We have read thousands of Whole30 testimonials that report remarkably similar stunning transformations. Overwhelmingly, participants report the Whole30 brought them dramatic improvements in cravings, energy, sleep, mood, and self-confidence. In just 30 days, you could achieve a new baseline for “normal,” allowing you to live your life with more ease, vitality, and comfort.

In addition, eliminating foods to which you are sensitive can have a positive effect on any number of symptoms, including skin issues (acne or eczema), digestive issues (gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea), improved focus and mood, and a reduction or elimination in a number of conditions, like asthma, allergies, anxiety, brain fog, migraines, chronic pain, joint swelling, and more.

Plant-Based Whole30 Program Rules: Elimination

The Plant-Based Whole30 doesn’t eliminate food groups because they’re “bad.” Many of the foods eliminated on the Plant-Based Whole30 have well-documented health-promoting properties. However, these food groups are also known to provoke unwanted health consequences and symptoms in some, promoting cravings, blood-sugar dysregulation, digestive issues, or inflammatory conditions.

The Whole30 doesn’t moralize any food as good or bad (or assign any such label to you when you eat these foods). Foods are eliminated because they are commonly problematic, and we want to help you discover how they work for you. The best way to do so is to completely eliminate them, carefully reintroduce them, then compare your experience.

Let’s take a closer look at the foods you’ll eliminate during the Plant-Based Whole30.

The overconsumption of added sugar is clearly linked to a host of negative health conditions, including food cravings, blood-sugar and metabolic dysregulation, digestive conditions and gut dysbiosis, and chronic systemic inflammation. Artificial sweeteners and sugar can also promote unwanted physical and psychological symptoms in sensitive individuals. By eliminating all forms of added sugar for 30 days, you’ll be able to better identify the effects added sweeteners may have on your body and health.

It’s widely understood that overconsumption of alcohol is harmful for health. But current research demonstrates that even small amounts of alcohol can have negative health consequences. This can manifest as blood-sugar dysregulation, increased cravings, hormonal imbalances (especially sex hormones), impaired gut health, and systemic inflammation, particularly impacting the nervous system and brain. For all of these reasons, the Plant-Based Whole30 eliminates alcohol (drinking, cooking, or as an ingredient) for 30 days.

Whole grains have health-promoting properties, and are good sources of fiber and other important micronutrients. But protein structures found in a variety of grains (such as the gluten in wheat) can cause health issues in those who are sensitive. Even non-gluten grains like corn or pseudo-cereals like quinoa contain proteins that may provoke a similar response. These proteins can negatively impact the integrity of your gut lining and promote systemic inflammation. And excessive consumption of grains (particularly highly-processed versions) can lead to blood-sugar dysregulation and impaired metabolic health. During your Plant-Based Whole30, you’ll replace all forms of grains with a variety of vegetables and fruits for 30 days.

By definition, animal products are not part of any 100% plant-based program. The Plant-Based Whole30 is appropriate for anyone who already eats a vegan diet, and is looking to dial in their plant-based protein sources and discover the grains that work best for them. In that context, they would already not be consuming animal products. The program is also effective for omnivores or vegetarians looking to explore or test a vegan diet. By eliminating animal protein for 30 days, then reintroducing it (if you choose), you can quickly identify the protein sources and carbohydrate sources that best suit your goals.

Dairy is another animal product, which, by definition, is eliminated during the Plant-Based Whole30. For vegans, dairy is simply not part of their diets. Omnivores or vegetarians may consume dairy, as it’s a good source of micronutrients and protein and can offer health benefits. However, dairy is not well-tolerated by many. Consumption of the sugar and proteins in dairy can produce digestive upset, allergies, asthma, and skin issues in those who are sensitive. The Plant-Based Whole30 eliminates all forms of dairy for all participants. However, some may choose to reintroduce dairy in the second phase of their program, to evaluate its impact.

During the elimination phase of the Plant-Based Whole30, you will also not be recreating baked goods, “foods with no brakes,” or treats, even if they’re made with Whole30-compatible ingredients. Some foods that fall under this rule (known as the Pancake Rule) include bread, tortillas, pancakes, cookies, pasta, cereal, potato chips, and fries. During your elimination, you’ll swap these foods for more nutrient-dense options. This rule also helps you change your habits around food, and identify new coping mechanisms to navigate stress, discomfort, or negative emotions.

Professional Endorsements

Professional Endorsements

  • Dr. David Perlmutter, MD, FACN – Board-certified neurologist, Fellow of the American College of Nutrition, and five-time New York Times bestselling author.
  • Dr. Casey Means, MD – Stanford-trained physician, Chief Medical Officer and Co-founder of metabolic health company Levels, and Associate Editor of the International Journal of Disease Reversal and Prevention.
  • Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC – Senior Functional Medicine clinic director in Pittsburgh, PA. Consults world-wide in autoimmune, brain, gut, hormone, and thyroid health.
  • Dr. Michael Ruscio, DNM, DC – Doctor of Natural Medicine, Doctor of Chiropractic, clinical researcher, and published author. A committee member of the Naturopathic Board of Gastroenterology research division.
  • Stephanie Greunke, MS, RDN – Registered Dietitian who specializes in metabolic health, prenatal/postnatal nutrition, behavioral psychology, and holds additional certifications in perinatal mental health and fitness.
  • Dr. Catherine Moring, PhD, RDN, BC-ADM, CDE– co-owner of Delta Health Solutions and Executive Director of a hospital and community wellness center. Registered Dietitian, board-certified in advanced diabetes management, and a certified diabetes care and education specialist. Whole30, Keto, and Intermittent Fasting Certified Coach.
  • Rhyan Geiger, RD – Registered Dietitian and vegan author who specializes in vegan nutrition.
  • Whitney Stuart, MCN, RDN, CDE – Certified Whole30 coach. Nutrition expert and diabetic educator focusing on holistic nutritional counseling, corporate nutrition and educational support for all health, gender and age profiles.
What happens after your Plant-Based Whole30?

What happens after your Plant-Based Whole30?

The Plant-Based Whole30 elimination phase is not meant to be followed long-term. It’s also important that you commit to the elimination and reintroduction phases. Unlike other diet plans that direct participants to eat certain foods (and avoid others), the Plant-Based Whole30 provides you with the information you need to identify the specific foods that work best for you.

We aren’t suggesting you should eliminate certain foods forever. For many Whole30 alumni, the program is equally helpful in identifying the foods that do work well in your body. Your program can provide the personalized insights you need to help you feel confident in your food choices going forward. You’ll also understand how certain foods negatively impact you. This helps you better plan for when, where, and how often you include them in your diet in a way that feels joyful and sustainable.

Food Freedom Forever is the next book in your Whole30 journey. Your Whole30 insights and the guidance in Food Freedom Forever will help you create a long-term diet that feels delicious and satisfying while allowing you to maintain all of your Whole30 benefits. We call that your “food freedom.”

Everyone’s Food Freedom plan looks different, as it is born from your unique Whole30 experience. And that’s exactly the point of the Plant-Based Whole30! There is no one-size-fits-all diet that works equally well for everyone. Through the Whole30, you’ll uncover the unique dietary approach that works best for you, and allows you to live your most healthy, vital, rewarding life.

Learn More About Plant-Based Reintroduction


Learn more about the science behind the Plant-Based Whole30 with answers to these commonly asked questions.

Habit research says it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 (!) days to make a habit stick, depending largely on how emotionally tied you are to that habit. However, one study in 2021 found on average, a new habit takes 59 days to solidify. Creating new habits with food can be an emotional challenge, but asking someone to follow a strict elimination protocol for two months (or longer) isn’t reasonable or necessary for our purposes. In our decade-plus of clinical experience, we’ve found 30 days is the sweet spot. It’s long enough for you to see dramatic, life-changing results, but short enough to make the program feel attainable. (And when you factor in 10-14 days of reintroduction, you’re already three-quarters of the way to that 59-day benchmark!) *Source: The British Psychological Society

In order to accurately determine how certain foods are impacting your body, you need to completely eliminate them for the prescribed period of time. Eating even small amounts of foods to which you are sensitive can disrupt the process and interrupt your healing. Complete elimination, on the other hand, can bring about improvements in any number of symptoms or negative health effects, and makes it easier to identify potentially problematic food(s) during reintroduction.

Rushing through reintroduction can have the same negative consequences. Reintroducing food groups too quickly, or reintroducing too many at the same time, will make it hard (if not impossible) to accurately evaluate the impact of these foods. You won’t be able to identify which food flared your symptoms, tanked your energy, or disrupted your digestion.

To make the most of your Whole30 self-experiment, completely eliminate all of the recommended food groups for 30 straight days, then reintroduce carefully and systematically, one food group at a time, allowing 2-3 days between food groups. Read The Science Behind the Original Whole30 here, and The Science Behind the Plant-Based Whole30 articles.

Both programs offer a 30-day elimination and structured reintroduction period, with the goal of identifying food sensitivities, creating new habits, and restoring a healthy relationship with food. The Original and Plant-Based Whole30 programs differ only in their protein and fat sources, and in the length of time the programs have been available. The Original Whole30, founded in 2009, includes high-quality animal protein and encourages the use of some animal fats while eliminating legumes, including peanuts and soy. The Plant-Based Whole30 was launched in March 2022, after two years in development. The Plant-Based Whole30 does not include any animal protein and fats. It uses beans, lentils, peas, soy, compatible protein powders, nuts, and seeds to ensure adequate protein; and includes only plant-based fat sources.
Whole30’s vision is to change lives everywhere, one Whole30 at a time. Though the Original Whole30 serves omnivores, we have always supported vegetarians and vegans in our community. Over the years, we’ve offered plant-based shopping lists, guidance for vegetarians and vegans in the 2012 book It Starts with Food and the 2015 #1 best-seller The Whole30, a Vegan Reset outlined in the 2016 book Food Freedom Forever, and a plethora of website resources. In 2020, we began plans for a program that would more effectively support our vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based-curious community members. In November 2021, we conducted a survey of 1,461 Whole30’ers, and found that an astonishing 87% of omnivorous community members were interested in exploring a plant-based diet. The Plant-Based Whole30 is the result of those conversations and community research, and the next generation of plant-based support for our community.

The Plant-Based Whole30 is designed for:

  • Vegans or vegetarians who want to experience the life-changing benefits of the Whole30 without any animal products
  • Omnivores who want to test how well a plant-based diet works for them with a structured, proven elimination and reintroduction protocol
  • Original Whole30 community members who want to compare their Original Whole30 experience to a Plant-Based Whole30 experience, to further fine-tune their food freedom

Please note, the Plant-Based Whole30 is not recommended for those who are pregnant or nursing, or young children. Always consult your physician before beginning any new dietary or lifestyle program.

If you are comfortable eating two animal protein sources (like eggs and salmon, or all varieties of fish and shellfish), we’d encourage you to complete the Original Whole30, utilizing compatible plant-based protein sources (like a pea-based vegan “chorizo” or protein powder) to ensure adequate protein intake. The Original program will afford you the greatest learning opportunity, and the ability to test out a wider variety of plant-based protein sources (including legumes, lentils, soy, and peanuts) to determine how well they work for you. Feel free to consume only plant-based fats during your Original Whole30, as there are plenty to choose from.

If you don’t eat any animal products and are not open to doing so, or if you’ve done the Original Whole30 and are curious about how a plant-based diet might work for you by comparison, then the Plant-Based Whole30 would provide the best fit.

For those who are currently omnivorous and would like to test the Plant-Based Whole30, our team of healthcare experts highly recommend taking a few weeks to slowly introduce legumes and lentils for a few weeks prior to starting the reset. This allows your microbiome a chance to adapt to the specific carbohydrates and fiber in beans, and should alleviate at least some digestive distress during the program. You would also benefit from preparation and cooking techniques that make legumes and lentils easier to digest such as soaking, draining, and rinsing. Finally, eating most of your vegetables cooked (not raw) can also help ease your transition to a 100% plant-based diet.
It depends on what you mean by “work.” The Plant-Based Whole30 is a self-experiment designed to show you which plant-based food groups may or may not be right for you. If you have a poor experience during the elimination phase–with lethargy, digestive issues, skin issues, or other negative symptoms–it is likely that some plant-based foods (or a 100% plant-based diet) don’t work well for you. In that context, the program functioned exactly as intended, helping you identify food sensitivities and moving you closer to an individualized, sustainable diet that works best for you. If that is the case, we encourage you to listen to your body. If your religious, cultural, or ethical convictions allow, consider expanding your plant-based options to include modest amounts of responsibly raised and sourced animal protein (such as bone broth, eggs, and fish). Or, seek the help of a qualified healthcare provider to determine whether any underlying health conditions (like SIBO) may have impacted your Plant-Based Whole30 experience, and create a customized dietary program that meets your specific needs. Others who participate may discover that a 100% plant-based diet provides a positive benefit to their energy, sleep, digestion, mood, and other health factors—or that a few plant-based foods aren’t well-tolerated, but many are. Their Plant-Based Whole30 experience would then allow them to fine-tune their vegetarian or vegan diet in a way that is even more health-promoting.
A: It’s important to supplement certain nutrients on plant-based diets, since these nutrients are not as bioavailable, or as easily found in plants. The Plant-Based Whole30 medical advisory team recommends working with your healthcare provider to include the following supplements during your Plant-Based Whole30:
  • DHA & EPA from algae oil
  • A multivitamin that includes B12, zinc, iodine, selenium, magnesium, D3, K2, and choline
  • An iron supplement (if needed based on lab results)
Always follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations when it comes to supplementation, and consult with them before beginning any new dietary program.
Nope! Each program was carefully designed to function as a stand-alone, discrete elimination and reintroduction protocol, with carefully selected parameters that have proven incredibly effective for the vast majority of people who complete the program. Once you choose a program, please complete it exactly as written, unless your healthcare provider directs you otherwise. Read the Original Whole30 Program Rules, and the Plant-Based Whole30 Program Rules.

The opinions and/or information presented in this article is in no way intended as medical advice or as a substitute for medical treatment, and should only be used in conjunction with the guidance, care, and approval of your physician. Nothing herein is intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult a qualified healthcare practitioner before making any dietary or lifestyle changes.