There are many things on Whole30 that may seem confusing at first, or may not make much sense. While Whole30 is a program that focuses on whole foods, sometimes the foods that are eliminated seem to be "whole foods" themselves. And in most cases, they are - but they're excluded for different reasons. In this post, we're going to look at why, specifically, peanuts are not allowed on Whole30, as this is one of the most common questions I get regarding the program.
If this is your first time delving into all the rules of Whole30, and the things on the "can't eat" food list, some of them might leave you scratching your head. I get it - can all of these things really be that unhealthy?
Here's the thing - most of these foods aren't eliminated for 30 days because they're unhealthy. They're eliminated because they can potentially react in your body and cause inflammation, among other things.
So what we're really doing is just taking these food groups all out, then putting them back in, one group at a time, to see how we react to them and learn what food sensitivities we might have.
So, why no peanuts on Whole30, you might ask? The answer is this: peanuts are not actually nuts. They're beans, or legumes. No legumes are allowed on Whole30 because they contain high levels of phytates, which can potentially cause inflammation and be hard to digest.
This includes beans of all kinds: chickpeas, peas, lentils, soy (and all other forms of soy, like soy sauce, tofu, tempeh, and edamame, as well as soy lecithin, often a sneaky ingredient in many foods!) and also - peanuts. (The only exceptions to this rule are green beans, sugar snap peas, and snow peas, which consist of more pod than bean.)
And if peanuts are out - that also means peanut butter has to go.
Now, that said, there are many other sources of healthy fats you can consume on Whole30, as well as a number of other nut butters out there that can stand in for your beloved peanut butter for the month.
These days it's pretty easy to find things like almond butter, cashew butter, and sunflower seed butter at the grocery store. Make sure you read your ingredient list on everything you buy.
Keep in mind that we are eating real food for 30 days, which means whatever nut or seed butter you choose cannot have any added sugar. (This includes things like maple syrup, honey, agave nectar and coconut sugar, which might at other times be considered a "healthier substitute," or allowed on a paleo diet. Remember, no added sweeteners of any kind.)
I've also run into jars of "almond butter" that are actually a blend with other nuts, so just always always read that ingredient list.
And while you can't eat peanuts, all tree nuts like almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pistachios and walnuts are fair game.
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.
Almond milk is a very commonly used ingredient on the Whole30 program. While you do have to avoid all dairy products, nut-based milks are ok - again, as long as all their ingredients are compliant.
And, if you're lamenting the loss of sour cream, I will tell you this - dairy is one of the most problematic foods that is least recognized as causing problems. It can cause a host of digestive issues, and if you're someone who has never done a 30-day elimination diet, you honestly probably have no idea that it's affecting you.
While I'm sure there are some people that aren't affected by it, I'd be shocked if you told me you didn't feel any differently after eliminating dairy for 30 days and then introducing it back in.
So, while some say that the Whole30 diet is one of the most restrictive diets, I really view it as a great way to consume unprocessed foods. To remove junk food from our lives and our pantries. To cook delicious recipes. To eat nutrient dense foods like grass-fed beef, sweet potatoes, hard-boiled eggs and coconut milk. To reset our taste buds. To change our long term eating habits. To improve our overall health. To (maybe) see some weight loss (although not the point of the program.)
And, after the 30-day program is up, we might go have some peanut butter ice cream, too.
Looking for more Whole30 recipes and resources? Check out my Whole30 resources roundup to find all things Whole30 related.