Paleolithic Diets


Examples:  Paleo Diet™, Primal Blueprint®, Paleo Solution.  A diet of whole animal and plant foods, free of dairy, grains, and legumes, is what our ancestors ate for nearly 2 million years.  See what history tells us about the potential health benefits of these ancient diets.

STRATEGY:        Eat only pre-agricultural whole foods

              Meat/poultry/fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs


This is a very simple diet to understand and there is nothing to count or memorize. Even children can easily learn this dietary pattern.

Because this way of eating completely removes numerous known dietary culprits, including gluten, dairy products, artificial ingredients, refined carbohydrates, soy, alcohol, refined vegetable oils, and processed foods, many people report feeling significantly better in a variety of ways when they follow this plan.

Because these diets eliminate refined vegetable oils  and emphasize healthy animal fats, paleolithic diets have the healthiest omega-3/omega-6 ratio of all diets reviewed on this site.

This diet has the potential to reduce risk for and even reverse many “diseases of Western civilization”, since it is essentially an “uncivilized” diet. This is a whole foods diet based on ancient foods that would have been the staples of our hunter-gatherer ancestors prior to the invention of farming, between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago. Hunter-gatherer populations studied in recent decades have consistently been found to possess superior health compared to people who eat the Standard American Diet (SAD).


This diet can be socially challenging; eating out or eating with friends requires special planning. While some people will naturally lose weight on this diet, it is not designed for weight loss, and may need to be modified for some people who are trying to lose weight. Carbohydrate-sensitive people may need to limit fruits and starchy vegetables.

There is controversy around whether the Paleolithic diet should be low in saturated animal fats; some authors recommend choosing lean meats to keep saturated fat intake low. Since there is no convincing evidence that saturated fats are unhealthy, and since fats improve the flavor of food, the absorption of nutrients, and make meals more satisfying, my opinion is that the amount of animal fat included in this diet may be adjusted to suit individual preferences and purposes.

Formal clinical studies of paleolithic diets are few and far between, and those that do exist, while promising, are very small.

NB:  It is unclear to me whether nuts and seeds, which are permitted on paleolithic diets, are any healthier for us than grains and beans, since these foods are all quite similar. For more information about this question, please see the grains/beans/nuts/seeds page.

Excellent on-line support and resources for paleolithic diets include:

Mark’s Daily Apple

The Paleo Diet

To read about other popular diets visit to the Diets page.

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  • Des

    Hi Dr. Ede, what does your diet consist of (more or less)? Do you eat 3 square meals, are you low carb, or Paleo?

  • I would not necessarily recommend my diet to the general population, because I have numerous food sensitivities. Suffice it to say that it is a low-carb Paleo diet tailored to my own unique requirements.

  • Des

    Hi Dr. Ede, I’m playing devils advocate here, but weren’t there reports about folks dying on Atkins diets?

    • I had not been aware of reports of death, so I did a quick Google search and found one case report of a 16-yr old who died of an arrhythmia, apparently associated with electrolyte imbalances. Without knowing more details, I can’t say what may have happened, although I would also not necessarily say that the typical Atkins diet is healthy–as with any diet, it really depends on the composition of the diet. There is ample evidence that simply restricting carbohydrate in and of itself is safe. If you know of other reports, please let me know.

  • Des

    Would blending a banana and some blueberries in coconut milk be an insulin overload for someone who is starting to eat more meat and FAR fewer veggies but is concerned about carbs causing acne?

    • It really depends on the individual, so you’d have to try it out and see.

  • Hi Dr. Ede,

    I am curious what you think about Paul Jaminet’s work about safe starches. My guess is that you don’t agree with it, but I am just wondering if it is actually possible to be in ketosis while also consuming starch with meals, as long as you are supplementing with medium chain triglycerides and L-Leucine? Obviously his plan wouldn’t be helpful for someone who reacts badly to vegetables, rice, or potatoes, but just wondering about the science behind staying in ketosis while consuming them.

    • Hi Elaine

      I have not read his book, and would be very curious to know what scientific references he uses to support his hypothesis. I can say with certainty, however, that nobody NEEDS starches (or any dietary carbohydrates) to be healthy, some people tolerate starches much better than others, and some people should not eat any starch at all. That being said, whether a particular individual can remain in ketosis while eating some starch would likely depend a) on the individual and b) on the amount of starch eaten. The only way to know if you can remain in ketosis while eating starches is to do those experiments on yourself:)

      • Thanks! It’s an interesting theory but I feel like his advice might be entirely based on what works for him and not what would work for the majority of the population with carbohydrate intolerance.

      • Nicholas Kollgaard

        I thought carbs were a macro that simply put, give the body energy? I.e. athletes consume a heck of a lot of carbs. Would you recommend a normal healthy person switch to a Paleo diet also?

        • Hi Nicholas

          Yes, our bodies can certainly derive energy from carbohydrates–we are capable of extracting energy from all macros–protein, fat and carbs. The big question is–which macro is the best source of energy for us? Those who study ketogenic diets claim that fat is the most efficient fuel and also the macro that is least likely to damage the body in the process of being burned.

          Your second question is not really about carbs, it’s about Paleo for healthy people–good question. The Paleo Diet includes plenty of carbohydrates in the form of fruits, starchy vegetables, seeds and nuts, and even very sweet natural foods such as honey, so it is not a low-carbohydrate diet. The Paleo Diet excludes grains, legumes, dairy, and modern/processed foods, including refined carbohydrates such as corn syrup. My personal opinion is that everyone can benefit from removing those foods from their diet because I find lots of evidence that those foods are damaging to our health.

          • Nicholas Kollgaard

            Thanks for your response. It will probably be too difficult for me to radically go from high-carb intake to complete Paleo, but I will certainly give it a shot and try my best to cut out the stuff explained and increase egg, meat, fish and and try to stick only to carbs that you mentioned.

            Will see how this effects my gains in the gym.

            What about sweet potato?

          • Sweet potato is included in a Paleo Diet, as are all vegetables.

  • Mar

    Dear Dr. Ede

    I have dysbiosis, I don’t tolerate milk, I have constipation and my
    gums are reseeding. The thing is that I am already skinny and I am loosing more
    weight. Do you recommend to something to eat healthy and still with
    some carbs/energy? I don´t eat fruits now, then I will lose even more
    weight. My boyfriend is scare and he thinks that I have mental problems
    like anorexia, he doesn’t believe me.
    I am looking forward to hearing from you

    • Dear Mar,
      I hope you are working with a knowledgeable physician on these very important symptoms, because everyone’s situation is unique. Without being able to conduct a complete medical and nutritional evaluation, it is difficult to provide you with meaningful and safe advice. I hope you have have been tested for Celiac disease and other diseases which can cause absorption problems. The only feedback I can provide that may be useful is to say that it is very important to make sure you are eating enough fat, whether or not you eat carbs. One common mistake some people make when trying Paleo diets and low-carb diets is to eat a low-fat diet. Fat is easy to absorb, high in calories, and should prevent weight loss unless you have a medical condition that interferes with absorption. If you do eat carbs, stick to root vegetables (and fruits if you can tolerate them). Please also see my blog post about constipation to see if any of the foods you are eating are contributing to your symptoms.

  • Nan

    Dear Dr. Ede, at last I’ve gone paleo — for about 5 weeks now. Less than 30 (net) carbs a day. No dairy. Not much of anything but meat, fish, some sprouts, and some nuts (not too many!). Weight is starting to come off and energy is good. Better late than never.
    Thanks for such an informative site.

    • Congratulations, Nan, glad to hear about your success!

  • Stephanie

    Dr. Ede,
    I stumbled upon your site and find it encouraging. As a suffer of: Crohn’s disease, anxiety, wheat and corn allergy and gluten sensitivity, your research is very interesting. After having my two young children, I went through pretty sever PPD. I started back on an SSRI after d/c during pregnancy, but eventually the depression hit me full force. I also had quite a few characteristics that were concerning to me, such as intrusive thoughts, brain fog and attention issues. I decided to dig a little deeper and met with a Psychiatrist. He was convinced that I had ADD, and suggested these tests: OATS, IgG, and the Walsh Protocol (I presume you are familiar?) As it turns out, my IgG revealed mild-moderate issues with dairy, severe issues with wheat items and bakers/brewers yeast as well as 10.69 on the candida Albicans scale (mod-high). The Walsh revealed slightly low histamine, overmythelation, and mildly elevated free copper. OATS showed extremely low levels of ascorbic c acid (thus absorption issues). I will be taking oral nystatin x1 month, Vitamin C, Pyridox Plus, P5P, Zinc, B12, Folacal, Formula SF722. I was encouraged to continue taking Lexapro. I am relieved with these results, given years of feeling like something wasn’t right, but I’m also overwhelmed as I didn’t realize how much my gut and seemingly good diet (GF, corn free, no processed sugars or sodas, 70% organic) would be the culprit of such harm and need to change. Any insights into my current situation would be appreciated! Again, thanks for your informative site! Stephanie

    • Dear Stephanie

      So glad you find the site useful and thank you kindly for sharing your history here. I am familiar with Walsh’s book, which is interesting, but unfortunately not detailed enough for me to form an opinion about his recommendations, therefore I’d be very interested to hear if the protocol you are now trying helps you to feel better down the road. While I do not doubt his findings that many people with mental health issues have chemical imbalances that can be determined with blood tests, I am more interested in what the underlying cause of those imbalances are and how we can perhaps address them with food as opposed to special supplements.

      A few general thoughts, for whatever they’re worth. If you do have symptoms of ADHD, you may find my series of posts about diet and ADHD interesting:

      Also, a significant number of women who experience post-partum depression ultimately do poorly on SSRI’s such as Lexapro and may do better on a mild mood stabilizing antidepressant such as Lamictal (keeping in mind that every situation is unique and I’m not recommending you change your medicine, only that you and your psychiatrist take into consideration the possibility that Lexapro may be either not working at all anymore or even making it hard to recover from the depression). This pattern is more common in people with depression who have a close relative with bipolar disorder.

      Candida is a topic I’d love to research and write about in the future, but for now I’ll just wonder if you have ever tried or considered trying a low-carbohydrate diet that temporarily eliminates all sugars and starches in addition to those containing gluten and corn, i.e. removes root vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, etc. to see how that may affect your mood and other symptoms. There is some information about how low carbohydrate diets may stabilize mood in my post about bipolar disorder:

      I sincerely hope you feel better soon and feel free to update us about your progress if you feel comfortable doing so.

      P.S. the photo is lovely!

  • matty gyenis

    Hi Dr Ede

    I am not sure how active this site is as I see the last post over a year ago but I came across your site and found it interesting. I recently discovered a health group off Facebook called the Zero Carb Health which in tales no carbs or sugar. never thought I would ever do this but I took a chance and decided I would give it a try as my body was out of control with the excess sugar cravings and all I wanted to eat ever was carbs. I can honestly say I can go 4 days and not even have a stick of protein. when I started to realize that I was doing this more and more and the weight was never coming off (how could it come off when I was consuming all this sugar) I am 48 years old and 5 feet tall woman and heaviest weight was 165 which I held on for a over a year
    before I stared the ZC on May 17, 2016 I weighed in a 160 and I am now 8 days in…still new of course but wow the difference I feel is incredible. I am not a stranger to diets that is for sure but I feel this is not a diet. I am completely satisfied and NOT hunger deprived. My diet for now consists of All Meat, chicken, fish pork, eggs, butter, cream, anything that has NO Sugar and NO carbs. it was easier than I thought to give it up ..I guess I was completely ready for a change…and what a change it has been. I have lost 8 pounds so far I am down to 151.4

    so my question would be how long if I eat this way will my cholesterol be affected?

    I have no underlining issues with my cholesterol and I also have stopped sharing to others family and friends what I am doing as this is not going to be a lifestyle for me but rather than a kick start to eating healthy. once I feel I am at a good point in my journey I will bring back certain veggies and only limited my fruit to berries to lower the sugar intake in my body.
    any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated

    • Hi Matty

      Sorry for the delay in getting back to you! Congratulations on your health success–that’s wonderful! It is perfectly safe to eat a zero-carb diet for the rest of your life if you wish. As for cholesterol, that’s a complicated topic but the bottom line is that you want to pay attention to your triglycerides and your HDL, not your total cholesterol or LDL, both of which give nearly meaningless information when it comes to heart health. For more information about lab values please see my post on insulin resistance, which includes a PDF of lab tests and healthy ranges:

  • Germana

    What’s your diet of choice? I mean, what’s the perfect diet? [I know this might be impossibe to answer, but tell me the diet that is closest to ideal you can thnik of, please!]
    I used to be paleo, but when I gave up smoking I went crazy and couldn’t control my diet anymore. Now, almost a year later, I feel I can get back to some eating plan… I’d like the best possible one, that’s why I’m here asking. I couldn’t find an entry here about it. I’d be really happy if you could shed a light here for me! Cheers!

  • Ellen Marie Lauricella

    Hi – I have recently begun a paleo diet to deal with diverticulitis, joint pain, interstitial cystitis and plantar faciitis. I have no thyroid due to thyroid cancer when I was in my 20’s. I have felt good on the diet. However, I have been a little concerned about the effect of a paleo diet for people who do not have a thyroid. There seem to be some conflicting reports on this. Do you have any diet information for people who have no thyroid?

Last Modified: Sep 3, 2015