Paleolithic Diets

food

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

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

POTENTIAL BENEFITS:

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).

POTENTIAL PROBLEMS:

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

RobbWolf.com

To read about other popular diets and compare them to each other, go to the diets homepage.

 

 

  • 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?

  • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

    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?

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      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?

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

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

  • http://www.facebook.com/snooptaco Elaine Shields

    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.

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      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:)

      • http://www.facebook.com/snooptaco Elaine Shields

        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?

        • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

          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?

          • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

            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

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      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.
    Nan

    • http://diagnosisdiet.com/ Dr. Ede

      Congratulations, Nan, glad to hear about your success!

Last Modified: Oct 23, 2012 at 8:33am