The Paleolithic Diet, more often referred to as the Paleo Diet, focuses on lean proteins, vegetables and fruit, and healthy sources of fat, such as nuts, seeds, olive oil, fish, grass-fed and game meat, and avocados. The Paleo Diet omits all added sugars and processed foods high in sugar, starch, sodium, hydrogenated fats, and artificial flavors and colors, as well as all grains and legumes (beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils). In the words of Robb Wolf, one of the best-known advocates of the Paleo Diet, “if it’s not meat, fish, fowl, vegetables, fruits, roots, tubers or nuts…it’s a ‘no-go.’”
Paleo Diet advocate Dan Pardi has outlined five “versions” of the Paleo Diet, as presented in five popular books:
- The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain, summarized as limiting eggs to 12 or fewer per week, eating lean meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, and completely avoiding dairy.
- The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf, summarized as eating meats, fruits, vegetables, and nuts, with less focus on lean meats, and more focus on eating grass-fed or wild-caught meats and fish; and completely avoiding dairy.
- The New Evolution Diet by Art De Vany, summarized as eating one-third of the diet from raw vegetables and fruit, one-third cooked vegetables, and one-third meat or fish, with a focus on game meats, and organic, grass-fed meats.
- The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson, summarized as eating brightly-colored, organic, locally-grown vegetables and fruit, and a variety of organic, grass-fed, or wild-caught meats. You do not need to avoid eggs or animal fats such as lard and butter.
- The Perfect Health Diet by Paul Jaminet and Shou-Ching Jaminet, summarized as eating primarily plant foods by weight, and the bulk of calories, 65%, from fat. Fat sources should include omega-3s from salmon, sardines, and anchovies, and lesser amounts of omega-6 fats from grass-fed beef, grass-fed lamb, seafood, butter, coconut oil, palm kernel oil, cocoa butter, and macadamia nut butter.
Best bets: Base your diet around lean meats and fish, and eat plenty of green leafy vegetables and other colorful vegetables and fruit. Add in healthy fats from avocados, nuts, and seeds, and avoid all processed foods and food and beverages with added sugars.
More about this diet
The Paleo Diet was first popularized by Loren Cordain, PhD, a faculty member in the College of Health & Human Sciences at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. His original book, The Paleo Diet, was first published in 2002, and was revised, updated, and republished in 2011. Loren Cordain has published additional Paleo Diet books including a cookbook, and versions of the Paleo diet for weight loss and for athletes. The Paleo Diet surged in popularity when it was joined together with the CrossFit approach to exercise and fitness.
Other Paleo Diet variations emphasize lowering carbohydrates, though the exact amount that would be considered acceptable is not clearly defined. One possible definition of “low carbohydrate” could be anything below the United States Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations, which states carbohydrate intake should be 50 to 65% of total calories (250 to 325 grams of carbohydrate per day for a 2,000-calorie diet). Other advocates feel that the amount of carbohydrates in a Paleo Diet is less important than avoiding the “wrong” type of carbohydrates, such as grains and beans.