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