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Paleo Diet: The Basics

Take your diet old school. Discover the Paleo diet and learn why it's a popular choice for many dieters.

When you hear the term Paleo diet, think cavemen in the Paleolithic Era. The diet is essentially about eating whole, natural foods, consisting primarily of meat, fruit, vegetables, and nuts; while avoiding grains, dairy, and processed sugar and fats.

The basic idea is that our bodies are most efficient at processing and digesting the same types of foods our ancient ancestors were eating back when our bodies were evolving, during the millions of years before agriculture introduced processed foods into our diet.

    What's the Difference between Paleo and Low-Carb Diets?

    Both Low-Carb and Paleo diets include meat. Most low-carb diets emphasize eating as much meat and dairy as you want. The Paleo diet, however, does not include dairy and emphasizes lean meats (there were no chubby, grain-fed gazelles out on the savanna), plus loads of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil. In keeping with its emphasis on whole, natural foods, Paleo cuts out sugar substitutes and low-carb cereal bars, which low-carb diets often allow. Also, the Paleo diet emphasizes eating meat from 100% grass-fed animals and avoiding meat from animals raised on grain-based diets. Low-carb diets tend not to make this distinction.

    Benefits of the Paleo Diet

    For some, the Paleo diet is a good weight-loss option because it reduces cravings and keeps you feeling full longer. And if you’re feeling full, you’re less likely to indulge in junk food and sweets. But the Paleo diet is not just a plan for weight loss; it’s intended to be a healthy lifestyle that many follow in order to reduce their risk of certain ailments. Some health benefits which have been associated with the Paleo diet: improved cardiovascular health, decreased risk of diabetes, reduced allergies, sustained energy and blood sugar levels, clearer skin, an improved ability to sleep, and a general improvement of mood.

    Is the Paleo Diet Right for You?

    If you are looking to curb your cravings for food high in sugar, fat, and salt, the Paleo diet might be a good option. You can always try this way of eating for two weeks and see if it works for you! At any rate, simply cutting back on sugars and heavily refined foods is a smart way to go.

    More paleo recipes:

    Paleo-Friendly Videos

    One thing paleo people didn’t have? Great grilling videos to help them tame the flames. Score one for us moderns.

    By Mia Trost, Healthy Content Editor

      Aug. 29, 2012 10:40 pm
      Thank you for this article! Perfect balance and great to find so many links to delicious recipes. I have bookmarked the page and am looking forward to trying them all!
      Aug. 30, 2012 5:04 am
      Great article. My husband and I do a combination of this with no carb. It really works, and my body absolutely is more efficient and energized on it. We don't do it all year round, but it's become a regular way to maintain a more healthy overall life.
      Aug. 30, 2012 6:01 am
      65 lbs in 7 1/2 months. It works. My blood sugar is normal (5.7 A1C)and I was off type II diabetes meds after 3 weeks. It certainly works great with my body chemistry!
      Sep. 3, 2012 6:02 am
      Perfect summary of the Paleo Diet. I lost 15 lbs in 3 months, my blood pressure dropped 6 points and my blood sugar went from a "little high" back to normal. Certainly a life style diet. Thank you for such a great article.
      Sep. 10, 2012 4:00 pm
      I will be embarking on this new diet/lifestyle next week! I need a change, and this sounds like it will benefit my whole family. We need to start being healthier for our kids, and teach our kids to be healthy too. Can't wait to see some weightloss results as well!
      Sep. 19, 2012 8:43 pm
      Are beans allowed? I don't think it sounds healthy for long term eating without any fiber other than from fruit and vegetables. Whole grain bread was a biblical staple. I don't mind going without it for a short time, but I don't see the benefits of never having these whole grains in your diet. They do have great purpose.
      Sep. 20, 2012 11:39 pm
      cjtaybaker, has some good info about the problems associated with grains, legumes,dairy, etc. Beans and dairy don't cause issues for me if do them in moderation (I live in Europe and have access to great raw milk cheese). However, after doing the Whole 30 plan (strict paleo for 30 days) and then reintroducing different foods, I discovered wheat is the devil for me. If I stay off it, I have no sinus infections or joint pain. When I let it creep back in, the old problems come back. There's lots of literature out now explaining how modern wheat has been genetically altered in the last few decades and coincides with a rise in many autoimmune related illnesses and diabetes.
      Sep. 26, 2012 9:19 am
      @cjtaybaker - I beg to differ! Here's a great article for you to read:
      Nov. 9, 2012 12:35 am
      As a Celiac and a lactose intollerant this has been working out rather well for me. Down 60 pounds and being monitored by my DR. Type 2 Diabetic in the mix. Real butter and real cream allowed. Milk sugars in skim, etc were really causing me problems. I find if I stick with fresh whatever I do better. Especially careful about cleaning skin of all fruits and vegetables. Vinegar has become our best friend for cleaning and killing weeds in the garden.
      Dec. 27, 2012 5:05 am
      Just getting started..need suggestions for MENU PLANS on the Paleo diet please...thanks!
      Dec. 27, 2012 6:03 am
      Thanks for acknowledging the Paleo Diet as distinct. I began a Paleo regime Feb 2012 and have been >80% compliant. The biggest difference for me has been the increase in protein. I am rarely hungry and the fruits and veges fill my refrig. I am a 61 yr old, 157#, Triathlete.
      Nancy P 
      Dec. 27, 2012 6:45 am
      I started eating Paleo style 4 months ago; weight loss is slow due to having no thyroid, but I AM losing. More importantly, I feel much better and clearly 'process' my food much more efficienty. No more tummy aches, constipation or diarhrea.
      Dec. 27, 2012 7:29 am
      would love to start this diet, have high blood pressure and high cholesterol. i am good about s diet plan. do u have one.
      Dec. 27, 2012 8:04 am
      Hubby has problem with gout. Been advised to eat very little protien. Does anyone have experience with this paleo lifestyle and a gout problem?
      Dec. 27, 2012 10:26 am
      Interesting! We met a young man who lost over 30lbs easily on this diet while we were on vacation last summer and here it is! All spelled out for us..thanks!
      Dec. 27, 2012 5:26 pm
      To Zettiejac This diet is based on meat which is protein rich. This diet limits the amount of carbohydrates or simple sugars that a person consumes. You might want to speak with a registered dietician for more information.
      Dec. 28, 2012 4:08 am
      Doing this with my mom this year. I'm a runner and cutting out dairy has always helped my performance.
      Dec. 29, 2012 10:13 am
      This might be the food change I've been looking for. We recently were following a no meat/fish/dairy diet style and I found myself very unhappy. I had no problem giving up the dairy products, processed foods, etc. But after about a month or two I broke down crying wanting a steak-maybe my body was trying to tell me something? I think incorporating meats back into my food style will be beneficial-and help me keep up with the great fruit and veggie recipes I've learned to enjoy as well. Anxious to give this a try.
      Jan. 6, 2013 8:09 am
      I'm at a point in my life where my body is breaking down. My labs are great as of Nov 7, 2012, but I don't feel well. I 'stumbled' upon this during a Kindle search ... I've been looking for new ways to lose weight and feel better without going on a 'diet' because I don't believe diets work - it's a lifestyle change. This looks like it fits the bill and it makes sense. There's a lot of information out there on Paleo (also under caveman diet). I'm going to do this for at least 14-30 days ... see what happens after that. I have nothing to lose (but weight) and everything to gain (health, energy, confidence, joy).
      Jan. 7, 2013 10:21 pm
      If your in Portland, you can check this place out. Their facebook page has a lot of info too.
      Jan. 10, 2013 1:09 am is a fantastic site too! I drool over her food and she's funny! She isn't strict so it's perfect for a newbie like me to get great ideas and not feel like a total failure when I make a decision to eat something "not paleo". ENJOY!
      Jan. 12, 2013 8:08 am
      It's terrific that you've recognized the Paleo method. Thank you for these new recipes! We've been eating Paleo for almost a year. The 1 thing we struggle with are lunches, especially for my daughter to take to school. I'd welcome ideas!
      Feb. 6, 2013 6:23 am
      Brother lost 35 lbs on this it's my turn. Great job GBMAESTRO (normal a1c is awesome!!! Your success is a motivation for me.)
      jim h 
      May 7, 2013 7:24 pm
      Started Paleo in late Dec. 12 for diabetes and blood pressure reasons. No longer do I have to take any meds for either. The 68 lb weight loss has cost me though.... in new clothes. I will never go back! @cjtaybaker, legumes are pretty much a no no. Yes they have proteins but they also chock full of lectins. Green beans and snow peas are somewhat OK in Paleo because you eat the husks. A great place to learn much about the primal lifestyle including Paleo dieting is Grok On!
      May 22, 2013 7:58 pm
      Eliminating diary eliminates good sources of calcium, which is good for the bones and preventing osteoporosis. And diet has played a factor in why our "ancient ancestors" died early. Also it has been found mummies had signs of heart disease. It is all about a balance and moderation people. Diets don't work in the long run!!
      May 22, 2013 8:43 pm
      Thank you Thank you for these recipes! I will try some of these! As far as some of the comments about diary. I drink Almond milk if I feel the desire for milk. I have only been on this diet/lifestyle for a week now. No weight loss yet but I am almost 57 yrs. old. I figure it will take me a lot longer since I am older & a female, & I am a 2 mile a day- walker only, & Not an athlete for sure. I hope this new endeavor works for me. Thanks again.
      May 23, 2013 7:36 am
      I have been Paleo for almost 2 years now and I can't imagine living any other way. The benefits are endless! Check out for meal plans, info and great recipes to help make the transition or Paleo lifestyle that much easier.
      May 23, 2013 8:07 am
      Thank you for this Great New Lifestyle, i have beendet on Paleo for about two Months now and Feeling Great! Type 2 Diabetic and High Blood preasure + 20 lbs. Over weight. Now i'm reducing the Meds and have lost 10 lbs. Its a Good Feeling .Thanks
      May 23, 2013 2:42 pm
      A great resource for paleo ideas and wonderful recipes is She has a new cook book coming out this summer too.
      Jun. 20, 2013 2:58 pm
      Thank you for these ideas! Make sure your readers know that cooking grass-fed beef is WAY different from grain-finished beef.
      Jul. 18, 2013 12:21 pm
      I switched to this lifestyle 4 months ago and its helped me break through my plateau and lose the last 15 pounds. The additional benefits include more energy, better sleep, less sinus issues, and clearer skin. I also introduced items back in after the first 2 weeks and found that wheat, even sprouted grains just tears my stomach up. I can tolerate full fat Greek yogurt and eat it 2X a week or cook with it. Now I'm just maintaining - but I find this lifestyle so easy - shopping is easy, meal prep is easy and the hubby loves it two - he's down about 10 lbs in a month.
      Aug. 2, 2013 5:17 am
      I would love to have a special tab or file location for Paleo recipes on It's too difficult to locate them now and I've had to use random web searching instead.
      Nov. 8, 2013 8:34 am
      I'd also like to see Paleo recipes added to the site as a collection rather than having to search for them individually.
      Dec. 7, 2013 7:51 am
      My husband has been following this diet plan for 5 weeks but didn't even know it had a name. He has lost over 20 lbs, looks great and feels great. His naturopath has said no sugar at all so no fruit for now as he is fighting cancer. He also takes apple cider vinegar with every meal.
      Aug. 31, 2014 2:14 am
      While I agree with a great deal of what in theory this "diet" is about, I don't at all believe in dieting! I've managed to lose 150 lbs & kept it off for 12 yrs, this was after every diet on the planet didn't work, actually I lost 60 lbs & gained back 80...not a goal! By the way, to the comment Re: needing dairy for calcium, I switched to unsweetened almond milk just because it was 1/4 the calories of skim milk & has more calcium than cows, plus yum! Meanwhile I ran out for a few days & had an upset tummy, couldn't figure out what was different (?) I was consuming cows milk, wow who knew? Listen I did this all on my own, a lot of common sense; research;holistic; know? Use your brain, I've evolved with the explosion of this international view we have now on health & ageing...we simply cannot stay stuck in the old way of doing things, THIS IS 2014, WAKE UP! READ the labels on that you're eating...get off your behind & start to care about yourself & your family! I look at th
      Mar. 1, 2015 4:19 pm
      Thank you for the great recipes. I really love Oven Kalua Pork and Tarragon Tuna Steaks.
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