The Paleolithic diet, also known as Paleo or Primal diet, is rooted in the belief that sticking to the food our caveman ancestors would have eaten leads to optimal health. This includes meat, fish, vegetables, wild fruits, eggs, nuts, and more. The goal of the Paleo approach is to consume the foods cavemen did millions of years ago, before the cultivation of grains and legumes, and well before the invention of processed, packaged foods. According to Paleo advocates, if a caveman wouldn’t eat it, modern people shouldn’t either.
The guidelines include eating a relatively high amount of healthy fat such as coconut oil, avocado, and olives. The diet is low-carb with vegetables (raw and cooked) being the primary source of carbohydrates. Animal protein, including its fat, should be included in the diet. Red meat, poultry, pork, eggs, and organ meat are all encouraged.
Some followers of this approach choose to emphasize vegetables and minimize meat; however, all devotees put a high premium on organic and grass-fed meats.
Fruits can be consumed but are generally limited since cavemen encountered these “treats” infrequently according to the diet protocol.
It’s also strongly encouraged to follow a vigorous exercise regimen, get plenty of vitamin D from the sun, and only eat when they’re truly hungry, just as our active outdoor ancestors did.
The Pegan Diet
On the flip side, there’s also the Pegan Diet, coined by Mark Hyman, MD, which combines the vegan and paleo diets. It’s primarily plant based with small amounts of grass-fed, organic meat, poultry, fish, and eggs included.
On this plan, vegetables and fruits are the centerpiece and animal foods act as more of a side dish or even a garnish. This can greatly increase the likelihood of meeting nutritional needs and mitigate inflammation and illness because meat and dairy are inflammatory foods.
The consumption of plants as primary and meat as secondary supports natural and gentle cleansing, assures consumption of nutrient dense foods, is better for the environment, provides a wide range of antioxidants, and is less expensive as organic, grass fed meats tend to be pretty expensive.
The Pegan approach can help with weight loss, fight chronic disease, improve skin health, improve digestion and gut health, and provide an exciting and varied diet by integrating two popular dietary schools of thought.
If you’re curious to try either of these ways of eating on for size, be sure to download the Paleo Cheat Sheet below.