Wait, what's Paleo (or Primal or Ancestral)?

Whole foods: veggies, nuts & seeds, meat, and fruit

Whole foods: veggies, nuts & seeds, meat, and fruit

It was brought to my attention that my post a couple of weeks ago about my recipes being Paleo/Primal/Ancestral could have benefitted from an explanation of terms. Let me quickly apologize and immediately rectify that situation.

Paleo, Primal and Acestral are all shades of the same eating style. They encourage eating the foods that our (Paleolithic) ancestors ate. They focus on whole foods: vegetables, meats, healthful fats, fruits, nuts and seeds; and they all avoid processed foods, sugars, alcohol and grains. They differ on specific aspects – dairy is a big one – but they all try to promote a return to eating in the manner in which we evolved. They also all generally allow for some measure of “wiggle room,” meaning that they suggest that you only need to adhere to the diet 80% of the time (of course 100% adherence would be best for health.) 

Vegetables

Vegetables

Meat

Meat

Seeds and Nuts

Seeds and Nuts

Fruit

Fruit

Paleo is short for Paleolithic diet. The concepts around the Paleolithic diet have been around for a while but most recently they were popularized by Loren Cordain, Ph.D. in his book The Paleo Diet, which was first published in 2002. A great online resource to better understand the concepts can be found on Robb Wolf’s site The Paleo Diet has really become popular in the last few years, probably in large part due to the exercise movement CrossFit. 

Primal is short for the Primal Blueprint. This was created by Mark Sisson and probably differs most from the Paleo Diet in its approach to saturated fat and artificial sweeteners. The Primal Blueprint also has a more nuanced approach to dairy. The best place to find more information about it is the Mark’s Daily Apple post Primal Blueprint 101

Ancestral is a term that is used to describe any diet that focuses on eating the foods of our ancestors. It hasn’t really been “codified” into a specific “diet” per-se. Paleo and Primal are both considered Ancestral Diets, however many other eating styles could also be considered Ancestral. If you know that your family came from a region that was cold and primarily subsisted on meat, fat and dairy, your body is probably better adapted to those things and could handle more of them than others could. Ancestral eating is rather more complex than Paleo and Primal and requires a greater understanding of evolution, the history of food, and your own history than most people have time for.

While there are lots of people who follow these diets, there are plenty of people who think that they are just a fad. Others also question whether or not the data concerning what our Paleolithic ancestors ate is strong enough to base a diet around.

I think these people are missing the most important point. In the end these diets promote WHOLE, REAL FOODS. That’s really it, if it has to be highly processed, than it’s not on the list of foods to eat (and I would even question if some of these things should be called “food”.) If there is only one thing to take away from these diets, even if you don’t want to “proscribe” to them, it’s a return to eating real food. And what could be better than that?

What do you think of these different eating styles? Do you follow any of them? 

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Are your recipes Paleo (or Primal or Ancestral)?