Paleo or primal diet what's the difference-min

A Primal Diet, Or a Paleo Diet?

This way of eating, this lifestyle, is given so many names. You might follow a Paleo Diet or a Primal Diet – or perhaps you eat an Ancestral Diet or eat like a Caveman?

Does it matter what it’s called? And do the different terms even refer to the same way of eating?

Paleo Diet

The term “Paleo Diet” was coined by Loren Cordain and originally had a far less liberal stance on Saturated Fats. He has now updated his books on this and on the use of sweeteners, to the popular “Paleo Diet” followed by many today. Robb Wolf has also played a significant role in popularising the Paleo Diet as it is today.

As well as avoiding grains and legumes, Paleo also avoids dairy. In the Paleo community strict adherence to a Paleo diet is recommended for at least 30 days. After this period foods can slowly be re-introduced and any impact assessed to determine which foods have a detrimental effect and should be avoided in the future.

Primal Diet

The Primal BluePrint way of eating is from the book, written by Mark Sisson – and is much more than just nutrition. The plan places as much importance on movement, lifting heavy things, reducing stress, sleeping properly and getting some sunshine as it does on nutrition. Nutritionally Primal is very similar to Paleo in the avoidance of grains and legumes; dairy is where they differ. A Primal way of eating includes dairy – though it is recommended that it is raw dairy; from grass-fed Ruminants, un-pasturised and ideally fermented. Lacto-Paleo is another term used to describe eating a Paleo style diet, but with the inclusion of dairy.

The jury is still very much out on dairy. The growth hormones such as IGF-1 and the insulin response are behind the refusal of many, to include dairy in their diets. A lot of people find they don’t tolerate dairy well, which is reason enough to avoid it!

Paleo or primal diet what's the difference-min

Ancestral Diet

This term can apply to any form of Paleo, but I hear this term used more amongst the scientific/ research pockets of the community.

Caveman Diet

This is the term almost exclusively used by the mainstream media when talking about any type of eating that touches on Paleo. The term “Caveman Diet” is usually accompanied by photos of cavemen, Fred Flintstone or semi-naked people eating raw meat! When people talk about a Caveman Diet, they seem to assume it’s required to act like a caveman too and don’t realise it’s about science, not re-enacting cavemen! I would never refer to a Paleo or Primal way of eating in this way, but ultimately if it raises awareness amongst more people, I guess it doesn't matter what it’s called!

There are a lot of descriptions of ways of eating that have similarities to Paleo. I think a gluten-free diet could come close (though I think many people avoid gluten, but replace it with other undesirable refined grains and processed foods). The Atkins diet is also commonly assumed to be Paleo – and whilst there are similarities, it’s very possibly to follow Atkins eating nothing but junk food; not Paleo! A Weston A Price way of eating also has many similarities.

How do you describe how you eat? Do you avoid using labels like “the Paleo diet” or “the Primal diet”?

Paleo Cookbooks cavemanfeast paleo-recipe-book
11 replies
  1. Rebecca
    Rebecca says:

    I try not to label it at all, or even speak of it. If I had to, I would just say I eat eat ‘real food’ and not call it a ‘diet’.
    It’s all too hard. In my experience people really aren’t interested in a way of eating that is longer than a few weeks. To eat in a certain way, for ever, it’s usually too much for most people. And that’s even assuming that they are interested enough to even ask. Say the word ‘diet’ in any sentence and unless it’s a ‘Womans Weekly latest starvation diet’ they are just not interested. Which is fine by me. Come to me when you want answers to real paleo questions, and I will talk our ear off.

    • Suz
      Suz says:

      Completely agree Rebecca, labels often really put people off – and make it seem like something for the short-term – which Paleo isn’t!

  2. Prahran Personal Trainer
    Prahran Personal Trainer says:

    Just found this website.. great information guys, people in find today are realising the benefits of whole foods. We are primal beings and we are designed to eat unprocess grains, vegatables and meats. Work with what your body needs, it’s common sense guys!

  3. Crystal
    Crystal says:

    For myself I don’t like the term “diet”
    It instantly gets my back up when (well-meaning) people ask me if I am “still on that diet”
    I tend to think of this as more of a lifestyle.
    But I do often do find myself using the labels because it helps people to understand.
    Like Rebecca, I find the simplest way can be to call what I eat “real food” …list what I eat “all meat, veggies, eggs, nuts, fish, berries”, tack on a “all the food you know you should be eating anyway :)”
    and finish with a “really, it is about cutting out processed and refined foods”

    • Dennis Daniels
      Dennis Daniels says:

      Hi Crystal. ( my daughter is Crystal.)
      I find the same problem when trying to get people to eat better and to try and improve the soils in their vineyard. Being 67 I have met a lot of people in that time and am suprised by the amount that have died way to young. So I keep trying.
      Remember, there is none so blind as those who will not see!!
      Regards Dennis.

  4. Dennis Daniels
    Dennis Daniels says:

    To Prahran personal trainer. The problem with using common sense is it can’t be measured.
    Grains contain phytic acid which prevents the body from absorbing minerals. I started weight training when 15 years old and am now 67. Having 5 children, all athletes I have spent a lifetime of studying health to advise my kids. Their achievements range from Aust champ in judo, black belt in karate, running back to back Commrades race in Africa ( 89 km ) and have just completed the great wall of China Marathon. I have tried to keep them on a healthy diet, not so different from the Paleo diet.

    I spent 20 years as an Ambulance Paramedic and the last 14 years as a wine grape grower in the Clare Valley. Seeing the medication some patients were using I always believed there was a better way. When I started using sustainable methods in the vineyard about 8 years ago I learnt more about foods than I had ever known. Since the early 60s our soil is so depleted because of acidic chemical fertilisers that most of our foods contain up to 80% less nutrients than 50 years ago. It is stated that we need to eat approx 9 times the amount of vegetables to get the same benefit. Magnesiun, a mineral that performs about 300 functions in our body is down to about 20% in most foods. When these so called experts say all you need is fresh fruit and vegetables it really pisses me off. More emphasis should be placed on producing quality foods . I’m feeling tired from all this typing I need some energy food.
    Regards Dennis.

    • Suz
      Suz says:

      Thanks for your comments Dennis! Your children are so lucky they had you advising them so well; that would have played a huge part in their successes. Congratulations on the Marathon – what an amazing achievement!

  5. Marjorie Fair
    Marjorie Fair says:

    Hello Everyone,
    My name is Marjorie and I’m new to your site and to the Paleo diet so I hope to learn a lot from you all. I have been on this diet now for about two weeks and I’m feeling great since I gave up the grains and legumes, today I have given up the dairy and so has my husband who is only just beginning to take it very seriously. I live out in the never never at Dirranbandi in Qld so I do have problems getting the organic foods that the diet calls for, I am hoping some one can give me some clues as to where I can buy organic on the web and get it delivered to Dirranbandi. I have enjoyed reading all of your posts and look forward to hearing from you.
    Best Regards

    • Suz
      Suz says:

      Great to have you on board Marjorie!

      There are quite a few companies who deliver in Qld – it’s just a question of whether they cover your area.

      Have you signed up for my newsletter yet (see the box on the right -> it come with a free downloadable guide to Paleo in Australia, which has some contacts for suppliers in Queensland (and all around Australia)

      Good Luck!

  6. Regan
    Regan says:

    Dennis, I know your pain. Growing up, I always had a backyard garden with fresh peas, tomatos, summer squash, zuchini, eggplant, and so on. We lived in the west gulf costal plain part of arkansas, so our veggies always tasted wonderful and ripe and delicous. We rotated crops and added compost every fall and we did weeding/ pest picking by hand. These supermarket tomatos are just plain gross, with NO flavor. I’m assuming that’s from what you’re talking about with the depleted soils. And don’t even get me started on strawberries and how bad they taste from stores.


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