A lot of us, especially who are starting the Paleo diet journey, believe that the terms Primal Diet and the Paleo Diet are interchangeable.
And what makes it even more confusing is that a lot of Paleo/Primal authors do not distinguish these two terms and even specify that it is basically the same diet.
But Is It So?
And if they are the same, why there are two terms circulating out there?
I am here to help you compare Primal Diet vs Paleo Diet and answer some main questions you may have, including:
Are the Primal Diet and the Paleo Diet the same?
If not, what is the difference between these two diets?
What Is Primal Diet?
Mark Sisson is a professional athlete, who finished in the top 5 at the National Marathon Championships, that qualified him for the 1980 US Olympic Trials.
But that is not all.
He also became one of the world’s renowned triathletes who competed in the Hawaiian Ironman and got the 4th place.
Once he finished his Olympic career he started to look into the way to still be fit though without intense training and at the same time to improve his health including the diseases he acquired from being a professional athlete (like arthritis, tendinitis, gastritis, sinusitis, etc).
The book became so popular that created a wave of the Primal Diet followers and lifestyle program that helped a lot of people to help reach their health and fitness goals.
The Primal Diet principles are based on the foods that our ancestors used to eat in the Paleolithic Era.
Similar to the Paleo Diet, it eliminates certain food groups that our bodies cannot digest properly and cause inflammation and other health issues. These food groups include all type of grains (including food containing gluten), sugar and processed foods.
The key point of the Primal Diet is that the foods should be consumed in its most natural ways.
What Are The Primal Guidelines?
As you probably know 80% of weight loss success is determined by diet.
The Primal Diet Guidelines are very similar to the Paleo Diet with certain differences.
The Primal Diet limits the processed foods intake (including processed carbohydrates) and increases the consumption of protein and fat.
Did you know that increased fat consumption may satisfy your hunger for a longer period of times?
The reason for that is that it is easier for our bodies to burn carbohydrates first. The problem with that is that our bodies can store a limited amount of carbohydrates. Now when those limits are burned we need more fuel to keep ourselves energetic.
Did you know that mother-nature actually created us to burn fat for fuel?
Yes, that is right.
Our bodies can store an unlimited amount of fat. Moreover, because the storage is quite big, it allows us to dig into the storage whenever our bodies need it the most.
Therefore the idea behind the Primal Diet is to replicate the paleolithic metabolism by burning fat as the first source of energy.
It is recommended to follow the following guidelines when it comes to the Primal Diet:
Depending on the activity level it is recommended consuming 0.7-1 gram per pound of lean body mass per day.
Freely available for consumption though should still consider the calorie intake.
Should be limited. It is recommended consuming for weight loss – 50-100 grams per day and for weight maintenance – 100-150 grams per day.
Foods to avoid
The Primal Diet does not recommend consuming anything that our ancestors did not eat. For example, did our ancestors have access to cookies, candies or even potato chips?
Other foods to exclude are:
- all grains, including wheat
- sugar (moderate amount of maple syrup, Stevie, and honey is allowed)
- processed foods
- refined vegetable oils
- legumes (including soy)
If you noticed the food list does not look too much restrictive compared with the Paleo Diet Food List. That gives you plenty of food options, including:
- meat and fish (meat does not have to be lean)
- vegetables and fruits
- nuts and seeds
- raw or fermented dairy, including milk and cheese
- pure maple syrup, Stevie, and raw honey.
It is preferable to buy organic foods, including vegetables, fruits, and eggs. It is recommended to buy grass-fed meat and poultry and wild-caught seafood whenever possible.
What Are The Benefits Of The Primal Diet?
The Primal Diet may offer similar to the Paleo Diet benefits including:
1. Weight Loss
A lot of people are looking to improve their health by decreasing their weight overall.
2. Help People with Diabetes
Because the Primal diet excludes refined foods, sugar and grains and fills up the plates with loads of vegetables, it may help to stabilize the blood sugar.
3. Improve Blood Pressure
One of the reasons for high blood pressure is weight excess. And because the Primal diet is so efficient with weight loss, it may also help to stabilize the blood pressure.
That in its turn may decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
4. Reduce Hunger
As I have mentioned earlier the Primal Diet teaches our body to use fat as the main source of energy.
And because our body has enough fat storage, it helps us feel full after each meal.
And what is more important it also allows us to go in between meals without snacking.
Both the Primal and the Paleo Diet receive a lot of criticism from the nutritionist experts due to the limited amount of research they are based on.
Though there are certain studies that show the benefits of the Paleo and Primal diets.
For example, one of the studies showed that people who followed the Paleo diet had improved glycemic control and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease as compared to people with type 2 diabetes who followed other diets (2).
Another study found that people who followed the Paleo diet for 12 weeks significantly improved their cognitive function, including less risk for dementia (3).
Yet more research needed to fully determine all the positive and negative effects of the Paleo diet on the dieters.
What Are The Differences Between The Primal And The Paleo Diet?
Both diets focus on eating the way our ancestors used to eat.
Both diets exclude foods like grains, sugar, and processed foods.
Even though both of the diets have a lot in common there are certain differences that allow us to distinguish one diet from another, including:
1. Fat consumption
The Paleo diet followers tend to limit their consumption of saturated fats. As a basic recommendation, it is recommended to buy lean meat and limit the consumption of the coconut oil.
The Primal diet does not have that kind of limitations. Instead, it encourages consuming saturated fats like coconut butter and grass-fed butter that fuels our body and allows it to burn not only external but also internal fat.
The Paleo diet does not recommend consumption of dairy at all, for the most part, due to causing inflammation to certain people.
The Primal diet, on the other hand, encourages full-fat dairy consumption.
3. Nightshade vegetables
It is recommended to limit the amount of nightshade vegetable consumption while following the Paleo diet. That includes the consumption of vegetables like potato, tomatoes, eggplant and bell pepper, as they may cause inflammation.
The Primal does not restrict the consumption of any type of vegetables. All vegetables are welcome on the Plate of the Primal Diet followers.
The Paleo diet restricts the consumption of legumes including beans and soybeans. Peanuts are considered as a type of legumes and are eliminated from the Paleo diet.
There are a couple of reasons why legumes are excluded from the Paleo diet.
One of the reasons is that it may cause inflammation.
Another reason is that legumes contain more carbohydrates. And because the Paleo diet restricts the carbohydrates consumption, it recommends excluding the legumes from the diet.
The Primal diet allows the legumes consumption as long as you can tolerate it.
The Paleo diet principles do not encourage coffee consumption in big amounts.
The Primal diet, on the other hand, is big on coffee consumption.
Which Diet To Chose?
The Primal Diet and the Paleo Diet share similar values.
Both of the diets refer to the food habits that our ancestors used to have and what our digestive system is designed to process.
Both of the diets eliminate certain foods like processed foods, grains and sugar.
However, despite the visible similarities the diets have certain differences. That includes the views on fat consumption (including full-fat dairy), nightshade vegetables, legumes, and coffee.
Some refer to the Primal diet as to the permanent lifestyle change. Though a lot of Paleo diet followers would also consider going Paleo as a lifestyle rather than the diet approach.
Here are my thoughts regarding which diet to choose.
If your primary goal is to improve your health, then start with the Paleo diet. The reason for that is by eliminating more food groups for at least 30 days you will allow your body to heal and figure out which foods you are intolerant to.
After 30 days you can start re-introducing foods like dairy and legumes to see if your body can tolerate them. If you are OK with them, then the Primal diet would be your new lifestyle.
If you figured out that you have an intolerance to dairy or legumes, them the Paleo diet principles might suit better your health goal needs.
What diet did you decide to follow?