Paleo One-Two-Three

Paleo One-Two-Three | The Paleo Diet

Dr. Cordain:

Thanks for getting back to me.

My assignment is to compare 10 diets, with total cost being a component.

I have just three basic questions, though No. 3 (cost) gets complicated. I have read a bit about the diet and could answer some of the questions from the website, but I hope to get it in your words.

1. What is the basic tenet of the Paleo Diet, the underlying principle?

2. How does the diet work? For some, food is provided by the plan. For others, the diet offers guidelines. Some go through several phases, while others don’t.

3. What does it cost to be on the diet? For the ones that provide packaged food, this is fairly simple to answer. My understanding is that the Paleo Diet doesn’t, so what I’m hoping to get from you is an idea of what a day, week or month on this diet costs. If you don’t have those figures, I hope you can provide guidelines so the shopper I’m working with and I can come up with a menu, go to a grocery store and see what following the diet would cost.

That’s it. Please me ask if anything here is confusing.




Dr. Cordain’s Response:

Hi Mike,

The answers to these basic questions can be gleaned from any of the major websites (mine, Robb Wolf’s and Mark Sisson’s) in more detail than you probably need. My brief answers are as follows:

1. The basic tenet is to try to eat contemporary foods from the food groups our pre-agricultural ancestors ate (i.e. fresh meats, poultry, eggs, preferably grass produced, fresh fish, fresh seafood, fresh fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds and healthful fats (olive oil, coconut oil). Avoid processed foods, cereal grains, dairy, legumes, refined sugars, refined oils and salt. The evolutionary concept is that our basic genome (including our nutritional requirements) was shaped over millions of years of evolutionary experience and has changed little in the 10,000 years since the advent of agriculture. Hence our bodies are well adapted to the ancient hunter gatherer environment, including foods that produced our current day genome. Recently introduced foods are discordant with our genome and this discordance elicts the diseases of cilvization which run rampant in western societies. Hence, for the first time since all humans were hunter gatherers, the most powerful concept in all of biology (evolution through natural selection) has finally been applied to the study of optimal human nutrition.

2. The diet works as explained above. It really is not a diet per se, but rather a lifetime plan of eating to optimize health and well being. The idea behind this way of life is quite simple as explained above, and the consumer is free to buy and eat healthful foods ad libitum. So food really is not provided, but rather the consumer makes the decision on which healthful foods to eat that are consistent with the basic guidelines.

I really don’t know what you mean by stages? People are encouraged to be compliant, but the plan doesnt require 100 % compliance. Most people experience significant health benefits with 85-95 % compliance.

3. I haven’t analyzed the specific cost, but this information is available from a number of blogs and websites which provide tips of how to make this lifelong health plan affordable (buy in bulk, go to farmers markets, buy poultry, eggs and grass fed beef directly from the farmer and eliminate the middleman, etc..). Further, the cost would vary around the country and by which foods are chosen. Humanity’s cheap foods are cereals (wheat, corn, rice), sugars, vegetable oils, margarine, refined sugars, largely because they are subsidized by the US government. In the long run health care costs are dramatically reduced by eating Paleo. Additionally, many processed foods are considerably more costly than real foods (a pound of M&Ms is more costly than a pound of carrots, celery or broccoli — the same can be said for most packaged breakfast cereals. A dozen free ranging eggs bought directly from the farmer typically cost less than a box of sugar frosted flakes. A pound of grass produced beef bought in bulk (1/4 or 1/2 side) from the producer is only frequently less costly than fancy cuts of fed lot produced beef.


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

About Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor Emeritus

Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor EmeritusDr. Loren Cordain is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. His research emphasis over the past 20 years has focused upon the evolutionary and anthropological basis for diet, health and well being in modern humans. Dr. Cordain’s scientific publications have examined the nutritional characteristics of worldwide hunter-gatherer diets as well as the nutrient composition of wild plant and animal foods consumed by foraging humans. He is the world’s leading expert on Paleolithic diets and has lectured extensively on the Paleolithic nutrition worldwide. Dr. Cordain is the author of six popular bestselling books including The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook, The Paleo Diet, The Paleo Answer, and The Paleo Diet Cookbook, summarizing his research findings.

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“3” Comments

  1. “A dozen free ranging eggs bought directly from the farmer typically cost less than a box of sugar frosted flakes.”

    Maybe in your world, but certainly not in mine!

    And buying in bulk can eventually cut costs, BUT….

    You must have a place to store it (freezers cost a lot of money which will take a long time to recoup), and that assumes that you have the extra money to buy in bulk in the first place.

    Let’s face it, although this is a much healthier way of eating, it’s a “rich man’s diet.” Which is unfortunate because it’s often the people that can’t afford to eat this way that have the most health risks from our “modern American diet.” And often can’t afford medical treatment for those problems, either.

    • Actually a dozen farmers eggs are the same or less than a package of frosted flakes or similar. Eggs cannot be stored in a freezer I do assume you have access to a fridge (otherwise there are more problems than diet issues) and I think you are taking things out of context. I eat extremely healthy and my food budget is at least 30% less than that of an average North American.

      The way I see it is the inability or un-willingness to know how to cook. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a country and time with absolutely no processed food. And I enjoy cooking. There is always a better way than “Frosted Flakes” and the food group they represent. Try to imagine that the foods you shoud not by and eat do not exist – you would have to deal with this fact or starve.

  2. I’ve been reading in different sources that taking more than 20% of our caloric intake as proteins raises the risk of cancer.

    Following the paleo diet, we’re probably a lot more thant 20%

    Can you give us mor knowledge on this issue ? I don’t remember if you mentioned this in The Paleo answer.

    Thank you for all.

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