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Is The Paleo Diet Meat or Plant-Based?

There is an unfortunate misconception about The Paleo Diet® that it is a primarily meat-based diet. Images abound of a brutish caveman (a term we don’t like here at The Paleo Diet) clubbing his food to death and eating it raw in a dark cave.

Unfortunately, that perception of the diet was furthered by a misinterpretation of one of Dr. Loren Cordain’s first studies where he noted that most hunter-gatherer societies that have been studied consumed over 50 percent of their food from animal sources versus plant sources. [1] It’s a misinterpretation because he was describing their diets by calorie, not by volume—and there’s a very big difference.

To give you a humorous analogy, if you went to a restaurant and the waiter handed you a plate with a very small piece of steak and a giant pile of broccoli, you wouldn’t say, “Well, that’s alright because calorically they’re about equal.” No, instead, you would hand the plate back to the waiter and steal that marketing slogan from the 1980s, exclaiming “Where’s the beef?!”

That’s because you’d be looking at the plate for the volume of items on it—and by volume or weight the Paleo Diet is primarily a plant-based diet.


[1] Cordain L, Miller JB, Eaton SB, Mann N, Holt SH, Speth and JD. Plant-animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71:682–92.

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The Paleo Diet® team consists of a group of scientists, journalists, experts, and recipe creators who stay at the forefront of nutrition science.

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Background on The Paleo Diet

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