The Paleo Diet® | Key Concepts
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Key Concepts

One of the main tenets of The Paleo Diet® is to provide our physiology with foods that match our genetically determined nutritional requirements. These were established over a long period of human evolution long before both the agricultural and dairy revolution took place, let alone the industrial revolution which further drastically changed the human food supply away from our genetic requirements. These requirements have led to a number of key concepts that shape The Paleo Diet, and we address those concepts in this section.

The Evolutionary Approach

Human evolution occurred over 2.5 million years. During that span of time, the foods available to us have been inextricably linked to who we are genetically. Yet, 70 percent of the foods comprising our modern diet were introduced in the last 10,000 years. There simply hasn’t been ample time for evolution to keep pace with our rapidly changing diet. The Paleo Diet® helps us return to eating the foods we were designed to eat.

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Macronutrient Ratios Versus Foods

The Paleo Diet is about eating whole, nutrient-dense foods in line with our hunter-gatherer ancestors—fruits, vegetables, lean meats, eggs, fish, nuts, and seeds—and avoiding the foods they didn’t eat, such as refined grains and sugar. The resulting macronutrient ratio is a byproduct of healthy eating, not the goal.

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Sodium/Potassium Ratio

Sodium and potassium have a symbiotic relationship. They need to be consumed in a certain ratio, though many people are consuming a sodium-to-potassium ratio 10 times greater than it should be.

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Calcium/Magnesium Ratio

Want strong teeth and bones? Don't just up your calcium alone! Calcium and magnesium need to be taken in a certain ratio in order to maximize absorption. Many people are consuming a calcium-to-magnesium ratio more than twice what it should be.

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Omega-6/Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio

Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids should be consumed in a particular ratio. Sadly, many people are consuming an omega-6/omega-3 ratio fifteen times greater than it should be!

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Plant/Animal Ratio

There is a common misconception that The Paleo Diet® is an all-meat diet. In reality it is a balanced diet based on eating natural, minimally processed foods from plant and animal sources. By volume it is, in fact, primarily plant based.

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Anti-inflammatory Diet

The human immune system operates in every organ in our bodies, and certain components circulate throughout our bloodstream. The immune system uses inflammation to protect us from bacteria, viruses, parasites, molds, and foreign proteins, as well as to heal wounds. Ideally, such threats are neutralized, and the associated inflammation is resolved. When the inflammatory response remains unresolved and becomes a chronic issue, it can spread damage throughout the body.

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Nutrient Density

Central to the Paleo Diet® premise is the focus on natural nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, and lean meats while avoiding highly processed foods found on supermarket shelves that may be high in calories but are lacking in most everything else.

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Low Glycemic Load

The low glycemic load of The Paleo Diet® is one of its most important features. High-glycemic load diets, such as the Western diet, are unnatural and contribute to insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome, both of which are precursors to a variety of disorders including diabetes, heart disease, and acne.

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It’s Not Just About Substituting

One of the negative consequences of The Paleo Diet’s® popularity is that many self-labeled experts have put an inaccurate spin on what constitutes “Paleo.” Too many inflammatory, low nutrient-density products are being labeled “Paleo” simply because they have substituted a non-Paleo ingredient with a “Paleo” ingredient. That’s not how the diet works.

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Scientific Myths

At The Paleo Diet®, we love a good scientific debate, and we will always adjust our position when the science calls for it. The problem is, so many of the scientific criticisms leveled at The Paleo Diet aren’t about the true diet at all—they are based on myths. Unfortunately, many people even in the scientific community believe them. Let’s set the record straight.

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Paleo Leadership
Trevor Connor
Trevor Connor

Dr. Loren Cordain’s final graduate student, Trevor Connor, M.S., brings more than a decade of nutrition and physiology expertise to spearhead the new Paleo Diet team.

Mark J Smith
Dr. Mark J. Smith

One of the original members of the Paleo movement, Mark J. Smith, Ph.D., has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the benefits of Paleo nutrition.

Nell Stephenson
Nell Stephenson

Ironman athlete, mom, author, and nutrition blogger Nell Stephenson has been an influential member of the Paleo movement for over a decade.

Loren Cordain
Dr. Loren Cordain

As a professor at Colorado State University, Dr. Loren Cordain developed The Paleo Diet® through decades of research and collaboration with fellow scientists around the world.