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The Paleo Diet Digest

FAQJust choosing the diet you want to follow can be a tough choice when there are so many options and opinions being thrown at you from the news, internet and your friends. So, if you’ve made the choice to go with the Paleo Diet® the last thing you want to now deal with is different answers to what the diet is and how to follow it.

Here’s the ten most common questions we’ve been asked by people interested in the diet but still trying to figure out what it’s all about. We’ll give you our take on each.

And yes, we’re sure you’re going to hear other opinions. Someone has probably already told you that ghee is Paleo or you need to drink milk to get your calcium. All we can say in response is that we are the originators of the Paleo Diet. Our founder, Dr Loren Cordain, wrote The Paleo Diet which defined the diet. So, while we’re always open to discussion and debate, when it comes to defining the Paleo Diet, we are technically the only ones who can give you these answers.

We truly hope this answers your questions!

— The Paleo Diet Team

1. Can I be Paleo if I’m vegetarian?
Vegetarian Diet | The Paleo Diet
The simple answer is no. We are designed to be omnivores and there are essential nutrients that we can only get from animal sources. That said, we do understand that some people don’t want to eat meat for ethical reasons. We admire those choices and will always strive to help those of you to eat as healthy a diet as possible. To get you started check out:

Transitioning from vegetarian to Paleo
Vegetarian and vegan diets: nutritional disasters

2. How fast will I lose weight on Paleo?
It’s hard to say as this depends on your current diet. However, we don’t think of diets just in terms of losing weight, nor do we consider rapid weight loss to be healthy. We prefer looking at The Paleo Diet as a way of life and investing in your overall health. Achieving a healthy weight is just a consequence of eating a healthy diet. Here’s a few articles about losing weight on a Paleo Diet:

Weight loss on a Paleo Diet
Lose weight and keep it off

3. Are gluten-free grains Paleo?
No, they are not. All grains are excluded from the Paleo Diet due to their low nutrient density and high content of many anti-nutrients including saponins and lectins in many grains. Check out these articles to read a little more about grains:

The gluten-free trend and its implications for Paleo
Millet: a gluten-free grain you should avoid
Quinoa and saponins: Dr.-Cordain responds to a reader’s questions

How do I get enough calcium on Paleo?
The Paleo Diet® is nutritionally balanced, in line with the optimal nutrient ratios eaten by our Paleolithic ancestors. The only nutrient where the Paleo Diet does not meet the RDA guidelines is calcium, however, Dr Cordain has already demonstrated that those levels of calcium are not achievable on a natural diet. Yet our ancestors showed no signs of osteoporosis. Likewise, the recent increased rates in heart disease in women has been at least partially attributed to excess calcium intake. Here’s a little more information about calcium:

How to get enough calcium
September series: all about calcium
Promoting calcium balance health on a Paleo Diet (easier than you think)

5. Is Paleo low carbohydrate/high protein & fat?
While it is a lower carbohydrate diet than a typical Western diet, it is not a very low carbohydrate diet. The bulk of the food you eat are fruits and vegetables. These contain plenty of carbohydrates. More importantly, on a healthy Paleo Diet, the focus is on eating the right foods and not on macronutrient ratios. Learn a little more about our thoughts on macronutrient ratios:

Forget the macronutrient ratios: you are what you were designed to eat
Nutrition divided: low-fat vs. high-fat diet
Do low carb diets really provide better weight loss?

6. How will I get enough fiber without grains?
Cereal Grains | The Paleo DietThe best diets are about a mix of the right foods that provide the nutrients you need instead of looking for some “super-food” that’s high in fiber or some other nutrient. Fruits and vegetables, which are the bulk of your food on a Paleo Diet, all contain fiber and will not only meet your daily requirements, but provide them over the course of the day.

Forget the macronutrient ratios: you are what you were designed to eat

7. What is the Paleo diet?
Foods in a Healthy Paleo DietThe Paleo Diet® is eating the foods that humans have evolved to eat. Here’s a few good summaries of the Paleo Diet to get you started:

The Paleo Diet premise
The Paleo Diet: designed by nature, built by science

8. What to eat and not to eat on the Paleo diet?
Eat the foods that are most similar to the natural foods available to our hunter-gatherer ancestors. This includes fruits, vegetables, sea food, eggs, grass-fed free-range lean meats, and nuts sparingly. These also happen to be the most nutrient dense foods you can eat. Here’s a few guides to help you pick what you should eat:

What to eat on the Paleo Diet?
Your Paleo answers – most common FAQ about the Paleo Diet
Debunking the biggest myths about the Paleo Diet

9. How do I stay Paleo when eating out?
Pre-packed Airport SnackPlanning is key. Look up the menu beforehand. Salads with grilled meats, vegetable dishes, and lean meats are good options. Most restaurants will consider your needs so ask them to exclude ingredients that are not Paleo. When all fails follow the 85-15 rule. Following the Paleo Diet 85 percent of the time will still allow your body to experience the metabolic and physiologic benefits it offers. This rule permits you flexibility to eat differently 15 percent of the time, or roughly three meals over the course of a week. All that being said, travel can be particularly difficult, so here’s a few articles to help:

Staying on track with the Paleo Diet while traveling
Hunter-gatherers in flight: how to pack, snack, and forage strict-Paleo when traveling by air

10. Is ghee butter, goat’s milk, coffee, and beer Paleo?
Ghee | Paleo DietNone of these are Paleo, thought coffee is in a bit of a grey area. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t ever enjoy them. That’s why we have the 85-15 rule. Here’s a series of articles on frequently asked about foods that generally are not Paleo:

Coffee drinking revisited: its not Paleo but are there any therapeutic benefits?
The truth about the coffee-cancer link
Coffee: is it Paleo?
How Paleo is beer and mead?
The Paleo Diet, alcohol consumption and sulfites in wine, beer, and food
Gee, what’s the skinny on ghee?
Dairy: milking it for all it’s worth
Hormones in milk

Modern Caveman? How Paleo is Beer and Mead? | The Paleo Diet

Is there room for a pint of beer on the Paleo diet now and again? Are there any occasions where a brew can make a surprise appearance? And, how about mead?

Let’s start with some definitions. The Beer Academy defines beer as having barley, hops, water and yeast.1 With two out of four failing to stay true to strict Paleo guidelines, the resulting beverage can’t be suitable either. Even gluten free beers are grain-based; all grains, rich in anti-nutrients and quite helpful in promoting leaky gut syndrome, are one of the key things to be avoided on a Paleo diet.

And mead, an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, sometimes with various fruits, spices, grains, or hops2 isn’t exactly the most Paleo of beverages, either.

So, the answer as to whether they’re Paleo compliant is pretty straightforward: No.

But what’s the big deal if you’re a die-hard beer lover and the idea of never having another cold one again is just sending chills down your spine? Rest assured, there are other options to think about.

First and foremost, there are other libations worth considering when we’re out on the town or at a business meeting at which drinks are flowing liberally. And while it’s not exactly suggested that we indulge in spirits regularly, the way we might with water or green tea, one of my goals in working with clients is to create a plan that can be maintained for the long run, and that includes situations where there are drinks to be had.

So, what can we drink then, aside from water on the rocks?


With many known health benefits including high levels of heart healthy resveratrol, our hunter-gatherer ancestors drank wine and, when paired with a balanced meal, can be consumed without major consequence, in terms of disturbing blood sugar levels or disrupting sleep. “Red wine is clearly the drink of choice if you are doing light to moderate drinking for your health, and daily consumption just before or with the evening meal may be the most protective pattern,” said Dr. James O’Keefe, MD, Chief of Preventive Cardiology at Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City.3 The key is to look for wines that are sulfite free,4 and to keep it to a glass or two, rather than binging on boxed wine or drinking too close to bedtime. Remember, there’s a big difference between falling asleep and passing out! Also, note that if you were following an anti-candida Paleo protocol, you’d be better off avoiding anything containing, or made from yeast.


Potato or grape vodka, gin made from juniper berries, and tequila, served neat or on the rocks, also make viable options as a drink of choice.


Yes, it may sound boring, but if you alternate a couple of sparkling waters with a twist of lime for each drink you’re having, you’ll keep hydrated and also be able to better pace yourself. Plus, if your company includes the few who seem to have made it their goal to make sure everyone drinks themselves into oblivion, you’ll be set with a little white fib that your Pellegrino has something more adult mixed in!

Alcohol is still alcohol whether it comes from a shot of Ciroq or a Chopin on the rocks and it’s something that ideally isn’t consumed as part of your Paleo diet daily regime. Whatever it is you’re going to be drinking, the key is balance.

Make sure that earlier in the day you stay even more on top of your hydration than usual, load up on the veggies, good fat and protein and cut down on any fruit you may have eaten; you’ll be getting enough simple carbohydrates from the alcohol later in the evening. Also, don’t make the mistake of arriving at the event hungry. This can lead you down the path of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, when you’re at the McDonald’s drive thru at 2 A.M. eating a Big Mac because it sounded like a good idea after five drinks.

Finally, make a plan and stick to it.  If you’re dining at your favorite Italian Restaurant with a killer wine list, that also happens to have the fresh focaccia you used to inhale, and homemade fettuccini that was always your go-to, and a tiramisu that is simply off the chain, don’t have all of them. Stick with your one glass or two of Super Tuscan and enjoy the heck out of it, rather than Hoovering it all. When you’re emotionally prepared for the one thing you enjoy, it will serve to keep you from feeling guilty and subsequently eating everything and anything in sight. And, enjoying your glass of wine with dinner a few hours before bed will leave you with restful sleep, an energetic awakening in the morning, and a far greater chance of staying on your true Paleo path.



[1] The Beer Academy | Beer Academy | Beer Info | What Is Beer? N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2015.

[2] Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 27 May 2015.

[3] Time. Time, n.d. Web. 27 May 2015.

[4] The Paleo Diet. N.p., 18 Aug. 2014. Web. 27 May 2015.


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