Quite simply, The Paleo Diet® is the diet to which the human species is best adapted. In other words, when you eat The Paleo Diet, you are eating the optimal foods for your body, literally programmed into your DNA. [1-4]
This is the diet of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. It comprises the basic foods eaten by every human since our first appearance over a million years ago, until the invention of agriculture a mere 10,000 years ago [2, 3, 5-9]. Of course, many of the foods that ancestral man consumed no longer exist. Therefore, the modern Paleo Diet mimics the foods that we would have consumed in our historic past. It is as close as we can get to a diet unadulterated by modern agricultural methods, animal husbandry, or processed foods, elements that have only existed for a short amount of time relative to the span of human evolution.
While Dr. Loren Cordain may be considered the originator of The Paleo Diet, he likes to emphasize that he didn’t create it . That job belonged to nature. Over the past three decades, Dr. Cordain, along with many of his colleagues from the fields of medicine, nutrition, and anthropology, such as Boyd Eaton and Stefan Lindeberg, simply uncovered the science that stands as the foundation of the diet to this day [2, 3, 9-16].
When we compare The Paleo Diet to a modern Western diet, the differences are stark. A large portion of the foods typical to a Western diet have only been introduced in the past 100 to 200 years. This includes vegetable oils, refined sugar, and processed foods. (Refined flour only appeared after the invention of steel roller mills in the late 1800s.) In fact, 70 percent of the foods in the modern Western diet were only introduced within the past few generations. Because of how recent those changes have taken place, our bodies haven’t had ample time to evolve to properly digest these foods. [3, 4, 6, 7, 9-13, 17, 18]
However, on The Paleo Diet, you will feel empowered like never before as you eat copious amounts of nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables and fruits, lean meats and seafood, all the while eliminating inflammatory foods such as grains, dairy, refined sugars, refined oils, and processed foods. For a quick and easy guide for how to go Paleo, click here.
While other fad diets have come and gone, and new ones appear on the marketplace every few months, The Paleo Diet remains. It’s not just a lifestyle, but a commitment you will feel motivated every day to making part of your routine. That’s because it is based on decades of scientific research, and its fundamental principles are recognized by medical and health professionals who firmly believe in the supporting data. Going Paleo is an enlightening path to a reality-based approach to health and not a ‘quick fix.’
A vast and growing body of evidence strongly suggests The Paleo Diet has wide-reaching therapeutic effects both physically and emotionally, on metabolic diseases, autoimmune disorders, mental health, and much more. [19-47] In fact, since the diet is anti-inflammatory in nature, there are very few chronic illnesses or diseases that do not respond favorably to it.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the core principle and benefits of The Paleo Diet®:
Feed your DNA
You will crave the foods humans have evolved to eat.
Improve nutrient density
You will consume the most nutrient-dense foods, including green leafy vegetables, blueberries, and salmon [click here for a complete chart comparing nutrient densities]. By contrast, the bulk of foods found in a typical Western diet—cereal grains, dairy products, and fatty feedlot meat—lack that depth of nutrition. Eliminating those items from your diet means you’ll need to replace those calories with something else. By the nature of The Paleo Diet, that means eating more foods densely packed with a variety of essential vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.
Forget macronutrients; focus on healthy foods
On The Paleo Diet you don’t focus on macronutrient ratios (i.e., how much protein versus carbohydrate you consume). This falls in line with our ancestral habits. Consider the range of foods our ancestors ate: hunter-gatherer societies living near the equator consumed higher levels of carbohydrates, while those farther north consumed higher volumes of protein and fat. Likewise, our ancestral diet changed seasonally, so macronutrient ratios fluctuated throughout the year. The truth of the matter is that focusing on macronutrients runs counter to one of the main tenets of The Paleo Diet: a focus on eating healthy foods, and not how much carbohydrate you eat relative to protein or fat. That said, eating healthy natural foods leads to a diet that is higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates than the typical western diet.