What’s the Difference Between Primal and Paleo?

Inline_Primal_PaleoThe paleo diet and Primal Blueprint way of eating (a.k.a. Primal) are both based on similar evolutionary science. The story goes something like this. Our modern Western diet bears little resemblance to the eating habits of early humans throughout several 100,000 years of evolutionary history. Instead, since the Agricultural Revolution some mere 10,000 years ago, we’ve adopted a nutritional regime to which our physiology is poorly adapted. When the basics of our diet return to the patterns of our pre-agricultural ancestors, we work with, instead of against, our physiology. More simply: eat as our ancestors ate, and we’ll be healthier for it.

The paleo diet and Primal Blueprint both recommend limiting carb intake (especially grains) to only as many as you require for performance, eating more protein and fat, and including lots of veggies as a base. But in the midst of this common ground are some key differences.

Back when Primal was just getting started (around the time I was writing the first edition of The Primal Blueprintthe evolving template of my vision for the Primal Blueprint way of eating and living), a fundamental difference of opinion between paleo and Primal centered on the role of saturated fats in the diet.

Loren Cordain and many within the paleo community toed the conventional line on saturated fats as the bogey that raises cholesterol and instigates heart disease, while the Primal Blueprint as I envisioned it was quick to recognize it as a neutral, stable source of fat important for energy, neurological function, hormone manufacture, and cellular structure. Paleo supporters recommended focusing on lean meats, avoiding butter, and limiting coconut oil. The Primal community did not, pointing to the many examples of hunter-gatherers who preferred higher-fat portions of animals, the extensive evidence of bone marrow consumption by paleolithic humans, and the trove of modern research exonerating saturated fat. The paleo stance has since changed, so there’s not a significant distinction in that regard anymore.

Another big difference is our treatment of dairy. Paleo restricts dairy, considering it maladaptive, if not downright toxic. They home in on the dairy proteins, specifically casein, as allergens and primary troublemakers. Primal takes a different view. While we grant that dairy can be problematic for people intolerant of its lactose or its protein, we maintain that full-fat dairy, preferably raw, fermented, and/or from pastured-raised animals, is a fantastic source of healthy fat, immune-boosting and muscle-building protein, and bioavailable calcium.

Another difference is how we approach the nightshade family of vegetables, which includes potatoes, peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes. I love them all. I don’t eat a lot of potatoes, but if I’m going for a dense source of starch and the purple sweet potatoes aren’t in season, I’m grabbing a basic white potato. And don’t get me started on the joy and ease of turning cooked and cooled Russets into french fries in under five minutes. But chili peppers and tomatoes are staples in my diet. Paleo takes a more cautious stance on nightshades, fingering them as a potential initiator of leaky gut and low-grade inflammation. They’re especially hostile to the white potato.

Primal is huge on coffee, and paleo isn’t.

Legumes are less problematic than I’d originally assumed, while paleo still restricts them. I say eat them if you like and tolerate them. Paleo does not.

When you get past the contrary position on coffee, the legume agnosticism, and the stances on potatoes and nightshades and dairy, there aren’t a lot of differences between paleo eating and Primal eating itself. The biggest difference is in the name: the paleo diet is a diet, while the Primal Blueprint is a lifestyle. You’ll often hear “make it a lifestyle shift, not a diet,” and it’s great advice. Diets don’t work. They come with built-in endpoints, “goal weights” that, once reached, people use to justify quitting.

Meanwhile, the Primal Blueprint works as a broad, holistic approach to living, not just eating. While I’m on board with the majority of the underlying assumptions and suggestions of paleo eating, diet is only one cog in the machine. Health, happiness, and wellness depend on many other factors like sleep, exercise, social contact, mental stimulation, nature immersion, life fulfillment, and light exposure. It’s rare to find people who understand and attempt to embody all these essential aspects of the human experience—who can put it all together and trace the lines running between each seemingly disparate piece. The Primal Blueprint does that far better than most other “diets.”

Still, there are other important distinctions between Primal and paleo as approaches to health.

Skepticism, Not Dismissal

Cordain is a resolute and honest man of science, couching his recommendations in his perusal of the literature. Even if I don’t agree with everything he says (and I agree with most of it), he’s not just throwing stuff out there. He’s not a paleo re-enactor. But some of the stricter adherents to paleo do practice a priori dismissal of anything that even sniffs of the neolithic. That’s dishonest, and it means you’ll miss out on great things.

Primal is a great starting point, a generator of hypotheses and experimentation and questions. Modern things with limited evolutionary precedent get a skeptical eye in the Primal Blueprint, not a priori dismissal (well, maybe not everything).

Pragmatism, Not Absolutism

Primal folks are not primitive literalists. We are pragmatists. If it works, it works—even if it’s modern.

For example, the Primal Blueprint recommends wise supplementation appropriate to counter the stressors and toxins unique to our life today. Grok dealt with acute stressors—like an intense hunt, an encounter with a venomous snake or big cat, or a battle over resources (or mates). Grok didn’t deal with the kind of chronic stress that modern folks must contend with—the long commutes, the bills piling up, the mortgage, the stress of a sensationalist 24-hour news cycle. Grok’s world was relatively pure, free of industrial contaminants, pollution, heavy metals, and xenoestrogens. Ours is rife with it. Supplementation can help mitigate some of these unavoidable, modern stressors.

Grok didn’t eat whey protein powder, but it sure is helpful and convenient if you want to increase muscle protein synthesis after a workout or boost glutathione status. Additionally, own experience with collagen supplementation has resulted in noticeable improvements in mobility and tendon strength, suggesting that, unless I start doing bone broth or copious amounts of offal almost daily, I’m probably better served taking a collagen supplement.

Primal folks recognize the danger of spending too much time in the digital realm to the exclusion of the physical one. But they’re going to use modern technology to enhance health, not hamper it. These technologies are all just tools, and you are a tool-making ape reading this on a device connected to a global network.

Everyone Can “Join”

Tons of people love the great outdoors but eat terrible food. Millions are exercise fanatics who genuinely enjoy hoisting barbells and running sprints but spend all their free time staring into their phones. Practically anyone you ask will admit that “real food” is better than “processed food.” For as many people who say “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” there are more who love and treasure a good night’s sleep. Meditation and other stress relief modalities are exploding all over the place. Almost everyone likes socializing with people they love and like. A good portion of people prefer going barefoot, at least around the house.

Primal has the tendency to ensnare people who’d otherwise turn up their noses at the thought of doing “that paleo diet thing.” Maybe it attracts the hiking vegetarian, and maybe that person will learn about the importance of lifting heavy things, eating unprocessed foods, and ditching gluten. Maybe they’ll eat a steak now and then (no pressure).

Primal Is Fluid, Not Rigid Ideology

No one’s perfect. We make mistakes. And sometimes the “mistake” isn’t a mistake. Sometimes we just want to eat that slice of pizza and have the beer and stay up late watching the game. That’s fine. You may not feel great the next morning, but you prepare for and accept that. Informed consent is everything.

Fluidity also allows the Primal Blueprint to account for the progression of science. Not that we have a choice here. Science unfolds. It doesn’t stop or stand still. It doesn’t slow down for your preconceived biases. It moves, man. And Primal moves with it. For instance, I’ve adapted my stance on protein intake throughout the years, suggesting that we may not need as much as I once thought or advocated, based on the research available at the time. 

Another good example is how the growing science of population genetics is quickly revealing that human evolution didn’t stop 10,000 years ago, nor are humans from one part of the world genetically identical to humans from another part. From nutrient requirements to macronutrient metabolism to muscle fiber composition, your personal genetic variation may partially determine the best health, diet, and exercise practices. Now, this field is still in its infancy and we don’t have good answers yet. But I’m watching with bated breath. 

I designed The Primal Blueprint for the purpose of offering a guide for all elements of healthy living, and with the help and input of the Primal community over the last decade, it accomplishes that better than ever. Let’s face it, some days life makes it particularly difficult to have the perfect diet. Some people might not even want to worry about their food at all. We like to think of the Primal Blueprint design as a comprehensive cover, so to speak. The knowledge and efforts you exert in each area (diet, fitness, supplementation, stress management, sleep, etc.) can make a difference when the realities of day to day life keep you from doing a 100% in a given area.

Paleo is a good prescription for how to eat. It works. Don’t get me wrong.

It’s just not enough.

Primal is on one level a guideline for how to eat, live, and move in congruence with your physiology. On another level, it’s an operating system for asking questions about health, making good choices, and discovering best practices for enriching one’s existence.

I know which one I prefer.

So, now we’ll ask you about your experiences with the Primal Blueprint and how you came to it? Did you come to the PB from a paleo perspective? What are your thoughts on the differences and the added dimensions of the Primal Blueprint? Thanks for reading today.

This post was originally published in 2008. I’ve revised it substantially to reflect the evolution of both the paleo movement and the Primal Blueprint philosophy in the last several years.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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205 thoughts on “What’s the Difference Between Primal and Paleo?”

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  1. I learned about Paleo years ago, but didn’t really get motivated to make significant changes until I started reading this and a couple other blogs. I always assumed that the PB was Paleo. Thanks for pointing out the differences.

    And the links are fine in my opinion. I mostly ignore them unless I want deeper information.

  2. Mark, I just recently discovered you PB site through a link from Jimmy Moore. I had no idea such a plan existed, but you’ve answered my question concerning the contrast/comparison between PB and Paleo with this post. As a newbie to your site I really appreciate this timely article. Look forward to more informative posts from you…you’re now on my Google Reader! Ron, aka The Former Donut Junkie.

  3. Very cool post and something I think needed to be addressed. I think one of the main things to take out of this is the more flexible approach of the primal blueprint which makes life far more relaxed and allows for the lifestyle to be easily integrated into our everyday lives.
    Looking forward to the book!

  4. I just finished reading The Paleo Diet for Athletes. I thought it was very informative, and plan to read through it again. Still trying to figure out what is best for me, an aspiring ultramarathoner, in terms of the carb/fat/protein balance, so all the info I can get helps. After moving closer to a Primal diet I have realized that carbs have a somewhat negative impact on me, so I need to figure out how to balance that out with the needs I have for post-exercise recovery. I will say I was skeptical of the Paleo Diet’s stance on saturated fats, based both on what I have read on MDA and my doctor’s advice. He is also helping me to “eat more healthy fats, like butter and lard” (I couldn’t believe it when he told me this!) and cutting carbs.

    Regarding the links, keep them coming! I only learned about MDA a couple of months or so ago, so there is a lot I haven’t read. The link to stress is particularly great right now. Work is stressful for a variety of reasons, and I always turn to sweets as a comfort food…at least, when sweets are around. Hopefully the link will help me out in this case!

  5. Hey Mark,

    To answer your questions, yes, I came to MDA and the Primal Blueprint from a Paleo Diet perspective (as far as nutrition is concerned). I had actually stumbled on the Paleo way of eating as a result of my research to find a more complete diet that would help people to change the way they eat for good. That is, I thought to myself: “Is there a diet out there that can lead people to live a healthier lifestyle indefinitely?”

    The added dimensions of the Primal Blueprint provide a completely different level of interpretation with regards to overall health, fitness and wellness. It had led me to take a look at the other components in my life. Am I working out at the gym too much? Am I walking enough? Do I get enough sun? etc. All in all, I found that I was more Primal than I knew but it still lead me towards introspection.

    As for the links… PLEASE keep them coming. Links are a great way for me to find articles that maybe I haven’t read yet or accidentally passed over. They are great!

    Thanks for the post!

    All the Best,

    Andrew R

  6. So what are the differences between the PB diet and the Westin Price diet?

    1. The Weston-Price diet encourages dairy, preferably raw. And they recommend whole grains, which they have you soak, sprout, or ferment to neutralize phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors.

  7. Excellent post – I had not really sat down and analyzed the important differences you pointed out. I agree with your assessment and I find myself much more on the Primal side than the Paleo.

    I started with this several years ago with Atkins – I cut back on sugar and less bread etc – I lost some weight and definitely knew there was something to this, but drifted away. I considered Atkins too extreme – scraping the toppings off of pizza? Crazy.

    As I approached 50 and saw my aging parents deteriorating, I stumbled upon Art Devany’s site and later yours and others.

    I have not looked back – 8 months into this, I feel great and look better. I have a ways to go, but this is a lifelong thing for me. I am convinced of the validity of your Primal and Art’s Evolutionary Fitness approach.

    I like the more playful and less hardcore approach with Primal and EF. Grok had fun as well as hard work and did not count the calories or grams of Canola oil – yuck. I have stayed away from the artificial sweeteners – never did like them and less so now. My guilty pleasures are dairy – cheese and coffee cream and salt. I do not go out of my way for salt, but I do partake with the occasional Bloody Cesaer, salt and pepper chicken wings, and dill pickles. A man has to have a few food sins! I used to be a breadaholic, but those days are over.

    Keep up the great work – you and Art and others such as Richard Nikoley at Free the Animal and Stephan at Whole Health Source, are really helping people lead healthier and more productive lives. I humbly thank you and your compatriots. The links are very useful and much appreciated.

    Real food – real health! And as Bill said – sat fat is king – long live the king! (and all of us).

    1. Totally agree with you. I am a 46 year old man and what drew me to PB is the more balanced, less-hardcore approach. I found immediate good results by changing my workouts and incorporating occasional sprints. I play with my kids and go for a good old-fashioned evening stroll every night.

      The diet works great for me. I started buying really good quality butter and meat, and changed my cooking style (I do most of the family cooking) to be a bit more French e.g. saute veggies in butter rather than olive oil, slow cooking meats. I just avoid the flour and grains, or do baking with almond flour.

      Best of all are Mark’s 10 Primal Laws. Really simple, really powerful.. words to live by.

      Thanks to Mark for offering program for the rest of us..

  8. Mark,

    One thing I have always questioned about the PB is your use of butter, and less so, eggs.

    I know you aren’t saying to put butter on everything, but Grok hardly had access to butter, nor the means to make butter. I’d even argue that he had limited access to eggs, and probably just as limited way to cook eggs.

    I am not arguing the benefits of both, just why they are held so highly in the PB (unless its to educate readers on the benefits of them) if they weren’t readily available to Mr. Grok.

    As for the links they are fine – I might hover over to see where they go if I am interested in more info.

    Also, as for fat/saturated fat, do darker meats typically have more saturated fats? If they do, then I am on board with PB vs. Paleo – I can’t eat lean (white) meat all the time – my diet just seems to be missing something.

    Thanks for another great article.


  9. The combination of saturated fats and carbohydrates may be harmful, especially if carbohydrates are hydrogenating the fats to make them transaturated. I would, love, love to see a study of animal fats from ranched grass-fed cow compared to caged, corn-fed cow and the composition thereof.

    Medical science (which is just statistics applied to observations) is typically poor at separating variables. This is because most medical doctors are poor at math and don’t understand what they are doing when they apply various statistical methods.

  10. To be honest I have always regarded the term ‘Paleo Diet’ as a generic one that refers to a diet that mimics what our hunter gatherer forefathers ate, rather than something proprietary to Cordain and others. This may just be my own flawed perception.

    Since you mention the use of supplementation. I have a question. Whilst I recognise that we are exposed to more toxins in the modern world that Grok would have been, I have always considered that we also have more consistent access to quality fruit and vegetables – far more than Grok would have been lucky enough to encounter normally. Therefore I do not supplement because I consider the additional nutrients I am getting from my modern diet offset the additional toxins to which I am exposed.

    Do you think we are exposed to so manty toxins that we need even more additional nutrients? Or alternatively do you think that in fact Grok would have got his hands on as much fruit and veg as someone like me on the modern primal diet would eat?

    1. I just take the best from whatever makes most sense and apply it to myself.

      I eat according to the PB… but add raw goat’s milk… and add WAPF odd things to my diet such as bone broths, lots of organ meats, including eyeballs. My only supplement is a red mineral clay and Fermented Cod Liver Oil / HV Butter Oil Blend as suggested by WAPF.

      I can tell ya, my hair and nails are growing like nuts. My teeth are hard and strong and I can only imagine my bones are, too. Hair, Nails and Teeth are kind of like a ‘window’ into your bone health.

  11. The whole allowing artificial sweeteners would have put me off of Paleo if I had managed to come across it before PB… The fact that it’s all essentially chlorinated sugar and impossible for our bodies (or the rest of the environment, for that matter) to break down makes it one of those things I avoid like the plague. If I’m going to bomb a diet or lifestyle for something ridiculously sweet, it’s going to be real.

  12. As attractive as the Paleo Diet is, I find it subject to one big logical fallacy.

    Wikipedia defines the fallacy as “Denying the Antecedent.” They give a good example:

    “If Queen Elizabeth is an American citizen, then she is a human being. Queen Elizabeth is not an American citizen, therefore she is not a human being.”

    The Paleo Diet maintains “that if Grok ate it, its good for you. Therefore, if Grok didn’t eat it, then its bad for you.” This seems more like dogma than science.

    There are many foods which Grok didn’t eat simply because they weren’t available. Whey protein is an example. With the lactose and casein removed from milk I can’t find anything wrong with whey other than the fact that Grok didn’t use it.

    Yogurt looks good to me, the “cultures” took care of the lactose and (I think) the casein. Also good for the gut!

    I don’t know if red wine was available to Grok, but I keep reading good things about it.

    I like the open approach of PB.

    In any event I like the less dogmatic

      1. I have *never* encountered someone “denying the antecedent” in paleo writing. That sounds like a straw man to me. The logic I consistently read is, “We have identified potential issues with certain foods and classes of foods that can cause health problems…here’s what we know.”

        Primal, Paleo. Doesn’t matter. It’s all evidence-based nutrition AND lifestyle optimization. Very little dogma. Mostly just marketing/label differences. I came to MDA and PB from the paleo community, because Mark exhibits the same ethical behavior I see consistently from Paleo leaders: he honestly discusses what we know according to science. From the paleo community, I hear stuff like, “Nightshades and legumes aren’t bad, go ahead and eat them in moderation if you tolerate them, but if not, here’s some potential reasons why…” (lectins, saponins, adjuvants, oh my!)

        From that perspective, I found this post very disappointing and misleading. In supposing to educate readers, it inaccurately frames Paleo as merely a diet vs diet+lifestyle framework that is only a little more stringent than Mark’s Primal stuff. The thing is this: They both discuss the same science, and come to the same proximate conclusions. E.g., if you have dairy, make it grass-fed, preferably raw, fermented, etc. And Paleo emphasizes a little more that you might react to it, and here’s why…but if not, cool.

        Even in Sarah Ballantyne’s book (arguably the on the more strict end of the spectrum), she doesn’t offer any strict “rules,” just guidelines based on the evidence on what can provoke or exacerbate an inflammatory response or other physiological dysregulation vs support physiological regulation.

        If I had to put them all on a spectrum from lenient to strict, I would order them Mark > Robb > Sarah, and for good reason. Sarah’s relatively-narrow target demographic has severe chronic health issues. Mark and Robb more just want people to feel their best, and somewhat-assume that they do not struggle with severe chronic issues in the first place. All of them discuss tuning into and understanding your body, its needs and how it works, and how diet and lifestyle intersect.

        According to Robb Wolf: https://robbwolf.com/2011/01/15/book-review-the-primal-blueprint/
        “Mark and I differ on a few points, he is a bit more freewheeling with dairy than I am but that’s about it. What Mark has done, both with the book and his damn impressive website is create a place where folks can get solid, accessible information they can apply today to make their lives better tomorrow.”

        The comments underneath are full of people saying they have read both, and appreciate them for different reasons. Mark, for the introduction and big picture overview. Robb, for more details and underlying reasoning. Mark, for the introduction. Robb was too much for some; others needed the extra detail. One poster suggested that the books complement each-other so much they should be sold as a set: “The Primal Blueprint” and “The Primal Solution” (Robb’s rebranding suggestion).

  13. Since i’ve been eating primal, i’ve felt better than i ever have before, wish i would of eaten this way all my life, but unfortunately, i didn’t. It’s never too late to change from eating bad foods and start eating primal and feel your best.

  14. I came to PB via Art De Vany a little over two years ago. At that time I thought I was eating the right way, egg whites, oatmeal, not much fruit, whole wheat bread and lean meats. But I always felt sluggish and could never really get lean enough to see my abs clearly (a long time goal.) Being 53 years old didn’t help either. My metabolism slowed down a lot after 40 and even more after 50. So I would work out even more and that would just make me hungrier and cause me to eat more of the “healthy” foods that I thought I should be eating.

    It was not until I started eating the PB way…more fruits, tons of vegetables and plenty of fats, plus intermittent fasting, and random feast and famine days, that I was able to get the lean body I have always wanted.

    Thanks to your links and recipes it’s easy to live this way.

    1. I am new here, yes believe it or not coming from a fruitarian point of view. Do the feast and famine days help alleviate thyroid issues from low carb? I have read over and over low carb diets lead to the thyroid slowing metabolism thinking the body is dying. Has Mark covered this?

  15. SuperMike! – your one of my idols.

    I can say the same things as you. I know that it is not high science, but I tried it in a simple “A-B” design and I feel and look waaaay better.

  16. I was unaware of the discrepancy between paleo and primal. Thanks for clearing that up.

    I also like the links. I’m relatively new to MDA and constantly find myself following those links.


  17. Yeah, SuperMike is one ripped dude, primalman. Have you seen the pics of him in the testimonials section?


    I’m glad everybody appreciates all the links. The Worker Bees and I will continue to seed all posts with a ton of links.

    There are a lot of good questions and comments here. I’ll try to get to them soon. Thanks, everyone.

  18. Thank you for the clarification Mark. Before reading this, I would have sometimes describe my diet as paleo. But now I know taht it is not… it is truly primal. Especially due to the saturated fats, coconut, and most importantly EGGS!

    The links are good. I try to scour the archives as much as possible but i miss things and they certainly help me catch up.

  19. Fantastic article Mark! I came to the PB lifestyle via the Paleo community and can only now really appreciate the differences. Keep the links coming! I’m sure it adds to production time but they create a ton of value for your readers!

  20. Hi, a long time lurker here but this article intrigued me. I do not remember how I stumbled on your fantastic website/blog but I am glad I did.

    From my understanding of the Paleo diet I notice a few other differences as well.

    Firstly the Paleo Diet (Dr Cordian) severely limits all dairy products (milk butter yogurt, etc…) as well as legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts etc…) and even yeast containing foods (baked and fermented foods).

    Now I do not necessarily agree with this (I like raw cheeses and enjoy olives and sauerkraut from time to time) but it is a big distinction between Primal and Paleo.

    On the other hand i do understand his dislike of fatty meats, unless the meat is from pasture, grass fed organic meats. The kind of fat we are getting from factory farmed animals is defiantly not the same as we are getting from grass fed, pasture grazing meat (CLA, n-3 fats, toxins and chemicals).

    As well, I notice that a lot of Paleo followers do use coconut oils and milk quite a bit in there foods and recipes. I don’t think they are fat or saturated fat phobic. AS well I also notice that many of the people who eat “strict” Paleo abstain from sweeteners and instead replace them with applesauce/honey/agave and the like.

    Anyway, great article nonetheless and keep up the good work. I’m looking forward to some more delicious recipes soon (one of the main reasons I visits your blog so often!!)

    In Good Health!

    1. I just started what I thought was Paleo, and my very first recipe had shredded coconut and coconut oil in it. I also cut out diet soda and the like of artificial sweetener. Just like you said, I thought that’s what Paleo was… so I guess I’m somewhere in between PB and Paleo since I’m not too keen on eggs without cheese so I’m not giving that up… I guess I’m just making it up as I go with the PB/Paleo as my guide!

  21. I LOVE all the links! It helps me catch up with all the older articles I’ve never read… 🙂

  22. Never knew there was a difference. I went straight from a body-builder’s diet (tons of protein, carbs surrounding the workout) to the stuff I’ve learned from you.

    Never too many links–I love links!

  23. Well I guess I am a bit of a paleo groupie. However, I find your postings very interesting. I do have a huge battle in my head about the saturated fats dilemma. But the fact remains, that even though our ancestors went for these fats, they would have been extremely low in wild game. As a result they would never have obtained as much saturated fat as we do and the saturated fat content would still be low. Based off this I just don’t go there and trim the fat off of meat. I would be interested also in a study on grass fed animal fats vs just plain fats.

    As for liver, kidney, tongue, brain and marrow these are all relatively low in saturated fats (at most a third). So eating these alone would supply enough saturated fats for your diet. So I choose to eat these types of food rather than consuming animal subcutaneous fat and/or butter or lard.

    As for Canola Oil. He mentions on his website that you need to buy canola oil that has no trans fats associated with it. He gives an explanation for how this is achieved. He by far promotes fish oils and fish, as these are the best sources of Omega 3.

    The diet coke thing is a little misleading. He only mentions that to get people off of sweets. He said it is a good substitute until you are ready to fully commit to paleo. He never said that this should be a part of the paleo diet.

    Overall, I try and keep my carb intake low (<100g), my omega 3/Omega 6 ratio at 1:1, and maintain my acid/base balance. I find this much easier to do using flaxseed oils and fish oils.

  24. Sorry I just checked his website and this was a summary of his reply to Sally Fallon who also stated that hunter gatherers always preferred organ meats.

    “There is no doubt that hunter-gatherers ate the entire edible carcass of animals that were hunted and killed, and the fatty portions of the carcass were relished more than the lean muscle tissue. We have pointed this information out in many of our scientific papers.”

    “Studies of caribou over a 12-month period show that the total carcass (organs and all) fat by weight for 7 months of the year average less than 5 %; for 9 months of the year it average less than 10 %. For 3 months of the year total carcass fat falls between 11-17 %.”

    “From our recent paper analyzing the fat content in the tissues of wild animals (see webpage for article), we have been able to show that the dominant fats (> 50 % energy) in organs are polyunsaturated (PUFA) + monounsaturated (MUFA) fatty acids, whereas the dominant (>50% energy) fat in adipose tissue is saturated fat. Further, by employing allometric regressions that scale organ mass to tissue mass and then by analyzing the fat content and fatty acid composition of each organ, it is possible to calculate the total edible carcass fatty acid composition as it varies throughout the year. Our results (in press) show that for 9 months or more of the year, it would have been impossible to obtain >10 % of the total carcass energy as saturated fats.”

    Im sorry for the long post but thought it would help!

  25. I gave up wheat, dairy and sugar because I just get sick as a dog with a variety of symptoms when I eat those things. I can get away with about 80 grams of carbs per day, out of my 4K calorie diet. A doctor at a famous university hospital said to eat more carbs even if they gave me the runs and caused sinus congestion and weight loss, but that didn’t make sense to me. Another doc told me to just keep on doing what I was doing. He said it was called the Paleo Diet and I was probably better off without the grains, sugar and dairy anyhow. So I started reading about that online and I’ve read the “Paleo Diet For Athletes” book, too. I ignored what Paleo says about restraint on eggs and red meat, because I need maximum calories to keep my weight up. I react badly to the sugars or whatever the juices are that they pump into most chicken, so I eat a lot of beef (often from my friend’s ranch, grass fed), goat (also butchered locally), and birds that I hunt myself. I would never consume artificial sweeteners. I also eat a lot of almonds and pistachios, which Paleo says to lay low on. The rest of my diet is just a lot of green veggies, citrus, melon, berries and some tortilla chips and potatoes, a little oatmeal and oat flour and quinoa. I use olive oil mostly but canola oil for frying my taters, because olive oil doesn’t work for that. Beer, water and coffee with heavy cream is all I drink, pretty much. I recently found this web page and after today’s post I now know that the diet my body has enforced upon me is pretty primal. I’m really interested in the impact the diet has on my health and athletic performance and I want to keep trying to improve both. There’s a lot of great info out there. The paleo diet web page has a great chart on the amounts and types of sugars in various fruits, which really helped me figure out my tolerance level for fructose and helped me introduce new foods without all the painful trial and error. And, no, the links are not a problem. It’s a great web page.

  26. I said it several times before on the CrossFit forums…and I repeat:

    Mark is the new Art Devaney!


    Primal is the new Paleo! (i kick myself in the butt for calling my kits Paleo, and not Primal. (ohh well too late!)

    Art D and Paleo are etched in most of our minds as a result of being the first true messengers of the information. I remember in business class, they referred to it as the first mover advantage. I think Primal is quickly starting to take over though and becoming more widely accepted.

    Kudos to Mark for his fine work!

  27. I love this post! Thanks so much.

    I came to the PB because of a) my “I want to live like a cavegirl” approach to life (which I now realize was incomplete) and b) because MDA helped me realize what my previous approach was missing.

    I’m not perfect about the PB, obviously, but the mentality behind living as our ancestors (or, rather, their ancestors’ ancestors’ ancestors) did is almost spiritual to me and allows me to approach my life with a greater calm than fumbling around aimlessly for a healthy lifestyle, which changes by society’s definitions daily.

    Following the PB? It’s when I feel most human.

  28. I consider myself a pretty hard core paleo eater (and have been for years) and I do not agree with most of the differences that you have highlighted.

    If you eat based upon the paleo philosophy (what man ate in paleo times), then sweeteners and sodas are not allowed and you eat any fat that gets in the way.

    I think that pure paleo and the PB eating are identical, as they both come from the same starting philosophy.

    I use the following to define my paleo diet:


    • Grains (wheat/rice/oats etc)
    • Dairy (milk/yogurt/butter/cheese etc)
    • Refined foods (salt/sugars etc )
    • Nightshades (peppers/tomato/eggplant)
    • Tubers (potato/arrowroot etc)
    • Legumes (soy/beans/peas etc)
    • Modernly palatable (cashews/olives etc)

    I think that paleo and PB are basically the same and I could quite happily say I follow a PB diet.

    However, I do agree that the PB is much more encompassing and I was always looking for a paleo lifestyle. The PB suits me just fine. Thanks for the great info!

    P.S. If Cordain says you can have artificial sweeteners and soda and be paleo, then he is an idiot…

  29. To Tony,

    Hi Tony, I am also a paleo/primal Ultra Marathoner ( Mountian Biking) To fuel my training, I simply replaced all grain-based carbs with dried fruits: apricots, figs, dates. For races, I inject with a needle, honey into the same fruits and put them into a a small ziplock baggy and stuff it in my trikot. For training, I eat Halva which is sesame and honey.

    Works great!

    good luck,


  30. I don’t remember how I found your site – it was linked on someone’s blog and I just started checking it regularly because the articles are interesting. I started with a Zone diet, I tweaked it into a version of the athlete’s Zone (less carbs, more fat), started eating only Paleo foods in those proportions, and then tweaked it a little further by eliminating nightshades, eating more sat fat and lots of eggs. Now, I eat a Zone-ish Paleo/Primal diet with about 8x Zone fat blocks. I usually keep track of how many Zone blocks mainly so I can tell what works best as far as macronutrient ratios with how I feel and perform. I have changed from thinking macronutrient ratio is most important to knowing that it’s food quality that is actually most important. So, that’s usually my main focus. I totally agree with the sat fat view of the Primal Blueprint, which I’ve read about on multiple blogs (IF Life, Modern Forager, Underground Wellness). I didn’t know that artificial sweetners were ok in Paleo, but I definitely think they suck.

  31. Great Blog Mark. I just quit sugar two days ago, and when I was offered me sugar free cookies I said no thank you! To me that is worse than eating ice cream with sugar in it. I love my coffee with half and half, in fact I crave it in the mornings. I plan on being sugar free until December 12th…

  32. primalman – Good thought. I may do a difference between Weston Price and PB post in the future.

    Methuselah – Great question. It’s one I get often. I’ll be doing a Dear Mark post sometime in the near future to address your questions about the Primal Blueprint and supplementation. (Hint: I think it’s a crucial part of a healthy life in the modern world.)

    Chris – I’m glad this point comes across clearly. Flexibility is essential for long term success. The PB takes this into account.

    To Steve, SuperMike, Donna and everyone else, thank you for the support and the inspiring testimonials. As you all know, this site is a labor of love – as is the book I’m working on! (It’ll be done soon Bill. I promise!) Thank you all for being readers and your great comments.

    1. I think Westin A price is a HUGELY valuable resource for people who might find themselves in a “food desert”. There could be times where access to the very best food is limited and knowing how to make cheap bad food, much better could be a life saving knowledge.

  33. Mark,

    Great website. I used to be bummed on the weekend when there wasn’t a new MDA, but then I started looking forward to the new links on Weekend Love Link that took me to some other great sites. I like the links to previous stuff because sometimes it’s hard to find what you want in the archive.

    The first books to get me thinking about eating good food was the French paradox stuff and Real Food by Nina Planck, as well as a link to the Weston Price foundation from Ross Enamait’s boxing page (since he obviously is built like a brick sh… uh well never mind). Real Food was very influential since her arguments for whole milk and saturated fats like lard were very compelling (also I love heavy cream right out of the carton, so I’m sure this helped).

    I got pickier and started shopping the farmers’s market all summer long. Now I am in withdrawal as they only have it once a month in winter. I haven’t bought any meats other than local farmers’ for about 6 months. Being a reformed runner and triathlete, I didn’t want to give up grains, especially rice. However I started keeping track of which foods made me feel bloated up, and then cut them out. Sure enough, my stomach feels flat in the morning when I get up. And intermittent fasting makes my life a lot easier. Today I had walnuts and a little bit of pomegranate and wasn’t hungry until 2:30 or 3:00 pm. Now I have to be more careful when I work out (which is all functional evolutionary style now), but other than that it works great. Once I stopped focusing on trying to lose weight and be “healthy” with whole grains, it all started to come together.

    One day I woke up and was like “[email protected]#$ brown rice.” My next thought was that I absolutely hated egg whites and would eat just the yolks and throw out the whites if that’s what I wanted to do. I think the taking charge and making yourself responsible is the key element. Without trying, I am starting to see my midsection again, and this isn’t an easy task for women. I was marathoning and getting FATTER.

    I read the Paleo Diet and the Paleo Diet for Athletes and the focus on lean meats was just not for me. It seemed like South Beach, but with more real foods. My doctor, even she said the way to lose weight is to cut carbs, but of course would never say go eat some saturated fats.

    I think focusing on how I felt after eating made everything gel… I stopped eating foods that made me feel like crap. I still love tortilla chips, but I figure you can’t win every battle.

    The current book I am reading is FAT by Jennifer McLagan and wow it all sounds good and tasty, even goose fat which I’ve never even had.

    Keep up the great site. It’s my favorite one and I always go here first (so if you could post a little earlier in the day…) and learn something.


  34. I like all the links- I can remember concepts but always have to waste time tracking the articles down when I want to get a refresher or the specifics.

    One of my good friends awakened the whole lifestyle to me via DeVany’s site (and I still thank that friend everyday). Now its become an obsession and I check about 30 health blogs a day (with yours, Eades, modern forager, The IF Life, and T-Nation at the top). The more I read, the more I started to see flaw from DeVany and Cordain- especially after I was introduced to the whole concept of seasonal lifestlye variations in Lights Out:Sleep Sugar and Survival. (I’m sure you’ve probably promoted that, but if not its a must read for anyone primal.) I remember seeing Cordain and DeVany write about eating lean meats or trimming the fat, and I was like uhhh wouldnt the animals we’re eating also be fatter or leaner seasonally.

    What has really solidified my separation on some of Devany and Cordain’s ideas on fat has been the guys at Hyperlipid and Whole Health Source. Anyone “science minded” should go back and read everything theyve ever blogged on. After they present the argument there doesnt seem to be much to debate about.

  35. Mark,
    We all thank YOU for having MDA to come to every day and educating us to better health, you are “appreciated” by all us apples!
    And you make this site so much fun, as well, totally “UPBEAT!!!!”

  36. Aaron,
    Thank you also for all your hard work researching to bring us the best of knowledge, YOU are appreciated, also!!!

  37. I started reading various health blogs about a year ago when DH’s bloodsugar was slightly elevated. The doc’s weren’t sure why – he’s fit, trim, ate right and exercised. We already eat well – organic & grass fed, belonged to a CSA, etc.

    many tests later, he seems to be gluten/casein sensitive, but not celiac. This got me reading about Paleo, but I was also reading Hyperlipid and Whole health Source (these 2 make more sense) and ended up here.

    Drop the grains, drop the dairy (wow- wicked casein withdrawals!) and things are much better.

    The links are very helpful for someone who’s just joining the conversation and I think there will be plenty of those in the next few years. Doc’s are starting to get the word about gluten intolerance

  38. I went from not walking (wheelchair) to walking with change in diet from junk to gluten free, organic, fats, proteins, milk from goats, organic eats (little), no chemicals, no drugs, nothing artificial in drinks, eats, treats, no sugars and lots of supplements. I am not primal not paleo consuming the way God made it naturally. It works.

  39. I think you guys should read the Q&A section of Cordain’s website, because many statements that have been made here are just not true.

    For instance, regarding diet sodas:

    “In the typical western diet refined sugars comprise 16-18% of the total daily energy. Clearly, there are numerous health problems associated with this enormous intake of empty calories. However, for many people it is difficult to make sudden behavioral changes, particularly when it comes to comfort foods, such as highly sugared processed foods (ice cream, cake, cookies, candy etc). Although fruits would be a much better choice for taming the sweet tooth, diet sodas can help people to make this transition. We never have suggested that diet sodas were part of pre-agricultural diets…”

    I believe this means that to put an american (I’m from Europe, and our diet is not as uggly as the american diet, which is the worst diet on the planet) on a clean 100% paleo may be hard, just like it is hard to get a drug addict to quit cold turkey. So, sodas are a transition, nothing else.

    Regarding low fat meats, you have to understand that domesticated meats have nothing to do with wild meats



    And here are Cordain’s statements:
    What would you say to people who disagree with your assertion that saturated fats cause heart disease?

    First off, let’s get the record straight. I have never said that saturated fats are the sole dietary cause of “heart disease.” Coronary heart disease (CHD) consists of myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) and angina pectoris and accounts for 54% of the deaths from a larger category of heart and blood vessel illnesses called cardiovascular disease (CVD) which accounts for 40.6% of all deaths in the U.S. CVD not only includes CHD, but also stroke, congestive heart failure, hypertension, rheumatic heart disease, congenital cardiovascular defects, artery diseases and others. The physiological mechanism underlying CHD is atherosclerosis, a complex process involving interactions among environmental factors (both nutritional and non-nutritional) and the genome. Environmental factors such as exercise, smoking, and inflammation clearly influence the development and progression of atherosclerosis. Numerous nutritional factors can serve to either (1) promote or (2) inhibit atherosclerosis via modulation of one or more of the steps involved in the atherosclerotic process.

    Dietary saturated fats are nutritional elements that may promote atherosclerosis. As consumption of certain saturated fatty acids (12:0, 14:0, 16:0, but not 18:0) increases, the number of hepatic (liver) and peripheral low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptors decreases which in turn causes serum concentrations of LDL cholesterol to rise (a process called down regulation). Down regulation occurs because internalization of 12:0, 14:0 and 16:0 within cells reduces the expression of genes which code for the LDL receptor protein. At low blood LDL cholesterol concentrations (20-50 mg/dl), LDL cholesterol molecules move freely in and out of the arterial intima (the portion of the artery where atherosclerosis arises). When blood levels of LDL cholesterol molecules rise, LDL molecules tend to become “stuck” in the intima where they undergo oxidation and glycation to become “modified LDL.” Modified LDL stimulates arterial endothelial cells to display adhesion molecules which latch onto circulating monocytes and T cells. The endothelial cells then secrete chemokines which bring the monocytes and T cells into the intima where they mature into macrophages. T cells release cytokines causing inflammation and cell division within the artery. The macrophages are different from all other cells in the body in that they display a scavenger receptor which is not down regulated by LDL cholesterol molecules. The macrophages “feast” upon modified LDL cholesterol in the intima and become filled with these fatty droplets and become foam cells. Cytokines cause smooth muscle cells to grow over the lipid core of multiple foam cells forming a tough fibrous cap which becomes the characteristic plaque which defines atherosclerosis. Finally, inflammatory cytokines secreted by foam cells weaken the fibrous cap by digesting the collagen matrix. If the weakened cap ruptures, a substance secreted by the foam cells called “tissue factor” interacts with clot promoting elements in the blood causing a thrombus (clot) to form. If the clot is large enough to halt blood flow, it causes a myocardial infarction (heart attack).

    Dietary saturated fats do not always elevate blood LDL concentrations. When consumed under hypocaloric (reduced energy) conditions they may improve most blood lipid parameters including total and LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and total triacylglycerol (TG). This phenomenon typically explains why Atkins-like diets (such as recently reported this spring in the New England Journal of Medicine) may be as or more effective than hypocaloric, low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets. However, under isocaloric (normal energy) conditions, studies of healthy normal subjects show increased consumption of saturated fats significantly raises blood LDL concentrations.

    A further confounding factor in this scenario is the presence of a specific type of LDL cholesterol molecule in the blood called “small dense LDL.” The rate of influx of LDL into the intima is not only related to the blood concentration of LDL cholesterol, but also to the size of the LDL molecule. Small dense LDL have a greater flux into the intima than normal LDL and they are more likely to get “stuck” in the intima because of increase binding to proteoglycans. The primary metabolic source of small dense LDL is very low density lipoprotein molecules (VLDL) whose blood concentration is greatly influenced by dietary carbohydrate, particularly high-glycemic-load carbohydrates. Hence foods with high glycemic loads such as those made with refined sugars and grains may also operate synergistically with high dietary saturated fats to promote atherosclerosis. Additionally, high-glycemic-load carbohydrates are positively correlated with plasma concentrations of C reactive protein, an important marker for systemic inflammation, a key element of the atherosclerotic process, as I previously noted.

    The gold standard procedure for demonstrating cause and effect between diet and disease is called a dietary intervention. Subjects are either fed or not fed a certain food or nutrient and then either presence or absence of a disease or disease symptom is monitored over time. With CHD, the results of dietary interventions in which saturated fats have been lowered, frequently have been unable to demonstrate a reduced mortality from CHD. The problem with the majority of these studies is that they were conducted prior to the knowledge that high-glycemic-load carbohydrates were an important promoting factor in CHD etiology. Further, most of these studies did not control for inhibitory dietary factors such as omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, phytochemicals, antioxidants etc. Hence, the interpretation of whether or not dietary saturated fats cause CHD in these interventions is confounded by a number of crucial variables. In animal studies, including primates, these confounding dietary factors can be completely controlled and atherosclerosis is routinely induced by solely feeding high amounts of saturated fats.

    To what extent do you think the level of small-dense LDL cholesterol explains the “badness” of LDL? This is relevant to The Paleo Diet because small-dense LDL is strongly correlated with triglycerides. On some conceptions of The Paleo Diet, a more Atkins-like approach is taken: liberal saturated fat, very low carb. The result is often somewhat elevated LDL, but very low triglycerides. The low triglycerides probably indicate low levels of small-dense particles in the LDL fraction. This is why the Eades are not concerned about increases in LDL on their plan (for example). What is your take on this?

    Excellent point. We need more information to determine if very-low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets reduce small-dense LDL in all people or only in certain genetically predisposed people ala the multiple studies done by Dreon et al. Further it will be necessary to determine whether or not the total increase in LDL (even with a concomitant decrease in small-dense LDL) still accelerates the atherosclerotic process. It seems most likely that small-dense LDL is derived from triacylglycerols carried in the VLDL fraction, hence the possibility looms that a major determinant of atherosclerosis is the ratio of total LDL/small-dense LDL. To my mind, the evidence points to the notion that atherosclerosis results from many environmental factors including those dietary elements that simultaneously raise LDL (high-saturated-fat diets) and triacylglycerols (high-glycemic-load diets). Both of these dietary characteristics could not have been part of any Paleolithic diet.

    “There is absolutely no doubt that hunter-gatherers favored the fattiest part of the animals they hunted and killed. As far back as 2.5 million years there is incredible fossil evidence from Africa showing this scenario to be true. Stone tool cut marks on the inner jawbone of antelope reveal that our ancient ancestors removed the tongue and almost certainly ate it. Other fossils show that Stone Age hunter-gatherers smashed open long bones and skulls of their prey and ate the contents. Not surprisingly, these organs are all relatively high in fat, but more importantly analyses from our laboratories showed the types of fats in tongue, brain, and marrow are healthful, unlike the high concentrations of saturated fats found in fatty domestic meats. Brain is extremely high in polyunsaturated fats including the health-promoting omega-3 fatty acids, whereas the dominant fat in tongue and marrow are the cholesterol lowering monounsaturated fats.

    Since most of us would not savor the thought of eating brains, marrow, tongue, liver, or any other organ meat on a regular basis, a few 21st century modifications of the original Paleolithic diet are necessary to get the fatty acid balance “right.”

    THis is why he recommends, for instance, olive oil, which, evidently, wasn’t part of the diet of our H/G ancestors, but, In Spain, where I live, is highly used.

    Butter was not part of the diet of our Paleo ancestors, but many people who follow the “saturated fat is good and very healthy” approach also include it, so the arguments that he includes foods that are not Paleo doesn’t cut it.

    As for eggs, if you eat the typical ones, your Omega 6/Omega 3 ratio will go through the roof.
    If you choose eggs from wild chickens (who don’t feed on grains), the n6/n3 ratio will be around 2/1.
    Also, it should be reminded that eggs may be involved in auto-immunity, so not everyone can eat them.

    As so, the only dietary difference I can find is about saturated fat.

    See the following interview, which is very interesting:


    Of course, Mark does a great job pointing out that stress management, proper exercise and sleep are very important.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Mark’s perspective is a great one and he is a living proof that he’s right, but after reading Cordain’s papers on grains and auto-immunnity, I decided to follow his guidelines and my RA is in remission, and I intend to pursue my studies in Immunology to study dietary antigens in RA, so I have read everything the guy has published (not his laypersons articles, but his scientific ones) and I encourage everyone to read his great scientific papers, who, by the way, are available for free at his website (who else does that???), and then make up their mind.

    Merry Chritsmas to all of you and please do not think I’m atacking you, since I’m just defending someone who is being attacked on a very unfare way.


    1. I know this is an older post but with all the new books out this xmas season I think I shall about the autoimmune version Cordain is advocating. He says that grains, legumes and dairy all cause leaky gut by breaking down cell membranes. Now he is suggestion that folks with autoimmune conditons take out eggs and nightshades based on the fact they too brake down cell membranes. If that is the case why is he not advocating that we all take nightshades and eggs out?

      Also he labels nightshades as tomatoes, potatoes, egg plant and all those peppers. Why did he stop there since many more have the same key to open up cell membranes? Many types of other foods have the glycol akoids which have been proven to break down cell membranes in the stomach. No mention of apples, artichokes, blueberries and strawberries. Is he easing us into this?

      If dairy can also cause the cell membranes in stomach to break down how is dairy a good idea even if it has good fat? Antagonizing your immune system with leaky gut can not be a good thing long term. Can our stomachs really heal fast enought to deal with all these assaults? I don’t think so.

      Wolf and Cordain can’t agree on salt. Cordain can’t agree on sweet potatoes since one books says it is good and the other says it is one to avoid and both published in Dec. Wolf says sweet potato is good.

      Since most folks are overweight or obese many folks will run into insulin resistance to some degree when attempting PB or Paleo. No one really talks enough about this and how to manage it, can you reverse it and pitfalls. Any types of sugars and especially fructose from fruits can build up quickly if you go from high sweet intact to low sweet intake. The uric acid levels rise. I notice that some say well take the fruit out if you want to lower weight since sugar makes fat not fat. But there is another more difficult issue that if you are overweight significantly you need to take out all sweet stuff and see if your body can regulate insulin better. No one talks about how long that takes and how to manage this head on. Can you reverse it and are the long term effects still set in stone and there are some things that won’t bounce back?

      I feel like both plans have their strengths and weaknesses in what they offer for recipes. Shouldn’t the science be there by now to prove once and for all what we should eat? If they all agreed then I guess we wouldn’t need to buy more books etc.

    2. Thank you! I wish I would have read all the comments before posting mine. 🙁

  40. Had never heard of Primal Blueprint until I came across this blog. As a 60 year old (diabetes 55 years) and recently discovered I am gluten intolerant, I have some observations of my own. If you’re young, aware of the damage that grains and other food intolerances can do, saturated fats are probably fine. However, if the damage is already done I don’t think eating saturated fats is wise. In my opinion, a long-standing gluten intolerance is what damages the arteries, roughs them up so to speak, so that any fat you eat collects in those roughened up areas, creating CVD. As soon as people realize the damage that grains are doing to their bodies, the sooner we’ll see a decrease in CVD. Just my opinion.

  41. Seems that I’ve eaten and lived pretty much the Primal Blueprint for quite a few years now, but never called it that or heard of it. I still haven’t read the book, but plan to as soon as it can get it. I didn’t come to it through Paleo, but through Diana Schwarzbein and the Schwarzbein Principle. She has several books on the subject and a website: http://www.schwarzbeinprinciple.com. She gets into endocrinology as well as nutrition, stress management, avoiding toxic chemicals (which include artificial sweeteners) and exercise. Well worth reading her books to expand your knowledge.

  42. Hey Mark,

    I think you’ll find that a lot of Paleo advocates have taken Cordain’s base work and taken it further. The whole saturated fat, diet soda, eggs etc… Is a thing of the past for most followers.

    The way I see it, or what I can tell, is that followers of the newer Paleo guidelines ala a Robb Wolf type approach are pretty much in line with the Primal way of eating, don’t you think?

    Here’s a brief summary:

    All of the lean meat, fish, seafood, eggs you can eat
    All of the non starchy vegetables you can eat
    Plenty of fruit
    Moderate healthy fats
    Moderate nuts and seeds
    No grains or cereals at all
    No legumes
    No dairy products (eggs are meat)
    No processed foods – make it yourself!
    No sugars. Agave, organic honey, molasses, pure spun golden sunshine….it doesn’t matter. They are all equally bad for you.
    No artificial sweeteners. These are not food! Creepy laboratory products with sketchy safety records, artificial sweeteners have been shown to produce an insulin response.

    “In order to get enough protein and calories you should eat animal food at almost every meal” (Cordain, Page 101)

    Many different kinds of meat will work well for you. Here are some guidelines:

    – Animals, including fish, raised in commercial farms are not healthy so try to get

    § Grass fed beef

    § USDA certified organic meat

    § Wild fish

    § Locally raised animals

    – If unable to do any of the above, then eat the leanest cuts you can and trim visible fat.

    – Eating the fat of healthy fish, birds and animals is good for you. Eating the fat of unhealthy creatures is not.

    – Eggs are good. Eggs from birds allowed to forage and run around are better.

    – Buffalo, elk, venison and other types of wild game are excellent choices if you can get them.


    Time to get creative. Non starchy vegetables should be a big part of each meal. Virtually all vegetables offer excellent nutritional value.

    – When possible choose organic, locally grown vegetables that are in season. Each of these factors will improve nutritional value.

    – Experiment with sautéing, roasting and grilling your veggies. Try different recipes and different ethnic foods. Learn to use herbs and spices. This stuff should taste good!

    – Peppers, squashes, eggplant, garlic, leeks, onions broccoli, cauliflower, avocado, carrots, green, cabbage, celery, kale, dandelion (yes! dandelion) spinach, tomatoes, radish, parsnips, mushrooms….

    – Avoid starchy vegetable – potatoes, etc. If you must eat starch (it happens) try yams and sweet potatoes.

    – Avoid legumes. Peanuts, beans, peas, lentils and soybeans should be avoided.


    A paleo diet allows and encourages lots of fruit consumption. There are a few issues with fruit consumption though. We need to consider how the fruit was grown as well as the type of fruit to evaluate nutritional value. We also need to consider pesticide exposure.

    – If you can grow your own fruit or pick wild fruit – go for it!

    – Scavenge the local farmers market for fresh local seasonal fruit. Organic is best.

    – Try to avoid fruit from far away. Flying in kiwis from New Zealand is not really helping our health.

    – Avoid GMO (genetically modified organism) fruit. Period.

    – A little fruit juice occasionally can be okay but, fruit juice is really candy.

    – Wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly to minimize pesticides.

    – Some fruits like bananas have a high glycemic load and should be avoided if you are trying to loose fat.

    Berries! Eat lots of berries!


    Filling and nutritious. Nuts and seeds are packed with protein, fatty acids, enzymes, antioxidants and lots of vitamins and minerals, especially potassium and magnesium. It is possible to screw up your fat profile with nuts though. Lots of nuts have an unacceptably high omega 6 / omega 3 ratio. Here are the best choices:


    Macadamia nuts


    Nuts in moderation are very healthy but overeating them can stall weight loss. Cashews especially are delicious but surprisingly high in carbohydrate and contain too much omega 6.

    Peanuts are not nuts. Do not eat peanuts or peanut butter. Peanuts contain lectins and other anti-nutrients which can cause some real health problems.

    Note: Lots of packaged, shelled nuts are covered in trans fats! Read the label! Best to buy raw, unsalted nuts and spice them at home. When in doubt, buy walnuts and/or macadamia nuts.


    Fat is good for you. Fat is essential to your well being and happiness. (This is not hyperbolic writing. Having the proper fat profile makes a huge difference to your mental outlook and moods). Fat is a great source of energy. Fat triggers our sense of being full. Fat is an essential part of many of your cellular and hormonal processes. We sicken and die fairly quickly without adequate intake of essential fats.

    However….there are many bad fats in our food supply.

    Fat from healthy animals is good for you! Chicken, duck, goose, lamb, beef and pork fat can all be eaten and is an excellent choice for cooking because of heat stability. Lard is internal fat from around the kidneys. Lard from naturally (not grain) fed pork and beef is a very good choice. Lard from grass fed animals is hard to find though, so butter can be used instead.

    Butter. Not really paleo, butter contains milk solids and water as well as fat. Butter from grass fed cows is very good for cooking and enhancing the flavor of steamed vegetables.

    Making butter better! (More paleo)

    Melt butter in a sauce pan over low heat. Remove butter from heat and let stand for a few minutes, allowing the milk solids to settle to the bottom. Skim the clear yellow liquid from the top and strain into a container. You have just made Ghee! Ghee stores well frozen.

    Coconut oil is good for you and a good choice for cooking. Choose organic, cold processed coconut oil.

    Olive oil is very healthy. Go for the extra virgin, cold pressed and use liberally. Olive oil does not have great heat stability so use something else for high heat frying.

    Flaxseed oil is very good but…it should not be heated at all and oxidizes rapidly. Store flaxseed oil in the refrigerator and use quickly.

    Fats to Avoid:

    Trans Fats – fats damaged by heat. Trans fats can be extremely destructive to our health. Trans fats can be made at home!! Start with a healthy, unrefined oil, naturally high in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids – apply excessive heat and presto! Health wrecking trans fats. Easy!

    Hydrogenated and/or partially hydrogenated oils. Terrible! Reread the last paragraph.

    Canola – should be avoided. Canola has a very good omega 6/ Omega 3 ratio. However, to be used commercially it has been genetically modified, highly refined, partially hydrogenated and deodorized. Yikes!

    Margarine – see trans fats.

    Peanut, cottonseed, soybean and wheat germ oils…Not good!

    Is there anything in here that conflicts with Primal?

  43. Mark your articles and site are always a wealth of information. Thanks for this. I do appreciate the links in the article but I am an analytical type (being an engineer by trade).

    I am a little interested in the promotion of supplementation. I also happen to be a moderate proponent. It’s important to remind people at some pt the difference between that and drugs or straight out performance enhancers.

    It kind of doesn’t fit the PB ideal in some way but so what as you point out we have a lot of environmental factors Grok didn’t. Also if technology has figured something out that helps us be younger and stronger longer why not? (Grok only had to survive long enough to procreate, maybe 30 years right).

  44. This is one best blogs on this topic. It is so important that this information gets out there is a big way. I watch people on the(sad)diet and have worked with the frutarian diet.Basic common sense goes out the window, when people approach healthy eating.

    We lost our way, this blog brings us back to the basics of health.

    Thanks for the great job!

    Blanche Scharf

  45. “the so-called Paleo Diet, for which Loren Cordain is the most recognized voice.”

    Yes, this is true, he is the most recognized voice today, but the paleo diet was around before Cordain, and most of the differences you point out between Cordain’s diet and primal are also differences between Cordain’s diet and what others consider to be paleo. Many of us follow the Neanderthin take on the diet. In Neanderthin there is no limit to saturated fat (at least if from grass-fed animals), there is no limit on eggs, there are no artificial sweeteners, and no seed oils are allowed. This brings it down to the only difference between a true paleo diet and your primal diet is the issue of dairy.

    I have defined the paleo diet along with listing all the variations on it on this fairly recent page:


  46. Mark,

    I love your blog. I’ve been following it for a few months now and find the information useful, love that it is actually backed up with peer review research (the more links the better!), and am always passing articles on to others.

    I came to the Primal Blueprint while searching through the many blogs on Paleo, with a CrossFit and The Zone diet background. I’m adding more Primal ideas to my way of life every day. It works for me!

    Keep up the good work,


  47. First, I was learning about Paleo challenge. I have been lectured the Paleo challenge with deaf lady. Also, I learned how to track the Paleo logs. Also, I would pick good recipes.

  48. I still don’t get it. Cheese is ‘processed’ food. As is butter.
    Paleo is not raw, I get that too. The recipes seem to use dairy or not at the whim of the cook. Beef makes my knees ache; indicative of inflammation and not a good thing nor a good lifestyle choice.
    So is this just another ‘make bucks on a theory’, a philosophy, if you will (think Marxism, Socialism and standard religion), rather than an actual reasoned and realistic lifestyle choice?

    1. Are you eating grass-fed beef or conventionally raised beef. It makes a big difference.

  49. I came to PB after researching about P90X, I was instantly hooked… my wife calls it my “cult.” Lately though I’ve been reading more up on a Paleo perspective, currently I’m reading “Primal Body – Primal Mind” and have been getting into Robb Wolf and Whole9Life podcast/blog.

    I find with Paleo people tend to come at it from a celiac disease/gluten intolerace, lactose intolerance angle. Almost as though you have to have something wrong with you to first see the benefit. PB’s approach has been a bit more sensible in that anybody can conform to it.

    Overall I love them both, especially the areas where there is overlap. I don’t worry too much about the warring factions within the two camps because either way you’re going to be healthier and live longer and I never ever take that for granted.

  50. Me Grok
    Me eat what I find and kill
    Me healthier than you
    Be like Grok

    Grok you very meat. I mean: Grok you very much.

  51. I am coming from a Paleo prospective and the thought of using things like cheese, butter, etc. scares me.

    I’d like a good explanation of why they’re allowed and then I’ll be able to sink my teeth into the concept. (pun!)

  52. This was an interesting read but a little surprising to me. I’ve been reading about the paleo diet for at least a year now, trying to find recipes and food sources in the area to make the switch. None of the websites I’ve looked at have mentioned restricting egg consumption, nothing about fat that I remember, and lean meat was only mentioned in that wild game is more likely to be lean, though organ meat was also mentioned. Aside from the occasional butter and/or dairy use in the primal, I haven’t seen a difference. Perhaps I’ve managed to avoid the paleo websites that are more restrictive. Anyway, I’m looking forward to trying all the good recipes you’ve put up!

  53. I’ve been Paleo for about 9 to 10 months. It has worked great for me so far. Then I found your blog which is awesome. I have your book now and really enjoyed reading it. I really like your approach. I own a small personal training studio and plan on having another 1 of my crazy challenges and plan on using your system and having your book as part of the challenge.

    Great Job!!!!

  54. I had great success on the Atkins diet years ago, but gave it up during a fourth of July picnic, and sadly did not immediately return. I had tons of energy back then. Going back on it some time later I found the energy I sought to recapture didn’t show up. I dropped off again, confused as to what went wrong. I decided I didn’t do it the same way as back then. I incorporated too many carbs from grains and it must be interfering with my progress. I saw the primal blueprint and the truth hit me. I didn’t go far enough. Thanks for being there!

  55. As I recently found your site, I asked myself the same thing. I didn’t read Cordain’s book. I read Wolf’s in which he seems to address sleep and other ways to enrich your life. Anyway, so far, maybe not the exact same but both are beneficial. I decided to take the best for what you both offer. Obviously some basics: No grains, processed food (or way less), refined sugar but the oils and the milk…not so hardcore on. However, thanks for putting your information out here for us to be enlightened.

  56. I like the links. They help explain concepts I want to know more about.

  57. Hi! i am new to all of this. i belong to a weightloss group called fatsecret.com it is basically like a facebook for ‘dieters’. it is a motivational tool to lose weight and to keeo track of progress. you can enter your diet and i was on atkins. i recently watched a documentary called fat head and really got into tom naughtons blog. i think he was on paleo? not sure, but one of the girls i had been sharing ideas with on fat secret was on the primal blue print, so i googled what the differences were and found your site!! i was just a little confused bc tom naughton (if im right about him being on primal) talks about how wonderful fat is and i agree! so maybe he is unaware of the differences and there is a misconception about the differences? idk? but i guess primal might be what im looking for.

  58. I have never heard of any of this. I, too, have always thought that paleolithic diet/lifestyle is the same as Primal. I still do. The acceptance of artificial sweeteners and the exclusion of saturated fat is not the paleo that I know.

  59. I’ve never tried the Paleo Diet, but from everything I’ve read in your post, I sure never will because I love coconut oil and hate diet soda, or any soda at all.
    Since I’ve been reading your blog I have been trying more of the blue print approach, I do love to eat lots’ of fruits though. Grains and pastas of I’ve cut down to 1 day a week, and when I do eat grains it’s brown rice only. The rest of the 6 days a week, I’ve been eating primal.
    In my Fitness Guide it is said that glucose is the main source of fuel for the body, but after reading your post several weeks ago on Carbs and how they only have a limited amount that can be stored by the body, vs fat that has a much larger storage supply – that totally makes complete sense to me.
    I think more fitness trainers should incorporate Primal approach for their clients.
    The more I eat primal the more convinced I become that glucose is not the main source of energy.
    Thank you for another great post, I really enjoy reading your blog.

  60. Primal, Paleo, either one, they’re both copy cats of the Atkins diet. I’m always amazed that people are so eager to shell out money for yet another diet book that claims to be the “one”. They’ll defend it by saying, but this diet/eating style is different, its very good for your health/body. Right..
    As the saying goes, there’s a sucker born every minute. From the comments I’ve read on here, those suckers have been lining up tenfold to buy your book. Kudos to you for getting rich off their backs.

  61. I just looked up the difference between primal and paleo…. with the description about artificial sweeteners in paleo-land, I said no thanks! So I just purchased ‘The Primal Blueprint’ Nook-book for my Android device. The only problem with the Nook-book is that people cannot see what you are reading and ask questions. People need to know their S.A.D. is making them sick and will ultimately kill them.

  62. I recently saw a friend I hadn’t seen in months. She looked terrific, and mentioned your name & your book. I began looking at Primal & Paleo; they seemed like they could be the same thing, but nobody could answer. I didn’t want to have to read ALL the books; I just wanted the best one. I finally found your answer here – Thank You! I will pick up your book and get started. Though this is not an exhaustive explanation, there is enough here to convince me.

  63. What’s Happening i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I have found It absolutely useful and it has helped me out loads. I hope to contribute & assist other users like its helped me. Great job.

  64. Good Day!
    I am interested in learning more about your site and the primal/paleo diets….People have always said I am one of the more healthy people they know….I disagree. Since marrying my husband i feel like I cheat all the time and eat naughty sweets and carbs (chips crackers etc..) My husband makes it tough to keep healthy in my food choices. I have thinking of how should i adjust my diet to be most healthful to my body so that I do not gain weight and feel puffy or pudgy. I know i can do it if I put my mind to it. I think some of this is related to my emotional sate of mind etc….which I know needs some mending and heathful work. I used to never need sweets and juckfood but now look out i have to try hard not to eat it if it’s in the house. We have a 7 year old daughter….and naturally we buy snacks for her to put in her lunch box. I have convinced my husband to at least by things such as the 100 calorie snack packs. I know all of the processed ingreedients are bad and harmful to her body. I am able to get her to drink lots of water adn eat fruits and veggies, but like most kids she loves her junck food and sweets. How do I go about letting her be a kid and indulge but without all the harmful processed junk….I would like to ingrain ibn her mind the importance of healthful snacking and the importance of how and why to keep healthy and the makeups of the foods she is eating. I think if I get her to understand the foods it may help more in the choices she makes. Please share any advice you might have I love to learn and pass it on to my daughter. Thank you for taking the time to read this post!!!! God Bless you all.

  65. I like the links! If there is every a question about something, the link is there to provide more info. Thank you!

    Came to PB while on the hCG protocol and a forum (www.hcgdietinfo.com). While there, became aware of Taube’s book, “Why We Get Fat,” and then PB. I have both and it makes sense to me. I am maintaining weight loss since end of July through PB concepts, including no grains!

  66. My only issue at this point is learning that eggs and dairy are not recommended for multiple sclerosis patients. Eggs are inflammatory apparently. Now I suspect that is the reason my M.S. flared–feet are numb and walking is possible, but I can tell the legs are not working well. If you met me three weeks ago, you would never guess I had M.S. After losing 30#, I came to learn & read PB, and began eating three eggs for breakfast starting end of July. By 9/18, the, numbness (pins/needles) started in left foot. One week later, it’s in both feet. Another week, it’s extended to my calves.

    I wish I had known eggs were inflammatory. Dairy is not recommended either… I knew that, but became cocky & began eating Greek yogurt during this time, though I used to use dairy very little (only cheese occasionally).

    So eggs & dairy are scrapped from my PB eating style. Does this make me paleo now? I DO use coconut oil, but do NOT use artificial sweeteners EVER.

  67. I have read so many Paleo books it is hard for me to target which book this came from, but I know for a fact that saturated fats are not looked at as a total evil with Paleo. I believe Robb Wolf spends quite a lot of time talking about how saturated fats were actually given a bad wrap and that certain ones are actually very beneficial, like stearic acid. The Paleo Solution also discusses how important staying active is, discusses how we can replicate the activity level of our paleolithic ancestors, and other lifestyle aspects like sleep and stress that all roll together into one big happy Paleo ball.

    Loren Cordain is certainly one of the faces of The Paleo Diet, but Robb Wolf is up there too, and probably more of the “spokesperson” right now… I think reading Robb Wolf’s literature is important to understanding the ‘modern’ view of Paleo. Also, from my experience, CrossFit recommends reading The Paleo Solution over any other Paleo book.

    From what I can tell, there isn’t a huge difference between the two diets/lifestyle choices… I had a website visitor tell me once that the difference had to do with the elimination of dairy (or lack of it), and the types of animal proteins that were eaten (emphasis on eating lean meats vs just killing the thing and eating all parts). This post doesn’t discuss that information much, so I am curious if that is true.

    Thanks for your response!

    1. I don’t know if this is due to companies jumping on the Paleo bandwagon to make a buck, but I see tons of self-proclaimed Paleo products full of dried fruits and honey. If these foods are indeed in conformity with the prevailing Paleo philosophy, I would infer that a huge difference between PB and Paleo is the emphasis on insulin control. A lot of the foods I see bandied about as Paleo are natural, but definitely not low glycemic. Anyone have more insight on this?

      1. Belated reply, but yes. We saw the same thing with the “gluten free” trend. Even veganism in its early days had a strong bent toward plant-based nutrient density (e.g., relying on the more nutrient-dense tropical fruits and vegetables and more micronutrient density by increasing veggie intake).

        Now you can ironically make “auto-immune protocol compatible” cookies. Yeah, they don’t have grains or legumes or gluten. But yeah, it’s basically refined carbs and does most of the same damage.

        The concept of something being “on-diet” needs a lot of refining. Sweet potato is not “on-diet” if that’s your main vegetable, to the exclusion of low-carb leafy greens, for example.

        Likewise, using honey or even sugar as a glaze in a meat dish as part of a meal high in low-glycemic veggies doesn’t cause much of an issue for most people, although using whole fruit-based sweeteners is probably preferable because you retain more of the fiber/other nutrition. It’s about context.

  68. I like the diet, but my only question is – what justifies that Grok had access to butter and eggs, but very little access to fruit? I would think that fruit would be much more widely available to a caveman than butter, which is processed and I doubt cavemen made on their own…

    But who knows, I didn’t live back then. Maybe Grok had a butter churn.

  69. I don’t know if this is due to companies jumping on the Paleo bandwagon to make a buck, but I see tons of self-proclaimed Paleo products full of dried fruits and honey. If these foods are indeed in conformity with the prevailing Paleo philosophy, I would infer that a huge difference between PB and Paleo is the emphasis on insulin control. A lot of the foods I see bandied about as Paleo are natural, but definitely not low glycemic. Anyone have more insight on this?

  70. I have cOme to find your blog after losing 40 pounds on the Slow Carb Method from Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Body and now wanting to delve deeper into nutrition. I appreciate all the links and shared resources immensely!

  71. I am leery about saturated fats, but am testing your theory nonetheless. I don’t agree with artificial sweeteners or diet sodas/drinks. They weren’t here in Grok times. Since Grok didn’t have them, I certainly don’t need them and will avoid putting those chemicals into my body.

    Personally, after reading your comparison of the two, I prefer yours, but I will still be reading the Paleo books to get a well-round, unbiased look at both lifestyles to base my decisions.

    Presently, I’m only following Primal.

  72. Dr. Joel Wallach espouses the same diet as the primal that Mark is promoting. Saturated fat and cholesterol are your freind, not enemy. Things like gluten, sugar, and vegetable oil are. I have been eating like this for awhile, I feel like I did at 25 at age 42. Awesome info.

  73. Mark, I think the links are a wonderful thing on your post. As a new member of the PB family they have been a great thing for me to be able to read more in the topics I am interested in now while I continue to learn as I move forward.

  74. Thank you, this is very helpful. And, yes, I love the links. I use your links often to read more of your great website!

  75. Thank you for this article. I have read the 21 day Primal Blueprint book and am just beginning the original book you wrote. In between, I have read a couple of books and many blogs on Paleo and have found myself somewhat confused by all the different interpretations for that diet. Primal Blueprint was simple in comparison and that is what I plan to stick with!

  76. I am in the process of transitioning over to Primal from SCD. I’m probably about 80% Primal and 20% SCD at this time. I also have two little ones and am a breastfeeding mom. One difference I am continuing to adhere to is allowing legumes in our diet – especially for my kiddos. We make homemade refried beans every week and have 1/4 cup with eggs for breakfast. I soak a variety of beans for 2 days, then boil, wash, and THEN cook them in the crockpot with onions, jalapenos, etc. And like the SCD, we are still having a “cheat” day on the weekend where my toddler looks forward to baking cookies, ice cream, etc. However – rather than it being an all out “cheat day” like in SCD – we are simply adding a few foods to the menu taht day that normally wouldn’t be allowed.

  77. Hi Mark,

    I’ve been low-carbing on-and-off for the last couple of years. Lost a stone without too much trouble but it’s found me again a couple of times so I’m always searching for new stuff. Primal looks good to me and I’m trying to head that way, despite resistance from my family.

    I can’t imagine using most of your replies to anyone I know, but think you and your family are fab anyway: and your site of course 🙂

    Was reading https://www.livestrong.com/article/217327-primal-diet-food-list/ but stumbled quite early on.. well, in the first sentence really.. I couldn’t help wondering if you’d seen it..
    Anyway, just wanted to mention it.

    Best wishes

  78. Just found out about this and only into day 5 of education releases but I was initally dismissing ot as Paleo and too harsh But the fact that is allowing butter whilst its not Paleo it has been around 9000 and 8000 BC by the Mesopotamian Nomads, some carbs in form of vegetables has made me revise this. So I starting today. I’m already pretty primal without trying to hard. But can I forgo Cornflake toppers on my Fruit and yoghurt in the morning???

  79. I come from raw vegan (for a minute) but it didn’t feel right 100% of the time. Eggs and smaller fish soon followed. “Cleaner” meats entered the picture shortly after. Wild foods came into view… I like the approach here which sort of encompasses all that with great recipes, studies to look to for what they’re worth, fitness, and realistic behaviour. I’m a fan.

  80. Without really looking into paleo or PB, I was just following the wheat-belly approach of Dr Davis and after a few weeks, I realized that I was actually quite PB without being aware. It’s a great thing and I will not go back to my unhealthy diet, no no no 🙂

  81. Baby steps and I am only just starting out on primal. I have an egg allergy unfortunately – wish me luck.

  82. Hi, I just finished listening to Dr. Cordains interview with the Diet Doctor on YouTube and I think that some of your info about his diet, esp. oil needs to be updated or revised. Looking at his web site, he now states that coconut oil is “good”.

    Thanks. KS

  83. This is great. There are many that follow the Paleo lifestyle that see benefit of saturated fats! In fact I just finished reading an article on a Paleo site about a nutrient called Vitamin K2, it is mostly found in unpasturized dairy, animal fats, and organ meat. Raw (non-pastrized) butter also contains many other things that are beneficial. This same article also talked about the misconception surrounding cholesterol… I think that the Paleo world is ever evolving. The importance is that we all maintaining lifestyles that keeps our bodies in a more “Normal” state of being. Raw foods that are easy for our bodies to digest are important. The name of the way we choose to eat is not important. Remember, people were doing it before any of us were ever here to give it a name!

  84. It is very strange reading this. Perhaps things have changed over time. You single out one particular version of the paleo diet. But it doesn’t seem to describe the paleo diet as it exists today.

    Clarified butter and coconut oil are in. Animal fats are in. Organ meats are in. Canola oil is also out. Artificial sweeteners are also out.

    From a food standpoint, it sounds a whole lot harder to pick out differences today. Have you created (or considered creating) an update to this article to explain the differences in today’s Paleo diet with the Primal Blueprint?

    The impression I’m getting is that the Primal Blueprint is now a paleo diet plus other lifestyle changes.

  85. I have to agree with Josh.

    This summary sounds more like a comparison between Cordain and Sisson than between Paleo and Primal.

    I came to this lifestyle a few years ago through paleo writers (not Cordain) and have never read of anyone recommending artificial sweeteners, or dairy. Saturated fats + omega 3s, and interval+strength exercise have been strongly recommended.

    Likewise there are primal authors with a different emphasis to Mark’s (e.g. Nora Gedgaudas).

    Perhaps one could even say that there is more difference between individual authors than between primal and paleo?

  86. hello all

    Loren Cordain has actually revised his book and his opinion on Saturated fats and therefore has also changed his mind on coconut oil including some beneficial facts about coconut oil.

    i do however remember that his opinion of eggs has not changed too much. He does encourage the intake of eggs to be moderate. so perhaps he has yet to discover that role or link to cholesterol in eggs.

    Have read both the Paleo diet for Athletes and the paleo diet… both are revised editions.

    Perhaps you should re-read and update what you have up on your blog concerning the difference between paleo and Primal.

    Can’t wait to get my hands on the Primal Blueprint!

  87. I just love what you (Mark) and Dr. Cordain and Dr. William Davis have all done to change my life for the way, way better. Cordain is indeed evolving his ideas, as do you, and as do I the consumer of the info you are all developing. I’m SO grateful for the information and the online community you’ve created here.

    My own copy of The Primal Connection will be in my front door on Wednesday when I get home from work, and I’m stoked!

  88. I thought one of the differences between Paleo and Primal was that Paleo doesn’t allow dairy? And I thought Paleo had something against salt? I didn’t read every comment to see if theset questions were already answered. So if the answer it there already……I’m sorry.

  89. I agree with you abour sugar substitutes Mark. When you get further along the primal pathway, you simply don’t need too many sweet foods. Using artificial anything in a primal diet is counter productive.I haven’t found one that I liked the taste of.

  90. I just received my copy of Primal Cravings. Some of the baking ingredients listed are potato flour and tapioca flour and potato starch flour. Are these ok to use in my baking as you don’t list them in your cookbooks that I have?
    Thanks, and keep the good works coming!

  91. To JD Wilson:

    Denying the Antecedent, as you call it, is a formal way of labeling a basic lack of understanding of logic thats unfortunately very common.

    Consider A implies B. If A then B. If you walk in the rain then you’ll get wet.

    That’s equivalent to saying not B implies not A. If not B then not A. If you don’t get wet you didn’t walk in the rain.

    If A then B is NOT equivalent to “if not A then not B”.

    That would be if you don’t walk in the rain you won’t get wet. But that’s nonsense because you could get wet any number of other ways, like jumping in your pool.

    In this case, if our ancestors ate it then its good for us. That’s equivalent to saying if its non good for us our ancestors didn’t eat it. That tells us that they didn’t eat toxins, not that they ate everything good that you can eat.

  92. Great article! I love all the articles and pointers for everyone trying to learn the difference and get healthy

  93. I completely disagree about any references to how our ancestors lived and ate, they had NO choice, As stated above, they did what they did and ate what they could to live day to day. I believe the most nutritious plan is plant based. Healthy protiens, and “one ingredient” items, fruits , veggies and lean *organic protein sources….For those that wish to eat vegan or vegetarian ..too, is also great. People are very uneducated, (in general, i am not referring to anyones posts)…when it comes to vegetarianism, like “Omg where do you get protein??”, …The same way a horse does, one of the strongest mammals on earth for godsake! …people dont realize there IS protein in veggies…and tons in grains too….but anyway, back to topic, sorry……..I dont believe palio is anything healthy at all. If i had to choose, it’d be the PB. …just my opinion.

    1. Horses are strong mammals, but they are also a different species…just saying.

  94. Hello, Mark! I follow the Paleo diet as closely as possible (except for the occasional corndog or Reese’s peanut butter cup…or hoppy beer!). Nell Stephenson is hardcore Paleo and she advocates using coconut oil because it is good for you! I think I remember reading something about coconut oil being another good option in The Paleo Diet book also. I read the updated version of the Paleo Diet book by Dr. Cordain and although he does state one is allowed to drink diet sodas, I think he was referring to it being OK for cheat meals. There are three levels of Paleo: Level I allows 3 cheat meals per week; Level II allows two; and Level III allows one cheat meal per week.

    Let’s just agree that both diets are far more superior than the SAD diet. Hopefully, this doesn’t come off as confrontational I just don’t want the Paleo diet to get a bad reputation because there is a lot of real food one can enjoy. And damn it feels good!

  95. Haha! I am what I would probably call “Paleo” and I publish “Paleo” recipes on my blog and I don’t even know who Cordain is! I think I may have vaguely heard of them but I pick and choose what makes me feel good.

    I am gluten, dairy and refined sugar free and I have never felt better… except today, because somehow I got it in my head that I should use all my almond meal up making Macarons… now the sugar makes me feel like I want to be sick. So I think what Sebastien says RE: Cordain not owning it, and it’s followers defining (or re-defining) what exactly is Paleo is spot on.

    As I pointed out, I listen to what is right for my body (sugary Macarons are obviously a no-no!) and I think this should be the focus for ANYONE wanting to establish a healthier lifestyle. It shouldn’t be about ticking off items on a checklist, it should be about finding what is right for you and accepting that you have the sovereign right over what goes into your body, and you don’t need to justify what you are or are not willing to eat by aligning it to a certain diet whether it’s Paleo/Atkins/RawFoodism/PB or whatever…. if you don’t want to eat it- don’t eat it!

    As for me, I am quite content with my eggs, coconut oil, and a few “good” grains and legumes like amaranth and chickpeas thrown in. If anyone asks, “Paleo” is an easy label (probably because Primal isn’t so well-known here) for me to use, so I’ll keep using it as a generic term but really I don’t think it matters as long as your diet and your lifestyle works for you!

  96. Hi Mark,
    Ok, WAY up there, above all the comments, you asked our (my) opinion & perspective. So here it is…
    I’ve come to your website seeking information about diet and lifestyle changes… & here’s why:

    Recently, I was dealt group of mystery health issues. All the “specialists” couldn’t be bothered to “get to the bottom of it” and really “treat” me! They all insisted upon tossing pharmaceuticals at me that always made things worse! That’s what I call, “The Illness Care System” for you!

    So I fired them all, went outside the insurance network, (yes, outta pocket & it’s a bear!) and found a more holistic-minded doc. THIS one plays nice with my Chiropractor, who has always been my go-to-guy for holistic health type stuff.

    After running numerous tests (insurance didn’t want to have done), we NOW have info to work with. Eureka! Now, we know I have some food intolerances and some inflammation issues… among other things. Houston, we have direction!! And diet is one of the things we are addressing first.

    So both docs gave me a short list of diets to research, to find what will be right for me. My Chiropractor, mentioned this “Primal” aspect of “Paleo” that was more “lenient” or more “common-sense” to him… he said I should check it out.

    In the meantime, I’d been reading up on GAPS, “The Comprehensive Elimination Diet,” various Paleo sites & a magazine, the JJ VIrgin Diet, and the Bulletproof Executive. WHEW!! What a lot of research!! I’m currently kind of following the Virgin diet. It’s helping, but there maybe more I can do & I want to make sure I’m well informed.

    So… that’s where I came from & how I came to you… Just so ya know. I perused your site a couple of short times, but now I’ back for a longer research stint. I am SO grateful that you have this page on the difference between Paleo and Primal. I APPRECIATE this so much. THANK you! This helps!! And the LINKS throughout the article are very helpful, as it gives me markers to the important things I need to check next.

    Thanks for the info.
    Be Well,
    Albuquerque, NM

  97. For anyone truly interested in human evolution, I highly recommend The 10000 Year Explosion – it will address some common misconceptions about human evolution, especially recent human evolution.
    Basically, neither the food we eat nor our bodies are the same as they were 10000 years ago – so trying to “mimic” previous humans is somewhat scientifically problematic.

  98. Your questions pretty much sum it all up. Looking for a better way to lose weight and get healthier. Came here from the prospective search of Paleo and want more from it and to learn more about the difference of Primal and Paleo. I just stumbled on to Paleo while trying to Sugar Detox my system in an effort to get control (yet again) with my eating. Started feeling miraculously better in 3 days then found a web site with the Paleo diet. So here I am on this page search for more…..Can’t stop now. I am feeling better. I just need more to help get the control over the sugar and KEEP IT! Sugar to me is like a smoker trying to quit cigarettes (I was able to quit smokes 30 years ago, but can’t get the sugar addiction to stop!!)

    1. Kasey, here’s two words for you EAT FAT…… that helps me at least. I LOVE sugar, it does NOT love me back. So to kick my habit I traded out the sugar in my coffee for a heaping tablespoon each of grass fed butter and coconut oil. Two cups of that and I’m good. The pull to sugar gets weaker and weaker until you just don’t want the carb hangover/headaches/etc anymore more than you want the sugar. Keep trying….. EAT MORE FAT.

      1. I couldn’t agree more! Eating fat was the one thing that helped me get rid of my sugar addiction. I now crave beautiful, healthy fat rather than sweet treats, which I never thought would be possible. I haven’t had sweetener of any type for six months! I feel amazing.

  99. As a follower of Paleo, I would also like to suggest an update of information in this article that Josh and Jen suggested. Though there are many variations based on personal beliefs, the version of Paleo that I follow has different guidelines than what you have outlined here.

    Here are the three most relevant:

    Clarified butter/ghee, coconut oil, and saturated fats are fine on a Paleo diet, if not encouraged. Vegetable oils are not supported.

    Artificial sweetener and soda are not okay, and sugar, regardless of where it’s from, should be limited.

    Meat is meat is meat, and we are not limited to only lean meats (ties into the whole acceptance-of-saturated-fat thing).

    As I said, there are many versions of Paleo and, as we learn more and more, the general terms for the diet is ever-evolving. But the ground rules for the majority of those on Paleo are different than what you have presented here. Seeing as you are the first result to pop up on a (the) most used search engine when looking for “differences between paleo and primal”, I would strongly support a revised post to reduce spreading outdated and inaccurate information.

  100. “Vegetable oils are not supported.”

    I am not aware of any oil that is made from vegetables. Soy bean oil is euphemistically called vegetable oil. What is not recommended is seed oils. What is okay are oils made from nuts or fruits. There are numerous nut oils. The only two fruit oils I know of are olive and avocado.

    Humans did not evolve as seed eaters. Hence no grains, no seed oils, no meat that was feed grains, and no flax or chia seeds.

    Seeds/grains are pushed on us as that is where the money is. Labor is expensive. The less labor in a product the more profit there is. There is almost no labor in the growing of grains. The major grain growers, Cargill and Continental Grain, are so profitable they are still privately held.

    All paleo/primal foods have to be hand picked or hand processed. Though I find that they have figured out how to harvest carrots by a machine.

  101. Paleo and Primal.
    Firstly the diets are about eating healthy not specific foods. Where I was born there were no grains EVER. Grains were only 6% of the entire world’s diet. So, comparisons can not be made. Ancestors ate what they could harvest. I don’t remember any movies where cavemen were using artificial sweeteners. If it is artificial then your body becomes artificial. Canola oil was only in PART of the world. Why did eskimo eat only FAT and blubber and never get fat? This is about consuming food that can be easily metabolized by the body
    Processed and artificial are not natural!

  102. This is an excellent, very well written article. All this time I thought I was following a paleo plan, when in reality I was following a primal plan. I detest artificial sweeteners. I even tried Stevia, and that is just as icky (if not moreso) than the other stuff. I use honey or dates to sweeten or not at all. I find that the more I apply primal concepts (especially forest bathing and adequate sleep) the better I feel overall. Mark is absolutely right – it’s about so much more than just the fuel.

  103. Great article! I discovered MDA through your book The Primal Connection (love!) and at the time, I was only interested in your lifestyle suggestions, not the diet itself (I was vegetarian at the time). I’ve since made the shift and am starting to venture into primal living and of course, am flooded with the amount of paleo/primal info available – a good thing!

    BUT I’ve been wondering what the difference was, as it hasn’t taken long for me to realize that just like with every theory, not everyone agrees 😉 Awesome work, I’m very grateful!

  104. I am so glad that my YouTube viewing led me to your blog! My low fat carb heavy diet cycle has left me with poor dental health, now obese after my pregnancy, tired and sick. I have been a vegetarian and I have felt so ashamed as if I just wasn’t a good enough vegetarian. I cut calories and end up 10lbs heavier. I’m so tired of dieting. I feel worn out, fat and sick. I’m ready for a change and great health!! Thank you for having this blog. I know this transition won’t be easy but I’m hopeful about the outcome in the future!

  105. I’m doing ‘The Paleo Way’ program by My Kitchen Rules chef Pete Evans.
    From reading the above, it sounds much more like primal than the paleo you described, except they don’t have dairy.

    Interesting read

  106. Great clarification on Paleo vs. Primal! Seems like you & Dr. David Perlmutter (neurologist, author of Grain Brain) are on the same page with saturated fat and limiting carbohydrates. Are you familiar with Peter Attia? Uber athlete, doctor and another advocate of high fat, low carb diet. The science behind how it changed him as an athlete is fascinating! Do you advocate this type of eating for teens? Personally, I think it applies to everyone.

  107. Is this only a particular type of Paleo that you’re referencing, perhaps? For example, every source of Paleo recipes and info I’ve come across over the last half-decade or so includes generous amounts of coconut oil and eschews artificial sweeteners. While Paleo is indeed often presented as a list, canola oil often tops the list of oils to avoid. I know this compare-and-contrast post was supposed to deter the conflation of Primal and Paleo, but I find myself more tempted than ever to conflate the two. Aside from the Primal Blueprint’s encouragement to supplement; I never hear this in Paleo. So I did learn something, thank you! But I’m still mighty curious…

    P.S. The links were not distracting. I find them helpful if I’m looking for more info, but I ignore them otherwise. 🙂

  108. Oh wow, I want to share this article with everyone who makes comments about how I’m on some “paleo fad diet”. I’m not really in favor of food labels, but when explaining my lifestyle I always use “primal”, because it is all encompassing. It’s so much more than the food I enjoy; it’s the time I spend outside exploring, it’s the emphasis I put on sleep and relaxation, it’s my appreciation of Vitamin D, it’s the priority I give to creative endeavors and stress maintenance. The primal lifestyle and mentality has truly caused phenomenal shifts in my life. I feel absolutely amazing every day and I attribute it to my discovery of “The Primal Blueprint” book.

    1. Katie, I agree with you! I have a hard time describing to people exactly what I do because as you said, it’s so much more than food. I’ve been using the term primal and everyone’s like, oh I’ve heard of that Paleo thing. Interestingly, I came to the Primal Blueprint THROUGH a Paleo diet, so there is something to be said for fad diets and their ability to direct people to something new through their oversimplified and rigid approach. The next step is becoming fluid, which is where the Primal Blueprint has been awesome.

  109. I like to look at paleo as more of a template myself. You got wild fish, grassfed meat, pasture raised eggs, vegetables, fruits, and nuts/seeds. These are the food groups that everyone should be eating (barring any food allergies). The template approach, as oppose to the purist approach, then considers legumes, dairy, and ancient grains as foods to approach with “caution”. I really like the primal approach to the exercise routines, quality sleep, getting plenty of sun, and the carbohydrate curve. I really like how primal takes a ancestral approach to the whole lifestyle, not just the diet. I also even incorporate a few WAPF aspects to my diet. If I eat nuts, seeds, and legumes they’re sprouted. When paleo first started out, Cordain’s first book, he really didn’t put a lot of emphasis on organ meats (that standpoint has since changed). That’s another WAPF aspect I like.

    1. I am right there with you Barry. I really appreciate the whole life view of primal, and my family and incorporate WAPF in as well — soaked/sprouted nuts, seeds and legumes, hubby likes to add soaked steel cut oats from time to time. Also the organ meats — offal can be wonderful!

  110. I came across the Primal Blueprint after spending a few years on a vegetarian diet because of conventional wisdom. I wanted to improve my health early, since my family has a long history of cardiovascular disease. The cholesterol-BAD, fat-BAD mantra had been pounded in my head since I was young, be it from school, media, or friends and family. There was no reason to question it–why would I?
    Then one day a friend sent me an article that was skeptical of the science behind long-standing conventional wisdom, and problems with common sources like the China Study. That piqued my interest, and I eventually came across Paleo. The concept was interesting, but I thought it sounded too restrictive and unrealistic. Plus it had that faint smell of “fad diet”. But my research continued. I guess it was a lucky Google search that landed me at Mark’s blog, but what caused me to stay was his insistence on using the latest scientific research, and promising to keep up with results–whatever they may be. Mark’s commitment to facts and data rather than adherence to some food cult mentality is what made me take notice. The Primal Blueprint completely changed my outlook on not just food, but health in general. While I’m in no way perfect in sticking with the recommendations, I at least know that I should be doing, which is half the battle in a world of dizzying and conflicting recommendations.

    1. I also spent time as a vegan after reading the China Study, and my health suffered for it. I totally agree with your comment that Mark’s “commitment to facts and data” is so refreshing. He is not afraid to change his views when science supports it; he doesn’t stick to outdated information just because it fits with a brand or rigid platform.

  111. I use to be Paleo… it’s why I ate like our early ancestors. Now I am Primal… it’s why I live like our early ancestors.

    For the past 4 years, I have been primal. Living a primal life is why I move around a lot… it’s why I lift heavy things… it’s why I sprint… it’s why I play… it’s why I connect with the earth on barefoot hikes under the glow of the sun… it’s why I embrace cold exposures… it’s why I fast… it’s why I go in and out of ketosis… it’s why wife, boys and I sit down for dinner every evening… to storytell, to laugh, to learn, to love, to deepen the bond of our tribe.

    Thank you for the life changing work that you do.

  112. Good explanation. I’ve always considered Cordain-style Paleo to be too restrictive whereas Primal is fairly effortless, particularly if adhering to the 80/20 rule. I don’t go overboard on nightshades, legumes, and dairy, but I do eat all of them in moderation now and then, and they are all beneficial for most of us to some degree. Life is just too short and too socially oriented to always be telling one’s self, “Geez, there’s nothing here that I can eat.” It’s usually easy enough to skip the grains and the sweets, no matter where I eat. For me that’s always been sufficient. I’ve never seen the need to get obsessive about everything else.

  113. I stopped using sub categories of Paleo and Primal. I simply entertain discussions with outsiders using the terms of Natural vs. Industrial. Paleo and Primal are are sub categories of a natural human lifestyle. Nobody can dismiss the validity of simply choosing foods in their least industrial processed form as a diet fad. It’s common sense. Its surprising how many victims of consumer culture cannot comprehend this simple concept.

    1. I do much the same thing if asked. I rarely mention what I eat if not asked, and people generally don’t notice. At one point, a few years back, I enthusiastically preached the merits of Paleo eating (I was Paleo before I was Primal) but people quickly lost interest when I got to the part about avoiding sweets and grains.

  114. Great article. I’m Primal because of the amazing sense I find on this site. I discovered Paleo and Primal through an interest in archaeology: one day, having read that our ancestors were taller and healthier, I googled “paleolithic diet” to find out more. I was astonished to find a whole world out there! I had no idea anyone else was even interested. I ditched 26 years of pescatarianism three years ago, along with grains and all the stuff about low-fat this and that. I’m now never hungry, never even think about calories, have a stable healthy weight, and although I’m regarded generally as weird because I won’t eat cake, however wonderful my friends assure me it is, and however lovingly made and one bite won’t hurt, I love my food and enjoy every mouthful. Here’s to Mark and to everyone who comments and offers advice on the forum.

    1. Kate yes great article I’m glad you are doing so well. I just wished that more people would go Primal – there are many people who eat the
      “Normal mainstream diet” and are morbidly obese, often very sick, diabetic etc. And people actually say that people who eat Paleo or Primal are on fad diets. Really! I had a care nurse who cautioned me for being on such a restrictive diet. I laughed I couldn’t help myself I told her that being on a Primal Eating Plan I have a huge choice of fresh foods and was much fitter and healthier than on the mainstream pyramid diet – she really needed 2 chairs to sit on she was so morbidly obese – . She told me she had Type 2 Diabetes and put on 20 kg in the last three months. She was addicted to dairy and ate a great amount of grains – I suggested she google Primal Blueprint and check it all out. A lot of our medicos are overweight sometimes morbidly so and they try and tell us about diet.

      1. Thank you! I wasn’t overweight, just not properly nourished by my diet; I knew I had to change when I started craving liver, which I used to love before I gave up meat. I hope your nurse followed up on your suggestions, as she’s bound to have benefited if she did. I don’t understand why people think they’re normal if they stuff themselves with cake but I’m weird if I don’t. I persuaded a friend of mine to give up sugar, and bread/grains too, where possible; his son, who’s in his early twenties, told him in all seriousness that he’d die if he didn’t eat bread!
        Keep up the good work.

  115. I came across the Primal Blueprint through a weight loss thread on mumsnet (UK site) as I had been trying low GI and then low carbing. I had already come across similar in Leslie Kenton’s X Factor diet and Arthur De Vany’s New Evolution Diet (well publicised in the press here). The science and rationale appealed to me but I thought it seemed “too hard”.

    I do really like the fluid sense of primal, as well as the do what works for you attitude. 5 years later I am still here and still working on my health!

  116. I came across the Primal Blueprint after going “low carb” (I wasn’t really, I was just gluten and grain free which was a good first step) influenced by heresay and podcasts. Then I listened to an episode of JRE where he mentioned Mark (an episode I had either missed or dismissed). I found that episode. Read the book. Something clicked and I got hooked. Now I’m a junkie, reading everything from Abel James, Robb Wolf, Nora Gedgaudas, and all of the internet proliferation on fasting. But Primal Blueprint seems to work best for me (though I will be trying the Wired to Eat 30 day reset with 7 day carb testing to see what carbs I can indulge on most effectively). The focus on nature and intuition is really what speaks to me. It’s not just food and movement, it’s the freedom and life experience approach. Grok On everyone.

  117. I have been interested in health, primarily from a nutrition standpoint, my entire life. I spent decades as a vegetarian, and even vegan thinking that was the cleanest possible choice. I discovered MDA and the Primal community while looking into some low carb stuff. I was also familiar with paleo, but something about this as an entire lifestyle really hit home with me. I always thought the best possible “diet” would fix everything. It took the MDA to convince me that it was so much more than that, and that we are all unique individuals. There is a basic blueprint, but within that we all need to figure out what works for us as individuals. I do believe that it usually starts with the food part, but once you have that figured out, things just keep getting better. Love this community and what this lifestyle has done for me…at 50 I have more energy and enthusiasm than ever!

    1. Yes, I like the fact that we’re all encouraged to be individuals and get to know what suits us best. The very opposite of a fad diet. I’m glad you’re doing so well at it.

  118. Great article as usual. For me the biggest failing with the Paleo approach is the lack of understanding on how we become “fat adapted” and how we can become fat burning machines. In fact it is extremely unhealthy to eat large quantities of protein without fat and can lead to heart disease and cancer. High fat, low grain with adequate protein is the way forward plus all the benefits of the Primal lifestyle.

    1. @Patrick. I totally agree with your thoughts. If I may “improve” on it Low card aka fiber carb vs non-fiber carbs. B’Happy 🙂

  119. Great stuff, as always, Mark! One of the things with which I have dealt, as I personally “evolve” is continuing bouts with what I term, “the arrogance of certainty.” One of the things I find most encouraging about what you teach and how you teach is the concept of “hey, if it works, fine!” Fluidity is a necessary concept as we all search for answers. Even if one is a proponent of science, facts and data, the China Study showed–in brilliant detail–that data can be presented poorly, cherry-picked, and frankly, just bogus. Thanks for this piece!

    1. I like “the arrogance of certainty.” I’ve been guilty of it, but more often on the receiving end! One thing I love about MDA is that it’s not afraid to update past research, and always keeps an eye on what’s going on right now.

      1. I second Wilt’s excellent phrase. And I know it all too well as I used to be very arrogant about many things. Now, just somewhat. 🙂 Arrogance is a cover for insecurity or not being able to present a case for what you state as fact.

  120. I had heard about the ‘caveman diet’ years ago and thought ‘ugh! Really?’ and then dismissed it totally with a laugh. One day I was in the car listening to my favorite Sirius talk show host and she happened to be interviewing this guy named Mark Sisson. I was about to change the channel as I was an ‘eat everything in moderation’ kinda girl and did not look kindly on these fad diets. BEST THING I EVER DID was listen. I was riveted. The whole message spoke to me. I got home, stayed in the car listening to the end of the show. I then started to read MDA. Trying to keep an open mind to some of the new ideas expressed was a process in itself, The impact of the small changes I started with on my energy level alone was wonderful. Thank you for all the great information and advise over the years.

  121. Mark,
    Please put that annoying Facebook/Twitter/Etc. band at the bottom of the page on the edge of the page or somewhere else and let it scroll up out of sight with the rest of the material.

  122. Started years and years ago exploring the Atkins way of eating
    paid attention to the days that I felt like a million bucks,and tried to do it again… what did or didn’t I eat, what and how much exercise did i do, how much sleep… etc…. and low and behold along came Marks Daily Apple that led me along the same path!!
    Re: the ” I’ll sleep when I’m dead” people…. tell ’em… if you don’t sleep you WILL be dead!!
    Thanks for all the great info!!

  123. Hi Mark, thanks for another great article. I agree with you that the term you have coined as Primal is much more comprehensive than Paleo in terms of general human health and wellness. I really like that you consider several aspects of health, such as light exposure, socializing, time in nature, sun exposure, etc. etc.
    One aspect of ancestral health that I have not seen you address is Sexuality. I am surprised, as I think we can all agree that it is a very important part of our health and well being. I just finished reading the book by Dr Christohper Ryan, “Sex At Dawn” (he also has a TED talk), and I was blown away by the general premise of the book. The book argues, with compelling anthropological evidence, that humans are naturally promiscuous, and that prior to agriculture, human tribes/groups were very egalitarian. According to Dr Ryan, marriage and monogamy are as recent as our agricultural diets. I would love to hear your thoughts on this, and I think that the Primal Lifestyle is missing a cog in the wheel without addressing this important aspect of human health.

    1. Uh…………did you read the PB? Or, burrow through this site? Mark has frequently pointed out the benefits of a loving, sexual life.

      1. Thanks for your comment. You are correct that Mark has addressed sexual health – link below. But my interpretation of his post is that he is keeping with the standard narrative that human sexual evolution was with a single partner. Or at least that modern humans are better off being monogamous. I’m not referring to the benefits of a loving sexual life with one partner. Although I agree that many people are satisfied with their loving sex life with their committed partner (more likely as a result of recent cultural evolution-since agriculture), it seems obvious that many are not only not satisfied (i.e. 50% divorce rates), but would also reap health benefits with open poly-amorous love like our hunter-gatherer ancestors did. Of course, there are obvious risks associated with multiple partners in modern times, and I don’t expect this concept will make an appearance in any formal public health statement any time soon. But then again, if we all relied on public health statements as our guidance for nutrition….well we know that story.


        “I’m not just talking hedonistic indulgence here (not that there’s anything wrong with that). There are genuine health benefits to be garnered after all. Today I’m after those copious “ancillary” benefits of bonk – the gratifying (albeit overshadowed) enhancements to our physical and mental health that come from the physical exertion itself as well as the biochemical cascade of everything from estrogen to testosterone, prolactin to oxytocin to beta-endorphins.

        Before we proceed, let me offer the expected and requisite Primal caveat: I’m talking here about safe sex ideally with a committed partner. What good does it do to blow the overall health benefit by putting yourself at risk for the myriad of sexually transmitted diseases. Likewise, why negate the mental health boost by pursing sex in a relationship/liaison that isn’t emotionally healthy? ‘Nuff said?”

        1. Thanks Mike and OnTheBayou for the insight in this aspect of human life. Not that I disagree with Mark regarding the biochemical process of the act but I always wonder about the fact that in almost every species the sexual act is a tremendous energy expense and only happens on a non-regular basis and mostly for reproductive purposes, and even inevitably leads to death in some cases. If we base ourselves on the PB stance of actually not over-exercising or not wasting energy in a futile manner for survival purposes, a pleasurable orgasm could have lead to a life threatening situation where the implied parties would simply lack the energy and drive to save themselves from the said situation. This reflects in our modern lives, ask an Olympic trainer if he wants his pupil to have fun the night before the competition : the answer is no… always. If you have a look at some studies like the Karezza method there are clearly some important points about enjoying sex without making it an energy waste, and this does not implies restraining from it or from having more than a single partner for those who seek it, although we know that this biochemical cascade is mostly triggered by the climax. I personally agree that in our social context a lot of people will suffer from multiple relationships more than steady, couple, relationships. In many cases the issues in the couple will be pointed to sexual dissatisfaction and lack of variety but I believe that in most cases it’s just a symptom of other underlying issues, let’s face it : we are not animals, but we have forgotten what love really is with our current media, movies and porn blasted way of seeing things, IMHO.

          1. I find it intriguing that there’s not follow-up to this question. There’s a lot to be said about what TheMadRoot is bringing up. But is it too “taboo-ish” to be discussed?

  124. This is just the article I was looking for. I would like to think that I follow both. I will admit to findling them basically interchangeable when talking about nutrition. It is nice to know the difference. It is also nice that I know I follow primal much more than I thought I did.

    I still struggle getting my carbohydrates under 100g each day. Between modern temptations, vegetables high in carbs (potatoes and beans), and conviniences like protein bars. It’s tough. I will admit cutting bread was one of the easiest things and I never crave it.

    Thank you for the comparison.

  125. Interesting, but I’d have to say a LOT of those on the paleo diet, me included, consider every single point above (except maybe the dairy) as part of our lifestyle (and I don’t usually do dairy solely because I have found many personal detrimental symptoms after consuming it). Paleo to us is a definitely a lifestyle – needs to include sleep, meditation, non-toxic beauty and household products, movement, play, and pretty much everything else you outline. I eat plenty of white potatoes, drink at least one cup of coffee a day, and sometimes even a bean or two (not usually successfully though). Sure, there are those strict “paleo” people who adhere to it as some diet and not a lifestyle, but I think it’s a bit unfair to categorize Paleo as a whole as not as being inclusive of a lot of the things you mention. I even became a Primal Certified Health Coach because I think the two are so similar, yet I run a Paleo blog. To me literally the only difference is the dairy, and I preach that those on Paleo eat dairy if they find no issues with it. I think these labels are so murky these days. No one know what the heck they mean anymore honestly.

  126. In late 1999 my weight was 240lbs and I put in a swimming pool and began swimming. Six months later I was able to swim a mile, and had lost about 20lbs. A friend suggested the Adkins diet since I was already getting rid of ketones with exercise alone. The Adkins diet plus swimming combined resulted in 1 100lb weight loss over 11 months. 80lbs of the lost weight came back with the same amount of exercise and limited adding back of some carbs over the following decade. When a friend asked about the low carb diet, I decided to try again and found Mark’s book The Primal Blueprint in 2011. The insight was just what I needed, and was able to lose 30 of the 80lbs. The final part of the story for me was learning about hyperinsulinemia, which kept me from getting back to the original weight loss success I had 18 years ago. My doctor put me on metformin, and I switched to a fasting program. The health benefits of the primal lifestyle and ancestral health principles combined can be implemented by everyone, in my opinion. I’ve finally got the last 50lbs off for the past year with the most recent revelations. I recommend everyone visit marksdailyapple.com.

    1. Congratulations! Long may your success continue.
      As you’re an MD you’ll be aware that metformin can deplete vitamin b12, but do you mind if I just point it out in case there are others on it who don’t know? Don’t want to hijack your post.

  127. One Paleo blogger wrote an article a few years ago warning about tomatos. TOMATO’S? My favorite food. Home grown heirloom tomatoes can’t beat! I put in 50 plants a year. Now I understand, Paleo means avoid nightshades.

  128. Mark, I stumbled across Mark’s Daily Apple and The Primal Blueprint back in 2008 or 2009 while researching the paleo diet. I read The Primal Blueprint and it just made sense–not just the nutritional side of it but the entire lifestyle. I started by ditching grains and felt so good I never looked back. My primal lifestyle has definitely been dynamic and has evolved over time. I got away from the ultramarathons and started sleeping in and training less and felt better than I had in years. I now am a “fanatic” and try and stick to only grass fed organic meat, I brew my own kombucha, I practice intermittent fasting and I finally bought a pair of Vibram FiveFingers! And to top it all off I completed the Primal Health Coach certification program so I can share all of this with others. It truly has transformed all aspects of my life. Thanks for all of your time and effort into promoting this lifestyle!

  129. Thank you, Mark for this post. I so agree about Primal being a lifestyle not a diet. When people ask me about the way my husband and I eat I always say we follow the Primal Blueprint then recommend your book. We have always been active and worked out, hard in years past. Since reading your book about 3 years ago and changing our eating habits he has lost 35 pounds and at 66 I have never felt better. I have always worked in hospital Health and Fitness Centers and have witnessed so many changes in diet and exercise protocols. I started out teaching high impact Aerobics and was a runner. I still teach Pilates classes and practice Yoga. We have 9 grandsons and I get to sprint, lift heavy things periodically and play a lot. Sleep is so important and living a well rounded Primal Lifestyle can benefit anyone who gives it a try. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your continuing research, because as you say this is fluid and things change, man!

  130. I wrote about this issue in my book “The Fountain Of You”, so I’ll relay what I wrote there. Most of the confusion arises from the simple fact that we want/need to label the approach. As I see it, they both operate from the premise of a deep appreciation for how hard-to-kill our ancestors were. A commitment to that concept alone will get anyone 90% of the way to an optimal lifestyle. And 90% is about as close as any of us come anyway.

    I also don’t see either on as a diet-only concept. There are wide-ranging implications for this lifestyle that extend well beyond the nutritional needs of the human body, and include purpose and happiness.

    I’m not a re-enactor either, which means I find little value in the prescriptive elements (do’s/don’ts/7-syllable words) of either paleo or primal. In my mind, the words “deep appreciation” is the most important understanding we need.

    Above all, remember this: “labels are the opposite of understanding”.

    By the way, Mark, your wife has a pre-publication copy of my book. I only plug 3 other people in it: Robb Wolf, Loren Cordain, and you. And, dude, you really married up.

    1. Wow!… this is so timely as I was considering doing the PB coaching course but was a little concerned that my way of eating was a little different to PB. Now I see its the same concerning dairy, fats, beans (not crazy about them) and nightshades. I read Loren Cordain’s recipe book years ago, made a couple of recipes and never went back. Think I’ll be signing up soon!

      1. Cathie, as a graduate, I highly recommend the Primal Health Coaching course. So much great information!

  131. Great post! I always thought Primal and Paleo were synonymous, but recently had started to wonder. I literally had it on my to-do list to Google.

    I stumbled upon Primal not too long after my celiac diagnosis, about 8 years ago when I was feeling quite the freak. With Mark’s Daily Apple I found a tribe I could feel comfortable in. I love how Primal Blueprint incorporates lifestyle into an individual’s well-being. It is not just about food. I love it so much I became a Certified Primal Health Coach so I can better share the life-giving information with others.

    Primal is fun, it is contagious, and shouts health, vibrancy, and love of life.
    Rah-rah Primal!!!

    1. Thank you Mark – I have put so many people onto your website – I am so very glad I came across your site – can’t remember exactly how but the important thing is I found you. Thank you for all the great work you are doing – I have been reading (and sometimes commenting on) your site and have learned so very much. I have been following it for many years. I am amazed when people (the poor things who are usually very overweight and sick) criticize others who look after their health by following Paleo or Primal as being on FAD DIETS. I rather think that they are on Fad diets judging from the results – overweight and sick. How I wished I could help them see how well they could be by eating REAL FOOD and living a healthy lifestyle.Thank you again Mark.

  132. I think that most of the folks in the Paleo world that I follow are actually more Primal – they’ve figured out what foods work for them and eat that way, dogma be damned. It’s a much healthier way to do things, and like you said, if you’re super dogmatic, you miss out on some great things that may not actually be a problem for you.

    Unfortunately even if I specify that how I’m eating is just one facet of an overall healthy lifestyle, I get the same number of eye rolls as I do if I only mention diet. Luckily I don’t let those reactions bother me like I used to. I’m enjoying all of the benefits that primal living provides, and can only hope that my example influences others in my life to give it a shot!

  133. If I had been told to write an essay on the title question, this would have been it……….although not as good as Mark’s, of course.

    I discovered MDA and the PB in 2009 after finding Paleo on the internet. I bought the PB and one for a daughter who was interested. The holistic approach to life certainly appealed to me vs. rigid orthodoxy. Perfection is the enemy of good enough.

    I have been blessed by Mark’s wisdom, writing skills, intelligence (not the same as wisdom) and humor for 8 years. And, oh, the end results, my health.

  134. Thank you for this, Mark! I have such a hard time explaining to people what it means to be primal, versus paleo, which they always interpret as very strict and only about the food. I’m referring a number of friends and family to this succinct explanation!

  135. I just love Mark and his heart for what he does! It really shines that he cares and doesn’t let finding error in something he believed at one time to affect the overall scheme of things. That’s why Primal makes sense to me, and that it wasn’t created for financial profit, but for health and wellness profit to many. Primal fits my life and beliefs the best of any other centered health ideas out there on how to eat. I have certain things I know to be more strict on (like ice cream, pastries, normal American diet-carb packed meals) and then there are things I feel I can meet half way with (potatoes, legumes, some corn items occasionally…). Over all I’ve learned, only through time and my own mistakes and lessons, that its a balance and there’s no real rules but to live life to the fullest that we can live it, in being intentional in being bodily healthy, healthy-minded and free to let loose sometimes.

  136. Love that you revisited this! It’s bookmarked for me to send along to anyone who asks what the difference is and why I don’t just go hunting animals if I want to be “paleo” (as I often revealed that Primal eating was similar to the Paleo diet, but was more than just an eating plan)!

  137. Love the post! In my life, dairy is not a problem – cheese is nearly a perfect balance of fat and protein. Additionally- getting rid of most of the carbs and most of the added “stuff” that is in packaged foods makes me feel like hunting mammoth. Yay!

  138. I listen to and read a LOT of people in the “Paleo” community who talk about a whole lot more than diet. They talk exercise, sunshine, fresh air, movement, supplementing when it’s necessary, sleep and everything else.

    Frankly, this article, even in it’s revised form, is disappointing. I expect a whole lot more from you, Mark (or whoever re-wrote this article). When I’m in the land of “Paleo” and your name comes up, it’s always spoken with a great deal of respect. Your contribution to getting the good word out has been noted and heralded in the Paleo community.

    Please don’t throw any more shade on Paleo and I’m asking this as someone who is neutral in the “Paleo vs Primal” arena. I have to use quotes because to me, it shouldn’t even be a thing. I benefited a ton from both! I love both! And I do NOT see Cordain to be the be all and end all of what is Paleo.

    There may be some in the Paleo community who are “rigid” and practice “absolutism” and may be “dismissive” but they are few and far between now. This article paints Paleo with a much too broad brush stroke.

  139. Great post Mark, thank you. By reading the comments it’s clear that it was a required one since even after reading the article most will only compare the food aspect of things. What makes PB great is the actual understanding of how our food AND all our habits from moving to sleeping to thinking affects the whole body, including genetic response. Someone could be a Paleo fiend but be overstressed, sleeping 4 hours a night and have health issues that diet will never address regardless of saturated fat intake or succedane sugars. It’s the whole that makes it shine and keeps it apart. We spend only a fraction of our lives eating, so addressing only this aspect is clearly wrong, and I personally believe this is where you stand out, PB Master.

  140. What I find funny is all these diets seem to change their mind over time, and seem to be copying the primal blueprint.

    Whatever happens Mark, we remember that you were the original, years ahead of these copycats.

  141. What I like about the PB is that it is not a list of things to do, or just a diet. It is a lifestyle, or a set of recommendations and I feel encouraged to try them, to question them, to modify them. For me that is very satisfying and the reason why I stick to it.
    I came across this website in 2010-11 and it has been a very positive influence in my life! I’ve learned a lot about food, my body-and-mind (they’re the same). I’m fitter and healthier than ever and still enjoy a bread slice once in a while 🙂

  142. I tried the whole Paleo thing a few years ago and just felt discouraged by how limiting it was. It made things especially difficult when going out to eat or in social situations. Since then, I’ve tried to stick to a diet that focuses on more whole foods, simply cutting out processed starches and anything with added sugar. It sounds like my approach is more in-line with the Primal diet since it’s a more fluid approach (i.e. I love dairy and for me it’s not an issue, so it’s okay to eat!). The best part about Primal is that it’s big on coffee – which I simply can’t live without.

    Thanks for this helpful post!

  143. Primal grabbed my marathon running, junk eating husband when nothing else would. I’m thankful for that.

  144. I was late to the Paleo lifestyle. I found tons of Paleo centric people eating white potatoes, dairy (fermented) etc. You seem to only pull articles form Loren which doesn’t shine on the fact that he does not dictate what Paleo is, everyone has their own version, but the main principles stand, no grains, processed food, sugar, industrial oils and legumes. That is about it, I see no difference in your lifestyle and Paleo, which is a lifestyle.

    I agree with most of what you say, but I believe now that the “Primal blueprint” is your own version of Paleo.

  145. I am considering primal to help with my diabetes. This is the reason I am looking at the primal blueprint. I have already cut many things out of my diet like most sugars and carbs. These days I eat simple foods and I’ve found that I don’t have to eat as much as I used to. I read this article you wrote and I have decided I like it so far. Thank you for writing it.

  146. Hi Mark,

    I came back to the Daily Apple and by chance this post today. I’m a woman almost in my mid 40s, mom to 2 and wife to one of those naturally athletic chaps (who to his credit plays and exercises for pleasure) and know I need to change things up.

    I’ve keto’d, paleo’d done the Immune Protocol and fallen every time. I follow Ted Naiman, Diet Doctor and Tim Noakes to name a few – and yet, whenever I come back to your site it makes the simplest sense.

    I’ve spent too long calculating macros, running/weight lifting trying different things and have reached a point in my life, when the last 20 lbs I need to shift won’t shift (or they do and then they come back when I miss a carb gram or a day doing something) and I’m tired of punishing myself. I grew up in a household where you didn’t do exercise as a girl, and ate my way to better emotions.

    Tired of chasing my tail – wanting to have fun, keep it simple (our meals are basically primal anyway, but I am more than likely too restrictive with what I eat) so finding advice that life was about enjoying yourself sensibly was just what I needed.

    I love my MTB and spent 2 hours cycling yesterday – for fun. Today I might try a sprint or quick run. The marathon drive and silliness is going to take a hike in favour of silly sports with my girls – who happily listen and are active! And eat well.

    Thanks for keeping at it and being a sensible source in the world that is too full of stress and stressors – I’d like to enjoy my food for a change and not punish myself for a square of chocolate (first one in a year!)