The Primal diet is a lifestyle based on eating the foods that primitive humans would have eaten. It stresses that people eat raw, minimally processed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, certain oils, and dairy products.
Cooked meats are allowed, but all other foods should be as close to natural as possible. Milk, for example, should be consumed in its raw, unpasteurized state.
Fast facts about the Primal diet:
- The principle is that eating zero processed foods will reduce the amount of sugar a person consumes.
- The diet excludes farmed foods, such as grains and more modern processed foods.
- The Primal diet is a relatively new diet and not thoroughly researched yet.
What is the thinking behind it?
Grains, such as wheat and corn, were introduced in later agricultural development.
Since early humans did not have direct access to these foods, the Primal diet rejects their consumption.
Processed foods, such as hot dogs, baked goods, and others, should also be avoided, as these food types did not exist at this time.
According to his book Primal Blueprint, Mark Sisson developed the plan following years of being a competitive athlete.
He was looking for a way to keep healthy and in shape once he was no longer able to commit to long hours training in the gym.
The conclusion he eventually reached is that modern humans consume too many processed foods and not enough raw foods. Sugar has been shown to have drastic long- and short-term consequences when consumed in large amounts.
Instead, the focus of the Primal diet is on raw vegetables and fruits, as well as fats and proteins from meats and dairy. Sisson believes that these foods provide all the nutrients a person needs to live a healthy life and is much closer to how early humans would have survived.
What can people on the Primal diet eat?
There are a variety of foods allowed on the Primal diet. Some of the recommended foods include:
- any fruit
- any variety of vegetable
- honey and real maple syrup
- raw dairy products, such as milk
- starchy vegetables
- wild rice and quinoa
Any food consumed should be of the best possible quality — this means organic and fresh. Any food that can be safely consumed raw should be eaten raw to get the maximum nutritional value from the food.
Foods to avoid
People following the Primal diet should not eat any food that was unavailable to early humans. In general, avoid any foods that do not come directly from a naturally growing plant or animal.
Foods that a person following the Primal diet should avoid, include:
- processed oils, such as vegetable oil
- any grain
- processed foods, such as cookies or crackers
People trying to stick to the Primal diet may find it easier to cook and prepare all of their foods themselves. Prepackaged foods often contain additional ingredients, such as preservatives that are not allowed.
Is it healthful?
Weight loss and a growing desire to be healthful lead people to explore different dietary choices. The Primal diet may be a healthier alternative to diets rich in processed foods and lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables.
The foods allowed on the Primal diet can offer a variety of nutrients that the body needs as long as the person properly balances their food intake.
However, if a person focuses more on eating meats and eats few vegetables, they may miss out on several essential nutrients, especially fiber. Conversely, eating more vegetables and fruits without meats may lead to other nutritional deficits.
Ultimately, how healthy the Primal diet is, depends on how well a person follows the recommendations and interprets them. For optimal health, a person should consult a knowledgeable doctor or dietitian before starting the Primal diet.
What are the benefits and advantages?
The primary benefit of the Primal diet is the removal of unhealthful processed foods and the reduced amount of sugars and additives. Despite the limits on these foods, the Primal diet encourages food with high nutritional value.
People that may find increased benefits include:
What does the science say?
The Paleo diet, which is a similar diet, has received a lot of criticism from nutrition experts because of exaggerated claims by proponents and a limited amount of research.
While there is limited research on the Primal diet specifically, some science suggests that both these diets offer many potential benefits, including:
- weight loss
- decreased waist size
- improved blood pressure
- feelings of being full after meals
- improved lipid profiles
A study carried out on the benefits of the similar Paleo diet on type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, also showed that people on this type of diet had improved glycemic control and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease as compared to people with type 2 diabetes who followed other diets.
However, science still is not convinced that either of these diets is the best option for all individuals.
Most importantly, more research is needed to fully determine the full impact of the diet on a person’s life. One study did find post-menopausal women became iodine-deficient after following the Paleo diet for 2 years. Iodine-deficiency is associated with goiter development and hypothyroidism.
Overall, however, the Primal diet does show some potential for being a good alternative to modern diets that tend to contain a lot of processed foods.
Difference between the Primal diet and the Paleo diet?
Like the Primal diet, the Paleo diet is based on foods that ancient humans would have eaten. The Paleo diet is very similar to the Primal diet, except for a few fundamental differences. Some of the differences include:
- Paleo diet discourages intake of all dairy.
- Paleo diet discourages nightshade vegetables.
- Paleo diet discourages consumption of coffee.
Before starting any new diet, it is important to discuss the change with a medical professional. The Primal diet may offer an excellent, healthful alternative to the modern diet that is dependent on many unnatural, processed foods. When followed correctly, a person can get a variety of nutrients, experience improved health, and potentially lose weight.