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Paleo vs. Primal - what's the difference?

Paleo vs. Primal - two ways of healthy eating. Both having derived from the same fundamental basis in that we should be following the way of life (and eating habits) that our pre-historic cave-men ancestors did and based upon characteristics of ancient diets that can help optimise your health, lower your risk of disease, and aid weight loss. The core principle of which stems from eating the foods our bodies were designed to eat: animals and plants.

Sound simple, right?

Right.

But, if it were that simple I wouldn't be writing this would I, and you wouldn't be researching Paleo vs. Primal looking for answers as to how they differ, would you?

You see, whilst both have the same foundations for which they were built, there are some significant differences that distinguish living Primally from the Paleo diet. 

But before we delve into that, and for those of you who are unfamiliar with these lifestyles, let's just take a quick look at exactly how Paleo and Primal are defined.

Paleo

According to BBC Good Food, the Paleo diet is a way of eating that goes back to basics, much like that of our ancestors. It encourages the consumption of foods as natural as possible, including grass-fed meats, fruit, vegetables and other wholefoods such as nuts and seeds.

Generally speaking, it's a low carb, high protein, moderate fat diet.

Kerry Torrens, Nutritional Therapist and member of The Royal Society of Medicine, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT), describes the Paleo diet as "a lifetime programme, and not a quick fix weight loss diet that promotes a cleaner, more natural way of eating."

Primal

Much like Paleo, Primal is also based around the concept of leading a life in which nature, and evolution, intended us to. The Primal way is about adopting a lifestyle rather than a diet and realigns the way we live and eat, with that which our bodies are designed.

Take a look at the Ikaria story to see how the healthy lifestyle they lead is helping them to break records and still climb up mountains at 90!

The philosophy of the Primal lifestyle emphasises that it's not just our eating habits that we need to pay attention to, it's also our lifestyle and environment too. Concentrating on three distinctive areas of our life that we need to consider as opposed to just what we eat.

And unlike Paleo, this lifestyle focuses heavily on the consumption of high-quality fats, moderate protein intake and very low carbs.

So that's that. And whilst Paleo has evolved over the years, where in some cases followers of the lifestyle now incorporate many practices associated with Primal into the Paleo diet too (i.e. saturated fats and dairy, which we'll touch on later), there are still some fundamental differences between the two.

First one being a diet vs. a lifestyle...

A Diet (Paleo) vs. A Lifestyle (Primal)

Yep, that's right. Big difference number one. The 'D' word. Diet.

Firstly, if you see either Paleo or Primal as a diet that's an horrendous error if you ask me. Why? Because diet's don't work. Fact. Why else would the likes of Weight Watchers still be around and making thousands, if not millions on consumerised nonsense?! Think about it.

But I won't dwell on that one here. I'll save that for another post, another time (keep your eyes peeled for that one, you'll be glad you did!).

I'm not disputing the fact that the Paleo diet isn't a good one to follow, clearly it works for a lot of people. But even just associating it with the terminology 'diet' cries out a warning and makes me cringe. 

A diet focuses simply on what you eat. It seldom takes into account anything else that attributes to living healthily - because all the focus is effectively about what you put in your mouth.

So, how does Primal differ?

Primal is a lifestyle. A lifestyle that can be maintained, a lifestyle that can be managed and a lifestyle that you can adapt to and keep up with.

Primal living isn't just about diet. It's about everything! It's about sleep, stress, sunshine, exercise and so much more. It encompasses not just what we eat and what we consume, but our lifestyle and environment too. The three distinctive areas of our life we need to consider as opposed to just what we eat (or as you'll become accustomed to with Primal "what you eat - eats").

There's no doubt about it, Paleo is a great 'diet' - and actually by all intents and purposes, very similar to Primal. They have to be, because let's face it you can't rewrite history, and they're both fundamentally based on the same principles (to a degree) and are formed from the diet of our distant ancestors. But, that being said, there are key differences. And diet vs. lifestyle is just the starting point.

So, Paleo vs. Primal? Round one to Primal!

Fat vs. Protein vs. Carbs

There's not a great deal to say around this one to be honest. The facts are simple.

Paleo is a low carb, high protein, moderate fat diet, whereas Primal focuses on high-quality fats, moderate protein and very low carb intake.

We'll touch on the fat a bit later on because this is a key difference between the two.

The science behind the high-quality fat consumption when living Primally is fascinating, and I would recommend looking into it a bit more to find out how eating fat can actually help you lose weight. Crazy right? Especially given we've spent years being told that fat is not our friend. It's true to an extent in that bad fats make us fat, but good, high quality, organic fats alongside a healthy lifestyle can really help you on your way to weight loss success. But more on that another time.

Saturated Fats

I guess that really does lead nicely on to this next point about saturated fats and the difference between Paleo vs. Primal.

I mentioned earlier on that some followers of the Paleo diet are now introducing certain aspects of the Primal lifestyle into their regime, saturated fats being one of them. But as a basis for which Paleo has been founded on - this is a key difference to Primal. And one of which many Paleo goers still adhere to and for which their attitude towards incorporating limited saturated fats into their diet is still the same.

But why restrict them? Those who follow Paleo avoid saturated fats believe that by consuming these fats you are at higher risk of increased cholesterol and heart disease, which is often why they are avoided on the Paleo diet. 

The Primal stance on saturated fats though is completely different, and positively encourage the consumption of those high-quality organic sources (and that's the key thing to remember here - high-quality and organic) such as coconut oil, butter, fatty meat, the list goes on. It's believed that saturated fats provide a stable source of fat that is important for energy, neurological function, hormone production and the structure of our cells.

Allowing saturated fats within your lifestyle, through sources such as coconut oil, has been proven to significantly improve your mind and wellbeing and actively promotes a healthy lifestyle. Think of it as fuel for the brain and medicine for the body!

Dairy

When you start looking into the differences between Paleo vs. Primal, you'd be right in thinking that both are on the same page when it comes to dairy in that it's a no go.

However, within the Primal lifestyle there are actually certain dairy products that are deemed to be okay and can contribute towards a healthy lifestyle. And this is where Primal living takes a divergence from those following a strict Paleo diet.

Why?

It's believed that in order to defend and rebuild our body's ecosystem (the microbiome), it's important to eat a diet rich in fibre and fermented foods. Enter dairy! Probiotic live yoghurts, fermented milk (kefir) and certain cheeses are just some of the fantastic sources of dairy that can be consumed as part of the Primal lifestyle. Healthy fats, immune-boosting and good for our guts, it's clear to see why dairy isn't the devil!

It's important to remember here though that not all dairy produce is accepted as part of the Primal lifestyle (or Paleo for those who have started to incorporate dairy). Milk, for example is a big no go for those who want to lose weight and that in part is to do with the amount of lactose (or sugar) found within it. Watch out for our next post if you're interested in finding out more about the ins and outs of dairy a bit more!

Coffee

I know, I know - I can already hear the sounds of the cries from those Paleo followers. Because yep, that's right. The Paleo diet doesn't allow coffee in any form.

A life with no coffee? I hear you ask. No thanks! Pass me that jar of Douwe Egberts right now!!

Good news for Primal goers though - you can drink this in abundance! Black obviously. And, if you want to mix it up a bit, you can always try adding in a teaspoon of coconut oil into your morning black coffee. Full of added health benefits and it provides a quick energy boost without breaking your fast. Bonus!

 

So there we have it - Paleo vs. Primal. Some key differences I'm sure you'll agree, but both founded from the same core principles. But which one is better than the other? That's a pretty difficult question to answer because each and every one of us is different and at the end of the day it's your choice.

If you want my thoughts for what they're worth, the Primal lifestyle offers far more advantages than simply just following a diet and its certainly more enjoyable. It takes into account every aspect of life and looks at ways of how you can improve that, along with your food choices, to help you live healthier, longer and more importantly happier.

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