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A primal diet is a way of eating that mimics the food intake of our early ancestors. High in protein and fat, and lower in carbs, it is similar to a Paleo diet. The key differences between Paleo and primal are that primal allows quality-sourced dairy products and sprouted and soaked grains and legumes.
What Foods Are (& Are Not) Included In a Primal Diet
Primal eating relies on healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates, but is far lower in carbs than the standard American diet. Typical primal foods include:
- Grass-fed meat
- Organ meats
- Pasture-raised poultry
- Wild-caught seafood
- Eggs from pasture-raised chickens and ducks
- Nuts and seeds
- Animal fats
- Certain unprocessed plant-based fats (avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil)
- Raw or organically-produced, non-homogenized dairy products
- Sprouted or soaked whole grains
- Sprouted, soaked, or fermented legumes
Primal diets tend to be less strict than Paleo diets because they include more options. You can be as strict as you choose to be when following a primal diet, but a major tenet of the food plan is sourcing high-quality ingredients.
Ancient people did not ever have to worry about pesticides and other chemicals, or whether their meat had been exposed to hormones and antibiotics. Today, we do have to consider that.
How Did the Primal Diet Start?
Variations of the primal diet have existed for decades, but the first modern iteration began with Mark Sisson’s 2009 book The Primal Blueprint, which was quickly followed with other primal-driven books, including Nora Gedgaudas’ Primal Body, Primal Mind.
A key difference between a Paleo diet and a primal lifestyle is just that—primal living includes more than just diet alone. Many primal diet books focus on a full range of healthy choices that lead to overall improved wellbeing (although there are certainly many Paleo books that now do the same). While diet is essential for health, a primal lifestyle also promotes:
- Regular physical activity
- Proper amounts of sleep
- Spending time in nature and sunlight
- Promoting an active mind with creativity
There is no single way to follow a primal lifestyle. The intent is to embrace the food principles and to pair them with lifestyle changes, all tailored to meet a person’s individual needs. Someone who has autoimmune disease may follow a more restrictive primal diet than someone who is an elite athlete looking to perform at top levels.
Health Benefits of a Primal Lifestyle
While research has not been done specifically on the primal diet, the principles of regular physical activity, eliminating processed sugar and grains, and eating plenty of anti-inflammatory fats and high-quality proteins leads to numerous potential health benefits. These may include:
- Weight loss
- Gut health
- Cognitive and brain health
- Mental health
- Heart health
- Metabolic health
- Reduced inflammation
A primal diet is a great way to adopt a traditional, ancestral diet. To learn more about it, check out these books:
Today’s Simple Step
A primal diet is a delicious, nutrient-dense way of eating. You don’t have to strictly follow the lifestyle to benefit from eating recipes that qualify as primal. The internet has many options, and Price-Pottenger members also have access to plenty of primal-friendly recipes on our website.
This Parmesan Parsnip Puree is a great example of a primal twist on a classic dish. Parsnips are lower in carbs and starch than potatoes but have a similar texture and flavor profile. When paired with parmesan, this side dish becomes an instant classic—and just happens to be perfect for a primal diet.