Primal Diet – A Complete Guide

The Primal diet is a lifestyle based on eating the foods that primitive or primal humans would have eaten. It’s a mindset that focuses on the fact that people eat raw, minimally processed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, certain oils, and dairy products.

Primal Diet summary

What is this diet all about? 

It’s kind of a variation on the Paleo Diet. It’s similar in a lot of ways. Cooked meats are ok, but all other foods should be as close to natural as possible. For example, milk should be consumed in its raw, unpasteurized state.

Are grains ok on the Primal Diet?

Grains, like wheat and corn, were introduced in later agricultural development. Since Primal humans did not have access to these foods, the diet rejects their consumption.

Can you eat processed foods?

Many processed foods, like hot dogs, baked goods, chips, crackers, and others, should be avoided. Why? Because they didn’t exist in Primal cultures. 

Where did this diet come from?

Mark Sisson developed the Primal Diet plan after many years of being a competitive athlete. He was looking for a way to stay healthy and in shape once he was no longer able to commit to long hours of training in the gym.

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.

How much weight can you lose on the Primal Diet?

The short answer is, it depends.

An estimated 45 million Americans are on some kind of diet. A UCLA meta-analysis of 31 long-term diet studies showed that two-thirds of dieters gained back more weight than they lost within 4 or 5 years.

Put all that research together and you’ve got a pretty irrefutable conclusion on your hands: these diets and efforts simply aren’t effective.

According to Mark Sisson, “the Primal Diet’s approach to weight loss rejects “dieting” in favor of permanent dietary changes that will help you lose weight effortlessly and keep it off forever! We do not believe in dieting to lose weight; we believe that you can transform your body into a fit, lean fat-burning machine simply by eating the right foods.” 

What foods can you eat on the Primal Diet?

Keep in mind that the Primal Diet is a mindset. Think about what our primal ancestors ate. There are a variety of foods allowed on the Primal Diet. Here are some recommended foods:

  • Seeds and Nuts
  • Any fruit
  • Any variety of vegetable
  • Honey and Real maple syrup
  • Meats
  • Raw dairy products, such as milk
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Starchy vegetables
  • Wild rice and quinoa

All food should be of the best possible quality, closest to nature, which 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.

What foods can’t you eat?

People following the Primal Diet don’t eat any food that was unavailable to early humans. So, as a general rule, avoid foods that do not come directly from a naturally growing plant or animal.

Here is a list of foods to avoid on the Primal diet:

  • Processed and refined sugars
  • Peanuts
  • Heavily processed or refined oils, like vegetable oil
  • Alcohol
  • Soy
  • Any grains
  • 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. Packaged foods often have additional preservatives that are not allowed.

Is this diet healthy?

Our obsession as people with weight loss and a growing desire to be healthy lead us to explore different diets and dietary philosophies. The Primal Diet may be a healthier alternative to diets that include a lot of processed foods that lack fresh fruits and vegetables.

The foods allowed on the Primal Diet offer a variety of nutrients that the body needs as long as you properly balance your food intake.

Should you only eat meat on this diet?

If you only focus on eating meat and neglect vegetables, you’ll miss out on several essential nutrients, especially fiber. Conversely, eating more vegetables and fruits without eating animal proteins 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?

The primary benefits of the Primal Diet are the removal of unhealthy, refined, processed foods and the reduced refined sugars, refined flours, and preservatives and additives. Even though the diet puts limits on these foods, it promotes and encourages food with high nutritional value.

Who might benefit from this diet?

Those that may experience the most benefit from following a Primal Diet lifestyle include people that:

  • Are diagnosed with diabetes or those who should avoid or limit simple sugar intake.
  • Certain food allergies.
  • Have food-related conditions, like celiac disease
  • Want a more balanced, healthy diet
  • Struggle with weight loss

What do the experts say about the Primal Diet?

Just like any diet, you want to know what science says or what the experts say about it. What does the data show? 

The Paleo Diet has received a lot of criticism from nutrition experts because of exaggerated claims by proponents and a limited amount of data to prove claims.

While there is limited research on the Primal Diet specifically, there is a study that both these diets offer many potential benefits, including:

  • Weight loss
  • Decreased waist size
  • Improved blood pressure
  • Satiety, or feelings of being full after meals
  • Improved lipid profiles

Another study 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
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease

When compared to people with type 2 diabetes who followed other diets.

Another study found that people with type 2 diabetes who followed a Paleolithic diet for 12 weeks had improved cognitive function, including less risk for dementia.

However, science still is not convinced that either of these diets is the best option for all individuals.

Overall, the Primal diet does show some potential for being a good alternative to modern diets that tend to contain a lot of processed foods.

How is the Primal Diet different from 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 dairy consumption.
  • The Paleo diet discourages nightshade vegetables.
  • Proponents of the Paleo diet discourage consumption of coffee.


Before starting any diet, it is important to discuss the change with your doctor. The Primal diet may seem to offer an excellent, healthy 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.

It is a diet that you would need to try to determine if it’s really for you. Hopefully, we’ve given enough information that allows you to make a good decision.