There are MANY different “Paleo” diets…

Maasai Warriors

My friend Leigh made a comment about my book, “The Paleo Dieter’s Missing Link” on Facebook yesterday that made me want to do a post on this topic. Thanks for the feedback, Leigh!

Here’s something that a lot of people don’t fully understand – there are many, MANY different Paleo diets. Sure, there’s “The Paleo Diet” book by Loren Cordain and there are plenty of “Paleo” authors, like my friend Robb Wolf. But “Paleo” can be looked at in a VERY broad way and it can include a HUGE variety of approaches. Something I worked very hard to do in my book is show the history of Paleo or “hunter-gather” diets and show how the different authors and “classic” books on the topic fit together and influence the variations you’re likely to see.

Authors and nutritional theorists have been advocating and studying hunter-gatherer or “Paleo” diets for OVER 100 YEARS! There’s a HUGE body of knowledge on this topic – if you know where to look…

Figure 1:

Figure 1 from The Paleo Dieter's Missing Link

The bottom line in Figure 1 – and what I talk about throughout my book – is that oval superimposed over the columns. Paleo proper is there in the oval and to each side there are “outlier diets” that are very similar to Paleo but deviate from the “straight” Paleo diet you’d think of when talking about Paleo. I believe this is why some people do really well on a VERY low carb Paleo diet that even excludes fruit on one end and – on the other end of the spectrum – there are some vegetarian athletes who thrive.

It’s about principles that are found in ALL healthy diets – principles I believe Paleo embodies to a LARGE degree. These “core” or “backbone” Paleo principles are then combined with some number of changes and substitutions that make up each individual diet. For one person it might be very low carb. For others – like myself – it might be higher fiber and more fruit. For YOU it might be something else entirely – but ALWAYS within that oval and with the Paleo backbone.

I feel terrible on very low carb ketogenic diets. I also feel hungry and anxious when I let my dietary protein and fat get to low. My digestion and elimination gets better when I keep my fiber higher with green smoothies and a psyllium husk supplement and it also improves when I eat yogurt and kefir.

When are vegetarians Paleo?

I’ve talked to a few vegetarians who are actually eating pretty close to Paleo. They’re basing their diet on a large amount of fresh fruits and vegetables, not eating a lot of grains, beans or processed foods and they’re eating local dairy from well-raised animals, small amounts of cheese and sneaking some fish or chicken once in a while. This lacto-ovo model (when done on a Paleo template) is VERY close to the diet some hunter-gatherer societies in Africa subsist on or subsisted on at some point.

But, milk isn’t Paleo!

Milk and dairy aren’t Paleo if you go by the standard and popular definition. But, if you look at a hunter-gatherer tribe like the Maasai in Africa, you’ll see that milk from grass fed cows makes up a portion of their diet. So, is dairy Paleo? That depends. And different dietary templates will work differently for different people…

Here’s My Pet Peeve About Dairy and Paleo…

Something that I think is really silly – and happens A LOT in the Paleo community – is people advocate a “strict Paleo” approach with NO DAIRY and then use dairy-based protein powders like whey and casein. Some of these people even drink their coffee black – and HATE it – in an effort to avoid dairy. And then they use 10 scoops of whey protein a day. SILLY! 😛 These are usually the same people who give ME flak for using organic goat yogurt in my diet or eating raw cow milk kefir that I make myself from local milk.

My stance on dairy and Paleo is this: if you’re willing to use a processed and heated protein powder from industrially farmed animals, you should NOT use the powder and get the highest quality local, raw, humane and organic dairy you can find!




BTW, if you want a seriously in-depth discussion of this topic and many, MANY others, check out my book, “The Paleo Dieter’s Missing Link.” It’s a HUGE resource (Over 160 pages!) and it’s had great feedback so far! Click on the link above or the book image below for more info!

The Paleo Dieter's Missing Link


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About Adam

Adam Farrah has been studying and experimenting with Paleo approaches to health, eating, living and moving since 2005. Connect with Adam on Google+


  1. Michael Rook says:

    Great post – I hadn’t realised your book took such a meta approach to Paleo – I’ll definitely be checking it out. As for dairy I’ve made the same point about whey to other Paleos in an effort to convince them that dairy’s ok, but to little effect. I re-introduced cheese into my diet to good effect – I process it better than nuts it seems. As it happens, recent archaeological research suggests modern Europeans are descended from the Neolithic peoples who completely displaced the Paleolithic Europeans? The theory is the Neolithic invaders were bigger because they had evolved the chromosome that enabled them to digest the milk of their cattle herds…I think of myself as following the Neolithic rather than Paleo diet…

    • Interesting, Michael. It goes back to a point that I made in my book – there are MANY “old” diets.


  2. Thank you so much for this. Especially the common sense about dairy. :)

  3. We as human’s have similarities however we are also obviously incredibly unique. One size does not fit all. We are each born with unique DNA that is altered throughout our life by numerous factors from chemicals we ingest through our food/air/water to the lifestyle we live. (Search epigenetics; personalized medicine; genomics for clarification.) The current US Food Pyramid is a “one size fits all” approach that is destroying the health of our country. This approach transfers the responsibility for health from the individual to the government which results in disconnect in the individual from being sensitive to their body. The Paleo approach in my opinon makes sense however again we must listen to our own body and adapt our diet to result in optimal health. Unfortunately most people have felt bad all their life and have no concept of what health and well being actually feel like!

  4. The main problem is that many people are making the paleo diet much more complicated than it needs to be….it might be easier to just think ”would paleo man have had access to this to eat it?”…..what you would have available to eat would be local stuff, or stuff that you came across when you were out hunting or gathering. Adam is right, you need to keep it simple and cut out the bullshit about it.

    It is very like the original keto diet….. a good idea that worked for most people…but then people started changing it and applying extra rules and it changed form and became too complicated to follow.

    When i read about the paleo diet I want to know what to eat and what I can still have if it suits my system and digestion. I don’t want to read propoganda about factory animals or the horrors of processed foods, as I know these well enough already.

    Harmony, I couldn’t agree more, most people have no idea at all what good health feels like as they have never experienced. Most have never experienced good nutrition….so it must come as a fair surprise to their systems when they do!

    • “Adam is right, you need to keep it simple and cut out the bullshit about it.”

      LOL Janet! :-)

      I agree with you! It’s overcomplicated in some ways and UNDER complicated in others – mainly digestion and individualization.


  5. Alison, have you tried GOAT yogurt? I do very well on that consistently..

    Actually, the Paleo argument about dairy is that it’s “too new” since we only raised animals for their milk for about 15,000 years. A Paleo purist would say to avoid dairy even if you THRIVE on it because it’s too new. (This is some of the stuff I wrote my book to fight.) From there, the same people who say avoid dairy will recommend (and even SELL) a whey protein supplement. SILLY!

    Thanks for the great comment, as usual, Alison!


  6. Great post Adam! Dairy is an individual thing. I know from personal experience and with working with many that dairy is the #1 or #2 link to acne. If you have acne then it is a MUST to avoid all dairy. Do it for 30 days and see how your skin reacts. Sugar is another big one with acne of course.

    I personally enjoy grass-fed butter and raw grass-fed cheese. I also can not wait to get my hands on some local grass-fed whole milk!

  7. Thank you! My coach agreed with me that the Paleo diet might be what I need to reach my weight goals, but she did not want me to cut out the dairy. We call it the “modified paleo diet for Jenn” lol
    I am hoping to purchase the book this weekend when I have time to read it!

    • “Modified paleo diet for Jenn” LMFAO! It’s true, Jen, you really do have to individualize the diet. Good that your coach can see that…

      Let me know how you like the book!



  1. […] are MANY different “Paleo” diets… / Posted on: April 14, – My friend Leigh made a comment about my book, “The Paleo Dieter’s Missing […]

  2. […] Here’s a post I did a while back on the variation that can be accommodated in a “Paleo” or “Hunter-Gatherer” Die…. […]

  3. […] What’s important to understand is that Paleo is really a broad diet philosophy as opposed to a set and rigid diet – or worse, a fad diet. Yes, there’s the book “The Paleo Diet” by Loren Cordain, but there are many other interpretations of Paleo and variations based on the “Hunter-Gatherer” template. If you want to understand the context of Paleo as a diet genre, check out my post “There Are MANY Different Paleo Diets.” […]

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