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Seven Keys to Paleo Diet Success

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When doing an internet search on Paleo Diet topics, I often get results that are spammy in nature. Link after link tells half truths about the Paleo Diet by people trying to sell a Paleo cookbook or some other product. Often, these people have never read any anthropological literature or any real information about the Paleo Diet. 

To help dispel some myths, here are the seven keys to the Paleo Diet as written by Loren Cordain Ph.D. and author of The Paleo Diet. He is the creator of the Paleo Diet. Cordain’s work is the result of an analysis of the daily food intake of hunter gatherer societies. After running hundreds of different analyses on every dietary component at varying intake amounts, Cordain realized that these seven dietary characteristics consistently emerged in each analysis.

  1. Eat fewer carbohydrates than what is recommended in the modern western diet. The carbohydrates you do eat should come from fruits and vegetables, not grains, starchy tubers or refined sugars.
  2. Eat a higher proportion of animal protein than the typical western diet.   About 55% of your calories on the Paleo Diet come from lean animal protein sources.
  3. Eat a large amount of fibre from non starchy fruits and vegetables. 
  4. Eat a diet with a net alkaline load. An acidic body environment creates negative effects on the body at the cellular level and people with acidic body chemistry are prone to fatigue.[i] All fruits and vegetables are alkaline forming and sea greens are very alkaline forming. Meat on the other hand is acid forming, so you need to make sure that you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to maintain the net alkaline load.
  5. Eat foods with low sodium content and high potassium content.  Potassium helps to maintain hydration. Proper hydration enables optimal heart function, muscle contraction and nerve impulse stimulation.  Excess sodium causes dehydration. Foods high in potassium include leafy green vegetables and most fruits. Bananas and kiwis are particularly high in potassium.
  6. Eat a moderate amount of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.   Eat nearly equal amounts of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats. Minimize the amount of saturated fat you eat. Cold water fish are high in Omega 3 fats as are Paleo friendly oils like olive or avocado. 
  7. Eat foods rich in plant phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Phytochemicals also known as phytonutrients are plant compounds that boost the immune system and offer health benefits independent of its nutritional value.[ii]  Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and green tea are excellent sources of phytochemicals.

If you plan to follow the Paleo Diet, you need to implement these seven keys if your lifestyle change is going to be successful. While getting a Paleo cookbook or two will help you to create Paleo recipes, they won’t help you understand why you are eating the way you are. Knowledge and education is power. By understanding the seven keys to successful Palaeolithic eating, you will always be able to make smart eating decisions.   


[i] Brendan Brazier, The Thrive Diet, Penguin Canada, 2007, p.47-48

[ii] Ibid. P. 285

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About Layne Pennell

  • Kiki in Harmony

    Thanks for the summary, I think it would be difficult to calculate every day the % from lean protein. Anyway, I don’t understand, if it’s lean, you’re not going to get much fat out of it, e.g. skinless chicken breast or pork tenderloin. You need fatty meats, better if there were alot more fatty fish readily available than alaskan salmon, but that’s about it in my store. I think bacon is ok, but the problem I have is how to maintain alkalinity when increasing the amounts of fat in your diet.

  • It’s interesting how Robb Wolf who was one of Loren Cordain’s students disagrees with the percentage of caloric intake from lean protein.

    Please review The Paleo Diwt by Loren Cordain, on page 22 he states that 55% of calories comes from lean protein when following the Paleo Diet.

    I disagree with the consumption of bacon. Bacon is not lean.

  • ali

    I think this is okay, but you are wrong on a couple of things.

    1. protein intake should never exceed more than 33% of total caloric
    intake. see Robb Wolf’s book paleo solution.

    2. Fat intake is a major issue for most people to understand. YES, w-3 fats are what we are trying to eat more of. Salmon is good, but only wild salmon. likewise, redmeat like lamb or beef, or even fatty cuts like pork bacon, are all more than recommended, so long as they are grass fed, pasture raised animals with the proper fat ratios.