The Paleo diet, named after the Paleolithic era, seeks to mimic the dietary habits of the hunter-gatherers of this period. The theory is that during this time, people lived the purest lifestyle, not eating processed foods and high carb diets that we do now. If this was humanity’s natural state, then returning to this lifestyle will be the most natural way to be.
This diet is a very restrictive diet because it eliminates all of those foods that Paleo enthusiasts say were not consumed at this time. Entire categories of food are taken off the table, literally. So, people on the Paleo diet cannot eat dairy, added sugar, grains and beans. The focus is on meats and vegetables mainly but also allows fruit, eggs and nuts. Outside of this, there are very few options.
The Mediterranean diet on the other hand is a lot more permissive. Most foods are allowed but are just eaten in moderation. This diet actually encourages both whole grains and low fat dairy, which are banned under the stricter Paleo system. Fish is very important in both diets and because the Mediterranean culture is built around the sea, it is the staple protein for their diet.
Grains are also allowed and are consumed in pastas and breads as part of a well-balanced diet. Olive oil is preferred over butter and wine is seen as a positive part of the meal and lifestyle. Just like in the Paleo diet, the Mediterranean diet encourages a lot of vegetables and fruits to get vitamins and good carbohydrates.
Despite the mutual focus on fish, lean meat and vegetables, there are some important differences between the two popular diets. The Paleo diet is much more strict and many people have a hard time cutting out so much from their lifestyle. Mediterranean diet is more permissive and allows the grains, dairy and a few other things that are not allowed under Paleo. Everyone is different, so the simple, low carb, no dairy approach is great for many people. Others like the more open feel of the Mediterranean lifestyle and are able to eat a lot of different things in moderation. If you want more guidance on what diet would work for you, give us a call or stop by our offices in Cary, NC!