What Is the Primal Diet?

October 01, 2020

What Is the Primal Diet?

The cornerstone of the Primal Kitchen product line is the Primal Diet. If you’re not familiar with the eating plan, lifestyle, or pillars of the Primal way of life, consider this your crash course!

Always consult with your healthcare provider before starting any diet.

The Primal diet gets back to humans’ ancestral roots, seeking out a lifestyle built around simple, unprocessed foods, physical movement, play, rest, and time outdoors. The Primal way of eating was developed by Primal Kitchen Founder Mark Sisson as a means of truly getting back to basics and taking a cue from our earliest ancestors.

Mixing evolutionary biology with personal experience, Mark discovered eating and living simply was a revolutionary act with profound effects. It appeared Earth’s oldest inhabitants held the key to finding vitality and peace in the modern age. The transformative power this change had on his physical health was undeniable to Mark, and so he launched the Primal Blueprint diet. Mark developed 10 tenets for eating, playing, and living the Primal way. These pillars launched a movement, a community… and eventually inspired the Primal Kitchen product line.

Founder Mark Sisson with Primal Kitchen Product Line

More specific information about the Blueprint diet can be found in The Primal Blueprint book or on Mark’s blog, Mark’s Daily Apple.

The Primal Blueprint Laws

The Primal Blueprint laws are the basis of the Primal diet and lifestyle. The “laws” loosely cover food, exercise, and basic mental health, and are pulled from Mark’s bestselling book The Primal Blueprint, which can be found online here or at your local bookstore. Given the simple nature of these rules, this “A to Z” guide on Mark’s Daily Apple fills in many of the gaps, especially pertaining to day-to-day life and fitness.

How to Eat Primally

A phrase we kick around a lot here at Primal Kitchen comes straight from Mark Sisson: “Eat Like Your Life Depends On It.” This phrase is the core truth of the Primal Diet: Food choices have the power to impact your life, so every meal, product, and ingredient should be made and chosen mindfully.

Don’t focus on caloric intake: Think about weekly calories, not the number per-meal. Food is about enjoyment, not regimented programs without wiggle room for real life. As Mark says, “Eat when you are hungry, and finish eating when you feel satisfied.”

The Primal Blueprint is based on our ancestors' relationship to food: When food was available, fat and protein dominated the menu. Carbohydrates were scarce, and a repeating pattern of going without food led human bodies to store and access body fat for survival.

On the note of carbs, the Primal Diet was designed as a low or lower-carb diet, with the central guidance being based on the Carbohydrate Curve. The Primal Blueprint recommends these guidelines as daily targets for various goals:

  • 0-50g: For those seeking weight loss results or diabetics.
  • 50-100g: For more gradual weight loss results, with less restriction.
  • 100-150g: For maintaining current weight, perhaps increasing carbs depending on amounts of athletic activity.

Primal Blueprint Law 1: Eat plants and animals

Fill your plate with colorful vegetables, high-quality meat (fish, fowl, and all types of meat), fruit in moderation, and fats we love like avocado oil, olive oil, and nuts. Dairy, if tolerated, is permissible in moderation. Stick to fermented dairy when possible (cheese, yogurt, occasional kefir) and dairy fat (cream and butter, ideally grass-fed or pasture-fed.)

veggies on sheet trays

Primal Blueprint Law 2: Avoid Poisonous Things

Not noshing on a foreign plant while out for a hike goes without saying—so this law is more about the quality of ingredients in the food you ingest. The Primal diet calls for very little sugar, grains, trans- and hydrogenated fats. Avoid artificial ingredients, pesticides, and unnecessary chemicals in your Primal diet.

Primal Kitchen products are made using ingredients with integrity, from trusted sources and carefully vetted suppliers. Adding flavor is easy with a cleaned-up classic condiment, dressing, or sauce when you’re certain of the class of components. Eating great tasting food shouldn’t mean compromising on ingredient quality!

Eating on the Primal Diet

Even with these simple and straightforward guidelines, there’s still room for a few FAQs.

What’s on the Primal diet food list?

To update or overhaul your pantry the Primal way, here’s a shopping list to get you started.

Where can I find Primal diet recipes?

We’re so glad you asked! You can find a whole host of Primal Kitchen product-inspired recipes right here on the Primal Kitchen website. Our search function lets you narrow the results down by diet and meal, so sourcing recipes is a cinch! Take the inspiration offline by picking up a copy of Mark Sisson’s The Primal Blueprint Cookbook exploring other titles on the Primal Blueprint site.

white fish next to a bowl of cherry tomatoes and a bottle of Primal Kitchen dressing

What’s the difference between a Paleo and a Primal diet?

While both diets center on retracing our ancestral roots without processed foods and eliminating grains, there are a few key differences.

While paleo restricts dairy, a Primal Diet can include dairy—specifically full-fat dairy, preferably raw, fermented, and from pasture-raised animals. Paleo restricts nightshade vegetables, such as potatoes, whereas limited starchy vegetables that you tolerate well are a go on Primal. Primal also permits legumes and coffee, also if you can tolerate them.

The biggest difference between paleo and Primal is Primal’s status as a lifestyle. The bulk of Primal Blueprint laws are loose guidelines for exercise, sleep, and routines. These guidelines can (and should) be individualized to suit what works best for you.

Guiding Philosophy: The keto or ketogenic diet puts fats forward to get the body into ketosis, a metabolic state. The Paleo or Paleolithic diet focuses on eating foods that would have been available to hunter-gatherer ancestors. The Whole30 Program eliminates sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, and dairy for 30 days followed by a structured reintroduction period
Origins: Started by Dr. Russel Wilder, MD, of the Mayo Clinic in the 1920s. Created by gastroenterologist Walter Voegtlin in the 1970s. Started by author Melissa Urban in 2009.
Go for it: Seafood Meat Poultry Low-carb veggies Cheese Avocados Eggs Olive Oil Nuts and Seeds Berries Creams and Dairy Dark Chocolate Coffee Seafood Meat Poultry Vegetables Avocados Eggs Nuts and Seeds Berries Fruit Ghee Honey Coffee Seafood Meat Poultry Eggs Fruits Vegetables Nuts and Seeds Coffee Olive Oil Avocado Oil Coconut Oil Ghee
Skip It: Sugar Grains Processed foods made with these ingredients* Limit or skip higher-carb root vegetables and legumes Sugar Grains Legumes Dairy Artificial sweeteners Processed foods made with these ingredients Sugar Grains Legumes Dairy Sweeteners Alcohol Coffee Any ‘paleo-fied’ baked goods
Other Notes: Can be done temporarily as a “reset" or as an ongoing lifestyle. Grain-free baked goods and Certified Paleo sweeteners allowed! Focuses on meal prep and plate-planning. Elimination only lasts 30 days and is followed by a reintroduction phase.

Primal Blueprint Law 3: Move frequently

The Primal way of eating recommends regular, gentle exercise to promote overall health and fat burning as well as cognitive function. Micro workouts are an option to add little bursts of movement throughout the day.

Add exercise to your routine by adding 25 pushups to your coffee break, or holding a plank while waiting for the kettle to warm up in the morning. This post includes helpful suggestions for adding activity into your personal routine.

Mark Sisson sprinting on the beach

Primal Blueprint Law 4: Lift Heavy things

Emulating the movements of our ancestors within your own ability can have a profound effect. This post about Primal exercise is a great resource for learning more.

Primal Blueprint Law 5: Sprint Once in a While

If you’re able, short bursts of fast running, cycling, versa climbing, rowing or biking can release human growth hormone (HGH). HGH has been shown to help repair and build muscles and tissue. More info on sprinting can be found here.

Primal Blueprint Law 6: Play

Relieve stress and tension with active, playful activities that engage you and your loved ones in a meaningful way.

Primal Blueprint Law 7: Get plenty of sleep

Sleep is a regenerative, restorative element to overall wellness, and should be a priority. Here are more helpful tips.

Primal Blueprint Law 8: Get plenty of sunlight

Get outside and soak up the rays for around 20 minutes a day to get a dose of Vitamin D. If direct sunlight isn’t your thing, supplement your intake with Vitamin D.

Primal Blueprint Law 9: Avoid stupid mistakes

Avoid excessive spikes of stress or tension when possible. Check out this post to hear more on Mark's thoughts. 

Primal Blueprint Law 10: Use your brain

Use your mind. Mental stimulation outside of work and responsibilities is vital! Creativity—however you use it!—is king.

For more info on the Primal diet, get your copy of The Primal Blueprint, visit primalblueprint.com to enroll in an online course and pick up more reading materials, or visit Mark’s Daily Apple for all things Primal.

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