I asked this question in response to someones answer on another question, she suggested I ask it as an actual question. So here I go...
What would you define as "primal," "paleo," and "ancestral"? Ive heard both primal and paleo (obviously) and know the basic differences, but what do YOU define them as? And what do you define as "ancestral" (or any other term to describe your diet) in comparison?
I wish we can call them all Ancestral. The words paleo and primal at best can only be metaphors. The word Ancestral covers all wild and domesticate plants and animals throughout the ages, plus our genetics from our parents back to the first one-celled organisms.
I'm cool with Evolutionary too.
This maybe isn't the answer that you want, but I call them all paleo. Even raw vegan seems to me to be sort of paleo. It's just vegan paleo. I think they're similar to us in a sense. I bet our ancestors, stumbling across an abundance of fruit, probably ate nothing else for days. Then they decided they needed to hunt something so they did that for a bit.
I eat lots of salad, plenty of fruit, nuts, vegetables potatoes, rice, organ meats, seafood, oily fish, poultry, muscle meats (just not as much as I used to). I don't avoid dairy, but I often don't have any of a day...
I think I'm paleo. Perhaps the rice isn't, but I don't pig out on it, and anyway, I bet our ancestors ate some wild grains/grasses. They probably stuck them in a big pot with everything else, just not in such large doses that we were brought up on.
I'm all about salads and stews.
To me, all three focus on eating whole foods from local and high quality sources.
I define paleo as eating meats and veggies, with fruit and maybe nuts in moderation, and no grains, legumes, or dairy. For people with autoimmune conditions, it's further recommended to restrict nuts and nightshades. This is just the starting point, and then foods may be added back to test for individual tolerability (but then it's not necessarily "paleo" anymore, depending on the food).
Primal is a little more lax than paleo and allows dairy if well tolerated.
Ancestral is harder for me to define, but I see it as an umbrella term that includes people with a paleo, primal, or WAPF bent. It's using ancestral knowledge about foods to make more nutritious food choices.
Well, I'm kind of a newbie to the paleo world, but this is how I've noticed people using the terms:
Paleo--no grain, no dairy (except maybe butter and heavy cream), no sugar, limited fruits, limited nuts, limited starchy tubers. The most strict of the the three.
Primal--paleo, except they will eat dairy and maybe more starchy tubers and possibly rice.
Ancestral--Weston Price type folks: they will eat grains that have been sprouted/fermented, raw dairy, soaked nuts
Everyone agrees on pasture raised animals and the elimination of industrial oils
LOL I think I am the "he" who suggested you post this as a question, Michelle.
Anyhow, when I started I used the term primal only because I had just read the Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. When I found this site, paleo appeared to be dominant label but was a little more strict than primal.
After much reading and thought, I settled on ancestral--because the way of eating that suits me best is connected to both the history of our species and the particular history of my personal ancestors.
For me, ancestral eating supports finding the best mix and volume of foods to eat that will naturally move me toward--and keep me at--a leaner and more energetic state of health. My individual version includes whole eggs (vs. just yolks or whites) and full-fat home-made yogurt (sweetened with fruit only and no additives.) I thrive on bone broth stews and fatty meat with a lot of non-starchy vegetables with moderate amounts of starch and fruit plus a little cream and the yogurt. Nuts are a "once in a while" thing.
I see these terms as forked off because each of their proponents needed to carve out their own niche.
I don't see them as very different from each other in the big picture, so I pick and choose parts of what works for me from each.
A clue to this mechanism is the subtitle to Nora Gedgaudas's book Primal Body Primal Mind, which is "Beyond The Paleo Diet For Total Health And A Longer Life." The intended claim is that this book is better than one of the "Paleo Diet" ones, so it would lead to total health (where the "Paleo Diet" has gaps? and longer life, where the "Paleo Diet" wouldn't?)
I doubt Nora herself picked that tagline, more than likely a marketing person did, so that their publish company would get more sales than those of the others. I wouldn't be surprised if the actual book names of these things were also selected by editors, or marketing folks from the book industry, just as the covers are.
Note that I do not subscribe to the claims of that subtitle. Nora's work has a lot to add to the Paleosphere, and I absolutely love her book, but in the big picture, it is removal of neolithic agents of health disease such as wheat, soy, PUFAs are the most important parts.
It's not necessarily the case that if you start from the SAD and then follow her way, the outcome would be better than if you start from SAD and follow Robb Wolf's, Loren Cordain's De Vany's, etc.
Art De Vany has The New Evolution Diet, soon to be renamed to the De Vany Diet, according to his announcements.
Mark Sisson has The Primal Blueprint series of books. I somehow don't believe that Grok, or any other caveman ever came across a blueprint, or despite the subtitle, that it would actually do any "gene reprogramming" (OK, so maybe it would enable or disable certain genes in your epigenome via methylation, but it certainly would not modify your actual DNA.)
Loren Cordain and Robb Wolf have stuck to the original "Paleo" term.
I think Robb Wolf's "The Original Human Diet" subtitle is likely the least inaccurate, and we do know based on coprolites, bones and other archeological finds what the original human diet was, but even so, it's not 100% accurate as there's no woolly mammoth steaks I can buy, nor any aurochs.
I'm sure Cordain would not have chosen "Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat", as we weren't "Designed" to eat specific foods, but rather we adapted to our environment of 1M-100K years ago, and have failed to adapt to the SAD, hence the neolithic diseases we suffer from.
Paul Jaminet has "Perfect Health Diet: Four Steps to Renewed Health, Youthful Vitality, and Long Life" -- I'm sure that there can be more, or less than four steps, and that one could attain "Renewed Health, Youthful Vitality, and Long Life" through one of the other diets I've mentioned here.
Ancestral comes from "Ancestral Health Symposium" which has no tag line, and does not appear to have been infected by marketing weasels.
Chris Kresser has the "Personal Paleo Code", and you might have noticed his podcast change names several times, also indicating a need to find the right niche.
There are other brands, "Paleo 2.0", "The Quilt", Archevore, Lean Gains, "Protein Power", not all of which necessarily refer to a Paleo life style, but are of use to us who live this way, etc.
Another example: on Art De Vany's forums, I've seen people say that they're on the NED (New Evolution Diet), and then I see an almost identical question posted on Mark Sisson's MDA forums, sometimes posted by someone with a similar name, claim that they're on a Primal diet. So at least some of the readers of these books and users of these forums are somewhat aware of this and going along with it.
I think the one common use distinction (the same way that Kleenex and Xerox were once brand names but became generic) is that Primal would include dairy, where as Paleo does not.
But then, even Robb Wolf would tell you that "if dairy works for you, God Love you", and I'm sure that Mark Sisson would have zero objection to someone who has a diary allergy from reading his series of Primal Blueprint books and still calling what they do Primal while shunning dairy.
Note: I own most of the books I've mentioned, and love the authors and their works, and don't hold anything against them. Each has a lot to offer us. Do not take the above words to be derogatory in any way. However, as advertising attempts to modify our thoughts and behaviors, it is vital that we practice critical thinking before purchasing anything, or accepting any medical claims: especially those made by the medical, pharmacological, industrial agricultural, marketing/advertising, or political professions.
I highly recommend Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind which can educate you on at least some of these issues, and how these folks attempt to manipulate us.
When online I blanket term most things as "paleo" for ease, though I guess technically I am blanketing primal and ancestral in there. I generally think of primal as paleo + dairy and ancestral as paleo + dairy + some traditionally prepared grains.
In real life? I never put a label on what I eat. I just say "I eat whole fresh foods and gluten free" if someone asks or I need to explain. If the conversation continues, I'll probably throw in a bit on ancestral eating. I find as soon as the word "paleo" or "primal" gets put into a conversation people stop taking me seriously and start asking "oh, how much weight have you lost so far?" as if it's a fad diet with a weight loss goal attached. For me, that's not productive because it holds me back from having a real conversation. Plus, I'm in a dietetics program and people still think that I'm knowledgeable about nutrition and refer to me for information- something I'm not sure they'd do if they thought I followed a "fad diet" like "paleo" or "primal" (their hypothetical words, not mine!)
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