By Allrecipes Staff

Is your diet old school? The Paleo diet centers on eating whole, unprocessed foods in an attempt to replicate the diets of our ancestors of the Paleolithic era. The basic idea is that our bodies are most efficient at processing and digesting the same types of foods our ancient ancestors were eating back when our bodies were evolving, during the millions of years before agriculture introduced grains and processed foods into our diet.

Photo by Meredith

What's the Difference between Paleo and Low-Carb Diets?

Both Low-Carb and Paleo diets include meat. The Paleo diet, however, does not include dairy and emphasizes lean meats (there were no chubby, grain-fed gazelles out on the savanna), plus lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil. In keeping with its emphasis on whole, natural foods, Paleo cuts out sugar substitutes and low-carb cereal bars, which low-carb diets often allow. Also, the Paleo diet emphasizes eating meat from 100% grass-fed animals and avoiding meat from animals raised on grain-based diets. Low-carb diets tend not to make this distinction.

Benefits of the Paleo Diet

For some, the Paleo diet is a good weight-loss option because it reduces cravings and keeps you feeling full longer. And if you're feeling full, you're less likely to indulge in junk food and sweets. But the Paleo diet is not just a plan for weight loss; it's intended to be a healthy lifestyle that many follow in order to reduce their risk of certain ailments. Some health benefits which have been associated with the Paleo diet: improved cardiovascular health, decreased risk of diabetes, reduced allergies, sustained energy and blood sugar levels, clearer skin, an improved ability to sleep, and a general improvement of mood. If you are looking to curb your cravings for food high in sugar, fat, and salt, the Paleo diet might be a good option. Here's quick overview of foods on the Paleo eat and don't eat lists:

What to Eat:

  • Meats, fish, seafood (preferably grass-fed meats)
  • Fresh fruits, vegetables (sweet potatoes are ok), and sea vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fats: coconut oil, olive oil, walnut oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, hazelnut oil, lard, tallow, butter from grass-fed cows is usually accepted
  • Herbs and spices

Eat in moderation:

  • Dark chocolate
  • Coffee/caffeinated teas
  • Alcohol
  • Unsweetened dried fruit
  • Sweeteners: maple syrup, honey, stevia, coconut sap
  • Fresh juice (with no sugar added)

What to Avoid:

  • All grains (including wheat flour, tortillas, whole grains, rice, pasta, etc.)
  • Corn and any corn product
  • Legumes (including peanuts and any peanut product and soybeans and soy products)
  • Dairy
  • Refined sugar and artificial sweeteners
  • Potatoes
  • Refined vegetables oils (vegetable oil, canola oil, soybean oil, etc.)
  • Processed foods (including prepared salad dressing)

Top-Rated Paleo Recipes:

Chef John's Chicken Cacciatore

Chef John's succulent chicken cacciatore is a simple, delicious one-pot chicken dish that you bake in the oven.

Photo by Allrecipes Magazine

Lemon Rosemary Salmon

The salmon fillets roast over slices of lemon and fresh rosemary. Dinner is ready in no-time.

Photo by AllisonTX

Cuban Beef and Zucchini Kebabs

Skewers of lean sirloin steak are grilled with fresh zucchini and served with a flavorful sauce of OJ, lime juice, garlic, cumin, oregano, and olive oil.

Photo by Allrecipes Magazine

Paleo Chicken Stew

Chicken, sweet potatoes, spinach, garlic and onion come together deliciously. "I made this recipe up when I started eating paleo," says Tonna Jacobson. "I have now found it to be a staple in our home!"

Kickin' Collard Greens

Garlic, onions, bacon, and red pepper flakes build big flavors in this simple Southern side dish. This technique is also great for cooking mustard or turnip greens.

Photo by Wyattdogster

Tuscan Flank Steak

So simple but very flavorful. The marinade features olive oil and fresh rosemary, blended up with fresh lemon juice, garlic, and red pepper flakes.

Roasted Yam and Kale Salad

Roasted yams and caramelized onions pair perfectly with the earthy kale in this simple salad.

Photo by Linda

Paleo Stuffed Cabbage

These delicious and light cabbage rolls keep the carbs low -- they're made with cauliflower and zucchini instead of rice.

Photo by Aja

Roasted Cauliflower "Rice"

"Cauliflower rice is a great low-calorie dish to have in your arsenal especially if you are eating low-carb," says Dana. "Super low in carbs, yet such a satisfying dish you will forget it's made from a vegetable and not a grain."

Photo by Buckwheat Queen

Check out our complete collection of Paleo Diet Recipes.