GAPS vs Paleo vs Primal

I’m sure you’ve all heard the buzz about the Paleo Diet and the Primal Diet. Well, I was curious–what’s the different between the Paleo Diet, the Primal Diet and GAPS?

This is an outline to show you some of the differences between the philosophies behind the GAPS Diet, the Paleo Diet and the Primal Diet.


Note that I’ve had many complaints about this post–people saying that I’m “wrong” about the Paleo Diet. I think the Paleo Diet has evolved in recent years. ;) I read many of the top Paleo sources (2 years ago) to get this information. Look at the sources that I list. There are many updated Paleo websites and books where the authors have decided that saturated fats like coconut oil and butter are ok. That type of Paleo diet is more GAPS-like, and I would agree with it more. I wrote a post called GAPS vs Paleo vs Primal, Updated with some more of my thoughts! :)

Dairy First introduce ghee, then home-fermented yogurt, kefir and sour cream (not store-bought), made from only organic and/or raw milk. Then introduce butter and hard, aged cheeses.Then try raw milk. Never pasteurized milk. If you can’t get raw milk, you must ferment the milk. Most say avoid.Or

Grass fed butter is ok occasionally*****

Once in a while, raw, fermented dairy (yogurt, kefir) are ok. After that, in order, raw butter & cream, then raw milk and cheese, then organic dairy.****
Fats You will see faster recovery if you eat animal fats. Saturated fats are heart protectors.Fat does not make you fat, carbohydrates cause obesity. Avoid Saturated Fats (from dairy, eggs, meat).* Saturated fats have “little or no association with heart disease risk.”****
Meats Eat often. Avoid processed meats and meats cured with sugar. Eat only lean meats Lean meats if they’re not grass fed (grain fed meats are high in Omega 6/low in Omega 3 and create inflammation.Any meats (high fat, organ meats, etc.!) if grass fed!##
Grains (“Cereals”) Avoid for at least 2 years, until healed. After fully healed, try introducing fermented gluten-free grains like buckwheat, millet and quinoa.After these grains are tolerated well, you can try homemade sourdough bread with wheat. Avoid
“Everyone is allergic to grains at some level!”****
Gluten Avoid. In people with GAPS, gluten is not digested properly and is turned into an opiate-like substance in the body. (like morphine and heroin) Avoid Avoid
Corn Avoid Avoid Avoid
Eggs Unless there is a clear allergy, eggs should be an important part of the diet. Children should consume 2 to 6 per day.Adults should consume 4 to 8 per day. Limit consumption to 6 per week. Eat only eggs that are enriched with “Omega 3″* Can cause trouble for people with autoimmune diseases. Don’t eat every day, but no upper limit on consumption.***** freely enjoyed****
Potatoes (and other starchy vegetables) Avoid at least 2 years, or until healed. Avoid* Sweet potatoes may be enjoyed in moderation****
Fruits & Vegetables Start with only cooked veggies, then introduce cooked fruits, then raw veggies and fruits. Eat mostly veggies, less fruit & only very ripe fruit. Eat a lot!Limit fruit at first or if you want to lose weight*****Buy in season*****
Limit peas****
Bone Broths Eat as much as you want, every day. Essential for healing. Not an option. Not mentioned “bone broth possible new sports drink?”###
Salt In its “natural state, salt is not only good for us, but essential.”** Avoid or limit Grok’s access to salt was limited, so we should use it in limited quantities####
Legumes White Navy Beans, Lima Beans, Lentils and Split Peas are allowed. You must pre-soak them, and you can also ferment them in whey. Avoid They’re OK–just not the BEST food you could eat#####
Nuts Allowed, but wait to introduce until all digestive symptoms are gone. Some people need to soak nuts or ferment them with whey before consuming. Do not eat roasted  or processed nuts. Allowed Allowed
Wine/Beer Alcohol leads to more toxicity in the liver. On rare occasions, wine is ok. Never beer. Occasionally ok Occasionally ok
Honey Raw, natural honey is fine. Limit in the beginning of the diet to stop yeast growth. Consume honey as a rare treat.* Occasionally ok
Soy Avoid Avoid Fermented soy products are fine & so is edamame+
Processed Foods Avoid Avoid Avoid
Portions Eat sensible amounts. “Eat until you’re full”* Monitor your intake over the week
Protein Protein is extremely important. Without enough protein, our bodies cannot produce hormones, neurotransmitters, enzymes, etc. “Nobody in this world can tell how much protein your body needs at any particular moment of your life, or how much fat, or how much magnesium, or calcium, or zinc, or how much sleep, or how much sunshine! Only your body knows that, so listen to your body. “*** 55% of total calories from lean meat Protein is vital. Eat it.
Cooking Oils Butter, ghee, pork fat, beef fat, lamb fat, goose fat, duck fat, chicken fat, raw coconut oil. Cold pressed oils like Olive, Flaxseed, is good for salads, but not to cook with. Flaxseed, Canola, Mustard Seed, Walnut, Olive, Avocado* Avoid Canola****
Use Coconut Oil, sesame, sunflower/safflower****Animal fats, coconut oil and butter are best for cooking****
White Sugar Avoid “At the end of the 17th century, sugar, being cheaper and more available, replaced honey in people’s diet, starting an era of sugar-related health problems.”** Avoid. Sugar wasn’t a part of anyone’s diet until about 200 years ago. Avoid. “it’s not fat that gets stored in your fat cells–it’s sugar.”++
High Fructose Corn Syrup Avoid Avoid Avoid
Fiber Get from fruits & vegetables. Fiber from breakfast cereals & other processed foods create mineral deficiencies. Fruits have 2 x as much fiber as whole grains, non-starchy vegetables have 8x! Get your fiber from fruits & veggies.
Supplements “No pill in the world is going to come close to the effect of the diet on your patient’s condition.” There are a few supplements noted as “essential” for totally healing the gut of a GAPS patient (to repair the damage that has already been done). Foods shouldn’t need to be supplemented. You don’t need supplements if you’re eating well. Fish oil may be helpful, though. Take antioxidants, fish oil and probiotics. These were all a part of Grok’s diet.
Omega 3 vs Omega 6 You can’t utilize Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids without an appropriate intake of saturated fats. Your body does not make Omega 3 & Omega 6 fatty acids, you must get them from food.It is important to consume foods with higher Omega 3 levels than Omega 6. You have to make sure to get a good balance.
 High Omega 6 foods (like soy oil) are not good. Get your Omega 3’s.
Cholesterol 85% of blood cholesterol does not come from eating high cholesterol foods. It is produced by the liver, as a response to a high sugar and processed carbohydrate diet. If you do not eat enough dietary cholesterol, your body has to work extra hard to produce it’s own, to support the brain, and every single cell in your body.Low blood cholesterol is linked to criminal behavior and low self-control. Lower your cholesterol with diet. Avoid saturated fats to keep your cholesterol low.*or Cholesterol is an “essential metabolic nutrient.”****
Anemia/Iron Deficiency Iron supplements don’t help people with Anemia. They don’t just need iron, they need a whole host of other vitamins and minerals (which they should be getting from their food, if they are eating well and their gut is functioning properly). People with anemia need to eat lamb, beef, game and organ meats on a regular basis. Iron is not easily digestible/available from grains. Not mentioned.
Calcium Get your calcium from meat, bone broths and vegetables. Calcium from grains is bound to phytates. It is mostly excreted.* “Little does our doctor know that calcium supplementation is known to be a precipitating factor in blood clots that lead to stroke and heart attack.”***** Calcium deficiency is caused by vitamin deficiencies, drinking soda, and a lack of fruits & veggies.
Strong Bones The GAPS diet will eliminate your nutritional deficiencies and your bone density will improve. Eat fruits and vegetables for great bone density & strong bones. “Bones are living organs that respond to stimuli, much like muscle does. Exerting oneself and lifting weights (barbells or fallen game) tells your body to build stronger bones.”++++
Healthy Gut Flora Your gut should be jam packed with beneficial bacteria.  Your gut flora dan be damaged from: antibiotics, other meds, bottle feeding instead of breast feeding, stress, consuming a lot of processed foods, grains and sugar, toxins and pollutants in the environment, etc. Not mentioned. Your immune system depends on healthy gut flora.
Probiotic Foods Essential Not mentioned. The Primal Blueprint says that taking probiotics every now and then is probably beneficial, because, Grok ate dirt. :) ****
Pressure Cooking It damages food. Used in Everyday Paleo******* Uses pressure cooking in recipes on the Primal Blueprint site.
Exercise Not mentioned. It was originally written for kids with Autism though (I don’t think we need to tell them to exercise). :) Exercise is highly encouraged, though not exercises that raise the heart rate. Exercise is highly recommended. There’s even a Primal Blueprint Workout Plan book.


*The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat

**Gut and Psychology Syndrome

***GAPS Website

****The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health, and boundless energy (Primal Blueprint Series)

*****The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet

******Choose My Plate

*******Everyday Paleo

#The Difference Between Paleo and Primal

##Lean Meats

###Cooking with Bones

####Pepper and Salt Varieties

#####Beans and Legumes

+10 Things to Know About Tofu

++The Definitive Guide to Insulin, Blood Sugar & Type 2 Diabetes

+++Ladies: We Can Stop With the Calcium Chews, Already

++++What Did Our Ancestors Look Like?


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  • GAPS vs Paleo vs Primal, UPDATED! :) | The Well Fed Homestead

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  • Sue Chen

    The “facts” on Paleo are very erroneous. The main difference between Paleo and Primal is Paleo abstains from dairy.

  • Becky L

    Hi! I love your site and have been doing GAPS for about 8 months now. I was wondering about the 4-8 eggs per day you mentioned in the list. I love eggs and sometimes have this many in a day, but I’ve never actually seen that number as the suggested amount. Can you please tell me where you found that info? Thanks so much!!

  • JMH

    I also need to stick up for Paleo and fat. It sounds like you read the original Cordain stuff. Dr Cordain is a very intelligent man who’s had a very long career. Even he’s reevaluated his opinion on fat, and every other Paleo expert is quite comfortable with saturated fat. The basic reason why, initially, Cordain saw evidence against animal fat was because of the skewed ratio of 3:6 in industrial meat sources, not the saturated fat itself.
    And this is easily fixed by buying your meat torture free, grass-fed (or pastured, depending on species) and free range as God and Nature intended.

  • Laura Contreras Cole

    If you’re following Robb Wolf of ‘The Paleo Solution’ fame, you’ve misrepresented the Paleo diet by much. For example, it avoids all seed oils, and especially canola oil, but promotes cooking with and eating saturated fats like coconut oil.

    Great website! Glad to have stumbled upon it.

  • michelle m

    That was really helpful!

  • brenda

    Laura, I have a lot to learn about Paleo, I admit! It seems like it has changed over time, and there are different flavors of “Paleo.” This is what I learned during my first bit of research–there is obviously a lot more out there to research, though! Thanks for the comment! :)

  • Jami @ Eat Nourishing

    This is a super helpful chart, although I think most people who consider themselves doing “Paleo” (a la Robb Wolf) are more aligned with the Primal column here. There are huge discrepancies these days as to what a Paleo diet really looks like. Many are now touting the mantra “listen to your body” when it comes to what you should eat.

  • Tas’.

    There seems to be a very different versions of a paleo diet. This is what I thought it was and how I eat now.

  • Jen Pagano

    This looks great – though I must admit I know only a spattering regarding paleo and primal diets. I would clarify with “supplements” that ferments and probiotics and cod liver oil are very heavily encouraged by GAPS. The way it reads would seem to indicate that these supplements are discouraged, whereas it is more a discouragement of individual vit/minerals, anything not a whole food. Primal lists these things as though they are supplements.

    Under bone broth – I think you meant “not optional” instead of “not an option.”

    Otherwise – thanks a bunch for putting this together!

  • Meeps

    Hey, nice chart but seems dated in some areas. I can’t find where it says when you posted this. You might consider doing an update. There were a lot of things in the Paleo category that seem misstated.
    Examples: Saturated fats are not a concern. Exercise that gets your heart rate up is fine. Have you ever heard of Crossfit? Huge in the Paleo world. Walking is great too though.

    Anywho, nice comparison.

  • Kartrss

    Love the concept of this chart, just wish it was more accurate in reflecting the Paleo piece. From what I’ve read, Paleo doesn’t insist on lean meats, there is no avoiding saturated fast from dairy, eggs, or meat as you’ve listed, a Paleo book was the first source I ever read that said salt was essential and just to avoid the ‘man made’ salt but consume as much as you like of ‘real salt’. That whole column seems to be off to me. I know both exercise and healthy gut flora is part of the Paleo scene. I’ve read and followed all three diets and benefited from all of them but you seem to have picked a pretty ‘off’ source of information on the Paleo column. Still, love the concept and wish you would update it to be more accurate. Nice tool and great idea.

  • Christof

    There are .. a lot of paleo diets. About half of what is listed under paleo is dead wrong from a PaNu perspective- one reason the name got changed.

    Our paleo diets have relied extensively on fatty meats and organ meat (everything but the oink).

    While is sucks for cooking,organic canola oil is a Good supplement to bacon fat for making mayo. Rape oilhas been used for a VERY long time, and when the modern canadian rape plant was bred from wild stock, the only thing that changed was a lowering of toxin levels. It’s not a good oil to have extensively, nor to cook with, but it is a good oil to use sometimes as the ALA content is fairly high.

  • Sarah

    I agree with the other comment. You are way off on paleo.

  • S Klassen

    Not sure where you got your info, but this is WAY off in regards to the Paleo research I’ve done, and how I currently eat.

  • Colleen Quinn

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!! Been looking for any answer to this question for quite some time and didn’t have the time to do all the research myself!

  • Juan Carlos Paredes

    Hi. I just googled myself into this diagram. It’s a very good and clear overview of these three nutritional approaches that I myself tend to confuse all the time. I wonder if it would be possible to share this (giving proper credit of course) on our facebook page of the documentary I am directing on food and performance. ( I think a lot of our audience would really appreciate and learn from it. Thanks so much and let me know!

  • Summer83

    The author of the GAPS diet actually does mention adding in sourdough bread after healing. towards end of link).

  • JR Chew

    Very helpful. Inspired me to look into bone broth. Good stuff.

  • Paleo Huntress

    The Paleo Diet doesn’t advocate low saturated fat. This was something from Cordain’s first book and he has since updated his recommendations, and none of the other experts (Sisson, Wolf, Audette, Lalonde) recommend low saturated fat. The idea was to reduce fat from CAFO meat sources because they are so much higher in inflammatory PUFAs than grassfed animals.

    I don’t mean to be rude, but your chart is very poorly researched and your sources not at all what one would expect if you were doing a comprehensive comparison. Robb Wolf is especially saturated fat, and considering you’re claiming to have read his book, why would you then choose to reference only Cordain?

  • Haley Lucido

    This is wrong. A lot of the info on the Paleo portion is completely false!

  • zd4v1d

    I believe you’ve hit upon the mainstream version of Paleo. Anyway, I’m tired of defending it against those who would water it down to commercial accessibility. The way I see it is that Paleo, in this day and age, is an proximal way of eating. Getting closer to the true approximation can be achieved only by eating more and more foods that look like they were just picked or hunted, and can be eaten raw. There’s really no place for ANY processed foods, including and especially vegetable oils. It’s in the plant. Just eat the plant.

  • Guest

    Just to share some facts about Paleo Huntress, yes, she does mean to be rude. And she does not represent Paleo. She is just a bully who hides behind anonymity. She just trolls and looks for fights, and if there aren’t any, she’ll create a few IDs to make a fight. Or she will create IDs to slap herself on the back. Honestly, I couldn’t make this up. Check this out. This is just ONE ti,e of several that I have seen where she was caught. Please do not think Paleo people are like her. She just has issues. Do a search engine search and you’ll see how abusive and condescending she can be. Here is the link:

  • Brenda

    Tori, please share what you think is wrong here? I had multiple top Paleo books open all around me as I wrote this post. I read them all, researched—I’d like to know what you think is wrong?

  • Jaclyn

    What moron wrote the paleo part of this chart?! 99% of it is WRONG WRONG WRONG!