Paleo vs. Mediterranean Diet: Which Is Best for You and Why?

Updated: Jul 11

Selecting a diet is no easy feat; continue reading to see whether the paleo vs. Mediterranean diet fits your lifestyle.

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Paleo vs. Mediterranean Diet: Which Is Best?


The paleo diet and Mediterranean diet are often confused with one another. One diet follows an ancient way of eating that includes plant-based food sources, while the other centers around whole foods, including fish, vegetables, and legumes.


Selecting the ideal diet for your lifestyle is made easier by fully understanding what each diet entails and the reason for pursuing each option. Below, we discuss each diet in-depth, similarities, differences, and whether they're healthy to help you choose between these top eating patterns.


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What Is the Paleo Diet?


The paleo diet consists of foods that anyone living in the paleolithic era would have access to, essentially any foods that they could hunt or gather. The foundation of the diet consists of lean meats, fish, produce, nuts, and seeds.


The theory behind the paleo diet is that humans are not meant to consume modern foods as it causes obesity and heart issues.|*| The paleo diet eliminates grains, legumes, dairy, and processed foods. By eliminating these foods, it is thought that the paleo diet can aid in balancing the body. Many people choose to proceed with a paleo diet for weight loss reasons.


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What Is the Mediterranean Diet?


The Mediterranean diet has its beginnings in ancient civilizations and consists of a diet based on the diets of those in the Mediterranean Basin. The Mediterranean diet includes olive oil as the primary source of healthy fats, whole grains, produce, legumes, seeds, and tree nuts. The Mediterranean way of eating is a less restrictive diet, as you can moderately consume fatty fish, low-fat dairy, seafood, eggs (healthy fats and protein), and drink alcohol (with a focus on red wine). |*|


A longer list of foods in the Mediterranean diet can be found on the Mediterranean diet pyramid. |*| It's worth noting that the Mediterranean Diet has many health benefits. This diet features metabolic, cardiovascular, and cognitive benefits with a possible positive effect on cancer. |*|


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Related: Is the Vegan Diet Healthy? What Are the Benefits?


Paleo vs. Mediterranean Diet: Key Similarities


Mediterranean and paleo diets are touted for their health benefits, including potential weight loss. Below, you'll find additional similarities between the two diet types.

Both diets note the importance of avoiding processed foods and refined sugar while focusing on eating high-nutrient foods.


These diets share similar foods that you should eat as part of the Mediterranean or paleo lifestyles, such as nuts, seeds, fish, and fresh produce.


Both can potentially aid in maintaining weight loss, with the paleolithic diet closely associated with weight loss, waist circumference, and BMI. |*|


Paleo vs. Mediterranean Diet: Key Differences


While the two diets have commonalities, there are differences to account for. Continue reading for the major differences between the two diets.


One of the primary differences between the diets is that you can eat all foods on the Mediterranean diet (except for processed items) in moderation. The paleo diet does not allow you to eat dairy and grains, which causes some to label this way of eating as a "very restrictive diet."


Another key difference is the protein sources for each diet. The Mediterranean eating pattern focuses on primarily consuming fish for protein, while the paleo diet encourages red meat and poultry as the main protein sources.


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Are These Diets Healthy?


Any diet can have health risks, especially if you do not consult your doctor before changing what you're eating. Overall, both diets are considered healthy, though there are some notes to keep in mind.


The main concern around a Mediterranean eating pattern is the potential to gain weight since no portions are noted under the eating pyramid. However, pairing a Mediterranean diet with appropriate portions can aid in weight loss. |*|


The paleolithic diet is best used as a solution for short-term weight loss. Due to the higher levels of saturated fat consumption from specific animal protein sources, there is concern about the long-term effects. The diet consists of consuming red meat, which can cause higher cholesterol over time. |*|


Consider consuming the paleo diet for short spurts or opting for leaner meat (like chicken) as the main protein source.


Pros and Cons of the Paleo Diet


As with any diet, there are positives and negatives. Below, we explore the pros and cons of a paleolithic diet.


Potential Weight Loss:


Since you're eating whole foods on a paleo diet and avoiding processed foods, your weight will likely decrease. In some cases, you may even see a quicker weight loss.


Possible Cardiovascular Benefits:


According to this 2019 study, there may be a correlation between the paleo diet and a positive effect on the risk of heart disease (and blood pressure) due to the avoidance of grains, dairy, processed foods, and added salt/sugar.|*|As a note, this correlates with the protein source, as noted above.


Some potential downsides, as with any diet.


Can Be Restrictive:


Since you're not consuming grains, dairy, or processed foods, this diet can seem restrictive to some people. When diets are too restrictive, it is more challenging to follow them for extended periods. Often, people will eat a paleo diet for a short time, then fall back on their previous way of eating.


Potentially Expensive:


The paleo diet encourages the consumption of red meat like beef and pork. Typically, these types of meat cost more than items like shrimp, chicken, etc. For some, the paleo diet may be too costly to follow.


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Pros and Cons of the Mediterranean Diet


Like the paleo diet, there are pros and cons to the Mediterranean Diet.


More Eating Flexibility:


Since the Mediterranean diet offers more flexibility in what you can eat, it's typically easier to follow for a longer period. It's a great option if you're looking for a sustainable way of eating instead of a short-term weight loss solution.


Numerous Health Benefits:


Some health benefits include a positive impact on heart-related diseases, a potential decrease in diabetes risk, and even potentially aiding with mental illnesses like depression. |*|


Some cons associated with the Mediterranean way of eating include the following.


Possible Weight Gain:


As noted above, without portion control, weight gain is possible when consuming a Mediterranean diet.


Requires Higher Budget:


Nuts, seeds, fish, and olive oil are pricier grocery store items. That means this lifestyle may not be affordable for everyone.


Related: Vegan vs. Keto Debate: Which Option Is Right for Your Health and Wellness Journey?

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Final Thoughts on Paleo vs. Mediterranean Diet


When considering a paleo vs. Mediterranean diet, the final decision lies between you and your doctor. Consider how long you're planning on dieting and your intentions before pursuing one of these diet options. Paleo may be a better option if you're looking for short-term weight loss. On the other hand, the Mediterranean is a great choice for those looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle for the long term.


If weight loss is your primary concern, exercising is another necessary component next to diet. A running progress log or elliptical progress log are great ways to help keep track of your movement throughout the week.

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