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Paleolithic Diet vs. South Beach Diet

author image Bridget Coila
Bridget Coila specializes in health, nutrition, pregnancy, pet and parenting topics. Her articles have appeared in Oxygen, American Fitness and on various websites. Coila has a Bachelor of Science in cell and molecular biology from the University of Cincinnati and more than 10 years of medical research experience.
Paleolithic Diet vs. South Beach Diet
The Paleolithic diet and South Beach Diet are both low in carbs and high in protein. Photo Credit gbh007/iStock/Getty Images

The Paleolithic diet and South Beach Diet can both appeal to dieters who believe that modern, processed carbohydrates are the source of obesity, diabetes and heart disease in the modern world. However, these two diets differ significantly in the degree of food restriction they require, as well as the method by which dieters go about restricting their food intake. Your own philosophy about weight loss, your willingness to give up certain foods, and whether you feel that you can adopt the diet's style of eating for the long-term, all affect whether one of these diets will work for you.

Paleolithic Diet

The Paleolithic diet, sometimes called the caveman diet, focuses on eating foods that were prevalent in the diets of Paleolithic people and generally avoiding foods introduced into human diets after the invention of agriculture. The diet is made up mostly of meat, fish, fruit and vegetables. Protein comprises about 65 percent of your calories when following the Paleolithic diet. Refined sugars, processed oils and all grain products are excluded.

South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet focuses on consuming healthy carbohydrates, proteins and fats as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. While not a true low-carb diet, the South Beach Diet does restrict refined carbohydrates and sugars. The diet is made up of phases, which become progressively less restrictive as weight loss slows and you move into a maintenance phase designed to last a lifetime.


Both the Paleolithic and South Beach diets limit refined carbohydrates, sugars and trans fats. In both diets, whole, unprocessed foods are favored over processed and refined products. The Paleolithic Diet and South Beach Diet are both considered low-carb diets, although the South Beach Diet does contain some carbohydrates, especially during the later phases. Except for the first phase of the South Beach Diet, both plans allow some fruit consumption, unlike many other low-carbohydrate diets.

Food Restrictions

A key difference between the Paleolithic and South Beach diets is the level of food restriction required. While the South Beach Diet requires avoidance of many foods during the first two-week phase of the program, later phases are less restrictive and allow a wide variety of foods in moderation. The Paleolithic diet, on the other hand, completely restricts grain products from the first day and never brings them back into your diet. The Paleolithic diet allows unlimited consumption of whole fresh vegetables and fruit and small amounts of dried fruit and fresh 100 percent fruit juice, while fruit consumption on the South Beach Diet depends on the phase. The South Beach Diet restricts low-fiber starchy and sweet vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, corn and peas, along with all fruit during phase one. In phase two, fruits with a low glycemic index, which indicates that they have a small impact on blood glucose levels, and many previously banned vegetables are slowly reintroduced. In phase three of the South Beach Diet, all vegetables, fruits, dried fruits and 100 percent fruit juices are allowed.


The Paleolithic diet does not have one specific structure, since different books and websites created by different people describe and interpret the diet. The South Beach Diet is a commercial diet plan created by a specific individual, cardiologist Arthur Agatston. It has specific meal plans, cookbooks and online support, so is more structured than the Paleolithic diet.

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