Can you be both Paleo and Vegan?
For many health enthusiasts, vegan and Paleo diets seemingly don’t mix – one is based entirely on plants whilst the other is reflective by the diets of our hunter-gatherer ancestors which includes both plants and animal products. Regardless of the difference, we believe that these can be effectively combined.
The Paleo diet can be adapted for vegans, vegetarians, and plant-based, provided one maintains an open mind and an adaptable attitude towards food.
The Paleo lifestyle encourages eliminating all grains, dairy, sugar, legumes, soy and processed starches, many of which are often fundamental foods in a Vegetarian diet. Protein consumption along with vitamin, and mineral absorption such as B12, iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc are where the two approaches differ most. A Paleo diet involves eating humanely raised meats, while most Vegetarian eaters get their protein from soy, nuts, seeds, grains, some dairy (if the diet is not dairy free as well), eggs, legumes, and plants.
The modern Paleo eater faces many challenges such as finding well raised meats and pastured proteins along with organically grown fruits and vegetables along with sourcing the ever-important high quality, naturally occurring fats that ensure the body is functioning optimally.
All Vegetarians and Vegans omit meat from their diet along with dairy, eggs and honey if the choice is to eliminate all animal products. Vegetarian ideology is that no animal should be killed for human existence. Although the dairy and beef industries have huge corporate interests, genetically engineered vegetables, grains and legumes crops are not produced with human health in mind. Although Vegetarians and Vegans tend to be vocal confronters when it comes to animal advocacy, it is up to each person to advocate for human health and be aware of the many problems and concerns within the modern, industrialized food supply.
The Vegetarian diet is often lacking in B12 (only available in animal foods), vitamins and minerals. Effective supplementation is available to overcome these concerns. Sadly, many choose a life without animal protein with a focus on animal welfare resulting in many health issues including obesity, heart disease, depression, Metabolic syndrome, and diabetes. Eating a Western diet filled with junk food; cookies, cakes, pizza, bread galore, fast food is still a Vegetarian approach. This is when a vegetarian diet might be doing more harm than good.
There are similarities to both diet philosophies and there are many characteristics of a healthy diet that both approaches agree upon:
Eat Lots Of Plants
The deeper the colors, the more variety, the better. This provides a high phytonutrient content protective against most diseases.
Choose Naturally Occurring Fats.
Omega-3 fats are essential, along with including good quality fats from olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados. Eating sufficient fat from naturally occurring sources (both plant and animal) prevents supports nutrient absorption and help prevent vitamin deficiency.
Adequate protein for appetite control and muscle synthesis, especially in the elderly is vital for health and longevity.
Avoid Processed Foods
A diet low in refined sugar, flour and processed carbohydrates of all kinds is optimal.
Source local, seasonal foods low in pesticides, antibiotics and hormones and probably no or low GMO foods. No chemicals, additives, preservatives, dyes, MSG, artificial sweeteners and other man-made chemicals that you would never have in your pantry.
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Benefits of A Paleo Vegan Diet
The foods chosen for a Paleo plant-based diet all have numerous health benefits.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin A, folic acid, dietary fiber, and potassium. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables will provide a good variety of nutritional benefits.
Seeds and nuts are both rich in protein and fiber. Seeds are also good sources of iron, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Added sugars, typically found in processed foods, can cause chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and may increase your risk of heart disease. Eating a Paleo vegan diet means processed sugars are eliminated
A Paleo Vegan diet is low in simple carbohydrates, providing high quality fuel to keep you going. There are two types of carbs that provide different types of fuels. Complex carbohydrates, which are found in whole grains, vegetables, legumes, and nuts, provide energy over the longer term. Meanwhile, simple carbohydrates, found in many processed foods, quickly break down into sugar in your system.
Disadvantages Of A Paleo Vegan Diet
A Paleo vegan diet is not for everyone. There are some disadvantages to consider Before Making The Transition.
Low In Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fats are essential for life. On a Paleo diet, eating fish would provide these fatty acids. Fortunately, other good sources of omega-3s that are paleo vegan-friendly include flaxseed oil, chia seeds, and walnuts although supplementation may be necessary due to lowered conversion rates.
Less Nutrient Options
Legumes and whole grains are not part of a Paleo vegan diet. Whole grains, like brown rice and barley, are sources of fiber and B vitamins. These nutrients can be found in seeds, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Certain nutrients like vitamin B12 are also only found in animal foods and appropriate supplementation is essential. If you are eating a Paleo vegan diet, you will need to source your protein from other foods.
Paleo Vegan Protein
Protein is a crucial component of our nutritional well being as it builds organs, tissue, muscle and bones.
Plant-based sources of protein traditionally include legumes like beans and lentils. However, the Paleo vegan diet eliminates legumes as an option.
Modern-day Paleo Vegetarian options might include:
- All local and seasonal vegetables and fruits
- Chia, hemp, and flax seeds
- Sweet potatoes, non-starchy root vegetables, squashes
- Raw chocolate
- Fermented foods such as sauerkraut
- Mushrooms such as shitake, Portobello, maitake, Quorn (fungi- avoid if candida prone), raw spirulina
- Soaked and sprouted nuts and seeds in moderation
- Nut butters and milks
- Pastured eggs (possibly)
- Raw and/or grass-fed dairy (possibly, if tolerated)
- Moderate portions of ancient grains
- Traditionally prepared beans and buckwheat
Even when following a Paleo diet, supplementation can still be a good idea. Vitamin B12 is often lacking in vegan diets along with certain minerals like iron and calcium. Good omega-3 sources may also be lacking in a vegetarian Paleo diet (so, taking fish oil may be an additional consideration). Algal oil (derived from algae) improves blood lipids and increases blood levels of EPA (another long chain omega-3 found in fish oil).
It is perfectly reasonable to modify and adjust to your personal needs and preference.
A Paleo vegan diet might sound like an oxymoron, but it’s actually something that is quite possible. Having said that, being a Paleo vegan is not easy and will require you to tailor your Paleo diet to ensure you get all the nutrients you need. It is not necessary to eat meat at every meal simply to call it Paleo. It is way more important to be aware of the quality of food you are consuming. Paying attention to your body and realizing how to fuel it is essential. Educate yourself on what your body needs for optimal health. There is no need to sacrifice your health while sparing animals' lives. In fact, helping animals be well is an essential part of the sustainability of this planet. Your health counts on it!