The Paleo diet is typically based on the idea of eating foods that were available to our ancient ancestors, such as lean meats, fish, fruits, and vegetables and avoiding foods like grains, legumes, seed oils, processed sugars and manufactured foods. Meanwhile, a Vegan diet excludes all animal products, including meat, dairy, and eggs.
For many health enthusiasts, vegan and Paleo diets have nothing in common but with an open mind and an adaptable attitude towards food, the Paleo diet can be adapted for vegans, vegetarians, and plant-based followers.
With our “whole food” approach, we believe both Paleo and Vegan diets have more in common than you might think. A whole food diet focuses on consuming whole, minimally processed foods while avoiding manufactured and refined foods filled with additives and preservatives.
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.
General guidelines to consider when creating a whole food vegan diet:
- Emphasize whole plant-based foods: Include a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds in your diet to ensure that you're getting all the necessary nutrients. When appropriately prepared, whole grains and legumes can also be included. (read on here for more on whole grains and the Paleo diet)
- Choose minimally processed foods: Choose foods that are minimally processed and avoid highly processed and refined foods.
- Get enough protein: Incorporate protein-rich plant foods into your diet to ensure that you're getting all the essential amino acids.
- Include healthy fats: Consume plant-based sources of healthy fats, such as avocado, nuts, and seeds, which are important for heart health, brain function, and overall well-being.
- Be mindful of nutrient deficiencies: Pay attention to your nutrient intake and consider taking supplements if necessary, especially for nutrients that are difficult to obtain on a vegan diet, such as vitamin B12, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Seek professional advice: Consult a qualified professional who specializes in plant-based diets to ensure that your whole food vegan diet meets your nutritional needs.
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Benefits of A Paleo Vegan Diet
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.
Concerns With A Paleo Vegan Diet
A Paleo vegan diet is not for everyone. There are some things 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, although you may choose to include them with a more “whole foods” approach. 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 may choose to source your protein from other foods.
Paleo Vegan Protein
Protein is a crucial component of your health as it builds organs, tissue, muscle and bones.
Paleo Vegan protein 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
What About Supplementation?
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 Paleo vegan diet. Algal oil (derived from algae) improves blood lipids and increases blood levels of EPA (another long chain omega-3 found in fish oil).
Can You Be A Paleo Vegan?
A Paleo Vegan diet might sound like an oxymoron, but it’s actually something that is quite possible. Being a Paleo vegan is not easy and creating a well-formulated Paleo Vegan diet requires careful planning and attention to ensure that all essential nutrients are obtained from vegan sources. You can choose to tailor your Paleo Vegan to your personal goals and needs with mindfulness and awareness of the quality of food you are consuming. Paying attention to your body and realizing how to fuel it is essential along with educating yourself on what your body needs for optimal health.