Two of the hottest dietary choices today seem to be a vegan diet or a Paleo diet. As we learn the detrimental effects of factory farming, dairy, and learn the harsh effects of refined sugar, processed foods and flours, Paleo and vegan diets have helped shed light onto why it’s beneficial to choose an alternative lifestyle to the Standard American Diet (SAD) that most of us grew up eating. But as most people know, Paleo followers heavily embrace meat- which is definitely not an option for vegans. Vegans consume controversial and Paleo restricted foods such as beans, legumes, grains, and don’t necessarily restrict the use of natural or even refined sugars and flours.

Comparing the Two Diets

The Paleo diet consists of: fresh fruits and non-starchy veggies, root veggies, leafy greens, grass-fed animal products or wild-caught animal products, farm-fresh and pastured eggs, nuts, seeds, healthy fats like olive oil and coconut, and more traditional sweeteners like maple syrup and honey instead of refined choices. It does not include: grains, factory-farmed animal products, dairy, beans, soy, cashews, or other legumes, refined sugar, or most any processed food. Paleo followers avoid typical vegan sources of protein like grains, beans, legumes and grain-like seeds (such as quinoa and amaranth) mainly due to their possible ill effects on those with compromised digestive systems. Some reports also suggest that grains, beans, and legumes may be inflammatory and hard to digest. 

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People also usually seek a vegan diet due to its healing and consistently proven health benefits, and of course, for ethical and environmental reasons. Vegans consume no animal products, but all other restrictions are off. Some vegans may choose to go grain-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, etc. but those choices are not necessarily part of going vegan unless one makes the choice to do so. Many reports also show that eating grains, beans, legumes, and grain-like seeds provides health benefits, especially diabetes prevention.

So, how is one to choose?

The Protein Debate

Of course, everyone wants to know about protein, so here we go:

Paleo followers get their protein from animal products, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds, while vegans get theirs from either beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and even some grains. It’s completely possible to get enough protein on a vegan diet without the need for animal products, but what about choosing a Paleo and vegan diet, also known as a Pegan diet? Is that possible, or even beneficial?

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How to Eat a Paleo Vegan Diet and Still Be Healthy

If one approaches a Paleo vegan diet carefully, it may be possible, and even beneficial if digestive complaints are a concern. Considering that hemp protein is a rich source of all essential amino acids and is completely vegan, along with chia, leafy greens, almonds, and even veggies like broccoli, it’s completely possible to eat a vegan diet and a Paleo diet all in one.

Here’s a breakdown of what one following such a diet may eat:

All veggies, all fruits, healthy fats from coconut, olive oil, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and superfoods such as goji, acai, chia, hemp, maca, spirulina, etc.

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What would this look like on a menu?

Breakfast: A smoothie with hemp and chia, fruit, leafy greens, and non-dairy almond or hemp milk

Lunch: A huge salad or roasted veggie plate with root vegetables and raw almond butter drizzled on top. Hemp or chia seeds could serve as a protein-rich garnish.

Snacks: Easy suggestions include raw cookies, or raw truffles made with dates or figs, coconut, almonds, and pumpkin seeds. Or, baked goods with coconut flour and almond flour are permitted on a Paleo vegan diet.

Dinner: This would be something similar to lunch, and leafy greens, non-starchy veggies, and roasted or steamed veggies would be the star of dinner, while fruit could serve as an easy snack. Nuts, seeds, and healthy fats are also permitted (watch servings and be mindful, however since they are high in fats.)

To get enough protein and obtain whole-food nutrients like calcium, B vitamins, and iron, it would be priority to eat leafy greens, nuts, seeds, veggies as much as possible on a Paleo vegan diet.

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The Benefits:

Since a Paleo diet excludes the use of dairy and processed foods (especially sugar, processed fats, and refined grains) and a vegan diet excludes the use of detrimental animal protein, the combination of both could provide incredible benefits. They’re also both rich in an important nutrient for health: fiber, which makes them helpful for blood sugar, weight, diabetes and heart disease prevention. It would also be easy to eat a high raw diet with this approach due to all the fresh produce included.

The Take Away:

If you tolerate grains, beans, and legumes just fine, there’s no need to consider going Paleo, but if you’re vegan and suffering digestive issues, it might be worth a try to see how a vegan Paleo diet benefits your health. Just remember that some nuts and seeds may still be hard to digest, so keep portion sizes in mind. If you’re Paleo and looking for health benefits that meat won’t provide, choosing a whole foods, vegan diet is an amazing lifestyle approach to consider combining with your already otherwise Paleo approach.

What do you think?

Image Source: Charles Roffey/Flickr