Updated: 2019, Oct 25

How to Maintain a Paleo Diet as a Vegan

Read tips and guidelines for a traditional vegan diet with an altered paleo diet and know their health benefits.
How to Maintain a Paleo Diet as a Vegan
Trendy pegan diet. Paleo and vegan - Photo: Shutterstock

Paleo Diet for Vegans

If you follow any kind of food and nutrition news, you know that two of the biggest diet trends today are the Paleo and vegan diets. At seemingly opposite ends of the spectrum, these two diet styles have very different restrictions, with one emphasizing meats and the other completely restricting meat.

A Paleo diet is supposed to mimic a diet similar to what we presume people may have eaten in the Paleolithic era — lots of meat and fish, as well as unprocessed fruits, vegetables, nuts, and some grains while shunning many other carbs and processed foods.

On the other hand, a vegan diet is full of fruits and vegetables and restricts meat, fish, dairy and any other animal products and byproducts.

Combining Paleo and Vegan Diets

Recently, there is a further trend towards combining Paleo and vegan diets into one. It’s even been given a trendy name — pegan — by Dr. Mark Hyman a best-selling author, on his own blog. But just how do you combine these seemingly disparate diets successfully when one is focused on meats and the other completely eschew them? The short answer is to take the best ideas from both and customize to individual preferences.

It’s easy to get confused when trying to decide between these two, or to know how to combine the ideas from both. There’s scientific research on both sides showing that each one is the healthiest diet for humans, but it’s difficult to compare the two.

So how do we know what aspects to use from each of these interesting diet trends? It’s not as difficult as you’d think to find common ground between the two.

What to Eat on a Paleo-Vegan Diet

Where these two diets intersect is with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, along with some grains — focusing on ancient grains like quinoa. Making this the base of your diet means you’re taking the healthiest tenets from both of these diets.

Here’s a closer look at the specifics of making the best of this combination diet:

  • Eat clean and avoid artificial ingredients: Avoid highly processed foods and anything with artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners or preservatives[1]. Also, avoid any products containing hormones or antibiotics, and try to choose all organic foods. Eating organic means you’ll cut out any pesticides and GMOs too.
  • Include lots of plant foods: Plant-based foods, especially whole, fresh fruits and vegetables, should form the bulk of this diet. Eat the rainbow by including a wide variety of colors — the deeper the color the better. The hardcore Paleo camp insists on fruits that are lower on the glycemic index like berries, but fresh fruit is always healthier than more processed foods.
  • Use high-quality fats: The body needs some fats to be healthy, and there are some fats that are better than others. Omega-3 fats are best for the body, and the oils and fats from avocadoes, seeds, olives, and nuts are great sources.
  • Get in healthy sources of protein: When kept separately, the paleo and vegan camps have very different advice on protein sources. But as a paleo-vegan, it’s advised to get in plenty of healthy plant-based protein. Even though a Paleo diet avoids legumes, beans and lentils are essential for healthy proteins in a vegan diet and are fine in a Paleo-vegan diet. Peas and pea protein powder are popular and healthy choices on this diet too[2].
  • Only use low-glycemic foods: This comes mainly from the Paleo side but is healthy advice for anyone. It’s best to avoid processed and refined carbohydrates, like sugars and white flour. Some also avoid gluten altogether, but consuming some whole grains is perfectly healthy, and sometimes necessary to maintain energy. Stick to ancient whole grains like quinoa and amaranth instead of wheat and refined carbs for the best results.

A Paleo-vegan will also likely avoid meat products, fish, eggs, and dairy. Although each individual may have their own beliefs and preferences regarding these “gray areas” of this diet.

Some people choose to include some of these items sparingly in their diets, and it’s up to each person how they will customize their diet. If any of these items are included, it’s best to go with organic, sustainable versions. The diet can be customized to reflect personal habits and preferences, or adjusted for allergies, but the goal should be to decrease animal products and artificial ingredients as much as possible.

What are the Benefits of a Paleo-Vegan Diet?

When this diet is done correctly, it can be incredibly safe and healthy and it provides many extra health benefits. Because of the emphasis on whole foods, fresh vegetables and fruits, and whole grains, the diet is very heart-healthy.

It can promote healthy cholesterol levels, help to reduce blood pressure and helps to regulate insulin levels[3][4].

The diet can help with fat and weight loss, and prevention of diseases. Many people on a Paleo-vegan diet also report high levels of satiety and higher levels of energy.

Who can Benefit from a Paleo-Vegan Diet?

Just about anyone can try and benefit from a Paleo-vegan diet. Those with any food allergies or intolerances should take special care to make sure that they are getting all of the necessary nutrients the body needs, as this can be a restrictive diet[5].

For those who are already vegan, this diet plan can help reduce consumption of processed foods and artificial ingredients, while increasing the amount of whole, clean fruits and vegetables. And for meat-eaters or even those already trying a Paleo diet, the Paleo-vegan diet is a great way to transition to more plant-based eating, reducing animal products and increasing whole, fresh plant foods.

Anyone can try a Paleo-vegan diet, or if that feels too restrictive, just try to take some of the ideas here and apply them to your own diet. Any reduction in animal products or an increase in fresh, whole foods is healthy choices for anyone. These switches are best for the body — and better for animals and the planet.

References
[1] https://lincoln.ne.gov/city/mayor/aging/pdf/nutrition/HealthyProcessedFoods.pdf
[2] https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/health/health-topics/protein.page
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23295181
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24406106
[5] https://www.onegreenplanet.org/natural-health/exploring-the-benefits-of-a-paleo-vegan-diet-is-it-possible/
[*] Sinha R1, Cross AJ, Graubard BI, Leitzmann MF, Schatzkin A., Meat intake and mortality: a prospective study of over half a million people., Arch Intern Med. 2009 Mar 23;169(6):562-71. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2009.6.
[*]Daley CA1, Abbott A, Doyle PS, Nader GA, Larson S., A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef., Nutr J. 2010 Mar 10;9:10. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-9-1
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Kate Harveston

Kate Harveston is a journalist who covers health, healthcare, science and politics. She holds a degree in Professional Writing and is p

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