How to Follow the Paleo Diet Without Eating a Single Piece of Meat
“The Paleo diet for vegetarians.” At first glance, it seems like a contradiction in terms, with vegans and paleos doing constant battle over whose diet is best.
The Paleo diet is everywhere these days. Four Hour Workweek author Tim Ferriss does it. Former pro Ironman triathlete Mark Sisson promotes a variant of it in his book, The Primal Blueprint, and on his blog.
And much to the dismay of vegan Crossfitters (yes, they exist!), the Crossfit community promotes Paleo as well.
The Paleo diet is by no means veggie-friendly. It’s heavy on the protein and fat, and as we’ll see, most of the common vegetarian sources of protein are off limits.
Does that mean a vegan athlete diet can’t also be a Paleo diet? I don’t think so. Welcome to my next experiment.
The rationale for the Paleo diet is the same rationale I like to apply to almost anything related to diet and fitness: Do what we’re built to do.
Our bodies have adapted over the course of millions of years to a form that is highly suited for survival in its environment. Therefore, by looking at how humans ate and lived for most of our evolution, we can determine what the type of diet we’re “meant” to eat.
Unfortunately for vegetarians, some of what we are “meant” to eat, in the evolutionary sense, is probably meat: Relatively speaking, agriculture is a recent development. For a much longer period than we’ve been growing our own food, we hunted it and we gathered it. That basic principle is what the Paleo diet is based on.
Paleo diet basics
My intention with this post is not to give an in-depth description of the Paleo diet. If you find yourself intrigued, you should absolutely do your own research or talk to a doctor to make sure it’s right for you. For a more in-depth introduction to the Paleo diet, I’ll refer you to my friend Steve Kamb’s Beginner’s Guide to the Paleo Diet.
If you want to go deeper still, I recommend The Paleo Diet for Athletes, which adapts the Paleo diet so as to make it jibe with a higher-carbohydrate, endurance-sports diet (as opposed do a muscle-building, weight-gaining diet). It’s worth it for the detailed section on pre-, during-, and post-workout nutrition, even if the closest you ever get to Paleo is s’mores and not-dogs around the campfire.
Briefly, here the basic tenets of a standard Paleo diet for endurance athletes (as outlined in The Paleo Diet for Athletes):
- The breakdown: Roughly, 35% fat, 40% carbohydrate, 25% protein.
- Staple foods: Wild and free-range meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, nut-like seeds, some tubers, such as sweet potatoes
- Not allowed (here’s the tricky part): All grains, including wheat, rice, barley, oats, rye, and corn; grain-like seeds, including quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat; all legumes, including beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, and soy; starchy tubers such as potatoes; dairy, alcohol, most sugars except in fruit
(See a complete list of Paleo foods here.)
I’m not going to go into the detailed reasons for what’s allowed and what isn’t. The basic explanation: Pre-agricultural man (and woman) ate a lot of the staple foods, and had very limited or no access to the disallowed foods.
So, simply ignoring the meat issue for now, we see that if you were to follow the Paleo diet as a vegetarian or vegan, you’d be eating a lot of lots of fruits and vegetables, sweet potatoes, oils like olive, coconut, and canola, nuts, and nut-like seeds. And pretty much any sugar you’d eat would come from fruits.
A bit bland, perhaps, but doable.
Hopefully, you’re already eating a lot of these foods. And—bonus!—most Paleo diets allow you to eat as much as you feel like eating. If cavemen had appointed kings, that’s what you’d be eating like.
But…do you see the problem?
If you don’t see why the Paleo diet is tough for vegetarians, either (a) you’re skimming this post while you eat a quinoa salad with tofu and black beans, or (b) your version of a vegetarian/vegan diet is severely lacking in protein.
First, note that grains are out. Tough, since they’re a big part of most vegetarians’ diets, especially runners’. But that’s not the worst part.
The hardest thing about this is that every major vegan protein source is off limits in a strict Paleo diet. Anything soy, every kind of bean except string beans, and quinoa are all Paleo no-no’s.
Your Paleo options as a vegetarian
It appears impossible to strictly follow the Paleo diet as a vegetarian. And to be honest, it probably is. Since we don’t eat meat, and the diet is based on eating meat—it should account for up to 55% of one’s calories, according to The Paleo Diet for Athletes—anything we do as vegetarians is going to be a bastardization.
But then again, aren’t all modern Paleo diets pretty poor substitutes for the real thing? The fruits, vegetables, and tubers we find in modern grocery stores, even farmers markets, probably do not resemble the fibrous ones Paleolithic humans were eating. And while a dedicated Paleo-dieter might be able to eat truly wild meats a high percentage of the time, it’s likely that the vast majority of modern Paleos either can’t access or can’t afford such authenticity, and must resort to the factory-farmed meat they find at the grocery store.
My point: Any modern Paleo diet is merely an approximation to the real thing. So as vegetarians, we can (and must) approximate too. Here’s how I suggest going about it.
Vegetarian Paleo Diet Option #1: Eat lots of eggs
Obviously, this option is not for vegans. And it’s not exactly Paleo, since the versions I’ve seen usually recommend eggs in moderation, say, up to six per week. But theoretically, one could eat lots of eggs and meet the protein requirements of the Paleo diet without eating any unauthorized foods.
One egg has about six grams of protein, so if they’re going to be your primary source (lets say they’ll provide 50% of your protein), you could be eating a dozen eggs a day. Possible, but you’d better like eggs.
Vegetarian Paleo Diet Option #2: Allow hemp seed and grain-like seeds
The argument against grain-like seeds like quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat is that they behave more like grains than like nuts. While seeds like sunflower seeds contain mostly fat and protein with just a small amount of carbohydrates, these grain-like seeds contain mostly carbohydrate.
But carbohydrate isn’t the only problem. Grain-like seeds have other negative properties of grains: Quinoa, for example, “includes chemical defense systems that irritate the gut,” according to an excerpt from Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution.
Option #2 is to allow these grain-like seeds in your diet to help you meet the Paleo diets protein requirements. The bonus prize behind Door #2 is that quinoa can be used in cooking like rice, or even made into “pasta,” so you’ll gain some variety in your meals over those based on strict Paleo fare.
But let’s not forget about our old friend hemp. I’ve been unable to get a definitive answer to whether or not hempseed is considered “grain-like.” In terms of macronutrient content, it’s more like a nut: high in protein and good fats, very low in carbohydrates.
If it’s allowed, real food protein powders like Complement Protein, with a variety of nuts, seeds, and pea, could provide enough protein to make the other deviations from the strict Paleo diet unnecessary.
Vegetarian Paleo Diet Option #3: Allow soaked or sprouted beans and legumes
To me, this seems like the easiest option, and perhaps the best. “Easiest” in that it wouldn’t represent a major change from the way many of us already eat, minus the grains. “Best” in that allowing beans and legumes would provide us with about a dozen obvious sources of protein.
Though pre-agricultural man didn’t eat beans (at all?), that’s not the major issue most Paleos have with them. Instead, it’s the “antinutrients” in beans and other legumes, the enzyme inhibitors which make them inedible in their raw state and which may interfere with digestion even after cooking.
We can reduce the amounts of these antinutrients by soaking and sprouting legumes. According to Tim Ferriss, who claims to eat a lot of lentils on his version of a Paleo diet, “Soaking for 24 hours at room temperature has been shown to remove 66% of the trypsin (protease) inhibitor activity in mung bean, 93% in lentil, 59% in chickpea, and 100% in broad bean.” Soaked beans should of course be well-cooked in order to make them non-toxic.
Sprouting goes a step farther in reducing the amounts of enzyme inhibitors, in addition to converting some of the starches into sugars, and proteins into amino acids. Though some sprouts can be eaten raw, cooking them will eliminate more of the antinutrients. For more on sprouting and related health issues (such as not eating toxic soybean and kidney bean sprouts), see a post from GrowYouthful.com.
All of this assumes, of course, that you’re starting with dried beans. The pre-cooked, canned versions won’t do here.
‘This sounds reasonable, even if extremely dull. But if we’re meant to eat meat, why be vegetarian at all?’
To me, the evidence that we are built to hunt and eat meat is pretty convincing.
Does that mean we should eat meat at every meal? No. But does it mean we should eat meat sometimes?
If your only goal is health, I’d say you’d do well to eat an occasional piece of fish, or even wild land animals. It would certainly make getting an optimal Paleo balance of nutrients easier.
But let’s not forget that by the same argument, males are “built” to impregnate as many women as possible. That’s what would maximize the chances of having ones genes propagate, and probably still would today.
But most of us don’t do that anymore, because as a species we’re beyond that. And that’s how I feel about eating animals. Even if it’s what we’re built to do because eating them helped us survive and thrive in the past, it’s something most of us are now capable of making a choice not to do, thanks to our advancement as a civilization.
I’ll be interested to hear how the Paleo Diet treats you and your running. Personally, the more fat I eat the worse I feel and run. Just can’t do it, regardless of the source of the fat. As for the diet itselfe, while it may be an upgrade to some people’s current diet, I think you can do much better as far as a long-term healthy diet. Just my 2 cents. Good luck with it.
This article comes at the perfect time! I was wondering about this topic a few hours ago. I’ve been looking into taking a CrossFit class & I was just going to tell them that I could do the work but not the diet.
You’ve provided some great options for vegetarians, but I still don’t think I could, or would want to, have this diet. I love grains, legumes & pretty much everything that’s restricted.. but I eat it in moderation which is key I believe.
I still might try the plan you’ve outlined & thanks for the article! :]
You appear to have completely ignored the fact that many greens are complete poteins. It is virtually impossible to eat a diet (any diet!) insufficient in protein if you get sufficient calories. eg http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2461/2
Actually, no they’re not. Not on their own, anyway. Complete protein foods are foods that provide an adequate proportion of all nine essential amino acids. Unfortunately, most of the vegetarian/vegan foods that offer all nine essential amino acids are actually off limits to the paleo diet, which is where it gets tricky. One needs to be eating a certain combination of greens and other plant based foods to be getting complete proteins in a quantity adequate to their nutritional needs.
The idea that one must eat complete proteins in single foods or combinations of foods was debunked twenty years ago, but some ideas die slowly.
We don’t need complete proteins since we have gut bacteria which convert amino acids from saliva into essential amino acids we require OR convert fiber into essential amino acids.
The articles you posted have very little to do with the subject you are talking about. If there are any real links to this idea I would be interested in reading them!
Andreas, those links were fascinating. It is very technical, so I can understand why Aubrey, and possibly others, did not recognize the implication of the results of those studies. The studies described that pigs that were fed a purely grain based diet (incomplete protein) ended up with the same body weight as pigs that were fed grain supplemented with lysine. The reason the pigs ended up just as healthy is that the pigs adapted to the lack of lysine in their diet by synthesizing lysine in their gut. The extrapolation is that you don’t need to consume all the amino acids (complete proteins) that everyone says you need to since your body can synthesize them. That is how developing world people can eat a grain based diet and be healthy.
This was great info.. I am really excited to get started. I will eat some fish occasionally, so I am going to try that and eggs as the protein, as well as hemp protein powder and seeds. Thanks for sharing all your ideas and research. Looking forward to starting this on Monday!!
I am a 30 year vegetarian and not once did the Cross Fit gym I go to promote the Paleo diet or tell me I needed to follow it. I had been going there for several months before I asked a question and learned that many folks at Cross Fit follow Paleo. Never did they encourage, try to persuade and recommend I follow Paleo. 🙂
I’ve thought quite a lot about ancestral diets , and done a bit of research . Just a few things to ponder . If we were to be transported back to a time before we had fire , and learned to use primitive weapons , how did we survive as hunter/predators .? Physically , we don’t have the weapons of a carnivore , like a tiger or leopard . We don’t have the speed or strength required to survive as a predator . Even if we caught up with a large animal like a mammoth , it would probably stomp us into the ground . Also we don’t have the big canines for dispatching prey , nor could we tear tough animal hide with our tiny gnashers .Then there’s our reaction to raw bloody meat , yuch ! Show raw meat to a dog or cat , even though they may never have seen it before , yum yum , not yuch , is their reaction . I submit that we are natural herbivores .
I look at this like nature vs nurture. We have been raised on diets different to a hunter gatherer, so the primeval lust for meat will not be present. After the initial ketosis phase, and a few months into eating a diet packed with meat you create a hunger for it. I choose to eat blue steak now, whereas I could not stomach anything below medium rare previously.
I agree with you 100%. The stock answers that meat eaters give is that we evolved to eat meat. I believe that we should be herbivores. We would save the animals, the earth, and our bodies from all the undesirables that accompany eating meat – i.e. antibiotics and growth hormones (assuming no free range/organic meat). I am saving your information. It is succinct and I am going to use it on my meat eating friends! Jan Marie
insects and shellfish, or even a raw frog or bird egg would have been consumed. basically anything they came across they may have tried to eat. that’s why it doesn’t make sense to eat large animals like cows, especially i. the quantities promoted by most paleo guides. but we wouldn’t have been vegan.
I am looking into going this way for a diet but i am allergies to milk and i drink soy milk. This diet says no soy. Do I have to start drinking milk again
Coconut milk is great. Coconut is acceptable on all diets that I know of, and if there’s an issue with the store-bought, more processed version, you can simply blend a can of raw, organic coconut milk with water to taste at home and put it in the fridge. And if you’re used to drinking soy milk that has any vanilla or sugar in it, blend the coconut milk with some organic vanilla and organic stevia. (Watch for pure stevia; things like Truvia have additives that aren’t great for the gut).
I just found this website. I am a celiac who also must avoid all grains & dairy. I’ve been following the paleo diet for a few years but for the past few months I just don’t feel well after eating chicken, pork or beef. You can learn to love coconut milk or almond milk if you choose. Fortunately I can eat organic eggs and supplement my protein throughout the day with raw cashews and other nuts. I was told to soak the raw nuts overnight to make them more easily digestible. I am also loaded with allergies to foods and meds and this diet has helped me so much. I wish you luck and again, I’m so glad I found this site.
Hello! I was wondering how this diet is going for you? I have to stop eating meat for health reasons and would like to start a paleo/vegetarian diet. Thank you. 🙂
Starting Monday I am doing the vegetarian paleo challenge. I have researched it,I read No meat Athlete I want to give it a shot. I need to get my cholesterol down , I am vegetarian but I eat to many carbs too.
I’m going to blog everyday for 8 weeks. I have a question? What if I get cravings for sugar?or if I have days I can’t stop eating?will I feel sluggish without carbs? Sweet potatoes are out on paleo
Could you provide a link to your blog :)? Iam starting the vegetarian paleo diet today.
Yes, do you have a link to your blog? I am starting a paleo vegetarian diet this month.
Sweet potatoes are perfectly allowed in paleo. It’s a staple carb for many. White potatoes are different, and whether they are “allowed” in paleo is a subject of much discussion. Some don’t eat them because they are too starchy, others allow any root or tuber at all.
You are brave!! Honestly, the hardest part for me would be giving up beans. I would have beans every day if I could.
The only diet that I have tried that might come close was the Zone diet. It worked great for two months. I got very lean. Then, it hit me. Life is too short to live without cupcakes and bread. And a bowl of beans. Good luck!!
LOL! “Life is too short to live without cupcakes.” I totally agree!! 🙂
From what I’ve read in the Tim Ferris link in the article, life is going to be much shorter with cupcakes…
To be honest, I’m not convinced. It feels like there’s a large deviation from the original diet. But if you can make it work, I applaud you.
I’ve seen Mark on Daily Apple talk about hemp protein and he doesn’t seem too against it(I use it and like it). Hemp protein is cheapest when you buy 3lb bags on Amazon. I try to eat partially paleo and my usual breakfast is a banana mashed and mixed with hemp protein and a little water, covered in almond butter and coconut.
Hey Matt–this is “avabee” from the paleo thread on the NMA forums. As I mentioned in my post there, I’ve been experimenting with a paleo/primal-style diet.
I’ve been shooting for @60 grams of protein a day. Usually one meal largely consists of eggs (3-4 large eggs contains @19.5-26 grams). A second meal is often a smoothie with protein powder, for an additional 20 grams. The rest comes from a variety of sources: some legumes, some nuts, nut butter, seeds, etc., some dairy kefir, vegetable sources, and occasionally (yet) more eggs. I try not to double up the egg dishes too often; it’s so easy to get sick of eggs!
I want to do this too! I just read about the Paleo diet las week, but I’m mostly vegetarian so I wasn’t sure how I would do it. I think I’ll reread this later and probably try to do it with you 🙂
I just recently learned of the Paleo diet when I met a girl who was following it herself. Although I don’t prescribe to a certain type of diet (I’m a flexitarian I guess), I find all diets highly interesting and I really enjoyed reading your take on an adaptable vegetarian version.
I have a question, and I mean no disrespect, but are you trying this out of curiosity, or more because something is lacking/not right with your current diet?
Definitely going to be popping on your blog more often, as you were the one who peaked my interest in Paleo-diets and now you are going to actually do it! If I may be so bold as to make a request, which is the same one I made on your recent survey, please include recipes! 🙂 I am experimenting with reducing my gluten intake and am also a vegetarian and am too scared to go-all-paleo! Thanks for being such a curious and self-inflicted guinea pig 🙂 Good luck
I’m really surprised at “To me, the evidence that we are built to hunt and eat meat is pretty convincing.”
To me it’s the contrary. The entire alimentary canal of humans is biased against eating flesh.
– 8 large incisors, 20 premolars/molars, small canines (more suited for chewing not tearing)
– A lower jaw that has 2 degrees of motion and the enormous pressure it can generate while grinding slowly (more suitable for eating plants and grains)
– Salivary Amylase (enzyme to break carbs into sugar) is the only enzyme in Saliva … why an animal that ate no grains for millenia would need Amylase?
– The thickness (lack of) of stomach lining and low acidity (relative) of stomach acid.
– The length of the intestines …
I could go on.
The point is that humans have been opportunistic omnivores with plants being the major source of nutrition for most of humans.
Amen to that! I have been wondering the same thing. Not to mention killing an animal was quite the chore back in the day so I really doubt they came that easy.
Evolutionary anthropologists also look at similar cultures and have noted that non-agricultural planst, herbs, fruits nuts and beans make up the vast majority of their diet, with meat playing a relatively minor part. In regards to evolving for running…recent studies have shown that women have evolved very differently from men in both their eye sight and skeletal structure…Men evolved to run longer distances as stated, better “long-sight” for spotting prey far away, whereas the females have greater peripheral vision which improved their gathering activities.
A basic flaw of the paleo diet is that despite the fact that many of the non-paleo foods do lead to poor health, this is usually a result of abuse and overconsumption and over a longer period of time than most paleolithic people even lived. Hard (not impossible) to die of cancer when you only live to the ripe old age 30.
That peripheral vision in women was also for minding the children *while* gathering (vegetarian) food.
I think the eating habits/patterns of our closest evolutionary relatives can instruct us. The apes don’t grab something from over there, pick something from that tree, pull up something from over here, stick them all neatly on the ground in front of them and have a meal. (Do they?) They “food combine” in that they eat what’s there/available, then move on. (I always feel my healthiest/lightest on a food-combining veg diet.) And their killing/eating of territorial enemies is extremely rare. But at least they don’t waste the “meat” (ahem).
If we’re going to talk about a “paleo” diet being “what we are ‘meant’ to eat, in the evolutionary sense,’ then the paleo pushers had better stop pushing meat from domesticated animals, cuz they haven’t been around that long (about the same length of time as agriculture) and, in North America at least, their flesh is unhealthy and filled with terrible cruelty.
Thanks for this post. I’ve been wanting to get that stuff about the paleo diet off my chest for a while now, but am always afraid to do it around meat eaters cuz, well, they’re eating that cruel and unhealthy meat!
Seriously? You’ve not heard of free range, humane farms that produce grass fed beef? Never? Not a once?
And the actual scientific data regarding species evolution has yet to become “fact”, so you might be barking (literally) up the wrong tree by thinking “Hey, if it’s good for my brother the Ape, it’s good for me!” But if you think otherwise, feel free to throw your feces at me.
I did a modified Paleo for a while, and I used a lot of hemp hearts. We love hemp hearts for protein around here! I was eating a great spinach hemp salad for breakfast. 🙂
I eat beans a lot in my current meal plans… and while I do use dried a lot, I do not exclusively… it was those times of being busy and using canned beans that just got me further away from the Paleo “thoughts”.
Hemp hearts? I’ve never heard of them! Where would I get them if I wanted to give them a try? Thanks 🙂
First you have to hunt down the hemp and rip its heart out….
Nevermind, they are just shelled hemp seeds. Maybe so-called because they look a bit like teeny weeny hearts, awwwww!
Hemp hearts sound so great, I will be googling that next!
I’m interested to read how it goes! I’ve been re-reading Thrive Fitness lately and trying out a lot of the recipes, so this should go perfectly with where I’m at! Have fun!
If it wouldn’t bore your readers (and I think from the responses here it wouldn’t), I’d love for you to post a daily or weekly “menu” of what you’re eating. I understand what you’ve outlined here but am curious to see how it translates to day to day meals.
Also, just curious and you can ignore this if it’s none of our business, but does your wife do these diet changes with you?
I have to admit, all of these “experiments” – no caffeine, no solid foods, etc. – make me less interested in this blog. You lose a lot of credibility for me when you jump on these “fad diet” bandwagons. I don’t mean to offend, that’s just how I feel.
I think this seems so far off from Paleo that it’s entirely something different. Maybe low grain veggie? I too, like you, enjoy seeing how things work and am definitely interested to see how your running stamina is affected.
Keep us posted.
I wouldn’t be able to keep that up, as if I were existing during the “paleo” period, I would have already perished due to my inability to hunt animals.
And yes, I agree we are “beyond” males going off with every woman possible.
I’ll be interested to see how this works for you with your adaptations. It does seems pretty challenging and unlikely for vegetarians to get enough protein without the changes though. Sometimes I read Mark’s daily apple and can never picture myself without grains. I like many kinds and could eat quinoa a lot but want the option to eat other whole grains.
Hey Matt- So awesome that you’re trying this. I am currently doing the same thing (started October 3rd, going to go for at least 1 month). Basically I took the Paleo Diet and the Thrive Diet and mashed them together as best I can. I ran into a lot of the same conundrums you mentioned above. I am still eating some gluten (although very little, just my breakfast cereal) and have been consuming quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat, but in very small quantities. Same with peanuts. I chose to allow hemp, especially since it’s so highly featured in the Thrive diet. Luckily for me, I love almond butter, so I’ve been getting a lot of protein from that. I’m still in a rest cycle after my last 50k, but I’m curious how this is going to feel fuel-wise when I start running again. Will be interested to see how your experiment goes as well!
I see this as more of a “diet”. I can’t see just avoiding grains all together. That just seems like a huge beating, even for somebody like myself that eats 50%+ raw foods. I eat a lot of sprouted grain breads. To me, this moves away from maintaining a food philosophy and borders on “diet.” There just seems to be way much monitoring of food intake involved.
I know it sounds contradictory to my mostly raw food intake, but with raw foods it’s very simple to know what’s good and what is bad. Also, not being 100% raw leaves me the freedom to eat any healthy cooked meal.
1st off… grains suck! There are a TON of reasons to not eat them. Once you figure out how to cook/eat without the worthless calorie vehicle society calls “grains”, you will feel a ton better.
That’s not an opinion.
It’s basically impossible to be Veg & paleo if you follow those macros. It’s just not going to happen. This is fine. Those protein levels are not necessary IMO, and definitely not something to worry about. Cats like Herschel Walker solidify this for me.
That said, the paleo diet can be largely veggie based. In my journey from meat to veg, I worried about the protein intake at first. Ate a pile of nuts, hemp, spirulina, & some soaked/boiled beans. Beans are not paleo, so I called them a cheat. I also did some quinoa. I have not totally demonised these foods, as I believe prepared properly, they’re not all that bad now and again. That said, I haven’t touched them in 3 months.
Basically I’ve traded meat/fat for fruit. I’ve gone from a paleo diet of almost 80% fat, to a veg only, to a raw veg only diet of 80% carbs.
I don’t feel fruit is all that paleo. Despite what vegans think/fantasize about humans feasting on piles of fruit, the fact is… most of the fruit has been cultivated by man. Does that mean it’s unhealthy or not optimal? No, it’s just not what we evolved millions of years on.
Bottom line, eat whatever the hell fruits veggies you want. Eat lots of them. Fuel your machine.
The food being boring is a total crock. Anyone who says that, just doesn’t know how to cook 😉
I have a lot more to say, but too tired right now. Check out my site in the near future for more random ramblings & stupid thoughts.
The vegetarian paleo diet appears to be a cooked version of the Raw Food Diet.
Pretty much hit the nail on the head.
That was my first thought as well.
or a Nutritarian diet (Dr Fuhrman…Eat to Live)
Eat to Live is no salt, no oil, and no sugar – wouldn’t you say most paleo whether veg or not allows salt and is rather heavy on the oil?
I love the very last part…where it starts with “This sounds reasonable, even if extremely dull. But if we’re meant to eat meat, why be vegetarian at all?”
I’ve been vegetarian for three years and I still have yet to give a good answer when someone brings the ol “we’re meant for eating meat” upon me. Thanks for the insight!
interesting and thanks for thinking this one out, i looked briefly into the paleo diet but as a vegetarian who doesn’t like eggs it seemed impossible, which i think you just confirmed for me? also i dont really agree with the whole “we were born to eat meat” thing and not to argue too much about it but the human anatomy seems to be more equip for herbivorous consumption so i guess what im saying is upon second thought this is just another bad fad diet
I love the analogy about impregnating as many people as possible. That’s exactly why I’m vegetarian: because no matter what my body is “meant” to do or is capable of doing, my mind and my emotions are capable of (and, I dare say, “meant” for) evaluating those choices in a meaningful way.
I have often wondered about the argument that humans were designed to be meat eaters so vegetarianism is going against evolution. I don’t have the answer but for all you Nutrition geeks out there, here is a debate between Loren Cordain (Paleo Diet) and Colin Campbell (China Study) on the subject…interesting none the less
This sounds more like a Cro-Magnon diet. We are Homo Sapiens. Just because we are able to consume meat, doesn’t mean we need to. I feel better physically, mentally, and spiritually being meat-free. It’s better for the environment. Reading “Diet For a Small Planet” convinced me…
These diets are interesting; however, it’s unreasonable to assume that 10,000 years is not enough time for us to have evolved from our prehistoric ancestors. Whatever they lived on back then is most likely not enough for us today: we have bigger brains, different bacteria in our gut (they too evolved over the past 10,000 years), and different caloric needs.
Also, cavemen only lived to be about 25-30 years old; why would we want to approximate their diet?
Most healthy diets advocate less processed food and additives that our body is absolutely not evolutionarily adapted to, since they were only introduced during the past century; maybe we should look at the past 100 or 1000 years instead of 10,000 years.
Cavemen lived short lives, because it was possible to die from something as simple as a hangnail back then. Given the environments, that’s not a bad lifespan. Ever been camping with zero gear (including clothes)? Try it sometime and get back to me.
Chances are you’d be dead right now it it weren’t for modern medicine.
My main issue with the whole “Paleo is how we used to be” and the emphasis on meat is that meat is completely different than it was thousands of years ago … just like we have vegetables and fruits (seedless grapes y’all?) that have been bred and invented, essentially the same thing happened to animal ag … hence why you won’t see the same kind of cows that are today’s dairy cows wildly frolicking the plains of Oklahoma. The idea that anything we eat today is similar to what was around 10k years ago is pretty absurd.
What gets me is they go on and on about “eat animals, no agriculture” and ignore the fact that a) animals require agriculture nowadays and b) a cow or a pig is not a deer or a squirrel – very different properties in farmed animals to wild species. Meanwhile vegans and vegetarians still live longer than omnivores on average, and orangutans, our closest cousins, are vegetarian. Even chimps, who are our second closest relatives, eat meat only of occasion; the rest of their diet is plants.
The cincher for me is that “paleo”, in all its forms, is basically for rich people…it requires all these special organic pasture fed 100% pure local blah blah specially smiled at ingredients which are hopelessly expensive and difficult to find in some places. Being vegetarian is easy, vegetables and fruits are still healthy even when they’re not “perfect”, gold standard. I can be vegetarian pretty much anywhere in the world.
Plus, I eat what I crave and that is 80% of the time not animal products. I rarely crave to eat meat; if I do I know I’m deficient in something like iron or selenium, and I eat foods like leafy greens and brazil nuts. I am very in touch with what my body wants and needs. Because I listen to it rather than ignoring it and throwing another steak down the hatch, I can trust in my appetite and cravings rather than seeing them as the enemy. Plus, some of us thrive on carbs. In the last six weeks eating carbs, vegetables and peanut butter I’ve put on a nice 6lbs of muscle and dropped weight without even trying!! This is with hypothyroid, no meds and no weight lifting…I literally have peanut butter biceps, lol. So obviously if paleo works for you…go ahead. Ima sticking to mah plants. 🙂
Agree with most of what you say there. I’m not sure about the orangutan link though. As i understand it our primate ancestors are the chimp (where we get our blood lust from) and the bonobo (where we get our pacifism and face to face lovemaking from).
Definitely an interesting idea Matt! I’ve been kind of leaning toward this way as I’ve started my own 30 day veg experiment. During my previous 30 days of pure paleo, I discovered how much better I felt without all the grains, so I want to continue with that way of eating as much as possible. I doubt I’ll be quite doing pure veg-paleo, due to some of the difficulties you’ve outlined, but that’s definitely the direction I’m leaning.
I tried paleo for several months. Not veggie paleo, mind you, but more or less the version outlined on Mark Sisson’s site. For the first couple weeks, I actually felt great. My bf% dropped rapidly as well, which was certainly nice. Being as mindful of my body image as I am, that was enough to keep me on the diet for several months, although I quickly started to feel the lethargy many experience with consistent hypoglycemia. That snowballed, until I was basically hibernating, forsaking my workouts and most everything else. My weight dropped from a healthy 155 to 129 (I’m a 5’10 22 year old male). Finally, my I developed a fairly mild case of pancreitis, as well as experiencing rather elevated liver enzymes. Carbs and grains get a bad rap in a lot of places these days, but I didn’t get healthy until I started eating them again. In fact, I went the other direction, eschewing meat (more or less at my doctor’s orders) in order to keep my pancreas happy. Admittedly, much of this story is not relevant to you, Matt, because you’re trying a veggie version. It’s just that, having had a decidedly negative experience with the whole thing, I’m inherently skiddish when anyone expresses and interest in experimenting. But honestly, good luck. I know plenty of people have found better health with a paleo diet, and good for them, but it’s not a panacea.
I’n not vegetarian and even so I find this diet terribly restrictive and… a DIET. That word should start alarms and whistles.
I’m a nutritionist and I still experiment constantly with new foods, recipes and dietary tweaks. I love that you get people thinking about why we need the things we think we do and that one size doesn’t fit all vegetarians, vegans or flexitarians. I don’t eat wheat or diary or meat. I do eat fish and some legumes. I found this through trial and error.
You cannot call yourself vegetarian if you eat fish…bones plus skin plus eyes plus a complete inability to photosynthesize their food makes them an…ANIMAL!
As a “true” vegetarian, I get so tired of fish-eaters calling themselves vegetarians. A fish is not a plant…as a nutritionist, I would think you would know better!
I don’t see that Lauren said she was a vegetarian?
I agree with Grok – Lauren didn’t say she was a Vegetarian.
Though, being a Pescetarian (That is Vegetarian + Fish) I can tell you that most Pescetarians do say “Vegetarian” because it takes four times as long to explain what a Pescetarian is to the layman.
Many Buddhists eat fish even though they are vegetarian in every other aspect. Some even eat chicken. They make a distinction between lower and higher lifeforms. So do many other vegetarians who have no problems killing bugs before getting the chance to eat them with their organic lettuce.
LOL. In this regard I was joking to myself during my last run that a real vegan or vegetarian runner would be impossible with all these little bugs eager to commit suicide flying straing into your throat.
Hate them, really…
Why do you feel the need to point out your “true”-ness as a vegetarian? It seems to me that you’re a vegetarian based on vanity, if what another person is saying about their diet is getting to you that much. I’ll never understand why SOME people are so impatient to put labels on everything and everyone, including diet.
It’s more about someone making claims about something they’re not. Some people take pride in being vegetarian, and expect others who call themselves vegetarians to adhere to the same guidelines. It’s like a doctor getting upset if a nurse was to call him/herself a “doctor” because that’s what they wanted to call themselves and hey, it’s close enough, right?
I don’t think Kim is being vain by calling herself a “true” vegetarian… she’s defining vegetarianism. If you eat something that was once a living, breathing animal then by definition you are not a vegetarian. And flexitarian is a joke – if you eat meat, you are an omnivore. Doesn’t matter if you eat it once a week, or once a month.
It shouldn’t be that complicated:
Eat meat = omnivore
Don’t eat meat = vegetarian
Don’t eat anything that is produced by an animal (eg: milk) = vegan
I think what has got Kim frustrated is the fact that by calling themselves vegetarians, people who still consume fish and/or chicken confuse the heck out of everyone else as to what a vegetarian is. I went to a restaurant once that boasted about having an entire page of vegatarian options in their menu, but half included chicken broth or fish.
Good point indeed.
It is a good point, but let us not forget that the poor gal never said she was a vegetarian. So while I appreciate wanting to call a spade a spade, it’s a bit trigger-happy to criticize her for something she never did.
Up until 6 mos ago I was an omnivore, as I learn more I find myself moving towards a vegetarian possibly vegan lifestyle. It’s not an easy transition but worthwhile for all of the reasons everyone has listed here. I just don’t think the best way to promote this change in lifestyle is to hammer at someone who doesn’t live their life in alignment with your choices.
Let’s all just respect one another’s choices, please.
I’m pretty sure she realizes she is not a true vegetarian. I also only eat fish, no other type of meat. The term is pescatarian, but saying that in public can be obnoxious. People tend to look at you like you are an alien. Ocasionally saying you are a vegetarian makes it easier to get the general point across.
Veggies, wild-caught salmon, and green tea are all the foods that I need to be happy and healthy.
I’ve been wondering about this one as well since there is a lot of hype these days about the paleo diet. I personally feel no need to try every new diet that comes out and this one seems like one that would be very hard for vegetarians. But I look forward to more information if you do try it!
I’m actually swinging the opposite way, favoring The China Study (which recommends mostly plants and almost no animals) rather than The Paleo Diet. It makes me nervous to see a book recommending that people in the year 2010 eat what people ate in the year 2010BCE, or earlier than that. Why? Because nothing we eat today – nothing we can grow in our gardens or buy at the grocery store – is the same as it was several thousand years ago, by definition. Artificial selection has fundamentally changed all the plants and animals that we eat. So we can’t just go back to the way things were when “zerg” and “ugga” were valid vocabulary words.
So how again does this make the plant based china study diet better than the paleo diet?
first of all, it’s kind of offensive when someone hijacks someone else’s comment section.
secondly, i don’t believe Alexa is saying you’re wrong, just that it seems a big illogical to try to mimic the lifestyle of a caveman in 2010. you argue about us being alive using modern medicine in an earlier comment, and you wouldn’t refuse that, would you? then why would you eat the same way? i think that was what Alexa was saying, and I totally agree. I don’t think there’s any one diet that does it all.
I’m sorry, you must think I care if you’re offended? Hijacked? Matt contacted me and asked that I comment on this thread.
The gov & mainstream science community both advocate the SAD diet. Maybe you should eat that way?
I just found it interesting that you shouldn’t try to follow a paleo style diet on the basis that all the foods are hybridized, but it’s ok to eat china study style and eat the all the same hybridized food?
I won’t comment further on the china study. That’s not what this thread is about. Besides, it’d be about as productive as beating a dead horse.
if matt contacted you and asked you to comment, i no longer am going to read NMA. i find you horribly offensive and it really lowers what i think about matt.
my point was NOT that the china study is the answer, because it has flaws as well. i just agreed the logic behind the paleo diet doesn’t seem sound. i’m entitled to my opinion just as you are yours.
i appreciate his input from a nutritional standpoint, but the character of the people you associate does say a lot. i have no problems with you, and think i’ve probably said enough now.
Slightly confused by how asking questions is offensive?
Well Matt, you’ve gained a new reader. I applaud objective thinking.
Rebekah- I find your comments laughable. I fail to see where Grok’s response was in any way “horribly offensive”- if that is what you consider offensive, you aren’t getting out much in the computer world are you. He merely stated his opinion, as did you.
The comments “the character of the people you associate does say a lot”, and “if matt contacted you and asked you to comment, i no longer am going to read NMA” are quite ridiculous. I found your initial comment to be quite offensive myself since it wasn’t your place to step in Alexa’s place to comment on Grok’s question to her. If you are seriously that sensitive to others opinions that are different than yours, then there are going to be a lot of blogs you will stop reading in the future. 🙂
Seems bread has been around longer than previously thought, 30,000 years ago!
This was on Yahoo this morning:
Thank you so much for posting this. I also do CrossFit and I do believe they advocate a paleo/zone diet.. however as a vegan I do not follow it. I disagree about said “evidence” that we are built to hunt and eat meat. A natural diet for any given species should be the one that gives the species optimum health. Given the health ailments that are significantly reduced by eliminating animal products (cancer, heart disease, diabetes), it suggests that we were never meant to eat animal products.
But, all that aside, I do like the other ideas behind the paleo diet and I may look into following the veg-paleo version for awhile and see how it goes
Katelyn, what is your Vegan diet specifically like? Id love to see a sample diet log of what u eat, as well as your cals and macro %s.
Thank you so much for this post!! I’ve been wanting to try this diet but I refuse to revert to eating meat. I really appreciate someone researching our options!
Matt – great post. I’m a little late to the game on this one, as it was posted 3 months ago, but I find this experiment captivating.
I experimented a bit with different “variations” of Paleo in 2010, albeit in non-veg ways. In its first incarnation (90 days),, I eliminated all legumes, starches, and rice, focused upon meat and vegetables, but did eat fruit. I lost about 30 pounds (15% of my original weight), performed a LOT better with CrossFIt (where I was originally acquainted with it), gained a lot of energy, and (naturally) shifted the muscle:fat ratio in a dramatic way.
Since then, I’ve tried two other 90-day variations, with slight tweaks (disallowing fruit, allowing cashews and other nuts), all of which worked well. One previous commenter alluded to pancreatitis and liver issues; while I am not a physician, it lends to the notion that not all bodies are suited to the biochemical adaptations that occur when glucose consumption pathways are shifted.
Anyway, I firmly believe in Paleo. I did fall off the bandwagon last fall and am paying for it in terms of muscle and performance. In 2011, I’ve kicked off a “Ferriss” style of Paleo, including legumes.
I’m intrigued by your veg adaptation. Quinoa and hemp sound reasonable. How did the experiment go?
Matt, how are you doing with your veggie derivation of the Paleo Diet? My cousin is a big fan of it, and a CrossFit Gym owner. He is 53 and in fantastic shape, and to boot, has muscular dystrophy.
I refuse to follow the Paleo Diet because I refuse to eat meat. I have been trying to find info on a veggie version of the Paleo diet. Would love to hear a progress report from you.
In trying to decide whether to join our local Cross-Fit gym (I know a few vegans who swear by theirs in other parts of the US), I Googled “vegan/vegetarian Paleo,” and this link popped up. As a certified personal trainer/running coach and in my age group, being 3rd in state (FL) in the 200, 400 & 1500 meters, and having just placed in my 49th 5K race, an unprocessed vegan diet has worked well for me for the better part of 32 years. As a TV investigative/consumer reporter for 18 years, trying to dodge breast cancer that got my mom, aunt & both sisters, is the investigative reporting job of my life. I’m always reading, being open to what works for the health of all animals and the environment. I’m curious to know how it went, Matt. I’ll keep reading the thread to see.
I appreciate this article because I was wondering if maybe I should try the Paleo Diet. However, I’m not going to give up being a vegetarian! I see how limited my options would be on the Paleo as a vegetarian,…and you know what,…its just too much trouble. Thank you for pointing out what would be involved in the vegetarian option-
This was an awesome article!! Thank you for breaking down the facts so well..I was starting to believe that being a vegetarian was a disadvantage to my training. Any chance you would post a sample diet for veggies interested in pursuing the paleo-esque diet?
The paleo diet takes one hypothesis “Eating like our ancestors will make us healthier because it’s what we’re adapted for” and seems to break it down into two recommendations:
1. Eat a paleo-defined mix of carbs/protein/fat that has more protein than a typical US diet and emphasizes low glycemic index sources.
2. Avoid grains, legumes, and milk (more than you would to meet the guidelines of #1) because humans aren’t adapted for them, and they lead to allergic reactions and digestive problems like leaky gut.
I think that #1 makes a *huge* amount of sense. As much bad press as the Atkins diet had, I believe it succeeded for many people because it followed some of these principles. Paleo improves on it because of it’s focus on lean meats, fruits, and non-starch vegetables. I’ve also seen positive effect from cutting way back on carbohydrates in my own diet.
#2 is a different story. I don’t see its value. I don’t have a leaky gut. No one in my family does. I am descended from that unknown central European whose mutated gene allowed him (and now me) to digest lactose after infancy. (A mutation that was so successful that within a couple of thousand years 90% of Western Europeans had inherited it.) I am also not allergic to milk products.
I would like to see vegetarian diet experts focus on #1 and leave #2 for those who have a leaky gut, are lactose intolerant, or are allergic to milk or legumes. Freed from the constraint of #2, I bet those experts can come up with some good near-paleo vegetarian diets that use good quality meatless protein and adhere to the guidelines of #1.
I agree with almost everything but there’s another problem with carbs that you didn’t mention, metabolic syndrome and diabetes. If you eat carbs every 3 hours or so eventually, and that depends on genetics, your metabolic system won’t go for fats properly when it’s out of glucose. Instead it will go for muscles to make more glucose. That can be avoided if you eat in 12 hours intervals as the fast won’t let your body fall into carb dependency, it’ll have to burn fats. From there another problem arises, it’s very hard to eat enough nutrition and energy to keep you going for 12 hours without meat.
“But then again, aren’t all modern Paleo diets pretty poor substitutes for the real thing?”
Modern Paleo diets are certainly substitutes for the real thing but I wouldn’t go so far as to call them “poor” substitutes. Modern Paleo is an an approximation but if you stick to quality grass-fed meats, eat offal, and get enough veggie intake it comes out to be very close to our ancestral diet.
On the other hand my opinion is that vegetarian “Paleo” is a huge deviation. Avoiding the anti-nutrients in grains, nuts, legumes and seeds will definitely make you a healthier vegetarian. But keep in mind that not all proteins are created equal. Robb Wolf’s book, which you mentioned above, calls them “third world proteins” and says “you’ll survive, but you won’t thrive”.
Also, fructose is a poison: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM . Just like alcohol your body can process small amounts at a time without deleterious effects. Unfortunately our modern concept of what a serving of fruit is so skewed thanks to 10,000 years of selective breeding (and some genetic manipulation to-boot). My advice would be to stick to non-potato tubers when you can.
Finally, if people reading your blog are (or are thinking of becoming) vegetarian only because of the horrendous conditions in the United States meat industry then they should consider buying only free-range and grass fed instead. It seems to me that voting with your dollar is a much more direct way to effect a change in the market for meat.
I wouldn’t say “poor substitute,” either; “silly fabrication” would be more like it. Before about 100,000-50,000 Ka, the meat in hominid diets most likely consisted primarily of insects, rodents, snakes, frogs, worms and other small prey, supplemented by scavenged left-overs now and then. The “paleo diet” privileges the food animals preferred by well-off Westerners over those actually used for subsistence in the past and in the present across the Third World.
We don’t know what our “ancestral diet” was, and probably never will. The notion of such a thing existing is dubious, at best. Different hominid populations living in different regions at different times would all have different baseline diets. And beyond being able to tell what foods a specific individual probably subsisted on in their life, the fossil record just isn’t capable giving us a lot of information about it. The entire “paleo diet” is a romantic projection of 100 percent modern Western cultural notions onto a sparse (at best) fossil record. The Paleolithic was a time of rapid climate upheaval, scarcity, squalor, disease and struggle, not some lost paradise populated by spear-toting personal trainers.
As for the grass-fed recommendation, you seem to miss the point that people who become vegans and vegetarians for ethical reasons do so because they’ve concluded it’s wrong to treat nonhuman animals as property in the first place. Grass-fed and (mythical) “free-range” animals are still treated as property, and still slaughtered. No ethical vegan or vegetarian anywhere would be OK with that.
Interesting feedback… I’d been thinking along these lines m’self.
I’m also in agreement with the several other posts above that state that this is still, no matter how healthy, a diet.
I think my baseline problem is that I see Paleo as something that is only healthy in the short term, much like Atkins. I have a hard time viewing this as as true “lifestyle change” which makes it less attractive to me in the long haul.
I would argue that we DO know what our ancestral diet is. Or at least, we know what it was approximately.
You are absolutely right that there certainly was no “paleo diet.” Early humans in the lower paleolithic period were confined east of the Great Rift Valley in Africa, and by the end of the Upper Paleolithic they were strewn out across the planet, with a diet that was highly adapted to local conditions. So the question would be, which paleo diet are you referring to? And importantly, these early humans that began hunting WERE NOT PHYSICALLY ADAPTED TO WHAT THEY WERE EATING! There is no possible way that a mostly herbivorousherbivorous species could become physically adapted to eating meat within a few thousand generations. These humans flourished, not because the introduction of meat was so healthy for them, but that it allowed survival in environments outside of the tropical environment that gave birth to our species. So, we know what our “ancestral diet” WASN’T. It wasn’t the “paleo diet.”
We can get an approximate sense of what our natural diet is by looking at primates with similar genetics and similar anatomies (lots of molars, no long fangs, long. Also, we can learn from the epidemiology and the correlation of diseases with different diets. Both of these approaches invariably point well away from a meat-based diet and towards a natural diet dominated by leafy greens, fruits, tubers, berries, nuts, seeds, supplemented by small quantities of animal foods.
“We can get an approximate sense of what our natural diet is by looking at primates with similar genetics and similar anatomies (lots of molars, no long fangs, long. ” I’m not sure what that last “long” referred to, but I think we can get an even better understanding of nutritional needs by looking at the entire alimentary tract, not just dentition. For example, cats and ferrets have very short overall GI tracts, and they are either strict or obligate carnivores. Dogs have a medium length GI tract, and they are omnivores. Cows, sheep, goats and many other mostly-grass eating species are ruminants, meaning that they ingest grass/hay, and whatever grain humans feed them, and then it all ferments in the first few stomach compartments (out of 4). Humans don’t have this type of GI system, which is why a diet for a cow would be wholly insufficient for a human. Horses, while also eating mostly grass, have a different system in which most of the fermentation occurs in the cecum, which is a large outpouching of the GI tract between the large and small intestine. Then, in order to absorb nutrients from the fermentation that occurs from the cecum, the large intestine is extremely long. This adaptation to an herbivorous diet is also one that humans do not have. Gorillas, while being mostly leaf-eaters, are actually hindgut fermenters like horses. Once again, humans do not have those digestive/fermentative abilities, so it would be unwise to look to the gorilla’s diet as an example of what humans should eat.
The only proper use of evolutionary theory in the field of nutrition is to look at what’s healthy for us today, and deduce backwards from there. The preponderance of present evidence indicates that a plant-dominant diet is probably healyhiest for most people today. Hence, something like this was probably also true for our immediate ancestors.
However, the rub is that dietary plasticity is one of the defining traits of primates, so no modern primate (including us!) is going to be a reliable guide to what the “ancestral” diet was.
That said, I suspect that 20+ million years of hominoid homology would represent a significant constraint on modern humans, which helps explain why plant-based diets appear to be healthiest on average.
From a health perspective, I don’t care what cavemen ate, and neither should anyone else. My chief criticism of the paleo diet is that it doesn’t deduce from present evidence, but begins with a paleofantasy and then goes on a fishing expedition to find evidence to support it. It’s a clear case of confirmation bias and just-so stories reinforcing each other.
“The Paleolithic was a time of rapid climate upheaval, scarcity, squalor, disease and struggle, not some lost paradise populated by spear-toting personal trainers”
Hahaha I can’t stop laughing at this – it’s so true! We imagine something like the movie 300, while they were probably lying in a cave hoping a lizard would crawl past before they starve to death.
Humane Hominid, love your intelligent comments on this thread. The oversimplifications of some of the new Paleo bothers me no end. The first wave of Paleo that inspired Cordain (see the Paleolithic Prescription by Eaton, Shostak, and Konner) came to really different conclusions about diet, recommending whole grains and low-fat dairy, among other things, to provide something nutritionally equivalent to an ancestral diet. Humans are pretty dang adaptable, we’re like the primate equivalent of rats or crows, able to thrive in many environments with different available foods. And we get to choose what to eat– and can choose from a wide range of foods and still be healthy.
“Voting with your dollars.” Love the concept, wish more people would act on it.
While I do agree that eating a lot of grains (introduced very recently in our evolution) is problematic, these “third world proteins” (nuts, seeds, legumes, etc) are not only all your body needs, they are in fact the main sources of proteins eaten by virtually all of the healthiest and most long-lived human populations! By contrast, eating meat is negatively correlated with longevity, and positively correlated with an exhaustive list of potentially fatal diseases. And looking at our evolution it isn’t hard to see why. Over millions of years our bodies evolved not to a diet of flesh meats, but a nearly completely herbivorous diet supplemented by only small quantities of insects and grubs. Humans have only been eating flesh meat for the last few hundred thousand years, and on a daily, year-round basis for only the last hundred years or so!
Moreover, we are not, as the paleo fad diet claims, a “hunter gatherer” species. Or to be more exact, the term “hunter gatherer” refers to a *cultural* adaptation (i.e., we learned to hunt and eat more meat, allowing us a better short-term survival in a greater diversity of environments). But if we want to live a long time and enjoy optimum health we need to follow the dictates of our species’ *physical* adaptation as a primate species with an arboreal, (mostly) herbivorous diet. If we do that, we can easily see that our modern obsession with protein, especially animal protein, is waaaaaay overblown.
I would highly suggest for anybody who wants to follow a fad diet like paleo, do you really want to go back to some arbitrary time in our recent (in evolutionary terms) past to replicate a diet when people only live thirty years on average?
Take a look at a mountain gorilla. Four hundred pounds of solid muscle, generally 2% or 3% body fat. Extremely healthy and strong. How much protein does it take to maintain a primate body? No more than a few percent of total calories, and all of that protein is available in leafy greens. Did you know that broccoli has more protein per calorie than beef?
I completely agree with your post. It is simply not sensical to think that animal protein is the way our body was designed to function. We have to be realistic about the world our ancestors lived in, what makes the most sense is that they ate food sources that were readily available.
Thanks for taking the time to think this out and write it up. It’s the first (and probably best) useful resource I found for the paleo diet veggie-style, and now I can stop wondering and going paleo. I’ve pretty much decided it’s not worth it to me. It would be far too restrictive and require even more time for food prep out of my limited schedule, and while I like eggs, there’s no way I could eat a dozen a day. I’m thinking if I stick to mostly whole foods, avoid junk food, excess sugar and refined grains…I’m still probably better off than 80% of America. Maybe even 90%. And I’m sure my being tired most of the day has way more to do with my lack of sleep from studying than have a vegetarian diet. Thanks again!
I have one small question about this vegetarian diet. I’ve heard that a lot of people who are vegetarian often lack Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Now, it’s reasonable to assume that you can get these from organic eggs, but what if you don’t eat eggs? Would you resort to supplements? Or is there another type of food that offers these awesome fatty acids?
As a vegan, I get my omega 3’s from flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp, walnuts, and the small amounts that are in other nuts/seeds.
My brother leans pretty heavily toward paleo. When he cooks stuff I’ll eat everything except the meat. Veggies, fruit, etc. It surprises me sometimes how much paleo and veganism intersect. They both want to cut out the sh*t and be healthier.
I’m glad you noted this approach is almost identical to Brendan Brazier’s Thrive program, because I was thinking the same thing myself as I read it.
As for the notion of “paleo” diets in general, I’m forced to chuckle, both as a vegan and as a paleontology student. The fossil record isn’t even close to being conclusive on the matter (though there is no doubt that more recent species of human ate plenty of meat).
Also, we need to get over this idea that evolution “designed” us to do anything. It didn’t. There is no design or purpose in evolution; it isn’t linear or progressive, and nature did not have us in mind. It also doesn’t care what we eat, so long as we have babies who reach sexual maturity. All the characters you’ve inherited arose by accident.
I’m also baffled by the focus that the “paleo” diet places on large mammals, when there’s every chance that the animal foods in our ancestors’ diets were (until recently) mostly insects, rodents, snakes and other small prey for which they wouldn’t have had to compete with larger, better-equipped predators. Why waste all that money on grain-fed beef when you can just forage for roaches and rats in your immediate surroundings, like your ancestors did?
I applaud your experiment, though. I’m on the Thrive plan right now, and I’m finding it really rewarding. You’ve found a new reader in me.
I am a vegetarian. My trainer is having me do the paleo diet, I get 200g to 250g of protein almost all from protein drinks
Thanks for the info. My doctor recomends the Paleo diet, but I can’t take all the meat required. I’m going to include option 2 and 3 to give my body a break!
I have been doing crossfit for two years, and we are currently doing a paleo challenge at our gym here on Maui. We are only 3 days in to a six week challenge. I did it a few months ago as well, for 2 months, and I saw great results. I am the only vegetarian in our challenge group, so I have many more obstacles than the others. I am thrilled to find your website, as I need more ideas of creative things to eat. Looks like I need to learn how to sprout some beans! Thank you for the helpful information.
Loved finding this post. I’m definitely #3 with about 3-4 eggs / day, although I’m contemplating adding an occasional amount of fish. What I especially like is how you succinctly go into the need to rinse and boil your legumes. Once you’re doing that, I think legumes should be added to diets.
Don’t forget nuts nuts nuts! i try to eat paleo, but my husband is a pesca-veg. } make lots of raw cooking nut-based recipes, including soups, sauces and spreads. it adds great variety; raw, organic nuts are underemployed!
Nuts are great and I love them,too. In fact, I know I probably overeat them, but keep in mind that they are usually seeds, too, and as such have some of the same antinutrients and other issues associated with grains (for more info look up phytates and lectin). Also, many of them are pretty high in Omega-6 fats which most of us already consume too much of and which can promote inflammation and other undesirable health effects if our ratio of it is out of whack.
I have to poke around your blog a little more, but I had to comment on this one (a little late compared to the posting date). Honestly, I never once thought that being vegan/vegetarian and being Paleo were mutually exclusive, just that a veg should eat what can be gathered. That is, fruits, vegetables, and NUTS AND SEEDS!
I have been doing the Paleo diet with varying levels of strictness for 2 1/2 years now and will never go to any other kind of diet, just because this doesn’t feel like a diet. However, when I went to Navy boot camp in January, my “restrictive” (in some people’s minds) diet became suddenly very restrictive. One piece of whatever-the-heck meat they prepared for that meal, and then tons of salad, apples, bananas, and sunflower seeds. To get enough calories, I ate Sunbutter like it was my job. Especially on the days when all the meat was coated in breading and cheese.
I got very lean, my skin cleared up, and life was great, or about as great as it can be at boot camp. I plan on trying something similar, but maybe a little more exciting, with an emphasis on nuts and seeds as my primary sources of proteins and fats. I think it’s entirely do-able and entirely within the Paleo philosophy, so long as you stay away from the beans/legumes and starchy things.
GREENS people! I don’t understand why no one mentions dark leafy greens when talking about where vegans and vegetarians can get their protein from! Just make yourself a big green smoothie or green juice every day and you’ll have all the protein you need! Good article if you’re looking for more information: http://greensmoothiesblog.com/abundance-of-proteins-in-greens/
I’m personally not convinced about the Paleo or any no grain diet. Just because ancestors ate something does not mean that it was good for them or will be good for you. Cavemen didn’t have modern medicine either so should we not take advantage of that when we break a bone? Many cultures survive and thrive on diets that include grains and are healthier in general than most people. To me it seems like a fad, but it is definitely far better than the SAD or standard “developed” country diet.
I have an O blood type, and I noticed a huge improvement across the board when I cut out grains, legumes and potato. In this post: nourishingpath.blogspot.com/2011/06/preference-for-poison.html I link 2 amazing articles about grains. However, I was trying to address some specific health concerns. I think it is important to listen to your body to find your optimal diet.
This is a great post. I love it because I’m a vegetarian, but paleo just aligns so much with my beliefs.
I love this article! It’s a very interesting approach and I’m going to give it a try. One question – I love starting my mornings with a whey protein shake. With less than one gram of carbohydrates, less than one gram of sugar, and 18 grams of protein, it seems so great that it leaves me wondering if there’s some kind of catch here. Do you know what kind of effect whey protein has on our bodies, and do you think I could continue using it as I start the Paleo Vegetarian diet?
Firstly, Thank You.
Raw Vegan (or Semi Vegan) may be what you’re trying to describe. As for boring? No, not at all unless the only food you find interesting is flesh. Raw Cuisine has many unusual ways of preparation that are quite surprising. It’s not just one long salad bar. 😀
I’ve been contemplating the place where Paleo meets Vegetarian and find myself more and more convinced that High Raw Semi-Vegan is where I find myself.
On the where to find protein issue, please don’t forget that some plants are fairly high in protein (for a plant that is.) Spinach is 17% protein for example. I generally avoid beans unless they are sprouted, and then usually only mung or snow peas. Hemp seed has always seemed more nut-like than grain to me, but that’s not based on anything but my mouth.
Soaked and sprouted grains seem to me to be allowable, because once the enzyme reaction begins, they are living, and a living plant.
I think most Paleos tend think that Hunter-food was more common than Gatherer-food. I tend to disagree. During the warm growing months, or year round if one was between the Tropic of Capricorn and Cancer, growing food was available. You did not have to hunt it down, you just had to learn from your fore-bearers where it grew. A peach tree does not need to be stalked. 😀 You would have to hunt for new plants, but many were part of the migration route. Animals on the other hand required patience and stealth. In modern tribal peoples one finds these jobs separated by gender, which makes lots of sense when observing common gender differences.
One thing I’ve never seen discussed is seasonal diet, along the same lines as followed by Ayurvedics.
In the areas outside of the Tropics and subtropics, meat would likely have been a winter necessity.
Much of Paleo tends to focus on the past, and that’s a good thing, in reason, we absolutely must look to the future, and act as wisely, I’ve read that in the next 40 years we will need to produce as much food as we have in the entire 8000 years preceding, total. If the majority of people switch to a meat based diet, this could be disastrous, as it takes much more room to raise meat than veg, and even more room to raise grass-fed beef. Perhaps the answer would be less of a emphasis on beef in Paleo, and a focus on smaller animals that create less impact.
Is Raw a complete way of eating? This is why I call myself a semi-vegan. The lifestyle is still evolving. (I tend to prefer to eat my fish raw but limit it due to current levels of ocean pollution and pressure on fish populations.) There is a huge aspect to Veganism involving ethics, but I’m not going there with this. But we do have a responsibility to practice husbandry of our food sources and to be careful to not foul our nest, as of yet we have no where else to live.
Again, thank you for writing this, it’s a topic that needs much more exploration. 😀
YES! Ayurveda satifies people’s need to feel “ancient” and “scientific” without being obsolete. Ayurveda (the art and science of living) is still very much relevant. It explains how different body types require slightly different diets to keep their bodies functioning optimally. Also, according to Ayurveda the food one eats should vary by season. So in the spring it’s a good time to eat mostly sprouts and green plants etc. and to do things like fasting and cleansing. In the summer fruits and grains are ripe and abundant and the body is very active and able to burn off all the carbs etc. so that is the time when it makes sense to have a slightly more fruit/grain heavy diet. In the winter there will be more root veggies and squash available and it’s the time to eat heavier denser oiler foods- even including some oily fish like salmon can help to balance against the cold dry winter air. A paleo diet might work better in the winter but not all year long.
A good book if you want to read more is “the three season diet” by Dr. John Doulliard (lifespa.com) he’s an Ayurvedic doctor who makes a lot of sense to me. You don’t have to be vegetarian to eat ayurvedically but it is highly compatible with vegetarian diet. It sounds like the thrive diet is similar and would be great for the competitive athlete who wants to use diet to help maximize not only health but physical endurance as well. I wonder if even elite athletes can and should look into seasonal eating? Aren’t their race schedules planned according to the seasons? Why not diet too?
Thank you for the information.We have a 16 year old son suffering from acne.we read that the Paleo diet helps avoid acne.Our son is vegetarian and has been on the paleo diet for ten days and it looks like it is working.It is difficult to nourish a growing boy with the paleo diet for vegetarians but it is definitely worth the trouble of finding recipes for vegetarian Paleos.
I ate dedicated Paleo for months and months and finally decided that my body doesn’t need that much animal protein… nor does it want it. I went back to eating more vegan and I suddenly had energy and digestion was way better.
But now I’m in the all-carbs-all-the-time mode and I’m not feeling great anymore. I do value what Paleo offers but there has to be a medium between the two.
I LOVE this post because it offers SO many options and still holds true to the “Paleolithic” meal plans, in a way, at least. I maybe be taking a lot of consideration from this post and recipe/meal ideas! Thank you!
This is a very interesting post. I am a CrossFitter and have been eating Paleo for about 6 months. I find that I feel wonderful when following the diet. When I stray from the “program” as I call it, I often feel sick.
But my comment is not about this post, it is directed at your recipes on this blog. I looked through your recipes and found that they are not remotely close to following the Paleo diet.
Like you have rissotto, and gnocci, and listed recipes that use grains, potatoes, and protein powder (which I am assuming comes from whey or soy, or dairy), and those items are completely NOT Paleo.
Just curious if those are your own recipes, or just popular vegetarian and vegan recipes you listed.
Nice treatment of the subject. I’m going to share it with my gym. We have several vegetarian athletes – I’d love to get them to stop eating pasta and Quorn and tofu.
I applaud your efforts to construct a healthier vegetarian diet! However, I believe that calling this program “paleo” is misleading. Both modern chimpanzees and bonobos hunt and eat meat, hominids’ first known stone tools (~2.4 Mya) were used to deflesh bones, and modern hunter-gatherers average perhaps 2/3rds of calories from animal sources – and there are no known vegetarian ancestral cultures. Further, sprouted legumes and pathological quantities of quinoa/hempseed (or protein powders) are inferior substitutes for the nutrition contained in real, whole animal products.
That being said, this approach is far better for you than the standard soy/wheat vegetarian diet (seitan…shudder), so for a committed vegetarian, it’ll be a huge improvement.
The Weston A. Price Foundation has lots of good information on sprouting grains and legumes. Frankly, you’re much closer to their program than to anything resembling a paleo diet, and I’d encourage you to investigate their work.
I would think it is impossible to live healthily on a vegetarian/vegan diet. I’m vegetarian myself, and I’ll admit, it’s not the healthiest thing to do.
Green vegetables, limited fruit, limited roots, nuts, seeds, and eggs
Proteins, Omega-3(EPA & DHA), and minerals would be impossible to obtain healthily for us vegetarians/vegans.
In order to get enough protein as a vegan paleo (1g per pound of muscle), you would have to eat A LOT of nuts and seeds. The problem with this is that seeds don’t contain the DHA and EPA versions of the omega-3 fatty acid, and contain a lot of omega-6 PUFA. So immediately, you’re going to mess up your omega 3 to 6 ratio, and that leads to heart disease. And besides, our paleo ancestors only had limited access to nuts and seeds. Eggs were very limited too and will mess up the 3-6 ratio.
Our ancestors had limited access to adequately digestible plant matter, and most plant matter was actually grass. We can’t digest grass because we are not herbivores. If we had to use digestible plant matter to obtain enough protein, nutrients, and vitamins, it would be both impossible. First of all, it’s the dietary fibre. We actually don’t need that much fibre in our diet. Fibre blocks the absorption of many amino acids, and minerals. As result, they pass through our digestive system without being absorbed. Also, vegetables don’t have all the amino acids we need to form complete proteins. We would have to eat pounds of vegetables to barely get nutrients from it.
Vitamin B12 is a byproduct of bacteria and not meat.
*sigh* it’s times like these, that I wish we were herbivores. Then we can get everything we need because grass is everywhere. Life is not fair.
I am a vegetarian athlete, personal trainer, and nutrition consultant. I was vegan for many years, but recently started adding organic eggs to my diet for the B12. I try to follow a vegetarian version of the paleo diet, although I do eat cooked legumes. I have given up wheat, rice, beer, et cetera and am considering giving up oats. A typical day for me is as follows:
Breakfast = cashews
Lunch = almonds
Post-workout shake = Oats, apples, berries, peanut butter
Dinner = eggs, collards or kale, beans, lentils, et cetera
Dessert = fruit, pistachios, sunflower seeds, et cetera.
Email me and we can talk more about vegetarian nutrition and paleo stuff! I am interested in hearing and learning from all of yall! [email protected]
“But most of us don’t do that anymore, because as a species we’re beyond that. ”
I think the more valid statement is that as a “culture” we are beyond that. (And not even all cultures fwiw)
As a species we have not evolved out of the need to rapidly designate our genes, nor our have we evolved away from our nutritional requirements. But as a culture we may find ways around our genes, wither for moral or other reasons.
designate = disseminate
There are ways to maximize the nutrition we extract from plant matter. Slow-cooking, fermenting, freezing and liquidizing, juicing. I really think it is individual, although there may be tumes when our ethics and our physiological needs are out of alignment. Then I guess we choose. Nutritional healing for blood cancers involves tons of red meat, but a vegetarian might decide not to pursue that path.
Hi Matt, I started Crossfit few months back and always finish last in the WOD’s. And I was advised it may be cos’ I am a vegetarian and was advised to try the Paleo diet which turns out to be Meat lover paradise. Hence was searching for a Vegetarian Paleo diet since I am from India Wheat (Chappati) and Rice are the staple food along with vegetables, grains, lentils, legumes, yogurt etc.. May be this is what I am going to try- Eggs for breakfast, salads / vegetables with nuts for lunch and Vegetables and Eggs for dinner – not sure how I can keep up on this diet but going to try for a months. It will be really tough not to be eating Chappati’s and rice but let’s see. Thanks for posting and hosting this website.
I have been researching the Paleo diet because I have been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I’ve been told this will potentially cure my condition, which is an autoimmune disease. I do eat meat occasionally, the idea of eating as much as is suggested worries me as I also have gallbladder issues. I prefer a mostly vegie diet but am not against occasional fish and lean meats.
Any idea if RA is still “cured” or lessened with the Veggie Version of Paleo??
Fun to find this post, even if I’m late to the game. I have a lot to say about the fallacies embedded in the paleo diet, but I will resist for the sake of keeping my cool 🙂 I will say, however, that I appreciate your giving vegetarians a set of appropriate paleo options, should they get sucked in.
I have done zone in the past and lost 25lbs. The so called diet became old and my schedule became complicated. I am a vegetarian and I see the paleo being difficult too. I love tofu and soy and now all the sudden people say it’s bad for me. So seriously I can change the way I eat but the challenge is having variety. There has to be a way to combine zone and paleo for vegetarians.
Good Post. Gave me a lot to think about. An Omnivore friend of mine wanted me to go in on the Whole30 with her for the New Year.
I just don’t think Paleo is for me. I might go ahead and get back on the healthy eating wagon while she Whole30s, but I’m a woman who believes more in Lifestyles than Diets. I like to be able to eat healthy… and still enjoy a good pancake from time to time as well.
I’m doing an 80/20 version of primal/paleo meaning I eat that way most of the time, and also exercise regularly. I have lost 90 lbs, about half of it on paleo, and the first half doing Ye Olde Portion Control and Exercise (minus junk food). For me, paleo is easier and tastier. I don’t eat a lot of meat, though I do eat plenty of eggs. About 3 days a week, I try to not eat any meat and the other days (other than the or salmon cakes), I only eat it at dinner. I’m a monster about eating vegetables of all types and colors as long as they are low starch or low glycemic, and I also juice raw vegetables in the morning. Don’t eat a lot of fruit. Coconut flour and almond flour have become my go-tos when I need to bake something or indulge in a muffin, biscuit, pancake, or the like.
I feel frickin amazing. Most of this I attribute to the veggie juice, veggies, removal of grains/starches/sugars, and exercise, plus trying to get enough sleep.
The best thing that has happened, though, is that I am finally free of the wild blood sugar swings I used to get. I was never diagnosed with a blood sugar issue after my regular blood panels, but I would turn into the Wicked Witch of the West, if I was past due for a meal and would just feel like crap. Now, I can sail past a meal time when I have to, and even being hungry, I don’t have the jitters or the urge to rip off someone’s face. I’m hungry but it’s cool. I can wait.
I’m also relieved of the constant desire to eat. I used be like a dang Hobbit: ooh, is it time for snack? How about some elevenses? I was always thinking about the next meal or snack, and how soon I could justify having it. I felt addicted to food. With a huge protein breakfast and a low glycemic diet, all that is over. As a person that used to weigh in at 245(5’8″) and be obsessed with food, you can’t know what a gift that has been for me. It’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself and everyday I’m grateful for it.
Last thing, I would just like to point out that the Primal Blueprint is not just a diet but addresses many lifestyle factors from getting enough sleep, reducing stress, smart exercise, getting enough sunshine, to even having good posture.
Thanks for your post on this and I hope you’ve had the results you were going for. I’ll be looking for your more recent posts on this.
Hi Tina, I wonder if you are still following your lifestyle and feeling great? I have just found this website and really connected with your comments. I also feel like a Hobbit! I have tried and failed to lose weight – well I lose it and it sneaks back on again! I have tried Paleo and I love it but my partner is vegetarian and then I end up eating rice and pasta because that’s what he loves. Bleh! Well, all power to the vegetarian paleos out there and I am going to give it a shot cos I feel unhealthy and it has to stop!
Hi snowmoonelk (love that name),
Yes, I am still doing Paleo (or more specifically the primal blueprint) and I love it. It’s changed my life and I can’t see going back to the way I felt before. I felt addicted to food and thought about it all the time. I still spend time thinking about it but it doesn’t rule my life like it used to. I hated how bitchy and horrid I would get when hungry and past meal time. And I love being able to eat rich food and still lose weight. I will say that I definitely had to watch myself while in weight loss mode. One can go overboard on the fat and stymie weight loss. But, it is still much easier for me than portion control.
As for your predicament with your vegetarian partner, realize that you can quite effectively lose weight if you keep your carb count under 75 grams a day. Maybe you can save up your carbs for dinner if that is the meal that you both share the most. Also, rice, especially white rice is more Paleo-acceptable than pasta since it is highly digestible so maybe you can talk your partner to shift to more rice. I have also recently seen almond flour based Paleo pasta available online (warning: expensive!) maybe you can have that some of the time. Dreamfields brand low carb pasta tastes just like any other out-of-the-box pasta and would probably be a good compromise, especially if you are fairly certain you don’t have any issues with wheat consumption.
About the Hobbity feeling, that might be a sign that you are leptin resistant. Leptin is a hormone involved in controlling hunger and satiety. When you are resistant to it, you tend to be hungry a lot. Google around and also check out Dr. Jack Kruse’s blog. He has a leptin reset protocol you can look into. One thing that really helps is a huge protein breakfast, like 50 grams of protein, at least during the reset. I eat about 30 grams (eggs) with a good dollop of fat (fried in coconut oil) in morning along with a blueberry/sprouted flaxseed/almond milk smoothie and that holds me for a good five hours or more.
Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions and best of luck to you. I just read about a Paleo blog called Make Sh(f)t Happen. This guy is one of the Primal Blueprint Success Stories (always fun checking out the Before and Afters there) and has developed techniques based on the ways well run companies are run to apply to losing wright and getting in shape.
Correction: the blog is Make Shi(f)t Happen.
I love experimenting with my diet. I think it’s interesting to see how eating differently can enhance(or not), your energy levels and moods. I’ve recently had some success with Tim Ferriss’s “slow carb” method. I modified it to keep it vegetarian. Next is “paleo”. Thanks for the great blog!
Thank you for Matt for this post. I was recently recommended by my doctor and nutritionist to change my diet to gluten-free, limited grain, and limited sugar, and they recommended I check out the paleo diet. I’ve been struggling with it because of the high amount of recommended animal protein. I eat meat, but I think of it more as a special treat or side dish than the bulk of my diet.
So thank you, because I think that your twist on paleo is one that I can actually enjoy.
I am a medical doctor with 25 years of experience. I specialize in metabolic & nutritional medicine. I read all the comments from Anatasia’s on October 12, 2010 to Amber’s on December 30, 2011. The pros and cons of a paleo diet (e.g., Dr. Loren Cordain’s approach) vs. a plant-based diet (e.g., Dr. Colin Campbell’s approach) is very interesting. Too much of this debate is based on emotion and speculation and not hard numbers. I’m of the “test-don’t-guess” camp. What we have today that the caveman did not have, are state-of-the-art laboratory tests that can ascertain whether one’s dietary approach is making a real metabolic/biochemical difference. By this, I mean, does one have optimal levels of proven health and longevity biomarkers such as high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, fibrinogen, homocysteine, LDL density pattern, lipoprotein(a), and proinsulin, just to name a few. Just because something sounds good in theory, doesn’t mean it’s right for you. My advice is to test, don’t-guess. Try the paleo and plant-based approaches separately, and have comprehensive before-and-after bloodwork to see which approach produces better numbers.
Hi Dr. Thomas,
You may be interested in Dr. Jack Kruse’s blog if you haven’t already seen it. He is paleo and very much test-don’t-guess. He has developed a leptin reset protocol and has quite a bit of techical information on the site (most of it over my head).
I really enjoyed The Humane Hominid’s comments from January 3, 2012. I wholeheartedly agree with his/her comment, “My chief criticism of the paleo diet is that it doesn’t deduce from present evidence.” For me as a medical doctor specializeing in metabolic & nutritional medicine for 25 years, the best “present evidence” are bloodwork numbers, specifically those biomarkers known to be associated with improved health and longevity. Until one looks at these hard numbers, the argument of what “works” better (paleo vs. vegan) is too often based on emotion and speculation. I encourage everyone participating in this blog get the necessary bloodwork to know for sure. Then let’s talk about the pros and cons of paleo vs. vegan.
I can’t speak to my own blood work as I have been waiting for the new year and refreshed insurance situation in order to have a panel done. However, my husband was told he had high triglycerides last year. His cholesterol was 198, triglycerides 280, HDL 52, LDL 91. After a moderate uptick in exercise (2-3 times per week), fish oil, and a 75/25 version of paleo/primal (following the diet about 75% of the time), his numbers a year later are: total chol. 199, triglycerides 119 (!), HDL 62, and LDL 113. That does bring his LDL to slightly above optimal but look at the improvement in triglycerides and HDL. The other factors you mention, unfortunately, I can’t speak to since they did not measure them at the last blood panel.
Hi Tina. Optimal lipid levels are Total Chlolesterol 160-180, LDL 50-99, HDL >60, and Triglyerides <80. One can achieve equally excellent lipid levels with a paleo diet or a vegan diet. Bloodwork needs to include far more than a lipid panel. But unless your doctor is up to date on the other tests, he/she will likely not order them. Without those tests, you will not fully know if you are making a difference that will translate into greater health and longevity.
When I order laboratory tests on a patient, I’m extremely thorough. I don’t like to gamble with their future wellbeing, so more than just helping a patient “look” or “feel” better, I want to know for certain, that the dietary approach and/or treatment regimen I’ve recommended is making a difference that can be objectively measured. I want to leave no doubt whatsoever that I’m inducing measurable metabolic and physiologic changes that will actually translate into better health and longevity. When we adopt a new dietary approach, most of us do so because it sounds good in theory, or makes our conscience feel better, and then we assume (or hope or pray) that it will make a bona fide difference in terms of health and longevity. I’ve had numerous savvy patients over the years who sincerely thought they were doing the right thing, when in fact, they weren’t, and I was able to prove it through proper laboratory testing. Bottom line is, we are all dying, some of us faster than others. I’m not saying that paleo is better than vegan, or visa versa, as this can differ from person to person. The right laboratory tests will tell you for sure if your chosen dietary approach is truly slowing the aging process and reducing your risk of diseases associated with aging. What are the “right” or “proper” laboratory tests? They go far beyond what the average or even well-informed doctor typically orders. I will list those tests in another posting.
Hello Dr, Thomas, just curious to know if you are in the Chicago area as I would like to find a Dr. that is educated on nutrition and has a more holistic approach to treatment. If your not could you recommend some one here. I just came across this page as I was looking for a recipe.
In alphabetical order, below are the laboratory tests I order on most patients. Is it “overkill?” Not in the least. The information derived from these tests is invaluable. You will know for certain whether your health habits and/or your doctor’s treatment plan are making the kind of metabolic and physiologic differences that will truly slow the aging process and reduce your risk of diseases associated with aging. Such information cannot be gained from the standard/routine tests that most doctors order.
Fasting & Two-Hour Postprandial Glucose and Insulin
Gastrointestinal Function Profile
LDL Density Pattern
Oxidative Damage Profile
Salivary Cortisol x 4
Total & Free Testosterone
Urinary Organic Acids
Thank you for this list, Dr. Daniels! I will take it to the doctor and ask that these are included on the work up. Though I have been following a primal/Paleo regime (80-85% off the time) for over a year, I am very interested in the blood panel results. Because, if the numbers aren’t good, adjustments will need to be made regardless of how good I feel or how easily I can now maintain my weight.
You’re welcome Tina. It’s important to understand that “looking good” and “feeling good” should not be the standards by which we judge the effectiveness of any dietary approach. I have had countless slender diabetic patients who look good because they’re not fat, and feel good even with blood sugar levels above 300. Furthermore, one should not judge the effectiveness of any dietary approach by the results of the standard/routine tests that most doctors order. While such tests are important, there are other tests that are far more useful in ascertaining one’s health. Don’t let your doctor shortchange you.
Great article! I am a crossfitter and an endurance athlete. They totally promote paleo at crossfit. You are very right that not very many people can do it “strict”. My crossfit is having a Paleo challenge for the next 40 days. I am not officially doing it, but trying it on my own. Going to eat a lot of eggs! Keep up the great work.
Hey, let’s all follow the Paleo diet so we can all have a life expectancy of 35 like Paleolithic man! 😀
I have been a vegetarian for about 15 years now and a big portion of my rotein comes from soy, which of course isn’t paleo. However while I was living in the UK and the Middle East I was using a brand called Quorn which is a vegetarian meat substitute derived from mycoprotein (fungi family). It’s now available in Australia from Coles and Woolworths supermarkets and I think it’s available in the States as well. http://www.quorn.com.au
Given that it’s derived from a mushroom like protein does that make it Paleo?
It’s also very versatile and tastes great. I have made bolognaise sauce using the Quorn mince and served it to non-vegetarians and they didn’t know the difference.
Nothing derived from another food or genetically modified is going to be Paleo. Does that make it harmful? No, but it makes it highly suspect. Our bodies evolved eating foods, if you want to find an man-made food that is meant to substitute for something you had better be sure that you know better than your body. There is no way to know. There has been no significant chunk of humans living a predominantly healthy life on man-made foods so there is nothing for me to base any confidence on them. If you won’t/can’t eat animal protein then perhaps having some man-made protein can fill that void in a limited way but I would never base my diet around it. Mother’s milk is animal protein if you think about it. 🙂 If mushrooms have protein in them then why not just eat the mushrooms? Sounds like just another boxed food with questionable value.
I think Jesse’s probably right about Quorn being off the paleo table because it’s not a food found in nature but a highly processed invention.
Sadly for me, because it’s so versatile and available in so many forms, it’s also off my table because it makes me violently ill. From what I’ve read on the Internet, I’m far from the only one affected this way. The manufacturer says it’s probably because of the fiber, which I doubt – I’ve been eating a high fiber vegetarian diet for 25 years – but I’ve seen others suggest it may be a mold allergy which seems more plausible.
I think I’m going to try Matt’s approach including hemp seeds (I didn’t know those were banned & have been having them daily, oops) and maybe sprouted lentils. I’m so glad to have found this post and all the helpful comments. My gym is doing a 30-day Paleo challenge and I really want to participate because of the motivational boost I get from that kind of thing. Thanks for helping me see how I can sort-of do it!
Reading through a lot of these comments I definitely see a lot of emotion and belief in a certain lifestyle paleo or vegan/vegetarian. With my personal experience for the past year and a half I went on a journey to find out what diet worked best for me. I cut out dairy and gluten containing grains and felt a lot better, but over time my health just kept depleting. I was tired all the time, had gastrointestinal discomFort, had dry skin, rashes, joint pain, hormonal imbalances, and mild depression. I was basically eating a diet full of vegetables, lots and lots of green and vegetable juices and smoothies, grains like quinoa, free range chicken every now and then, nuts and nut butters, chia seeds, and all what is deemed to be healthy for everyone. So why in the hell was I so unhealthy? I went to a doctor and had a ton of tests and bloodwork done and the major issues were in the grains and legumes I was eating. I have what are called “delayed food allergies” which most people don’t even know about! I literally had no idea I was allergic to anything. These allergies and the anti-nutrients in the grains and legumes caused me to be deficient in vital nutrients like zinc and disrupted my omega 3/6 balance, low in b12 (a vitamin mostly in animal protein, and I was just overall not getting enough protein even though I was eating protein enriched grains, legumes, nuts, and dark leafy green vegetables.
This just goes to show that there isn’t one way fits all. I’m currently eating full paleo without any dairy and my joint pain is gone, no more bloating or gas, I feel stronger, not as tired during the day, my hormones are back on tract, and my skin is so much clearer. I could not be happier with this lifestyle. The cooking is a lot of fun, way more fun that the grains and beans I used to eat, and I’m just happy overall with the results and in no way see this as a fad diet.
Then again, I have a friend who has lyme disease and as a result can’t digest meat or dairy. So there isn’t one diet fits all. We all come from different background and different genes that some might thrive off paleo and some might thrive off being vegan. Just figure it out for yourself and I strongly believe in getting tests and bloodwork done. The guessing game which I played for awhile isn’t worth it at all because you’ll end up spending a lot of time and money in the wrong direction.
Great post though you really have a lot of followers and supporters and definitely stirred up and interesting debate!
But let’s not forget that by the same argument, males are “built” to impregnate as many women as possible. That’s what would maximize the chances of having ones genes propagate, and probably still would today.
Some species (like fruit flies) do utilize a “scatter gun” approach to reproduction – with the goal of producing as many offspring as possible. However primates (including humans) do not, instead investing a lot of resources into fewer offspring.
Reproductive success for a man does not equal impregnating as many women as possible. Rather, it hinges on having his offspring reach reproductive age (which takes immense resources, time and care-giving compared to other species).
I’ve been a vegetarian for 35 years, because I *hate* meat, chicken and fish :^P For some of us, it’s not a choice, I just can’t bring myself to eat the stuff. The only reason I ate meat as a kid was because I was made to, just like very other kid who had to eat their dinner and clean their plate.
When I was 15, and the only kid left at home, I read an article about vegetarians, said “hey that’s me!” Meat doesn’t tempt me bit.
Even if the proportions happen to be correct this “paleo” thingy is flawed from an anthropological point of view:
The first point is that humans aren’t such good hunters to allow us to cover more 55% of the daily food intake in the form of meat. Even considering the evidence of modern hunter-gatherers if such evidence exist. And I am not talking about anecdotes and third-party quotes.
Another interesting point here is the merely physical: For today’s humans driving to the grocery store to buy a piece of meat does not cost many calories. A hunting party or even a recollection party does (still) require a lot. I recommend watching the Discovery channel show Dual Survival a few times, it’s quite enlightening.
Seafood and fish are not accessible for everybody and we have to recall that we were desert and savannah dwellers for a huge amount of time.
Another interesting point is that humans do have a certain amount of enzymes specifically designed to break down starches (amylase).
Regarding grains I read that two ancient populations of hunter -gatherers in the British Islands and the Balkans who included a large amount and variety of grains in their diet. In fact the difference among them and later agricultural populations was the reduction in species of grain consumed.
A third point is that there is no specific evidence that a paleo diet provides any sort of advantage: Elite athlete’s diets vary from vegan to fast-food devourers, from paleo to pizza and there is no single point of evidence that neither diet provides any advantage.
A fourth important point is that people, including hunter gatherers, have been thriving on a wide variety of diets too, depending on the surrounding ecosystem: This includes paleo-alike diets like the Eskimos or grain based diets.
I have read somewhere that he theory behind not eating grains is based on the fact that humans did not invent cooking until 300.000 – 250.000 years ago. This may be indeed a fact… but there is another extremely important point missed here: We, Homo sapiens, appeared actually 300.000- 250.000 years ago (!). Thus maybe the paleo-diet may have been the diet of our ancestors, but unfortunately of the WRONG SPECIES. There are in fact a whole new current that relates the evolutive leap from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens with it’s increase in brain volume and reduction in jaw size and muscles to the fact that we began cooking our food being thus able to extract more calories from it as the process made the digestion easier.
A point against the claim that we humans are not prepared for the neolithic diet is very simple to score: If this were true we would never have had a population explosion. In fact and given taking into account the pressure of natural selection if the neolithic diet were unhealthy the populations who applied it would have suffered a selective disadvantage. And this has quite obviously not been the case. I guess that here again the paleo advocates part from the idea that people in the neolithic were just driving down to the closest supermarket to buy their stuff.
I am thus extremely sceptic in regard to any type of miracle diet. I am vegetarian for ethical reasons and until now it has proven useful for controlling the amount of calories I consume. I agree that modern day diet is far from optimal but this has nothing to do with carbohydrates, starches or fats (as such) but on modern synthetic pseudo-foot that we are actually not made to eat and an ultra-sedentary lifestyle.
Just applying the pure logic of real life evidence and history I would say that humans can happily cope with any diet and any macronutrient distribution with a wide margin of error.
I would therefore suggest to vegetarians (and omnivores too) that want to try the “paleo” approach just concentrate on the macronutrient percentages and forget any pseudo-scientific stuff about forbidden things and poisonous grains applying common sense instead. And of course, if it doesn’t work just go back to anything that works for you as long as it’s healthy and you enjoy it 😉
The point of not eating grains is not that we started cooking 250,000-300,000 years ago. It’s that we started eating them 10,000-15,000 years ago and are therefore not that well adapted to eating them. Supporting evidence for this includes celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, possibly Crohn’s disease, and various autoimmune problems that are ameliorated by the removal of grains from the diet. It’s also recognition that plants themselves have adapted to avoid being eaten especially to avoid their seeds, the next generation, from being eaten by having indigestible seed coatings that include antinutrients such as those I mentioned previously, namely phytates and lectins.
You also say in another comment,”Even if the proportions happen to be correct this “paleo” thingy is flawed from an anthropological point of view:
The first point is that humans aren’t such good hunters to allow us to cover more 55% of the daily food intake in the form of meat.”
Where is it written that people following the paleo lifestyle eat more than 55% of their daily intake in the form of meat? Some of them may but I eat about 5-7 servings of meat a week, not including eggs, and, based on your description of your own vegetarian diet, I eat way more veggies than you do, about 10-11 servings a day.
All the proof i need that a vegan diet is awesome is the health of my family and myself over the last 10 years. Unbelievable health improvements, amazing love life, glowing skin, energy a n d vitality. I look better now than i did as a teenager! And healthy, happy children. 🙂
Muscle-building Paleo Vegetarian Menu:
Breakfast= pumpkin seeds, almonds, sunflower seeds, apples. 800 kcal, 30g protein
Lunch= pistachios, walnuts, bananas. 1300 kcal, 30g protein
1. Squash/zucchini spaghetti with tomato marinara and pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, and basil. 1200 kcal, 20g protein
2. Taco salad with fajita veggies and guacamole and cashew “cheese” 900 kcal, 25g protein
3. Collard greens, pecans, and watermelon!!! 1200 kcal, 35g protein
Dessert= Large tropical fruit salad
Total= 3200 kcal, 85g protein.
Following a normal diet aiming at bodybuilding I use to take at least 0.8 times my weight (in pounds) in protein, that’s more or less 115g of protein.
Here is my approach (not paleo but it can be adapted):
BF: 50g muesly with tons of nuts and dried fruit (of the organic kind). + 20g Oats
Lunch: 50g of soy/hemp or rice protein + 20g of wheat germ + 10g of oat bran
+ tons of coffe, tea and rooibos
Dinner: Whatever. After BF and lunch I usually am already reaching my protein count, I thus add some more vegetable protein isolate and whatever I fancy up to as many calories as I need / feel like (generally not many actually).
And to glue it all together I normally take 5g of L-glutamine and 6g of beta-alanine.
This is my ‘getting-fat-fast’ diet for resting periods. I think it should be fairly easy to “paleo-ize” it but I don’t believe in the very base of the paleo diet as humans do have a vast arsenal of enzymes (not present in other animals!) just aimed at breaking down starches of any kind including grains. And regarding gluten allergy (or better said “hidden” gluten allergy) I believe in that as much as I believe in Santa’s underpants. It just makes no sense and natural selection would have wiped it out a long time ago. And keep in mind that natural selection was as active during the time of the cavemen as it was during the Roman Empire or the middle ages. It wasn’t until the industrial revolution that we as species were able to ignore natural selection. I think it’s a very healthy thing to never underestimate the Darwin factor 😉
I’m sorry but, no, this would not be easy to “paleo-ize”. It’s so far from paleo that you couldn’t rightly “adapt” it so much as change it completely. Can you site your source for gluten allergy information? As I understand it, besides the people who go to the doctor because their guts are pissed off, we have an additional 29% of people who produce a-gliadin, an antibody produced in response to gluten signifying an immune response even if the effects of the response are not at “clinical” levels.
We’ve only been eating grains in regular quantities for 10,000 or so years. That is not enough time to adapt, though some people show more adaptation than others. Your idea of the speed of natural selection seems to have a speed of its own that I doubt correlates with actual data.
If I ate this diet, I’d be right back to Blood Sugar Swing City not to mention Bloated Gutville. A few terms for you to investigate: wheat germ agglutinin, lectins, phytates, and then look up what oats do to your blood sugar. Or not. It’s just your health.
Homo Sapiens appeared 250.000 years ago, the modern types possibly include a good part of Neandertal lineage, this happened no more than 35.000 years ago.
Natural selection and evolution do not have a pre-determined speed. Specially not when a population arises with a specific selective advantage: A population with intolerance to gluten would have been wiped out by other populations which do not have it.
Now I am not talking about hunter-gatherers, but about the 10.000 years during which we have had Roman and Egyptian Empires and Mongol hordes.
Grain was a stable food source. In Asia the ability to grow rice without interruption made empires such as the Chinese possible.
In Europe you can also see the effects of a changes in the availability of grain in such dramatic episodes as the black plagues. In fact there were several oscillations in the grain supply caused by climate variations and which caused the population to decrease to a fraction of what it was during the period of maximum resources. The reduction was dramatic, 30-60% of European population. This is BTW natural selection at work and it did not take all too long.
Of course, the inability to assimilate gluten would have been a mayor selective disadvantage.
Remember two things: On one side that natural selection is nothing more and nothing less than differential procreation.
And recall that for 80-90% of the population during a good part of these 10.000 years the only food source was cereal based. Remember that we are not talking about ONE person living 10.000 years but about generations of people who either were able to assimilate gluten or else die as a child and never be heard of again. That is how selection works.
I some times have the impression that some people believe that the humans one day woke up and just decided to stop eating “paleo” and decided to go to the supermarket instead to buy donoughts… but this is not how it works.
Yes, there are some studies, but it wouldn’t be the first time that a finding is not what it seems and / or that a new study just contradicts the previous one/s, specially in nutrition.
Regarding my health: My blood sugar is OK. I am still increasing my mileage (planning to go up to 70 in two months) and I have run 3 PR in a row this year and going for 3 more. I guess this can be considered pretty healthy.
But maybe it’s that I belong to these rare mutants that are able to thrive on gluten based stuff and run with a Morton’s toe, LOL.
The thing is, I’m not trying to argue that the Agricultural Revolution was not a sea change for us as a species or nothing short of a miracle foodstuff for millions. I’m also not saying we have an ‘inability to assimilate’ grains or that no one was ever able to eat grains. Clearly, we can and do consume them. And, clearly there are people out there who appear to not have a problem digesting them. Then, there are people who say their Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s disease either went away or became much better when they gave up grains. There are also the people whose systems are creating antibodies to gluten even if they aren’t miserable after they eat it.
What I’m saying is I doubt that grain consumption results in our best health. Just because you can eat something, and, in some instances, have to in order to survive, does not mean there are not negative impacts on one’s system. If that was all there was to eat, I sure as heck would eat it, too. Again, I still don’t think 10,000 is enough time for natural selection to do its thing. Neither, presumably,is it an all or nothing proposition. Some of those who don’t adapt well are going to manage to procreate and it seems plausible that varying levels of adaptation will result. Does the information you cite about Asia and rice consumption reflect consumption of white or brown rice? Because you can eat white rice all day and not have any complaints from your bowel (blood sugar is a different story). Another question, how do you know amylase is not meant for breaking down starches like bananas and root vegetables? Just because we have an enzyme that breaks down starch, does not address the fact that phytates in grain bind to minerals preventing their absorption or that lectins in grains interfere with our insulin process.
It has been demonstrated that grains, particularly gluten, damage intestinal lining leading to inflammation and increased mucus production. Since inflammation is highly correlated with cancer, and since I come from a line of folks who have had colon cancer, that is one reason for me to eliminate grains even though I am not officially gluten intolerant. I’m pretty sure that they affect my blood sugar, though, and that I used to be 95 lbs overweight, eating constantly in response to always feeling hungry, and that I felt like a failure and a food addict. You argue in a previous comment that it’s not starches that are the problem but rather “pseudo food”. But, when I was overweight and hungry all the time, I did not eat junk food, candy, patisserie, sodas, or whatever crap they can stuff into a box. I made most of my own food and was the person who bought the organic, multigrain bread for her sandwiches and usually had a salad with dinner.
Since I went low carb and eliminated eating grains and sugar most of the time, my life has changed. Not only do I feel better than I ever have but I have a stellar cholesterol profile, very low systemic levels of inflammation as measured by a C-reactive protein test, am insulin sensitive, have good adrenal preserves, very good kidney and liver function,and normal hormonal levels. Of course, I can’t say this is all due to eliminating grains but it sure isn’t an argument for them since this all happens in their absence.
Lastly, your consumption of grains is your business and we can argue all day probably about evolutionary adaptation. The question comes down to your own body and health. There are triathletes out there consuming grains so how much you exercise doesn’t enter into it. If you go and have a comprehensive blood panel and measure not just cholesterol but inflammation, organ function, urinary organic acids, insulin sensitivity, vitamin D levels, blood pressure, gastrointestinal function, (and I could go on) and you come back normal with a thumbs up from your doctor, then there is no reason, probably, to change your diet. In that case, go forth and enjoy your freshly baked bread and your muesli. I will only be slightly jealous.
trainerjohn: But how much fat is that? Yikes
I tried making nuts a staple, but it hasn’t worked for me. Since nuts and seeds have to be soaked to be consumed in any quantity, I was always short the necessary amount unless I had planned ahead. Or, I was throwing away moldy almonds (at $13/lbs!) because they don’t keep once soaked. The nut and seed butters and pates left me feeling uncomfortably full, not nourished, if I ate them as meals. I put soaked seeds in my smoothies, and that works.
I also find that my body cycles. Raw eating might feel cleansing and energizing for a week, and then I need meat, and then I can eat cooked veg, etc.
Nuts and seeds don’t necessarily have to be soaked to be consumed in large quantities. Soaking has some benefits, such as increased enzyme activity, but it certainly isn’t a requirement for eating large quantities of nuts and seeds.
I eat an entire cup of roasted pumpkin seeds for breakfast every morning (40 g protein!). I also go through a large bag of roasted sunflower seeds every few days (50+ g protein!). I also eat about 3-4 tablespoons of almond butter every day (15-20 g protein!).
I usually eat nuts and seeds as quick convenient high-protein snacks, and then my meals are large and mostly vegetables and fruit.
I can’t judge since I probably eat too many nuts myself but watch the ol’ Omega-6 fatty acid count there. That sounds like a lot of pro-inflammatory fat.
Speaking of inflammatory… Going vegan was the only way i was able to beat my lifelong, crippling back pain. Meat is obviously inflammatory and hard on the body. You’ll figure it out, eventually.
After soaking, dehydrate your nuts. They go back to crunchy but with the phytates “deactivated” or whatever the term, and they keep even better than fresh raw nuts, as the oils are reduced and they (the nuts) don’t go rancid. When I soak my almonds, I soak about 1/2 of them in sea salt brine and, when dehydrated, they are mildly salty and delicious! Pecans retain their sweetness when dehydrated after soaking, and all the nuts can be used as usual. And, if you are making a sauce, say with soaked cashews, you can either soak and use or re-soak after dehydrating the soaked nuts. I’ve never had any trouble either way!
Very interesting and worthwile post! I deeply appreciate it. Have been looking for a primal, natural diet which at the same time doesn’t kill or exploit animals.
I hope I’ll try some kind of diet based on huge amounts of vegetables, and carrots, cabbage, onion, leak, garlic, ginger etc. But also nuts, seeds, fruit and all kinds of nutritious stuff or “superfoods” like goji, cacao and algae. .. =)
I had two children before I realized that grains impair my metabolism, so a sensitivity of the type I have would not be weeded out by natural selection. That human populations have exploded since the cultivation of grains as a dietary staple is clear, but I’m not sure that prives that grains are good for us. I’m also not sure current population levels are sustainable without grain-based diets, and I expect them to endure.
Your argument is not valid for two reasons:
1) Modern western populations are not subject to natural selection in the same way that pre-industrial populations were. In fact if you compare the nutritional patterns of us modern Westerners and any other previous human population we could even be different species.
2) For a scientific theory to be valid it must be able to do predictions, meaning that you must be able to explain other aspects of reality based on the premises set by the theory. In fact the theory of gluten allergy does fail in this sense as it seems to contradict historical evidence (using the term ‘historical’ in an extended sense).
I do not argue against the fact that there is a modern population of that show a certain level of certain enzymes, but we may be completely wrong on the meaning of the presence of these enzymes. Just recall the case of lactate that for many years have been thought a dangerous bi-product of our metabolism while are just realizing that reality is much more complex and the “bad guy’ seems actually to be playing a hero role.
There is also the possibility that these enzymes were not there in ancient populations and that they are a product of a different gene expression caused by modern live style.
Until I get more data I will for know continue being sceptic on paleo diet and a great part of the science it’s based on.
I didn’t make a case for a scientific theory-I’m not interested in convincing anyone to eat “paleo”; if your diet works for you then there’s no problem. But I don’t have a gluten allergy as far as I know; when I eat grains I feel bad and don’t digest well. Modern medicine did not save me from such an allergy prior to childbearing. I don’t know anyone who has required medical salvation from frain sensitivity. The connection between grains and ill health are unclear to me, but I sure know I feel different if I eat them.
Oh, gee, I just started doing crossfit which of course loves Paleo diet. But my husband started working for PETA and we are going vegetarian and moving towards vegan. I am (for now) including eggs, legumes, some whole wheat grains, oats. Of course nuts, seeds, and all those related things. Oh and I’ve discovered a product called Coconut Bliss (freezer section of health food stores). I bet I would lose more weight if I stayed away from that. It is heavenly.
This is what works for me. Only animal protein-omega 3 eggs. Only dairy-butter. Only legumes-peas,baby lima beans, edamame. Only fruit-dried. Only grain-white rice flour toast(rarely). Only brain boost-instant coffee+splenda sweetener. Never touch-vegetable oil, nuts & seeds, cheese, meat. This list may seem odd but I would say that it is best to find what works for you rather than following someone else’s ideas. I did a paleo diet about 15 years ago when it was not widely known about. I never chose to become a vegetarian and it happened slowly, without any effort. Sometimes it’s best to tell your brain to shut up and allow some space for compassion to possibly arise.
Another option is to supplement with whey protein. As for fat, coconut oil and coconut milk are both excellent sources, and are used in tons of primal recipes–these products are basically primal staples (along with coconut flour and almond flour). As for 6 eggs a day at most–where did you read that? I eat way more than that. I have 2 eggs per day just in my morning shake, sometimes 2 hard boiled eggs with my lunch, and make omelets, scrambled eggs, thai pancakes, and other egg-centric dishes regularly.
SOOOO grateful that I just found your blog. Truly thank you! I am a life long vegetarian that has always struggled with energy and wanted to try paleo but couldn’t figure out how. I am beyond looking forward to reading your whole roster of recipes..eep!
I’m so happy that I found your blog! I recently became interested in the paleo diet but was curious how it would be possible as a vegetarian. (I’m also a marathon runner so I’ll definitely be coming back to your site to check out some running posts!) Thanks so much for all of your great insight! I think I might try to do the 30 day challenge without any of the exceptions. But if I decide to stick with it long term, I’m sure I’ll include some quinoa and black beans in to my diet as well.
Hi Matt. Love the website but strongly disagree with your statement about humans being built to hunt and eat meat. True carnivores (lions, tigers, etc.) have sharp claws to kill and shred their meat; we do not. True carnivores have sharp incissors to shred and tear; we do not; true carnivores have jaws which move in a grinding motion; we do not. True carnivores have short intestinal tracts; we have approximately 30 feet of intestines, so because it takes so long for meat to digest, it basically rots in our intestines/colons. I could go on and on. Man was not intended to eat meat, and hunting is not characterized by going out and shooting a defenseless animal. Thanks for letting me comment.
Please stop repeating unfounded vegetarian/vegan propaganda. Humans are not carnivores, we are omnivores. Our jaws do move in a grinding motion, although this motion is more characteristic of herbivores (think of how cows chew grass). Unless you meant something else. Meat does not rot in our colons or intestines, that’s just bullshit and pretty shoddy bullshit at that. A cow is not adapted for eating meat. We are. We DO have incisors (those are our pointy canine teeth). No, they are not long like a dog’s, but I personally have no trouble eating a steak, so clearly my teeth are adapted enough for the task. Unless you’re a creationist, understand that evolution is not a guided process. No one made our teeth for a certain task, we evolved to be the way we are, and if smaller teeth caused no issues with survival, smaller teeth are what we got. My guess would be that we evolved smaller teeth because the ability to communicate took precedence over the ability to tear meat with our teeth. Additionally, we have hands to manipulate our food with, something that other carnivores do not have. Additionally, chimps will eat other animals (even smaller primates) if they can catch them, so there we have one of our closest relatives eating meat as well. You may choose to be a vegetarian because you love animals, religious reasons, because you think it’s healthier, or whatever, and that’s fine, but don’t spread around bullshit, it just weakens your position.
Carol, I agree with you. We might have the capability to digest meat, but it’s not the optimal diet. We are designed very poorly for hunting and for eating meat. And Bononos, along with Chimpanzees, are considered our closest relatives and they are vegetarians. It’s also been shown that Chimps will usually only attack other mammals when their territory is threatended. Why eat meat when it’s not necessary? If you believe in evolution, then evolve.
Changing your behavior is not evolution. Nothing you do during your life will cause evolution, with the possible exception of giving birth to children with a genetic mutation. Whether you understand the fact of evolution (because it’s really not about belief) or not, you should know that.
Be vegetarian if you want, I have no problem with that. What I have a problem with is the lies that are spread. Which seems pointless anyway–every vegetarian I know is vegetarian because they love animals and don’t want them mistreated or killed for food. I don’t know anyone that is vegetarian because other apes are vegetarians, nor anyone who is vegetarian because of the length of their digestive system.
“We know that although chimpanzees have been recorded to eat more than 35 types of vertebrate animals (Uehara 1997), the most important vertebrate prey species in their diet is the red colobus monkey.”
Note that the following link (where the quote above came from) is from the University of Southern California website:
I used to worry about the question of whether humans are natural herbivores or omnivores. Now, I think it’s a stupid question, that entirely misunderstands nature and evolution. Both “sides” in the “debate” tend towards appeal-to-nature fallacies.
Everything in nature changes, and nothing is designed for our benefit. Nature produces no “optimal diet.” All that matters is, what do you want out of your diet, and what does the science say is best for achieving that goal?
I want healthy longevity, plenty of energy, good BMI, and the lowest possible risk factors for degenerative disease. The solution to that is clear to me: a vegan diet built on whole plant foods.
Is this “natural”? Why give a shit?
Yes! My optimal diet sounds totally different than yours for achieving those ends, but I completely agree with your outlook. What works? Do that. We can look to evolutionary biology and history for clues, but probably not answers.
Why are you so angry and posting that anger on a site meant for the vegetarian athlete? My “proganda” is founded. Science will tell you our intestinal tracts are longer than carnivores, and if you don’t think meat rots in our intestines and colons, explain why John Wayne had pounds of shit packed in his when he died. Fruits and vegetables are digested very nicely. Man had “adapted” into an omnivore. If man was meant to eat meat, he wouldn’t have to cook it and cut it with a knife and fork. You can eat any fruit, vegetable, seed or grain raw. Yes, our jaws do grind . . . like cows – herbivores. Personally, I believe in the Divine Creation which states that God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to eat of every fruit, seed and plant (except the Tree of Life, of course), and man was created AFTER the animals – to care for them, not eat them. They were not created for us but rather the opposite. My position is as strong as yours, BTW. Your position is your opinion. Your angry reaction seemingly comes from a sense of guilt perhaps. Or maybe it is your body’s reaction to indulging in the hormones of fear and anguish that passed to the animals blood upon its slaughter before you consumed it. Hhhhmmmmmmm . . . .
Are you assuming that I’m angry because I said “bullshit?” That’d be an incorrect assumption. Not angry, just get annoyed by falsehoods and propaganda. I’m posting here because my roommates are vegetarians and were trying to eat paleo. I was trying to help them.
No, my position is a lot stronger than yours, especially on your creationist bullshit. Cuz you know, I actually have science to back it up. And if you believe in creation, why are you talking about science at all (“Science will tell you our intestinal tracts are longer than carnivores…”), since you obviously don’t care what science says about the origins of life?
Oh, John Wayne had pounds of shit packed in his intestines? Well, I guess a single case proves… Uh… Proves… Ummm… Yeah.
And we’re not adapted for eating grains, by the way (that’s a big part of what paleo’s about). It causes systemic inflammation and a slew of other issues.
We also can (and some people do) eat raw meat. We choose not to. And, due to factory farming practices, it’s dangerous to eat raw meat. If we were living a few hundred years ago, we could absolutely eat raw meat safely. It would be more nutritious, too.
If grains are so bad for the body, why did my bread baking , vegan grandparents live to be a robust 97 &99 and the meat eating ones die in their 40s, as well a a whole other flesh eaters i knew. Quit your meat propaganda bullshit. A day will come when you will see.
I see nothing in your post that could justify your position, Samuel. Aside from that, these discussion boards are for discussion purposes and not heated debates. If you cannot control your demeanor and carry on a conversation without belittling other posters, you have no business posting at all. My initial comment was to Matt and was, I thought, said in a polite manner expressing my beliefs. I have no desire (or time) to carry on a debate with someone who does not care to hear others’ point of view. You are closed-minded and do not have all the facts; you have the facts that you want to hear. With that, I will not continue bantering back and forth. Check out some bookstores or websites and you will see that I have plenty to back my own beliefs/opinions, including reknowned cardiac surgeons, nutritionists, spiritual advisers and former ranchers.
Spiritual advisors, lol.
I have no desire to continue either, clearly it’s pointless. Enjoy your fantasies (except the naughty ones).
I’d just like to add that some of the Paleo stuff about raw foods ie: tubers, legumes etc which need to be cooked, is based on science which is controversial, to say the least.
Just a couple of months ago, scientists in South Africa found evidence that humans may have been using fire for a million years – that’s plenty of time to adapt to cooked food
A vegan diet is quite limited already; and legumes, lentils and seeds such as Quinoa provide very good sources of protein and nutrients. I don’t think that they should be written off on the basis of science that the scientists themselves are still arguing over.
I’d also like to add in something which I really feel is missing from these Paleo and Raw approaches – fermenting !! I am a bit of a fanatic fermenter, but fermenting not only reduces antinutrients, it also makes more nutrients available from the fermented foods, as well as adding beneficial micro-organisms.
Lactobacillus will ferment almost anything and are omnipresent in our environment. I can’t believe that our ancient ancestors didn’t take advantage of this to prepare and preserve foods. I highly recommend Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation as an excellent field guide to this approach.
I also highly recommend Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple as the most thoughtful approach to the Paleo lifestyle out there. He’s not a fanatic, which is refreshing and advocates a more relaxed 80%/20% approach. Obviously, we can’t do this as Vegans but as Paleo Vegans (I’m Gluten free as well) I think this 80/20 rule is useful when it comes to things such as legumes, quinoa and tubers. The science is still out, so why deprive ourselves of useful, nutritious and delicious food sources ?
Also, I hope you don’t mind me adding this link, but it contains some truly fabulous Paleo Vegan recipes
Do hemp hearts need to be ground to powder in order for them to be digested properly? thanks!
Wow! I’ve just discovered your blog via some other article on the web and I’m amazed to see how much do we resemble each other! I’m also a vegetarian for personal ethics and also an endurance runner! (first an amateur bodybuilder then I got more and more into endurance running, currently I’m into both sports, PB on 10K 35:24 and 2:56 for the marathon but currently I’m a little bit in bad shape so what’s why I got here in a way).
I like your point of view that seems pretty unbiased even when you could be biased by your personal beliefs. I think I look at it in a pretty similar fashion, trying to find the truth based on more and more research.
I’ve got to this post while doing some research about the grains/beans/legumes thing because even trying to eat in a very healthy fashion I’ve some issues regarding mood and wellness that would like to have addressed and I think that this may have something to do with it. It really seems to make sense but as may people said it’s pretty tied to everyone’s own body. I liked a lot Dr. Daniel Thomas advice about to measure based on real numbers and not just by feeling, also enjoyed Tina’s knowledgeable advice.
Will keep an eye on your blog, and excuse my poor English (I’m an Spaniard) 😉
I actually like the idea (no meat paleo).
Thank you for this post! I googles Paleo+vegetarian and stumbled upon this post. I don’t label myself a vegetarian, vegan, paleo, low-carber or anything else. Instead, I try to make healthy choices, which would some days mean going vegetarian, some days paleo … you get the picture. I try not to be too strict and allow myself now and than to have something that I really would like, although it is not in line with my food vision. I do so because I don’t want to get obsessed and want to take py psychological health into accout. Works different for everybody, this works for me.
Anyway, I was googling because I was thinking about how to combine a paleo lifestyle with my egan/egetarian days. Lot’s of info gathered here, I want to thank you for that!
I just found your blog while researching Paleo vegetarian diets. i have been vegetarian for 21 years- almost half my life! I am also a marathon runner, and am looking into starting Crossfit as well. I loved reading your Veggie versions of the Paleo diet and may even try it myself. thanks!
Good on you bro, you’re right about us not needing to eat animals at this stage in our developement. Great points, you answered a lot of my questions. Back to sprouting for me. Oh yeah the pea protein I use is supposed to be good. The muscle guy at my vitamin store rotates it with others he thinks so highly of it, highly absorbable plant proteins.
This article definitely pinpointed some questions I personally had. However, I feel that as a vegetarian I would not consume meat, even if it indicated to be a better choice for my health. As far a the paleo-vegetarian-diet goes, it seems a bit unrealistic for me considering that majority of my protein is obtain from many sources of beans, including soy bean. Is there a reason why the paleo diet does not consist of soy? Also, although I consume dairy produce, I do not eat egg. I stopped costuming egg long before I became vegetarian because I was unable to tolerate the smell it gives off while it cooks. However, egg would be a great protein resource that complies with the paleo-diet. One of my main concerns with the paleo-vegetarian diet would be lack of energy. As a runner, I need all the energy I could obtain from my food, and honestly I am not sure that vegetables and fruits alone would be able to sustain me in a healthy running state. I really enjoyed reading this article. My respect to those incredible and dedicated individuals who feel capable to have a paleo-vegetarian diet. Best of luck!
Great article and info, thank you so much. I’ve been interested in the results of the Paleo diet for a while but am a vegetarian with many food intolerances and a chronic bowel condition I have had for over 20 years. I have studied nutrition on a personal level for years and trying new things for the soul purpose of regaining constant health whilst being kind to the planet. While reading your article I realise that I eat that way mainly from lack of choice. I am intolerant to nuts, eggs, soy, dairy, shellfish, and other things, making my diet very restrictive. To all the people who say it is boring, I say I have made it less so. I have experimented so much and come up with fabulous and different soups and vary how I put things together to give different tasted and textures. I also use hemp and carob powder as sources of protein. It is a restrictive lifestyle, but one that I feel is worth it.
Thank you for your article, it is great to see others keen interest in nutrition and health.
Just my 2 cents, from what you say, I think you could do pretty well on a grain free, veggie based diet with some fruit and maybe whey suplement as a good protein source if you do not have intolerance to it, it could work wonders. If it’s not for personal believes, I also think that some lean meat could cut the edge for you. Plant based + lean meat + seafood (not in your case for the sensitivities) not processed food, sugar and phytate free, as in paleo, I think it is unbeateable for health, although I have been myself ovo-lacto-vegetarian for personal believes. You could also look for seaweed derived Omega-3 DHA if you can find it and also some Omega-3 based supps seem to not cause to create reactions on some people that are fish sensitive.
Whats the point? A vegitarian diet with grains is healthy than the paleo diet. Seventh Day Aventist diet for example, includes whole grains and leads to the longer life spam and better health than any other diet known. But if you really want to eat what we evolved to eat… then eat insects, fruits and leaves — not meat. More paleo than the so called paleo diet. Termites!
Thank you for sharing this. I have been eating an adapted Paleo-Vegetarian/Vegan diet for about a year now & I feel great! There is so little commentary or resources about this out there about this particula diet for veggies. Thanks for helping to change that! 🙂
Interesting post! How did your experiment go?
An important note to this post is that you’re a highly specialized in endurance sports.
I’d be curious to get thoughts on vegan paleo if your goal is to be fit (as in all-round fitness including strength and power)
Thanks fo your researches and your testimony.
I am myself a vegetarian, since about 20 years, and rely on a growing portion of wild plants, who happen to be full of protein: comfrey, nettles, and the likes. As a yoga teacher, I feel they offer a free food to sustain heavy practices, provided you are not leaving in town, or surrounded by intensive agriculture; but I am not a scientist.
For retreats in wilderness, I have lived on what I could pluck with delight, and without damages, which is quite traditional in India. I have not found what to do during the winter though… Hunting seems the most natural thing at that time. And that’s a real question for me…
You say that men are designed to impregnate as many women as possible, but we don’t do that now because we are beyond that. You go onto say that we shouldn’t eat meat because at this stage in the history of humans, we should be beyond that as well.
Perhaps you are right in that mentally and spiritually we should be beyond eating meat. I don’t agree but I will concede that concept for the sake of argument. The problem is that our bodies are evolving at a much slower rate than our mental capacity for reflection and existentialism. We must feed our bodies what our bodies tell us to. Going against that is going against nature and there are repercussions for that.
I’m not a paleo practitioner. I get about 15-20% of my protein from meat. I would never defend the copious amounts of meat the so called paloelithic eaters consume. However I will also never defend, from a physiological stand point, that humans should consume no meat.
Im beginning my slow transition from a full on Paleo eater to a more vegan lifestyle. Primarily for animal ethics reasons. However – and this pains me to do so – at certain times of my menstrual cycle, I feel incredibly lethargic and only meat brings me back from a zombie-type existence. So to counteract, my plan is to eat meat during that part of the cycle only. Thats the plan anyway. True vegans and vegetarians will probably laugh at my attempt, some may find it cheating and not really caring about animals, but to each their own – this is my path and Im genuinely trying to be a less violence-based eater. Coming from a culture where meat was in EVERY meal, its very very hard to stop eating it – but slooooooowly its beginning to feel easier.
Thank you for outlining the arguments above – its very helpful. Cant say that being a Vegan Paleo is sounding like too much fun, but im willing to try and see if i can make it work for me.
Have to disagree with just one point you wrote – the part about males “needing” to impregnate women for evolution’s sake – not strictly true – and has been bastardised to mean (by men) that its men only that do this. By evolutionary standards, it is in a woman’s every interest to sleep with as many men as possible to ensure the fittest sperm “wins the deal” so to speak. It is the rise of agricultural communities and the subsequent effect on social roles and order that led to mass sexism and oppression of women that led to current “norms” being the status quo (ie men are allowed, and women arent). Every human being, male or female, wants to procreate with the best possible specimen – and that means, more often than not, trying out multiple specimen. Let’s just call a spade a spade, shall we? 🙂
But i digress. Nice blog. Will be back.
As a vegan, I applaud and support any attempt to reduce meat. It doesn’t have to be 100% of the time. We practice PROGRESS, not PERFECTION. My nephew said he wold be vegan except he loves bacon once in awhile. I suggested he might try being a vegan who occasionally eats bacon! Any effort to reduce suffering is appreciated.
Ive been a vegetarian for about 18 years and always did some type of fitness routine…gym, running, exercise tapes, hiking, biking etc… Then I got introduced to CrossFit and absolutely love it.
HOWEVER, I noticed I got winded quite quickly, did not see my strength and agility improving and still had my string-bean like physique.
My box then introduced me to Whole 30 and the Paleo diet. Now that I eat a strict Paleo/Whole 30 diet, I feel stronger, sleep more soundly, have a better physique, and continually see improved results.
Now I’m questioning my long term health with my consumption of pretty much only meat, veggies and some fruits, only, might be harmful. I am at a road block. This animal protein that I was lacking I feel has had a significant positive effect on me physically and mentally. But now I feel I should ban this diet and go back vegetarian for health reasons. This website has been a great starting point for me.
lotsa good info. i like the idea of eating more hemp seed. i’ve had sprouted quinoa. haven’t tried buckwheat. also like to soak, germinate or sprout nuts and seeds. will try eating more cooked sprouted lentils. i do eat some eggs, but not plannin on a dozen a day! thnx.
I have a Masters in Anthropology and I am sick of the “Paleo” diet! First from fossil evidence, many early hominids had very large and heavy jaws to process the coarse, fiberous plant foods that made up the bulk of their diet. Modern humans have mixed dentition, with the front part of our mouths resembling carnivores and the back part ruminants (cows, etc.) and early hominids were opportunistic omnivores, but by no means does this mean that meat was a common staple food. From both archaeological evidence and detailed participant observation studies of modern hunter-gatherers the early hominid diet was most likely 90% or better plant foods supplemented with 5-10% from animal proteins. From cut marks on ancient animal bones it appears the earliest of hominids were scavengers of recently killed animals and then slowly began to follow animal herds and then began to hunt. So the “Paleo” diet is really just a flavor of Atkins and has NO basis on scientific anything!! A few points about eating “what out ancient ancestors ate” through natural selection our jaw size has decreased greatly from that of early hominids and the plant foods that those hominids ate have been domesticated to have much larger seed heads and be easier to harvest and chew. So the exact plant foods of that marvelous Paleo time for the most part don’t exist. So what are the closest foods for a modern diet? Whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables cooked very lightly or eaten raw, no refined flour but whole grain would be fine, nuts, seeds and 3-5 ozs. of meat or sea food once every 2 weeks to a month. Clearly, a vegetarian diet oriented to whole foods is really a LOT closer to what early hominids ate that the “Paleo” diet!
I respect your Masters in Anthropology but humbly submit that it does not translate to expertise in nutrition. I disagree that a modern analogue for Paleo era vegetation in the diet is whole grains. Grains are seeds that have evolved seed coatings to protect them from being eaten. Do a little research on lectins and phytates and you will see why I am suggesting this does not render them ideal foods. There is also the issue of glycemic index of many whole grains. Some of these have been pulverized for flour which results in having a moderate to high glycemic load, and this contributes to insulin resistance and weight gain.
I am starting to suspect the idea that we because can’t exactly mimic a paleolithic diet, it can’t be paleo is a bit of a straw man argument. The real question, to my mind, is what results in our best health? There are too many people out there talking about reduced or eliminated bowel/gut problems and reduced/eliminated autoimmune issues such as rheumatoid arthritis not to mention weight loss to just casually dismiss the paleo diet. Everyone should have comprehensive blood work done as well as physical evaluations regardless of what diet they are on. That is probably the best way to know, along with feeling well and not having symptoms, to know that we are actually healthy and responding well to a diet.
Also, paleo, the way I and many others do it, is not a jumped-up Atkins diet. I would say that my diet is about 75-80% vegetable and 15-20% meat/cheese (yeah, cheese is not paleo, I know) plus about 14-18 eggs a week. So, that puts me not too far from your percentages you list above. I, too, am not convinced that we are meant to eat vast quantities of meat since it seems reasonable that it wasn’t so routinely available “back in the day”. I kind of suspect that meat eating waxed and waned with the luck of the hunt.
Thx for the great info on the site and comments. Im a vegi that is interested in the Paleo diet. However, i dont think i can go cold turkey on grains so i did some googling as to what is a healthier grain to consume. I read that the chinese foxtail millet is gluten free, anti-nutrient free, high protein, and low starch. My wife also told me that it is traditionally eaten by the chinese as porridge and is known to be very nutritious and comfortable on the digestive systems. Has anyone tried the chinese millet in their diet and how were the results?
I came across your information at an interesting time. I have been on again, off again vegan for 10 years. Currently I am following a vegetarian diet, but have been struggling with weight loss even though I have switched up my workout routine and am really watching what I put in my body. I started researching Paleo diet on the recommendation of a friend. I was discouraged by the meat eating emphasis I found. I think I will try one of the variations and just be aware of the amount of fruit and grains I put into my body. Hope it works!
I have no problem eating eggs, as long as it comes from a local family farm that does not practice any of the cruel procedures of corporate facilities. If you’re vegan, consider looking into that, especially if you became one to fight animal cruelty.
Why should I look into it, when there is no need for me to eat eggs in the first place?
“To me, the evidence that we are built to hunt and eat meat is pretty convincing.” …… BS
We don’t have fangs or strong jaws designed to rip meat apart.
We aren’t designed to digest meat raw unlike every other meat eater. It makes us sick.
Our intestines are long, while other carnivores have short intestinal tracks meant to pass rotting flesh quickly.
Or teeth designed are meant to grind foods such as leaves and plants and nuts.
Our legs are not designed for quick and powerful chases like a dog, bear of cheetah.
Our stomachs are less acidic than that of a carnivore.
Humans developed tools not to hunt, but to reach and harvest their food sources quicker and build a shelter, much like large apes do in the jungle.
The evidence is overwhelming… “yeah right”
We are natural vegetarians. The PROBLEM with this is that every herbivore on the planet eats all day long. Horses and cows graze in the fields, koalas eat leaves for hours each day. Horses have some of the best physiques around being naturally muscular and lean. Humans haven’t adapted to eat meat at all. We have adapted a lifestyle that cuts our grazing time and deprives us of nutrients. Eating meat fills the hole but causes problems on it’s own.
Anyone who reads this article needs to think twice about using it for advice.
A fair point, apart from our incisors.
Is there an update post to how this went for you? Curious but didn’t find anything.
I didn’t read all the comments to see if you’ve updated as to your experience with this style of eating but wanted to get your feedback on the experience.
I’ve been eating organic, GF, Corn/Soy/Dairy Free, high raw, plant strong (occasional fish) for several years to heal my Hashimotos and was feeling amazing until the past few months when my hormones started wreaking havoc on my thryroid due to approaching peri-menopause. This caused my Hashi’s to become active again.
After a great deal of research I’ve decided to adapt my diet to be free of grains, beans/legumes and all high glycemic foods to repair the damage the recent attack on my thyroid has caused to my gut and vitality.
I have seriously considered adding clean meat back in to my diet (it’s been 12 years) but every time I see it in the market I can’t do it. I see the living creature in my mind and I can’t fathom what it would be like chewing animal meat. I don’t have the same issues with seafood for some reason.
My plan is to do more hemp protein, sea food twice a week, peas and green beans plus all the leafy greens for protein. (I know that beans & nuts, even soaked have become an issue for me so they are both out. I think I can do seeds if I don’t overdo it. I just am not confident that I can meet my protein requirements (40-50 grams daily) with this and live the same balanced (non food obsessed) life I’ve been enjoying for several years.
Any thoughts or suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated!!!
How about pastured eggs and/or whey protein?
Great article! I’m looking at experimenting with this eating plan in the near future also and for long endurance running in particular- i don’t see it being the “ideal” way- but i suppose once the body is using fat for fuel low glucose wont really be a problem- aside form the initial switch dramas. A high fruit and some nuts and seeds (which can be eaten raw) means no cooking and no high heat nutrient destruction. If our ancestors had to cook in a quick light optimal fire every 3-4hrs i can’t see that happening too often… Meat or not- i had eliminated all grains from my diet for 15 days- then reintroduced wheat and found stomach issues. Quinoa, millet, buckwheat and some oats etc would be better grain choices. Wheat aint what it used to be and was messed with around 6 decades ago :(. Cheers,
Paleo and Vegetarian don’t even belong in the same sentence. Just shameful!
I spoke with a young entrepreneur about his new product, sprouted almond butter. He explained about the value of sprouting, going into the effect of the antinutrient phytic acid. He recomended soaking the grains, e.g.brown rice and oats for 24 hours and said adding “some” acid removes a lot of the phytic acid. So your option 3 might also include grains along with the legumes.
In this case, I’m practically back to my current diet of grains, legumes, and multi-colored veggies and leafy greens.
Without getting too over analytical, here’s a much easier approach:
– No magic – eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re not.
– Fat leads the way, then protein, then carbs
– Snacks to the rescue – always have some on hand
– Hydrate by thirst (water, teas, coffee)
– Intermittent fasting – a handy device
Thank you so much for posting this! I really like the idea of the paleo diet, but I have been vegan for 7 years now and the thought of consuming today’s mass-produced meat makes me sick. I also don’t think I could kill an animal myself to eat. Options 2 and 3 in conjuction seem like a reasonable solution, and I am eager to give it a try. Thanks again!
This is perfect for me! I’m trying to do a Primal/Paleo challenge with my gym but with only 1 kidney I can’t have more than 1 serving of animal protein per day. Your ideas have helped guide me so that I can figure out my own way to do it. Thanks! 🙂
I have been eating a vegetarian paleo diet for years. I agree with a lot of the paleo theory, but ethically do not want to take a life to sustain mine when I don’t have to. I do however eat a lot of eggs. I was never able to understand the reason for limiting eggs in the paleo diet and wondered if that was because of the yolks. So I eat 12 egg whites a day and get my fat from other sources. Does anyone know if the limit on eggs pertains to the whole egg?
Actually, there is an option: Spirulina! It is high in protein and its nutritional composition is closer to nuts and meat (high protein and fat / low carbs). Plus it has been farmed from ponds for centuries. Ostensibly, our per-agricultural ancestors could have access to it so long as they were near sea shores or lakes with conditions in which spirulina can easily grow.
I am a pescetarian personal trainer and follow the paleo diet. I love it! I eat wild fish, organic pasture eggs and have a high quality vegan protein powder (Sunwarrior Warrior Blend). The rest of my diet consists of veggies (tons!), healthy fats (mostly from coconut oil and avocados) and a little bit of fruit. I have never felt better!
Nicole, if u don’t mind me asking, what macronutrient percentages do u feel best on? That’s bee a big debate among paleo and vegan crowds lately.
I’d love to see what a sample days meals looks like for u. Can u also post a typical days bf, lunch, dinner, snacks? Seeing how u concoct this could help a lot of us struggling to find balance. Kudos for living so healthfully!
Thanks so much for writing this article. I found it not only informative, but inspiring. You give me hope that our species will, someday soon, evolve past violence, alltogether. Awesomesauce. 🙂
I live in Japan, and they believe your blood type is a big part of your personality and diet. I’m A+ and shouldn’t eat a lot of meat. A natural vegetarian, if you will. I mean, Paleo diet is based on the fact that we haven’t evolved in over 50,000 years? This is quite wrong.
Type O was the first blood type and thrived with the big game hunters. But after most of the big game was extinct meat became harder to come by. This is when ancient peoples turned to cultivation and agriculture. Around 30,000 years ago cities were created and people farmed grains and raised livestock. This is where type A was born. The gut changed to handle this new city life and eat less meat. Type A lost the ability to be carnivores like the hunter-gatherers.
I’m willing to bet most vegetarians are going to be blood type A and their bodies think different than the carnivorous O. This type of Paleo diet would be as toxic to them as the agricultural diet is to O. If you’re O and you’re a vegetarian you might want to go back to meat and the normal Paleo diet would be best for you.
I think Paleo has the right idea, cut out processed foods and eat fresh. I’ll take that and use it for my veggie loving type A blood.
I’m type o and thrive on a vegan diet. Idk if blood type diet is valid for many people. What other animals eat according to their blood type? None
I have been a vegetarian, vegan, and even raw food vegan. I tried this lifestyle because I weighed 325 and wanted to change. When I went plant based I lost 10 pounds but could not lose any more even with a strict work out regiment. In comes a friend who put me on to paleo, in 7 months I lost 78 pounds! I dropped from 42 pants to 36 waist, from xxl and xxl to large! Paleo works well this is undeniable! The carbs that many vegetarians eat are actually slowing them down, its far to much sugar from all the carbs and fruits. Paleo will take a little getting use to in the beginning when you spend your entire lives eating sugar producing carbs your going to feel a little off to start. But once you teach your body to work off of fat rather than carbs you get lean and mean. And guess what? You can eat as much vegetables as you want! The negative paleo propaganda makes many people believe that we just eat slabs of meat and fat all day but micronutrients are of huge importance on this diet! I even did a test a few weeks ago and did a typical vegetarian diet for a week, I GAINED WEIGHT and haven’t felt that tired and weak in a long time. I have nothing against vegetarians and if you are ablt to maintian the body compisition you want while being vegetarian than thats great but I know many fat overweight vegatarians(me being one of them) I definitely can’t say that I know fat palo people. Just my thoughts. Also remember how much processed, highly salted crap vegetarians eat like tofu, and other pre made vegatarian fare.
I have been stewing on this a long time…since I did my first high protein diet (anyone remember the Stillman diets? 😉 ) at age 18. I’m now 61, have tried most diets on the planet to dodge a family history that gave my mom, aunt & both sisters breast cancer and much more. Since I posted before, I’ve placed 7th nationally in the US W60-64AG in the 1500 meters (and more, but won’t bore you here), and have placed in 62 5K or longer races. Yes, it would appear that high protein diets can accomplish quick weight loss results, but at what expense? The heart? Alzheimer’s? Sexual dysfunction (all those arteries are connected). I always say, blood tests never lie.
As a certified personal trainer and running coach, I am finally getting “Paleo Vegan” published, ETA April ’14 by Book Publishing Co., which has published my other two books. I also say, generally different things work for different people. But I am delighted to find more and more women in my running age group and older have gone vegan to 1)lose or maintain a healthy weight 2)avoid arthritis (so many my age are dropping out because of that) 3)recover way more quickly than our meat-eating colleagues. I could write a whole book on that last point, which is why my 4th book on my 43-year-long fitness story is already getting offers.
You’re right…it’s how you feel and look. I’m always getting pegged 10-20 years younger than I am. I’m told it is very rare for anyone with my sprint times to have ever finished a marathon (fast vs. slow-twitch genes/muscles). While my marathon times won’t break any records, I was the 5th oldest female to finish the last one I did. Most people my age who still compete say the goal is to finish without injury because we want to be able to keep this fit all of our days.
A balanced vegan diet can absolutely work and provide energy and muscle to those who spend the time working at it while remaining injury/disease free until their 90’s. As Matt has written, there is much common ground between vegans and Paleo. But it is quite possible for those who want to remain vegan for a variety of reasons to incorporate the best of Paleo.
Btw, personally, I lost 25 pounds going from Atkins to low-fat vegan. My cholesterol during that 6 months time went from 203 to 150 (all my blood work is posted as a Star McDougaller on Dr. McDougall’s website). I also was in the ER facing a hysterectomy from hemorrhaging fibroids that shrank so much upon returning to a vegan diet that I never needed the hysterectomy. Results are typical. 😉
Given that everybody in my immediate family had heart disease and diabetes from a lifetime of heavy meat and sweet-eating, I fortunately had many docs telling me to do things differently. It’s worked well for me.
I’m glad you’re finding answers in the short term. But I felt it was important to share for others who might see your post my long-term results after decades of trials and errors. I was a trained cooking instructor for PCRM’s The Cancer Project, and saw many others have all kinds of great results, including a student who lost 120 pounds in 8 months. The local paper ran her before and after pix/story. No money in broccoli, though. So sometimes it’s hard to get the word out. 😉
Hello Ellen , I applaud you for all you’ve accomplished.
I have been on a low fat plant based diet since June 2013 lost 3 dress sizes dropped my cholesterol by 60 points and feel fabulous more so even then when I was a kid.
Lots of heart disease and diabetes in my family history also. So I decided to head it off and
make the change to better health before my body was telling me too.
I do believe that eating plant based is the best way to live yet not every one is going to come to this conclusion. My other driving reason was also to help mother earth and our fellow creatures that suffer dreadfully before they end up on a plate. My whish goal is to take the Mc Dougall program so that I can have more responses to questions I get asked on a daily basis about my eating choices and if I’m sure I’m getting the proper nourishment eating only plants. 🙂 I also whish some of my Family members would follow my lead to get healthy and off of all the drugs they have to take to function. It is heart breaking to watch knowing how they can heal them selves. I forget who said this ‘Let thy food be thy medicine” The most challenging thing though eating this way is not being able to go to restaurants with family and friends as there is little if nothing for me to order as I also do not eat oils or sugars unless in natural form as in avacado’s or the sugar from fruits. How is this for you?
It my choice if I’m a vegetarian why does this person go make this whole thing just for vegetarians then hate on them at the end.
No meat athlete – great blog.
Thanks so much for this post! I just can’t stomach the amount of meat that you would eat on a paleo diet, both literally and figuratively (financially and in terms of the environment–although the Weston A Price foundation has different opinions on it). After doing a Whole30 (a paleo induction phase) I will try this for long term– and I think that fermented soy is so OK–the fermentation process adds so many vitamins and nutrients and bugs that pre-digest for us–so maybe having buckwheat and tempeh once a week won’t sink me!
There are some great grain-free blogs out there that make the food so exciting and delicious. subbing a portobello mushroom for a cut of meat, or slabs of another vegetable and compensating the protein with the hemp protein powder or extra nuts.
I think the main thing is to think of vegetables as our main source of sustenance, and that seems to be supported by every study that has ever been done!
I agree that vegetables are one of the main pillars of wellness. Just to clarify, though, many people eating paleo do not stuff themselves with meat at every meal. I eat about 5 servings of meat a week. Other protein comes from eggs mostly, seafood, and limited cheese. For most/many paleo eaters, two thirds of the plate are vegetables. One third is meat/seafood/eggs. I aim to eat 12 servings of veggies a day. For me, this is only accomplished by juicing veggies for 4-5 of those servings. If you want to do limited grains, the “safest” are rice, non-gmo corn, millet, teff, sorghum, quinoa, and amaranth. Good luck with your Whole30! You may feel so awesome that you decide to keep on keeping on. 🙂
I’m looking into going paleo and I’m a vegetarian – i’ve read what everybody else has said about how they modify it – very interesting! The majority of my protein now comes from greek yogurt – I understand the basis of the paleo diet, but how would this affect me? On a side note – I LOVE greek yogurt and also how it regulates my digestive system… it would be really hard to give it up!
Don’t give it up. Go read Mark Sisson’s website. He offers something very similar to paleo called the Primal Blueprint, and greek yogurt is okay! (One of the main differences between the two eating styles is that the Primal Blueprint allows for moderate amounts of high fat dairy.) Good luck in your dietary adventures.
“If your only goal is health, I’d say you’d do well to eat an occasional piece of fish, or even wild land animals.”
This is an idea I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Health is not my ONLY goal, but I’d be willing to eat an occasional piece of fish or an oyster or an egg (all pastured, “sustainable”, etc.) IF I could find some compelling and convincing reasons why doing so occasionally would actually be beneficial. How would you define “occasional”? How much, how often? What exactly would the tangible benefit be? How much would be enough to preclude the need for supplements? I posted a similar question in another one of your posts by the way. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Humans did hunt without weapons for milenians. Research ‘persistent hunters’ in which man tracked an ran animals to exaaustion without weapons thus developing our run waking abilities and our capacity to sweat the way we do to enables us to run nearly indefenetly. ‘Born To Run’ deals with this subject among many other publications and research. In fact it is also believed that hunting without weapons and tracking was the human beginning of spirituality. No sources available w me but easily searchable.
Please be VERY CAREFUL about QUORN: do an internet search about it. I ate it, enjoyed it a great deal, but very quickly developed a sensitivity to it that resulted in a nearly fatal reaction. Blood pressure drop, severe GI symptoms, ambulance trip to ER. It’s somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of people with mold allergies can have a bad reaction to the stuff. Good luck and thanks for the awesome website!
Thank you for this article. My food allergies make my diet resemble paleo (though I can eat a handful of banned foods) and I didn’t think vegetarianism was possible. Thank you for giving me some ideas of how to make it work.
The statement near the top of the article, that Paleo is not veggie-friendly, is false. I own dozens of Paleo cookbooks, and they all include many vegetable recipes. It is true that it would be difficult (but not impossible) for a vegetarian to follow this eating plan.
Some Paleo adherents do allow some dairy, if there are no digestion issues.
The primary reason for the modern Paleo plan is that we have difficulties digesting certain foods. Legumes, sprouted, soaked, or not are NOT Paleo for that reason. If you regularly include legumes in your diet, you are lying to yourself to call it Paleo.
To stay Paleo, vegetarians can stick to eggs, and possibly organic cheese if no dietary issues present. Vegans’ best bet is hemp powder protein.
Isn’t digestion something that has evolved over time? And isn’t it dependent on one’s digestion-tolerant eating habits? Barring allergies, what one person and perhaps a generation or two within that family grew up eating enabled their digestive system to evolve into accepting or rejecting certain foods. So, while beans and legumes are 100% tolerated by some, there are others whose systems will reject that it. How can we eliminate a food group by categorically stating that legumes or beans, sprouted or soaked cannot be digested by all? And hence eliminated from the more typically followed Paleo plan?
This is some good information and as a former vegetarian of 12 years, it has some good tips for my veg friends. I believe hemp is not a pseudo grain and can be beneficial because the shell is removed and it has a good nutrient makeup. The main problem with your post is the part where you recommend canola oil. No paleo recommends this oil and it is one of the worst oil’s on the market. I think you should recheck your sources and correct this harmful statement.
This article has given me a lot to think about! Recently i have been thinking about reducing or even cutting out animal protein from my diet, as i find it doesn’t sit well with me and maybe is contributing to my inflammation. However, I am currently on a very restrictive diet, as I have been investigating the possibility of IBS since early 2013 and have cut out many food groups that fit with the paleo diet. I can’t have eggs, and i don’t eat red meat… just salmon, tuna and chicken really. Not eating soy, grains or legumes makes it hard to become vegan or vegetarian whilst also being paleo… plus I don’t eat nightshade or wind producing vegetables, so i am not sure i could make it work??? I have been doing a lot of research online and really feel reducing or cutting out animal protein would be a HUGE benefit to me. Does anyone have any meal plans or list of paleo vegetarian foods they eat? Would be a huge help!
I’ve become increasingly interested in the Paleo diet since reading a book by Dr D Perlmutter (Grain Brain) that expounds the theory that gluten and sugar are the major culprits in the increase of many brain diseases including things like depression, autism & ADHD. While there may need to be more search done to confirm this link there seems to be good medical evidence out there – anecdotal and scientific – to suggest that changing your diet can bring significant benefits. It’s great to read about how one can be vegetarian and still (more or less) follow a Paleo diet. I am hoping that making significant changes like this to my diet will keep my brain top notch for many years to come!
I was raised vegetarian until about age 40 when I decided to try to implement a paleo-ish and GAPS diet. Here is what I do to get more protein, healthy fats and nutrients. Note that these are not all vegetarian sugesstions and won’t be suitable for those ethically opposed to eating animals, but they might help if like me you can’t stand meat or eggs. They are not all Paleo either, but there is no perfectly paleo diet anyway and most of these follow the intent of the law. 1. Take handfuls of dessicated liver pills. This can be daunting and I worry about relying too much one a single source, so not every day. 2. Whey (raw, grass-fed and organic), hard (fermented) cheeses, and kefir (Amasai actually, made with a-2 milk which is much easier to digest). Obviously not Paleo but when you can’t eat meat, these are acceptable substitutes, for me anyway. 3. Powdered grass-fed gelatin – usually in whey/green smoothies or soups. 4. Egg whites – if like me you can’t get a bite of whole egg past your lips without throwing up, you may be able to use the whites only on baking. It works for me. 5.
I’m a former vegan who must eat a low carb-diet or risk being very sick. While this blog-post is helpful to me in terms of confirming what I already know about being vegetarian or vegan on a low-carb diet, it also confirms for me what else I already know – that a low-carb diet can be difficult for me to manage if I don’t include some of the foods neither vegans or people eating a Paleo diet eat. Specifically, I find that to strike the careful balance I must have in my diet to avoid extreme and potentially life-threatening fluctuations in my blood sugar levels, I must eat dairy. I don’t eat too much of it and I certainly don’t eat an egg every day. But I do have to plan everything I eat every day so I can maintain steady blood glucose levels.
Beans make my sugars spike off the charts, especially chickpeas. I can eat very small amounts of them only if accompanied by huge amounts of vegetables (and I talking several cups of salad greens or other vegetables) and some animal protein, usually a small amount of cheese but sometimes an egg or even small amounts of low carb nuts. I can eat some wheat, but only if it’s sprouted and not highly processed and eaten in a particular order with the rest of my food to avoid spikes in my sugars. I can’t eat rice, quinoa, or many tubers aside from sweet potatoes.
Hemp is an option, but I must also keep my fat intake to 20% of my total daily intake or risk exacerbating my blood glucose levels with too much fat, both in my food and on my body.
I’m wary of a Paleo diet because I neither want to eat meat nor do I much like fad diets. But I think it’s perfectly fine to take from it whatever principles work for each of us. While a purely Paleo diet is not for me, I find some of the plant-based recipes seem to meet the requirements of my particular dietary needs and body chemistry.
Thanks for posting this!
I was interested in your article as I have had some good results with regular paleo, but always want a lot more veggies. I have successfully foregone grains and grain-likes and legumes. One thing that needs to be stressed more when talking about the hunter-gatherer lifestyle is that it was a package deal. Most people will change their eating at least for some time and not their activity levels. Hunter/gatherers were constantly on the move looking for and taking down their food. They more likely ate a handful of berries here and there as they were looking for game. Also there had to be days when there was no meat so they would hit their stores of dried veg’s. Mostly though – they moved a heck of a lot more than modern man and it took a lot more strength and coordination than picking up the butchered cut at the grocery store. We need to get this is we really think paleo in any form is best.
about the zone diet- (for vegans)
can someone plz send me a weekely meal plan…
I’d like one of those, too, please!
A zone diet for paleo vegetarian/pescatarian. I will occasionally eat fish. And have egg whites.
Can you help me with a meal plan? I cannot find much so I always feel so hungry! I’m new to paleo and not that well with being a vegetarian. Its been 2 years since i’ve been vegetarian, but meal plan sucks there to.
i started looking into the paleo diet when i started doing crossfit about 6 months ago. two crossfit boxes, an injured knee, and an injured shoulder later, i no longer do crossfit, but instead do a combination of bikram yoga, pilates, and spinning. as a vegetarian, the paleo diet wasn’t something that was working out for me either. i found a great book called THRIVE by BRANDEN BRASIER: “the vegan nutrition guide to optimal performance in sports and life.” i highly recommend it for a full explanation of a healthful approach to a sustainable diet. i’m not a vegan so i do a combination of the paleo and thrive diets. i eat eggs, and in moderation consume legumes. i also have a cheat day once a week where i can eat some carbs and sugars. but, in terms of getting all the amino acids my body needs to build proteins, i have a smoothie for dinner after every workout (about 4 times a week) that contains: 1 tbsp of hemp protein power, 2 tsp of brown rice protein powder, and 4 tsp of yellow pea protein powder. they are all raw, low glycemic, contain a negligible about of carbs and, together, give the vegetarian a complete protein.
Thank you for this article! Maybe 5 years later, but I got to it and it’s great to see someone actually considering paleo for vegetarians. I do usually opt for number 1 type, as I love eggs a ton. But I have times when I feel eating even one more egg would make me throw up immediately. Those times I go for cheese, or quark, and very rarely I have some beans,chickpeas, or tofu. It works for me much more than when I used to eat typical carbo-high vegetarian meals. Would never want the ups and downs of sugar levels back. Once again, great article, thanks for sharing 😉
thanks for the helpful article. I’m not an athlete, but I’m a vegetarian following a mainly paleo diet for the past year due to auto-immune illness. It’s worked wonderfully for my health. On the prescription of my ‘functional health practitioner’ I am eating way more than 6 eggs a week, 3-4/day is good. I used to be close to vegan but eggs are good for you it seems, especially the fats in the yolk. I’m also eating fermented pulses, eg: tempeh/tofu and mushrooms are apparently great protein too.
On another note, I have been making cup-cakes very successfully using ground almonds, eggs, coconut oil and small amounts of sweetener such as maple syrup/honey. After 6 months of no treats I decided that I really needed cake. There are lots of great paleo cake recipes out there.
Good luck to all you paleo vegetarians out there!
I’m not so sure I agree with statements like “we are built to eat meat.” Are we? Humans have no claws, no ripping incisor teeth to shred meat. Our intestines are long, like those of other vegetarian creatures, not short, like the digestive tracts of carnivores, which would indicate that meat protein would get hung up inside and putrify in our long human intestines. In addition to not wanting to kill others for my food, this examination of my own physiology reinforces to me that my body is NOT designed to process meat effectively. Food for thought! :>)
By this logic, we are also not suited for eating grains. Try going out into a field of ripe wheat and having a meal. A lot of processing has to take place to render it edible to us and even then it is a gut irritant for many people. The animals geared towards eating these foods often have multi-compartmental stomachs for breaking down cellulose which we don’t. Using only intestinal length is probably not the best way to measure food adaptation either. When measured from “business end” to mouth our 8 to 1 ratio lies about in the middle between obligate carnivores like dogs (3.5 to 1) and cats (3 to 1), and herbivores like cows (20 to 1) and horses (12 to 1). That makes sense to me since I neither want to eat only meat or only plants.
We have been using tools to eat meat for at least 2 million years according to the fossil record (and grains for only 10,000). I don’t see how tools, over such a long time period, don’t equate to “ripping incisor teeth” and, in any case, I shred meat with my teeth on occasion so it appears to be possible.
Here’s more information with links that contravenes the “we’re not made to eat meat” logic, if you are interested. http://www.marksdailyapple.com/meat-eating-human-evolution/#axzz3WHcq7RYH
As far as not killing others for your food goes, unfortunately, threshing machines do kill animals living in fields, and many of the products we use in everyday life (glue/adhesives, perfume, plastic bags, laundry products, nail polish, crayons, etc.)
No matter which diet is followed, absorption of macro and micronutrients depends on gut permeability. Mindfulness and practice of meditation increases permiability of membranes and such large quantities of protien are not required for human body. An overweight vegetarian with busy lifestyle who has HPA axis dysfunction can follow a ‘Kapha’ diet per Ayurveda. Vegetarian Atheletes should become familiar with their body constitution and know their body and mind weakness (dosha) and strengths and follow a specific diet and mind body practice that incorporates their specific doshas. No diet is good if it is not stuck to and if mindfulness is not practiced. Atheletes should also know the body constitution of their opponent and their weakneses. this will give them an edge over their opponent. All vegetarians should look into diets based out of Ayurvedic tradition.
I’m looking into this because I whilst I love meat, I can’t help thinking that the paleo lifestyle is elitist, meaning it’s expensive and we can’t continue to feed the world if we all adopted this lifestyle. I read this in the Guardian recently mentioning that cattle farming is unsustainable globally – got me thinking: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/jun/02/un-report-meat-free-diet
Given that if our paleo ancesters ate meat, they had to catch it first, it’s surely pretty obvious that they mainly wandered around with the kids trailing after them, all eating fruits, seeds, grains, insects, shellfish etc. I went veggo in the late 1970s while living in Europe where meat was raised intensively on grains imported from countries like Pakistan, where poor people not only couldn’t afford to eat much steak but couldn’t afford to keep up with the price of grains either. (And I read a book called Diet for a Small Planet about being a healthy veggo). These days there’s a much better reason to be veggo – beef and lamb contributes to global warming, Seriously, cow and sheep belches are a real emissions problem here in NZ (where they do eat grass). Think it’s a good idea to reduce the stodge/carbs in my diet but it’s a worry to read about toxicities of beans & lentils – well of course you soak and cook them first! – which are largely imported here so I’ve been trying to grow more of my own. That sort of leaves me with a paleo diet of eggs, butter and what my friends call rabbit food….
Was pondering this … I will be starting crossfit and paleo is the preferred diet of crossfitters … I’ve done the whole paleo thing beef chicken veg no grain but tbh the meat by body has a hard time digesting and I end up not feeling well so this option I will try and eat fish (doesn’t seems to bother stomach) and some quinoa as protein as well wish me luck
Thanks so much for this, I have spoken to a few people about how to try doing this and they look at me sideways. I have had digestive issues for about 10years now but my symptoms were never unbearable or even that uncomfortable so I didn’t feel to put much energy into correcting my diet. “Coincidently” I have been vegetarian (but very occasionally eating some fish) for 10 years and have played around with a vegan diet too which I did not feel very well on. Increasingly over the past 10 years hormonal issues, reproductive issues, skin issues have been more problematic. Its been a 10 year journey of playing with diet and lifestyle to get a balance and now I find myself looking at my diet in a new way. I had heard of Paleo before reading this article but I never paid much attention due to the importance of meat in the Paleo diet. After being advised by a few naturopaths to stop gluten I decided to try eliminating gluten but it didn’t feel enough. It felt that I needed to really cut down on grains altogether. I felt that un-soaked (most of the time) lentils and beans I have eaten so much of over the years I just did not want to eat anymore so I have stopped these as well. I have intuitively changed my diet over the past 4 weeks to pretty much option 1 and 2 that you have given in this article. I have been feeling a lot better. However, I have been eating so many eggs!! I have been aware that eating the number of eggs that I have been (10/week) feels too much but I haven’t known how to get enough protein without, and I have craved the eggs since I have reduced the grains. My feelings and thoughts around meat eating have been seriously challenged. I feel meat would be nourishing for my body and I love the taste however spiritually, emotionally I feel it would not be helpful for me to start eating meat again (this is based on no particular philosophy but just how I feel). I guess I feel there are other ways I can maintain my health without going back to meat. I don’t have access to wild meat and I don’t have hunting skills, even if I did I don’t feel its entirely necessarily so my motivation to hunt would not be high.. this is aside from the challenge I would have emotionally with killing an animal at all. So with all this said I am SO excited to play around more with option 2 and introduce option 3. It has been very timely reading this article and I thank so very much for sharing your ideas and insights!
5 seconds into reading and you say this: “But the Paleo diet is by no means veggie-friendly. It’s heavy on the protein and fat, and as we’ll see, most of the common vegetarian sources of protein are off limits.”………
Clearly you did not research any of the books/sites listed above because the Paleo diet puts veggies at the bottom of the pyramid so to speak. If anything this is what Vegan and Paleo have the most in common. Do your research first.
The key is to listen to your body. Yes, grains contain prolamines. Will your body develop a reaction to each and every one of them. I can’t tolerate almost all of the grains, including quinoa and even amaranth(!), but I can easily eat rice and buckwheat, so I can indulge myself to them once a fortnight. My relationships with nuts are complicated. I can eat some, I can’t eat others. I can eat any seafood with no problem whatsoever. I can eat white meat once every now and then. I will be sick for days from a piece of red meat. What diet is it? Paleo? Vegetarian? It’s my own diet that fits my own body. After all, you don’t have to follow each diet strictly. The goal is health and longevity. Read what centenarians eat. They eat everything in moderation.
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THANK YOU!! I really like the idea of the Paleo way of eating, but I can not eat an animal… not even grain-fed, happy-life, died-of-old-age animals!! I sincerely appreciate this article!!
Sure, because my genetics can’t have changed at all over hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. Thus eating a diet from millenia ago is going to be perfect, right? I’m sure it will suit me to a tee. I also think it would be necessary to refuse blood transfusions and live in a cave, because otherwise I’m not doing it right, am I? Grief almighty, lets get over the idea that ancient humans had it all sussed and start dealing with the issue that we’ve far from got it all sussed right now. There are people starving to death and westerners are freaking out about 5 grams of PUFA in their avocado, and whether cavemen ate lettuce or not. This kind of dietary obsession is a luxury for first world nations with no other aspect of control over their lives. Its like some kind of collective eating disorder.
As a MANY YEAR VEGETARIAN, I have found that too much soy, legumes and grains do not agree with me; neither does gluten and I have IBS… Go figure; a few years ago I had to start eating fish…. I could not stand it anymore and felt extremely deficient on my soy infused sustenance Currently I find I lack diversity in my diet as my grains are rare (maybe some quinoa or rice less than once a week) and I eat fish ALL THE TIME…. I feel this can not be good either; I DO EAT eggs…. But only about 6 per week… I get sick of them if I eat more than that.
The problem: red meat makes me cringe and I am SOOOO STRONGLY ANIMAL RIGHTS advocate I can not make the leap to get poultry… Although I’ve been trying to get my family afar to get me a wild turkey or one raised on farms nearby them for next thanksgiving cooked of course that I would not feel guilty eating it; I could never buy something like this on my own as I live alone. Ideas? Resources? Btw… What about seaweed… I’d love to incorporate more as it is so iodine and protein rich but where do you get it!!!!????
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There is a lot of confirmation bias on this thread. Wether it be for or against paleo, vegetarian or vegan. I just want to say that when ideas turn into beliefs they are harmful. That goes for everything; religion, politics, lifestyles and diets. I certainly applaud the experimentation through experience. However, “beliefs” allow people to live apart from reality, and allow harsh judgment based on those beliefs.
A couple questions that are not asked when it comes to the paleo diet’s aversion from grain and our (in)ability to digest it: how are genetically modified organisms different from the “real” thing? Do GMOs have more or less of the anti-nutrients they claim inhibit absorption? Might it be that allergies to foods that recently have become apparent have been caused by some new staple food item that we haven’t evolved to digest?
Just a couple thoughts from outside the box.
I know this article is old may be why it seems to have some tweaks in it like canola oil being one of them. As a I am on the paleo diet I definitely do not use canola oil. Too many preservatives. I would also like to point out that how amazed I am that people surround this diet on meat. If you are on the paleo diet you would know that meat is not in every meal and when it is eaten it is the size of the palm of your hand and will be eaten with lots of vegetables. I have a lot of respect for vegans and vegetarians and appreciate their passion. I too wish for a sustainable environment and support the local farmers and not the major chains that over produce animals and stuff their bellies with grains. Why do you think people suffer things like lactose, gluten and soy intolerance or eczema??!! These allergies have been proven to disappear when certain foods are eliminated from your diet. It is just not meant to be put in your body. Flower and water make paper mache, have you seen that stuff do you really want that in your stomach when eating breads and pastas.And for those who mentioned the ‘fad diet’ I will say I see so many people running their hearts out to loose weight putting strain on their bodies just to make sure they burn off that meal. I work out to tone but I do not run and I never have to count my calories. I simply listen to my body and if I am hungry I will eat. At the end of the day it is totally a lifestyle choice. I have tried most diets ie. vegetarian/vegan, athlete you name it and being Paleo is the best I have felt in a really long time. I just see a lot of people judging and criticizing something they don’t know or have tried.
Thanks for a great post, I’ve found this very helpful. The way I’m eating now, which is pretty much paleo but without meat from animals with legs so only from the sea and I try to avoid eggs, I find so easy. It’s a perfect way of eating for me! Probably doesn’t suit everyone but I’ve found that meat from land a animals have a different impact on my body than fish. How do you feel?
Did you write a follow-up post on this topic after you completed the experiment? I’m curious how you felt dropping gluten grains. Did it affect your running?
I have a request. I am currently on the SCD diet. I have found out that I am allergic to eggs and dairy, which makes baking SCD loaf bread and flat bread difficult. I was wondering if you can try to make an SCD bread or wrap without eggs. It would mean so much to me and other SCDers who suffer from the same allergies. Please let me know if you have any advice.
Hi there, I wanted to ask a question of that’s ok.. I have gastritis for 2 years now and have tried differend kinds of medicine, but they did not help at all. So I wanted to fix it naturally. But the problem is that I don’t know what to eat anymore sinds I was on a meat and fish free paleo diet and now I can’t handle eggs or other kind of animal protein anymore. I was hoping you guys know what I can eat to get a little more protein in my diet? I have looked on the internet for recipes but a lot of them include lentils and beans and eggs and soy producs. The only thing left are nuts, seeds and vegetables but I find it hard to make something tastefull from it. (Sorry for my englisch, it’s not my first language. )
Eat what you love.
I just started to learn about the Paleo diet and I do think it is extremely important to eat more “raw food.” I am vegetarian and everything I read about Paleo is great, expect the meat part. Even as I read some of the comments here…many people switched from vegetarian to Paleo. However, I think some of the fundamental reasons behind being vegetarian are missing. Sure, some are vegetarian for the health benefits but many are concerned for the welfare of the animal or concerned about their mistreatment to produce the meat. Personally, I believe in the food chain and although I cringe sometimes at the thought of killing an animal, I do think eating meat is important. With all of this, I don’t eat meat. There are three reasons I don’t eat meat: (1) the way it is processed in the US (2) the poor working conditions for places that produce meat (3) ENVIRONMENT. It takes waaaaay less water to produce veggies than it does meat. I believe eating meat is causing the planet some of its problems. SOOOOOOO, yes Paleo and vegetarian ideas kind of clash, but please….how can I make this work? I want to be both!!!!
Mushrooms are also a good source of vegan protein.
Some paleo eaters add dairy, if they have lineage from Europe or parts of Africa or southwest Asia where dairy goes back a long time. Limiting the animal products to eggs, dairy, and/ or seafood is very doable with paleo.
There is a common misconception (even among paleo eaters) that paleo “relies heavily on meat”. The original literature never suggested that. Yes hunter-gatherers consumed on average about 50% animal foods. But that’s by calories, not volume or weight. Since plant foods are far less calorie dense than animals, in practical terms this means that only 1/4 to 1/3 of the plate would be animal foods. Not meat heavy, in fact not much different than the USDA myplate. The bigger difference compared to the modern diet is the kinds of carbs that are allowed, namely grains being replaced with roots and tubers.
I agree humans evolved to be omnivores. There are no traditional societies, hunter-gatherer or agricultural, that were vegan. Although modern adult individuals can do well as vegans, multi-generational societies don’t seem to do well as vegans. But neither do we need much animal food: throw just a little animal food into the diet and we do just fine. There are several prominent vegetarian societies.
Boring?. What are you talking about?. You’re getting way more variety by eating all those different plant based protein sources than a slab of animal.
You should eat more indian food!. 🙂
Thanks for the overview, but it’s still not clear to me what level of protein I take your plan is based on. Also, I see you don’t offer a one day sample of your meal plan. Many of us have food allergies or similar considerations that further complicate initiating a kickstart. Do you offer a refund for your meal plan fee if it proves to be not feasible due to such issues?
You have a bias with regards to eating meat (thumbs up on your end) and it is clear. Why bother writing this article? Also, your numbers etc are far from accurate.
With your pro-meat eating stance why are you writing for a no meat website?
I actually read this article looking for information and was sorely disappointed.
Great article. I was “paleo” for years, but had been vegetarian prior to that. But since the arguments behind paleo did make sense and I also had joined a crossfit gym, I switched from vegetarian to paleo. However, I have converted back to almost vegan (no dairy, but on rare occasions an egg) for ethical reasons. Most articles/books I have read on nutrition and health can be down right hostile towards any way of eating except for the one that article is touting (paleo, keto, vegan, veg, carnivore, etc.). I find that stance unproductive which is why I liked the tone of your article – open minded and acknowledging that while other diets (in this case paleo) can have legit nutritional arguments, we choose to not eat animals and can be fit and healthy within a vegan/veg framework.
Hi! Thank you for posting this! The article is really interesting and your explanations are simple. I was really looking for this information
This sounds reasonable, even if extremely dull. But if we’re meant to eat meat, why be vegetarian at all?
Because you do not need to kill animals in order to live.
I’m curious how your kickstart meal plan works with someone who has hyperkalemia and needs to avoid high levels of potassium. Suggestions?
Please send me a diet chart for one week vegetarian diet
The Paleo diet is goofy. Look at our teeth. Not exactly those of a carnivore. And it’s amusing to see the Paleo crowd diving into meats, veggies and et cetera that are nothing like those eaten by the real paleo crowd.
The only reason we consume protein is to get amino acids in our bodies. Amino acids are abundant in vegetables. By eating a large amount and a huge variety of leafy greens, spirulina, vegetables and seeds, you get all the essential and non essential aminos you need. No need to consume complete proteins in the form of meat or legumes.
Hi ,I am suhani from India nd i m suffering from autoimmune disorder vth cronic constipation nd i m a vegetarian what meal prep should I follow to solve my problem as I have intestine infections plzzzzzz help me out i m in a stage that I believe only God can save me plzz help me out 🙏
Great article. Thanks.
I’ve eaten everything from macrobiotic to strict Paleo.
I’m a mid-life CrossFit athlete.
And in the last 6 months the heavy meat of Paleo just doesn’t work. It takes me days to “recover” from a meat based meal. I can do fish no problem.
I’ve shifted to sprouted/germinated beans, legumes & nuts. I even found a tofu that is made from sprouted soy beans.
Again. Thanks for this excellent and well written piece.
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