Is vegan healthy? Is paleo healthy? vegan vs paleo: what is best for me?
I am 100% sure that you are curious about what is the best choice as a diet for your health & fitness if you have all these sorts of questions haunting your mind, but you are not alone….
In fact, this “vegan vs paleo diet” debate has been going on for the last many years and does not seem to settle somewhere. But here today in this post, I am going to try to settle this debate.
So, if you are really curious about the vegan vs paleo debate, then you can’t afford to miss out on an authentic and detailed comparative analysis to help pick the best possible diet choice for you.
What is a Vegan diet?: Foods to eat & benefits
No questions about that as a vegan diet has become insanely popular in recent times but what does a vegan diet mean?.
Essentially, the vegan diet is derived from the “Veganism” ideology which defines a way of living and consumption excluding all forms and shapes of animal cruelty and exploitation for obtaining any kind of clothing, food or any human purpose.
Another important reason for becoming vegan is environmental health concerns and other ethical issues. So, the final shape of a vegan diet is that it is devoid of any sort of animal products like eggs, dairy, and meat, etc. to say the least
Foods to eat on a vegan diet
Since vegans are health-conscious, their diet is plant-based devoid of any animal products. So their vegan-based diet sources are as below
- Whole grains and cereals. Foods like Spelt, teff, amaranth, and quinoa are which are very good high-protein options and a lot of vitamins in them.
- Sprouted and fermented plant foods: Foods like Ezekiel bread, tempeh, miso, natto, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, and kombucha, etc.
- Fruits and vegetables. For them, all fruits are a great source of important multivitamins and minerals, especially iron and calcium. Vegetables they like are leafy green such as bok choy, spinach, kale, watercress, and mustard greens are particularly high in iron and calcium.
- Tofu, tempeh, and seitan. Foods like meat, fish, poultry, and eggs in many recipes.
- Legumes: Foods like beans, lentils, and peas are excellent sources of many nutrients.
- Nuts and nut butter: these nuts and nut butter are good sources of iron, fiber, magnesium, zinc, selenium and vitamin E
- Seeds: seeds like hemp, chia, and flax seeds are a good source of protein and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids
- Calcium-fortified plant milk and yogurts: These are required for their calcium requirements
- Algae: algae like Spirulina and chlorella are good examples of algae that serve their protein needs.
- Nutritional yeast: This is helpful in increasing their protein content and add some tasty flavor to their diets.
Foods to avoid on a vegan diet
Since vegans avoid any sort of food which is derived from animals, so all types of animal products are prohibited for them. The list of such products include:
- Eggs: all types of eggs from chickens, quails, ostriches, fish, etc.
- Bee products: Honey, bee pollen, royal jelly, etc.
- Animal-based ingredients: all animal-derived ingredients like casein, egg white, gelatin, carmine, shellac, L-cysteine and all kinds of omega fatty acids and much more.
- Meat and poultry: Beef, lamb, pork, veal, horse, organ meat, wild meat, chicken, turkey, goose, duck, quail, etc.
- Fish and seafood: All types of fish, anchovies, shrimp, squid, scallops, calamari, mussels, crab, lobster, etc.
- All kinds of dairy: Milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, cream, ice cream, etc.
Vegan diet benefits
The following are some of the popular vegan diet benefits that vegan lovers swear by, according to Healthline.
1. Vegan weight loss – A vegan diet can help you lose weight
You will generally find vegans to be overall thinner than non-vegans. This might explain why most of the people like a vegan diet because they want to lose weight.
One reason for this type of result can be explained by the fact that vegans took a lot of fibers in their diet which is an appetite suppressor. So naturally, they took lesser calories and yet they felt fuller for extended periods of time.
2.Vegan diet can be helpful in blood sugar and type 2 diabetes.
Having a vegan diet may help keep your blood sugar in check and prevent 2 diabetes.
Several studies have found that vegans benefit lower blood sugar levels and up to 80% of low risk of having type 2 diabetes.
Also, vegans diet research found that their blood sugar levels were low as compared to diets recommended by the ADA, NCEP. The researchers explained that this could be because of their high fiber intake which counters the high blood sugar levels.
A vegan diet’s weight loss effects may further contribute to its ability to lower blood sugar levels.
3. Vegan diets can be good for your Heart Health
A vegan diet can be a blessing for your heart
Many studies report vegans may have up to an 80% lower risk of developing high blood pressure and a 40% lower risk of dying from heart disease.
Also, many reports have found that vegan diets can be effective in lowering blood sugar levels, LDL and total cholesterol levels as compared to many other types of diets.
Other Vegan diet benefits
- Low cancer risk: Vegans have been found to have a 15% lower risk of developing a deadly cancer
- Prevents Arthritis: Vegan diets can be useful in minimizing the symptoms of arthritis such as pain, joint swelling, etc.
- Healthy Kidney function: Diabetics who replaced meat for plant protein may lower the risk of kidney damage.
- Reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease: many observational researchers have found that some aspects of a vegan diet can keep the risk of Alzheimer’s disease away.
Risks associated with a vegan diet
While we have talked about the amazing benefits of a vegan diet, but it’s not devoid of some of the harms/cons attached to it. Let’s find these out and give you the opportunity to make an informed opinion about it
1. A vegan diet can cause a deficiency of vitamins
In fact, studies have found that vegans are at a greater risk of having low blood levels of
- vitamin B12,
- vitamin D,
- long-chain omega-3s,
Tips to minimize these side effects
- Always try to opt for more nutrient-rich plant foods and limit the quantity of processed vegan foods.
- Regularly consume foods full of vitamin D, calcium, vitamins B12, and other fortified foods. Furthermore, vegans can also try fermenting, sprouting and cooking foods to meet their calcium and iron requirements.
- Avoid tea or coffee after meals and using a source of vitamin C can increase your overall iron intake.
- Add some seaweed and iodized salt to your diet to fulfill your iodine intake
Sample vegan diet menu plan
For a sample of vegan diet menu, I will be giving you three days menu to just sort of help you understand what kind of vegan diet menu you should choose to not only fulfill your nutrients requirement but also to avoid any deficiency thereafter.
- Breakfast: A Mango and spinach smoothie made with fortified plant milk and
- Lunch: A baked tofu sandwich with tomato salad.
- Dinner: Vegan chili on with amaranth.
- Breakfast: Whole-grain toast with hazelnut butter, and a fortified plant yogurt.
- Lunch: Tofu noodle soup with some vegetables.
- Dinner: sweet potatoes with lettuce, corn, beans
- Breakfast: vegan chickpea made with fortified plant milk.
- Lunch: Vegan tacos with mango-pineapple salsa.
- Dinner: Tempeh stir-fry with bok choy and broccoli.
Vegan Diet types
A vegan diet is not just one type of diet, there are quite a number of different types of diets associated with a vegan diet that has its own followers.
1. Whole-food vegan diet:
This type of vegan diet is based on, as the name indicates a long list of wholesome plant foods like vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, and nuts & seeds.
2. Raw-food vegan diet
This type of vegan diet based on raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, foods cooked at low temperatures like below 48 degrees Celsius or below 118 F.
3. 80-10-10 vegan diet
This type of vegan diet is a raw-food vegan diet that restricts fatty plants such as avocados and nuts and instead relies on raw fruits and soft greens limits. This vegan diet is known is other names like fruitarian diet, raw food diet or low-fat diet.
4. The starch solution vegan diet
This type of vegan diet is similar to the 80/10/10 mentioned above but its main focus is only cooked starches sources of food like rice, potatoes but no fruit at all.
5. Raw till 4 vegan diet
This kind of a vegan diet is a low-fat diet inspired by 80/10/10 and starch solution diet. The idea is to consume your raw foods until 4 p.m. but you have the choice to have a delicious cooked plant-based meal for your night dinner.
6. The thrive diet
The thrive diet is another kind of vegan diet based on raw food. The lovers of this diet are supposed to eat whole foods, plant-based and minimally cooked at very low temperatures.
7. Junk-food vegan diet
This post deals with a vegan diet as a whole not based upon some of the above-mentioned diet types.
What is a Paleo diet?
First thing: What does a paleo diet mean?
The ideology of the paleo diet is to “go back to the future” i.e go back to the times when the human hasn’t developed modern means of eating i.e what human hunters used to eat thousands of years ago.
So the food of ancient humans was “whole food” and by leading relatively high physical active lives and they were able to maintain lower rates of diseases like diabetes, obesity and fewer health issues.
Foods to eat on a paleo diet
On paleo, your whole food menu should be based on unprocessed, whole foods like these
- Meat: Beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, pork, and others.
- Fish and seafood: Salmon, trout, haddock, shrimp, shellfish(preferably caught with your own hands)
- Eggs: Choose free-range, pastured eggs.
- Vegetables: Broccoli, kale, peppers, onions, carrots, tomatoes, etc.
- Fruits: Apples, bananas, oranges, pears, avocados, strawberries, blueberries and more.
- Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, etc.
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and more.
- Healthy fats and oils: Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and others.
- Salt and spices: Sea salt, garlic, turmeric, rosemary, etc.
Foods to avoid on a paleo diet
On paleo, avoid these foods at all
- Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup: Soft drinks, fruit juices, table sugar, candy, pastries, ice cream, etc.
- Grains: Includes bread and pasta, wheat, spelled, rye, barley, etc.
- Legumes: lentils, beans, and much more.
- Low-fat Dairy: Avoid low-fat (some paleo diets do contain high fat)
- vegetable oils: sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, and others.
- Trans fats: also called “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils. Mostly found in processed foods
- Artificial sweeteners: Aspartame, sucralose, cyclamates, saccharin, acesulfame potassium.
- High processed foods: Everything labeled “diet” or “low-fat”. It also Includes artificial meal replacements.
- Red wine
- Dark chocolate
Paleo diet benefits
The following are the popular benefits of a paleo diet that paleo lovers swear by.
1. Paleo diet can help in weight loss
Paleo diet can be a source of weight loss as it completely removes processed carbs off the dining table because the paleo diet means natural carbs which automatically excludes grains since they are not processed.
If this is coupled with avoiding high carb foods sources, it easily can reduce body fat levels and ultimately weight loss.
A study in 2014 was found to support the idea of beneficial effects of the paleo diet on reducing fat mass, obesity, and triglyceride hormones levels in women
Similarly, a 2016 study found that healthy women who consumed a paleo diet were able to lose more weight compared to those following a typical low-fat diet to lose weight.
However, there are studies that don’t support the idea of the paleo diet is effective in weight loss efforts; in fact, it can cause weight gain. So be cautious and ate a balanced diet instead.
2. Paleo increase your insulin sensitivity to avoid diabetes
This is simple to understand; since your paleo diet contains fewer carbs, so it suppresses the demand on your pancreas to produce more insulin. As a result, the insulin levels in your blood drop.
Researchers have also found that it can lower the quantity of insulin secretion which can indirectly lead to an improvement in the effectiveness of insulin.
This helps suppress insulin resistance which is the primary driver of diabetes type 2.
3. Paleo diet can improve your heart health
As described above, since the paleo diet can suppress insulin levels and hence diabetes type 2 risk. This, in turn, can benefit your heart because diabetes often accompanies heart issues.
Moreover, it also helps to significantly reduce total cholesterol levels in your blood which often chokes your arteries resulting in a heart attack.
A study conducted in 2015 found that the paleo diet was helpful in lowering the overall cholesterol levels of your body. Moreover, it also helped lower your LDL, triglycerides levels and increase healthy HDL levels, on the other hand.
4. Paleo diet gives your more energy
Since the diets included in the paleo menu includes foods low on overall GI(glycemic index ), which means that your body will never experience the drop in your energy levels which can occur if you are taking sugary content more often.
5. Paleo diet can fight inflammation in your body
Since too much inflammation in your body increases the risk of serious health problems like type 2 diabetes, a paleo diet menu like low carb foods, low GI foods like eggs contains omega fatty acids that have been known to fight inflammation.
Further, plant foods like fruits, vegetables, oils, and seeds, etc also offer solid anti-inflammation properties.
According to a study made in 2016 found that adopting a paleo diet can fight the causes of inflammation. However, more evidence is required to confirm this fact.
6. Paleo diet is a clean diet
You always have a clean, purely natural food on your table which is free from any artificial flavors
7. Paleo diet can suppress hunger
Since in the paleo diet your natural protein intake is higher, which is naturally appetite suppressor, you are very likely to remain full for extended periods of time.
So this has the potential to help you in weight loss since your body will be craving fewer calories and relying on your body fat stores for energy
Common risks associated with a paleo diet
With all its amazing benefits, however, the paleo diet can bear some problems. So what are these risks/cons/harms attached to the paleo diet? Let’s find out.
1. Paleo diet can get costly – Due to its high protein and organic nature of foods, you have to spend some money to buy and enjoy
2. Paleo diet can reduce your fiber intake – Since paleo restricts intake of whole grains and legumes, your body fiber levels can decrease.
3. Not entirely fit for modern humans – the Paleo diet is not easy to adopt because modern humans are different from their ancestors.
Sample paleo diet menu
I will be giving you the menu for only 3 days as an example which will help you in understanding what foods to eat at different meals time.
- Breakfast: Eggs and a piece of fruit.
- Lunch: A little beef fry and a handful of nuts.
- Dinner: Fried pork with vegetables.
- Breakfast: Eggs and vegetables fried in coconut oil.
- Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil.
- Dinner: Steak with vegetables and sweet potatoes.
- Breakfast: Bacon and eggs.
- Lunch: Leftover steak and some vegetables.
- Dinner: Baked salmon with avocado.
Vegan vs Paleo: what is best for you?
Before choosing one over the other, you have to accept the fact that the typical trust we have on our choices may not be logically sustainable.
In other words, what we often hear about the superiority of vegan over paleo or paleo over vegan is not entirely dependable. Rather it has a big research problem with all studies supporting each of its groups.
Common problems with nutritional research
Since there are some glaring problems with the nutritional studies done about both of these two diet types, to make an informed decision, we can’t be oblivious to this fact.
The following are some of the common problems associated with incomplete and inconclusive nutritional research.
1. No credible research studies
Research studies supporting their favoring vegan or paleo are not credible, are rather confusing because of the following reasons.
On one side, Vegan diet studies show they help with weight loss, reverse diabetes and lower cholesterol but on the other side, Paleo diets seem to do the same thing.
So what is the point of choosing one over another? Why not just stick to one since it kills two birds with one stone.
So should you be shunning animal foods and eating only beans, grains and veggies or should you eat meat and fat and set aside all types of grains and beans?
2. New studies not challenging previous studies
There is no better search than that challenges the credibility of a previously done study. Many experimental studies on both vegan or paleo diets since having only small numbers of people in the study, which makes it very hard to draw the obvious conclusion.
3. Insufficient sample sizes of studies
Finally, the causation and correlation effects are not the best one since the number of people representing that study is not enough to generalize the whole population. It is very much possible that they have their own biases involved.
The bottom line: Each camp religiously attaches itself to their favorite type of diet. In such a situation, it is pointless to choose one over the other because there is no scientific credibility.
Are you vegan or paleo?
Before deciding whether you are vegan or paleo, you should never forget that a balanced diet is more important than whether it is vegan or paleo.
Because if the paleo diet is balanced, then there is no point keeping it off the table and similarly if vegan is balanced, why it should be thrown off the table.
So it’s all about eating what makes you feel good, helps you lose excess fat and keep you healthy. There is no vegan vs paleo debate. But you are now wondering, what is a balanced diet? Is it vegan or paleo?
The answer is it neither a vegan or paleo, it is paleo-vegan or pegan.
Why you should be pegan (paleo-vegan)?
Think, reflect on this; Who is a pegan, or paleo-vegan?
A pegan is one who doesn’t choose one over the other. He cherry-picks what is best for him in a vegan diet in terms of a well-balanced diet. Similarly, he cherry-picks what is best for him in paleo in terms of a well-balanced diet.
Commonalities between paleo and vegan lovers
- They all focus on the following qualities in food like real, whole, fresh food, sustainably raised.
- Both vegan and paleo avoid dairy.
- Both limit the amount of grains intake.
- Both prefer low glycemic foods and prefer low portions.
- Both limit the number of beans.
- Excessive use of meat is a problem for paleo people too and has been found to cause heart problems(vegan already don’t consume it). So all meats are not equal for paleo lovers.
How to be a vegetarian paleo?
As described above, there are a lot of commonalities between paleo and vegan diets and a lot of critical problems with the credibility of the research carried out in support of their favorite types of diets.
So, instead of falling prey to endless debate over which of the two to choose from, you should focus on a more well-balanced diet that is derived from both of the categories which then you can call a vegetarian paleo diet or a high-fat vegan diet.
But is a vegetarian paleo diet? It is just another name for a balanced diet. Below are some common characteristics of a balanced diet.
What is a balanced diet?
Here are the characteristics of a healthy, well-balanced diet everyone agrees on.
- It is low on glycemic content i.e it is very low in sugar. Foods low in sugar are refined carbohydrates, flour, and grains, etc.
- It is rich in fruits & vegetables. All kinds of fruits and vegetables, except very high glycemic fruits like berries.
- No artificial chemicals: there are no artificial chemicals like dyes, preservatives, artificial sweeteners
- High in quality fats – good quality fats like omega 3 fats for all and olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados.
- Adequate quantity of protein: The optimal level of protein is required for appetite control and muscle building.
- Rich in Organic, fresh foods: Ideally organic, local and fresh foods should be the majority of your diet.
- Organic animal products are consumed they should be organically raised or grass-fed.
- Low toxin & low mercury fish: If you are eating fish you should choose low mercury 6 and low toxin containing fish such as sardines, herring, and anchovies or other small fish and avoid tuna, swordfish and Chilean
In the above list, as we see a well balanced have food choices from both groups, not from paleo or vegan.
This way of eating makes the most sense for our health and the health of our planet. It is sustainable and kinder to animals. With this, I hope I would have settled the debate of ‘vegan vs paleo”.