Paleo Diet vs. Vegan: Which is a Healthier Option?

Are you looking for a healthy diet? Two options you have are paleo diet vs vegan. Paleo only allows hunter-gatherer foods while Vegan swaps out all animal products. Vegans claim only eating whole foods is healthier while Paleos claim theirs is best for immune system problems.

Paleo vs. Vegan Diet

Are you looking for a new diet? Two of the popular options are the Paleo Diet and Vegan Diet. In paleo diet vs. vegan, they take two very different approaches to diet since the “caveman diet” (Paleo) avoids all types of food produced after the start of agriculture, while the plant-based diet (Vegan) swaps out all animal products. National Geographic recently researched the eating habits in world regions with the longest-living people. They weren’t vegan per se, but up to 95% plant-based. Meanwhile, animal protein contains all nine essential amino acids (EAAs), and some nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, can be tougher to get without eating meat, eggs, and dairy.

It’s safe to say there’s no “perfect” diet. For example, the Paleo Diet doesn’t include grains and beans because they were grown after the birth of agriculture. These foods are loaded in nutrients like Vitamin Bs and fiber. Meanwhile, the Vegan diet doesn’t include meat, eggs, milk, cheese, and yogurt. Meat and dairy contain all 9 EAAs and are excellent sources of protein, calcium, and zinc. In finding out which diet is healthier, it’s important to learn the basics of each diet and doing a side-by-side comparison. In a nutshell, this is a battle of the “Caveman” and “Enlightened” diets.

What’s The Paleo Diet?

The name is based on the paleolithic era in which hunter-gatherer humans ate what was available before the birth of agriculture. The so-called Stone Age lasted to about 8000 BC.

The irony of this diet is ancient humans left no written records about what they ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. However, it’s believed they ate whole foods since they only had access to basic tools for preparing their food/meals.

It’s also believed cavemen had lower rates of health conditions like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. While Fred Flintstone didn’t do gym workouts, the hunter-gatherer lifestyle provided lots of physical activity whether it was hunting deer or picking strawberries.

Many studies imply that Paleo might provide several benefits. That includes big weight loss without doing any calorie counting. It also might improve the immune system’s function. 

Contrary to a common myth, cavemen didn’t just eat meat. They also ate lots of other foods like fruits, veggies, and seeds. The foods they ate were based on factors like what was available and where they lived.

So, there was a wide range of diets paleo people ate. Some ate a high-carb diet that included tons of plant-based foods. Others ate pre-Atkins low-carb by consuming a high amount of animal protein. 

When eating on the Paleo Diet, you should eat foods like:

  • Meat/Fish
  • Eggs
  • Veggies
  • Fruits
  • Nuts/Seeds
  • Herbs/Spices
  • Healthy fats/oils

There are also various foods to avoid:

  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Beans
  • Dairy
  • Grains
  • Margarine
  • Processed foods
  • Sodas
  • Sugar
  • Trans fat
  • Vegetable oils

There are also some modified Paleo diets you can follow. The main difference is they sometimes allow various modern foods that health experts generally list as healthy. They include rice and other gluten-free grains, and grass-fed butter.

One interesting thing about Paleo is it’s often used as a foundation to use for diets instead of a diet whose rules/restrictions you should follow to a tee.

What Is The Vegan Diet?

First, it’s important to note the difference between vegetarian and vegan diets. Vegetarian diets allow no meat like pork, beef, chicken, and fish. However, vegan diets remove all animal products, including meat, eggs, and dairy.

This might sound like a small difference. However, in terms of food choices, it will be tougher to get certain nutrients like Vitamin B12, calcium, and zinc when you’re avoiding all animal products. It’s not impossible, but certainly tougher.

Today more people are going vegan for different reasons. They include health, social, and environmental reasons. For example, some people want to reduce belly fat, or lower blood pressure/cholesterol levels. Others consider eating animal meat as inhumane or are concerned about the effects grazing cattle have on the Earth’s environment.

Regardless of why you go vegan, it can provide several health benefits. They include weight loss and lower blood sugar.

It’s important to note that there are different types of vegan diets. They include:

1. Whole Food

This is based on various whole plant-based foods like grains, vegetables, beans, fruits, seeds, and nuts.

2. Raw Food

This version only allows uncooked foods like vegetables, fruits, seeds, or nuts. Sometimes cooked foods are allowed but they must be cooked under 118-degrees F or 48-degrees C.

3. Fruitarian

This is known by other names like low-fat, 80/10/10, and others. The main type of food is soft greens and raw fruits. Some high-fat foods like avocados and nuts are also allowed. 

4. Starch Solution

This is similar to the fruitarian diet. However, it focuses on rice, potatoes, corn, and other cooked starches rather than fruit.

Studies show that the vegan diet can provide several benefits. They include reducing the risk of obesity, type-2 diabetes, and heart disease. It also might help to reduce the risk of arthritis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.

The vegan diet risks deficiencies of some nutrients including:

Vitamin B12

  • Vitamin D
  • Omega-3s
  • Calcium
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Zinc

Paleo Diet vs. Vegan

So, which diet is healthier when comparing Paleo and Vegan? As always, it’s a loaded question since both diets have pros and cons. It’s better to look at both of them to determine which one is right for your particular situation.

Paleo Diet: Pros And Cons

While Paleo includes animal proteins it ditched refined carbs/sugar. This can provide various health benefits like lower cholesterol. This can help to lower blood pressure and the risk of type-2 diabetes.

Meanwhile, one of the drawbacks of Paleo (and Vegan) is the potential loss of nutrients due to no dairy. You can get those nutrients from foods like green leafy veggies and nuts/seeds. It’s possible to still get all your Daily Value (DV) of certain nutrients but it’s tougher without milk, cheese, and yogurt.

Vegan Diet: Pros And Cons

One of the main benefits of vegan diets is it ditches all the saturated fats in animal protein. Meat can be a high source of different nutrients. However, it can also increase cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease if you consume a lot of beef and pork, for example.

A related issue is more plant-based “meats” keep getting rolled out to the market. For example, in recent years veggie burgers like the Impossible Burger have improved in terms of taste and texture.

If you’re on the Vegan diet there’s a risk of not getting enough certain nutrients. They include Vitamin B12 and iron. You can get them from foods like dried beans and green leafy vegetables. Meanwhile, you can still get Vitamin B12 from sources like fortified breakfast cereal and supplements.

Finally, what do people on Paleo or Vegan say? Paleo supporters argue their diet is better for immune system problems and appetite control.

Meanwhile, Vegans say all needed vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants are in plant-based foods, so that’s the biggest issue in paleo diet vs. vegan.

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