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I know what you’re thinking: Jason has gone completely mad by suggesting that there could possibly be a way to create a lovechild out of a plant-based diet and one that heavily involves eating meat and fish.
But my fascination with diets always takes me down unexpected rabbit holes. And as much as I get turned off by the idea of eating meat, I like working out whether any of the claimed benefits are true.
Paleo diets are one such area that really did intrigue me because, on the face of it, there seemed to be some good arguments. So I went digging deeper and found that there is an entire niche where people have explored combining paleo and vegan.
But let’s start with some of the basics first.
Let me warn you from the start, the first couple of sections here will involve animal products, and I’m certainly not suggesting that vegans should abandon their healthy lifestyle.
A lot of people refer to paleo as a pure fad diet that was constructed by meat eaters to justify their behavior towards animals. But, I don’t like using arguments like that because they really don’t help things.
And there certainly are a lot of people that have shown some incredible results.
The entire concept around the paleo diet is that you only eat what our prehistoric ancestors would have had available. This includes foods like beef, lamb, poultry, fish, shellfish, and eggs. (1)
But it also includes a lot of fruits and vegetables, which do seem to make up a large percent of a paleo meal plan. You’ll also often see a heavy focus on nuts and seeds, which would have been of significant importance to our hunter-gatherer ancestors.
One area that is pretty much completely off-limits is any type of grains because, during paleolithic times, modern farming methods simply weren’t available yet. And dairy products are also generally not allowed.
Except for the eating meat part, this all seems quite straightforward, but why go through this effort?
The idea is that while thousands of years have passed, and our diets have massively changed, our metabolisms have simply not evolved in the same way. Basically, we’re eating stuff that could be making us sick.
So, aside from the animal products, my interest still kept me going, so I talked to my dietitian about all these claims of benefits.
By relying heavily on nuts and seeds, as well as fruits and vegetables, with grains and sugar taken out of the picture altogether, paleo dieters certainly seem to be onto something.
First of all, you will really be cutting down on your highly processed carb and sugar intake. I have long been suspicious that these led to my illness several years ago, as I really was a bit of a sugar junky for a long time.
So, with more balanced blood sugar, insulin sensitivity will reduce, which can have some really big impacts on your overall health.
But there are also good reasons to believe the claims that the diet has some profound benefits for weight loss and maintenance. By cutting out all the crap people tend to eat every day, including sugar, saturated fat, and all those chemical preservatives, it’s no surprise that your body will start to become healthier.
But, I did find a few downsides as well.
It really surprised me that so many members of the Institute of Functional Medicine made references to paleo in their bios. But, there were quite a few that would agree that there are some side effects to be aware of.
Firstly, eating meat in larger quantities will expose you to a lot more of the really harmful fats. (2) And even with sustainably raised animals, there will be some likely exposure to antibiotics and pesticides.
The other problem is that you can struggle to get all the nutrition from a more limited list of products, especially when you’re cutting out a lot of grains. And this also means that supplements are off the table.
As a result, paleo diets can leave you exposed to a lack of vitamins and minerals that you can otherwise easily get with a booster.
Believe it or not, but questions like this really got me thinking and researching for hours at a time. And I have come to a personal conclusion that some might disagree with.
Because the Paleo diet is all about eating exactly what our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate, in my opinion, that would have to include eating meat.
And if you strip out all the animal products from paleo, then it really isn’t paleo anymore.
At least that’s my line of thinking, but I have come up with a way to marry the two concepts into one, and that is by simply switching around a few words and referring to a paleo vegan diet.
So, I already mentioned why I don’t think true paleo can be transformed into a vegan version. A lot of people might disagree, but life is too short to get hung up on terminology.
The reason I believe paleo vegan works better is that the underlying concept is still veganism, but you’re taking a paleolithic approach by restricting what plants you can and can’t eat.
And, it gives you a really great name for a diet: Pegan!
Basically, it is one part paleo concept, applied to a normal vegan diet with quite a big focus on fresh and organic food sources. And very much like with normal paleo that involves eating meat, you simply strip out foods that wouldn’t have been available thousands of years ago.
I’ll get into some details about the different things you can and can’t eat shortly, but the idea is for your body to go back to basics. You can also watch this video to learn more.
Like so many others that have tried this new concept, I noticed that I was starting to lose weight a lot more easily. I’m not overweight by any stretch of the imagination, but my weight does fluctuate a lot throughout the year.
I mainly put that down to stripping out sugar and processed grains. These certainly do cause blood sugar spikes, and if your exercising isn’t perfectly timed, then the excess energy just transforms into some fat storage.
Doubling down on veggies and fruits can help you lose weight because produce contains more filling fiber and fewer calories than other foods that generally populate our plates.
- Caroline Picard, Editor
One of the really pleasant effects was that my meals actually tasted quite a bit better. Pegan basically forced me to buy everything organic and to make sure that there were no chemicals added, or any GMO crap going on.
I’ve also resurrected the idea of joining one of the urban food growing clubs to really get back to the absolute basics of human history.
Which leads us perfectly to the next topic.
I was actually rather surprised how little effort it took, in the end, to come up with a pegan diet plan. Fortunately, I keep a detailed food and exercise journal, so I basically took one of the most recent weeks and wrote down what I had eaten on a daily basis.
From there, I used a highlighter pen to mark any food that would no longer be an option. Surprisingly, it wasn’t all that much, but I will get to what you need to avoid in the next section.
So, I was left with a partial food plan, and I just had to find some replacements for the things I had stripped out. This mainly affected my carb intake, so I knew I would need to focus more on that area.
Here are some ideas that you can use to come up with your own meal plan.
Aim for low-glycemic fruits and vegetables, which basically means anything that isn’t overly sugary. Berries are best for getting large volumes of vitamins into your system. And non-starchy veg like broccoli, cauliflower, onions, beans, beets, carrots, peppers, eggplant, legumes, and leafy greens are a great choice for healthy carbs. (3)
This is where it can get a bit more complicated, as you are quite limited. But by adding side dishes of lentils, chickpeas, chia, and hemp seeds, you’ll quickly have your daily protein dose sorted out. For some snacks, you can add peanuts and almonds to your plan, but as with everything, make sure they are organic and unprocessed.
This is where you need to focus on good fats that are minimally processed.
Personally, I think it’s not too much of a stretch of the imagination that our ancestors figured out how to squeeze oil out of olives.
But I would avoid seed and coconut oils.
You can still eat the sources of those oils in raw form to take advantage of the fats they contain.
And then there is my favorite, the avocado. It’s probably by far the easiest way to get plenty of healthy fats into your diet.
I already mentioned that when I started my own vegan paleo meal plan, I took a list of all my regular foods and then started marking the things I wouldn’t be able to eat anymore. There are a few surprises there, but it’s actually not all that difficult to avoid them.
Farming didn’t exist in the paleolithic period, and while grain plants did exist, they were unlikely to be a significant source of food. This, unfortunately, means that all your bread, pasta, rice, and cakes are off the table.
I guess you could argue that some raw sugar cane or beet is acceptable, but you certainly want to avoid the highly processed stuff we use today. Also, those high fructose syrups are heavily processed, so always check labels for any indication that food has been “enhanced” with any type of sugar.
Extracting oil is not an easy task, but modern food processing involves a lot more filtering and refinement using technology. Manually squeezing olives or avocado will give you a nice fresh oil that you can use on salads, but I would completely avoid anything store-bought.
Yes, the party is over. That glass of beer or wine that you might enjoy from time to time is not going to be an option anymore. On the positive side, you’ll significantly reduce your blood sugar spikes and avoid hangovers as well.
You can read about why beer may not be vegan here.
What's Healthier Paleo or Vegan?
Vegan is healthier than paleo because you will be completely limiting the amount of saturated fat that is included in your diet. Between not having any sugar spikes and seriously reducing your cholesterol levels, the pegan diet can work wonders for your health.
Can You Eat Hummus on Paleo?
No, technically you cannot eat hummus on Paleo because some of the ingredients are on the avoid list. But it is possible to replace those with cauliflower and eggplant, which also gives it a whole new flavor and experience.
Are Potatoes Paleo?
Yes, potatoes are widely considered paleo-friendly, but it’s probably best to stick with sweet potatoes rather than the modern white ones. The sweet type was definitely around thousands of years ago, and yams are still a staple food with hunter-gatherer tribes today.
Are Peas Paleo?
Yes, peas are generally acceptable as paleo, and I would personally rely on them a lot for carbs. But they are also full of vitamins and minerals that you may want to boost if you’ve excluded a lot of other regular sources.
When I first looked into this topic, my gut feeling was that vegan and paleo simply wouldn’t work together. And you certainly can argue that our paleo ancestors relied heavily on meat and other animal products.
But I have found that taking this prehistoric approach to limiting a vegan diet does mark a lot of foods as not suitable that are probably not overly healthy anyway.
And the best part about it is that you’ll probably have everything you need to get started at home because it’s all down to going back to basics.
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