From the Cave to the Field: A Paleo Vegan Diet
When most people think of the paleo diet, they think of the moniker “Caveman.” It has a primal stigma further amplified by the diet’s meat-heavy menu plan. This type of diet seems like the exact opposite of everything the vegan diet stands for.
There are profound health benefits to both the paleo diet and a vegan diet. It makes choosing which way to go challenging. Luckily, you can have your cake and eat it too (as long as there’s no dairy). Let’s take a look at each lifestyle choice’s health benefits and how to merge them to create the vegan diet.
What Is A Paleo Diet?
The paleo diet takes a back-to-basics approach when it comes to improving health. Only in the last couple of centuries has the human race started agriculture farming. Perhaps even worse, the last few decades are when our race started modifying these crops. They began using pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
With the rise of the Industrial Revolution, we have seen a massive rise in chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation increases the risk of developing many life-threatening (and fatal) conditions 1.
These conditions run the gamut of illnesses. However, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) notes that cases of these preventable deaths, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, have been steadily increasing as we head into the future 2.
This has caused dietitians and scientists to look toward the past. They thought, “What do we have now that didn’t exist when our nomadic ancestors scoured the earth? Those food products are what have been eliminated from the principles of the paleo diet.
A paleo diet isn’t as complex as one might think. It’s not an overly-thought-out low-carb diet. Nor do you have to go crazy counting calories. Instead, you should abstain from mass-manufactured foods or anything that might cause long-term inflammation.
Health Benefits of A Paleo Diet
Following a paleo diet includes many whole foods, which makes your lifestyle pretty low carb by default. Most of the calories you consume will be nutrient-dense. As a result, you are less likely to experience spikes in blood sugar, battle digestive issues, or develop obesity.
- Refined Sugar
- Processed Foods
- Artificial Ingredients
What? No ham and cheese sandwich? No fried chicken and waffles with “maple” syrup? No ice cream with extra, extra whipped cream?
That leaves you to wonder…what the heck kind of foods is paleo-friendly?
Here are paleo diet foods you can eat:
- Grass-Fed Meat
- Hormone-Free Fowl
- Wild-Caught Fish
- Fruit Oils
Seems simple enough. Need your sugar kick? Use natural sweeteners like fruit or honey. Swap out the fried chicken and waffles for eggs and grass-fed steak. Instead of bringing a ham and cheese to work, try a grilled chicken salad.
These Paleo food swaps make the transition seem much less daunting! However, these suggestions don’t sound very vegan-friendly. Let’s take a look at the health benefits of the vegan diet and how to implement this lifestyle with the Paleo Diet.
What is a Vegan Diet?
Depending on who you ask, the vegan diet is less complicated of a concept but more restrictive than the paleo diet. While both have a common ground of no dairy, the vegan diet means no animal products at all.
- All Meat (Fish, Poultry, Beef)
- All Animal Additives (Certain Lactic Acids, Gelatin, Cochineal Extract)
- Egg-Treated Products (Pasta)
- Products Treated with Animal Byproducts (Wine, Refined Sugar)
This may seem to be a lot to take in, but let’s look at why people are going vegan.
Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet
There are many reasons why vegans make this sacrifice. Eating a plant-based diet is excellent for healthy gut bacteria. Many meat-heavy diets lack fiber and feed inflammatory bacteria. Dietary fibers feed probiotic bacteria. In turn, we are less likely to develop a microbial imbalance.
While the paleo diet calls for fruit and vegetables, which contain a lot of fiber, the typical person will most likely fill up on the grass-fed beef and organic potatoes. These filling options leave little room in the belly for the bananas, almonds, and leafy greens in this world.
Having such animal fat-heavy meals may lead to blockage in the system. In fact, studies have found that red meat delivers a compound known as L-carnitine to the gut microbiome 3. Gut bacteria convert this compound to trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO). Animal studies involving TMAO link this compound to atherosclerosis, a precursor to heart disease.
As an Oxford study explained, “Vegan diets tend to contain less saturated fat and cholesterol and more dietary fiber. Vegans tend to be thinner, have lower serum cholesterol, and lower blood pressure, reducing their risk of heart disease 4.”
Other Reasons To Try a Vegan Diet
Other reasons for going vegan include the environmental impact. Greenhouse gas emissions from the methane in factory-farm cattle’s waste are the number one cause of global warming. Research suggests that these emissions will go up 30% by 2050 due to the world’s meat-heavy diet 5.
As studies have also found, there is a distinct link between climate change altering the gut bacteria in lizards 6. While this has not been confirmed with present-day humans, we must take into consideration that a lizard is a fraction of our size. Therefore, if it’s plaguing the smaller creatures of today, then it may have a terrible impact on the larger creatures of tomorrow.
So, sold on the vegan diet? Sold on the paleo diet? Now what?! Let’s look at how to merge the two!
How to Start A Vegan Diet
It’s easy to be an unhealthy vegan. You can buy so many processed vegan burgers and TV dinners in the grocery aisle. These options can be just as bad as getting that ham and cheese sandwich.
Not to mention, there are critical vitamins, acids, and minerals that vegans tend to lack in their everyday diet. This isn’t because access to these nutrients is not readily available. It’s just because many people are unaware of how to get these minerals.
The macronutrients and micronutrients typically lacking in a vegan diet include:
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B12
The last two are what make a paleo vegan diet challenging but not impossible. Vitamin D is usually fortified in cow’s milk because the typical person doesn’t get enough of this essential nutrient. That’s because the most abundant source of Vitamin D is the sun. If you work inside all day, you know the woes. Therefore, you might want to go outside more or take some Vitamin D supplements.
Vitamin B12 is available only from animal fats. This is an essential vitamin because it’s essential for energy production. For vegetarians and vegans, Vitamin B12 is fortified in plant-based alternatives, like almond milk or soy yogurt. While convenient, plant-based milks are still heavily processed. Therefore, they are not paleo-friendly.
Additionally, tofu is another excellent source of Vitamin B12. Once again, this is highly-processed. You can fortify the tofu with bacteria and consume tempeh. However, traditional paleo followers will not find this suitable.
So, you will have to rely on supplements and add powders to smoothies to be a traditional paleo follower and still maintain a vegan diet. Now, we’re human. You can still incorporate some processed foods. Even hardcore paleo addicts still have their paleo-brand go-to’s that have preservatives.
The key is to incorporate the principles as best as possible, eat as many raw foods as you can, and consume enough protein and essential amino acids to stay healthy. Now that we have the principles out of the way, we are going to share some delicious paleo vegan recipes that you will never even notice is missing the meat!
Delicious Paleo Vegan Recipes
Want some delicious whole food meals that won’t make your insulin go skyrocket? Looking for plant-based options that are as close to paleo as possible? Here are some vegan diet staples that will have your whole family licking the bowl.
Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Sauce
This is a great paleo-friendly vegan recipe. The avocado sauce contains a high amount of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Since you are making zoodles, you don’t have to worry about pasta being treated with eggs.
Lastly, pine nuts are a protein-rich source that also has fiber…not to mention pairs deliciously with the anti-inflammatory herb basil.
- 1 zucchini
- 1 1/4 cup basil (30 g)
- 1/3 cup water (85 ml)
- 4 tbsp pine nuts
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 avocado
- 12 sliced cherry tomatoes
Read full recipe at Simple Vegan Blog.
Pumpkin MasalaCan’t get much more vegan-friendly than Middle Eastern cuisine. This paleo vegan recipe is very gut-friendly with the use of ginger, chili powder, and cumin. While this recipe calls for rice, to keep it paleo-friendly, you must opt for white rice.
That means the hull containing phytic acid (another Paleo no-no) has been removed. However, a lot of the rice’s nutritional value goes away, making it a plain starch. That would make rice a good meal an hour before a workout. For the healthiest route, use cauliflower rice.
- 1 3 cups / ¾ lb / 310 gr pumpkin, diced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
- 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
- 1 3 cups / ¾ lb / 310 gr pumpkin, diced
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon chili powder (use more or less depending on how hot you want it)
- 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 1 dry bay leaf
- 1 cup / 250 ml water, divided
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon mango powder-amchur (optional)
Read the whole recipe at TheIronYou.
Creamy Spinach Sweet Potato Noodles with Cashew SaucePaleo-friendly diets tend to stay away from beans, which is a vegan staple. Those who follow a paleo diet believe lectins, which are very high in concentration within legumes, can bind to any tissue in the system and destroy a healthy microbiome.
That’s why paleo eaters swap out peanuts (which are actually beans) with cashews. This cashew sauce makes for a protein-heavy dressing to a calcium-rich meal.
Not into making your own cashew milk? Try blending 1/2 a cup of almond butter with the other ingredients instead.
We also suggest throwing some broccoli there. Nothing beats crispy broccoli florets soaked in cashew sauce.
- 1 cup cashews
- 3/4 cup water (more for soaking)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tsp oil
- 4 large sweet potatoes, spiralized
- 2 cups baby spinach
- a handful of fresh basil leaves, chives, or other herbs
- salt and pepper to taste
- olive oil for drizzling
To get the full recipe, check out Pinch of Yum.
“Meaty” Taco SkilletWhen going vegan, sometimes it’s best to turn to comfort foods that you know and love, like tacos.
Instead of the beef, eggplant and walnuts give the texture of this taco staple. What’s great about this Paleo vegan recipe is that grapeseed oil and walnuts are full of omega-3s.
This recipe calls for grapeseed oil. However, we recommend switching it up with some coconut oil to get some more healthy fats into this meal.
- 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
- 1 bell pepper, any color, diced
- 1 eggplant, skin on, diced
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 1/2 cup walnuts, diced very fine
- 8 oz diced tomatoes with green chilis
- 2 T taco seasonings
- 1/4 cup water
See the full recipe at SweetCsDesigns.
How to Follow A Paleo Vegan DietSticking to a new meal plan can be challenging. We make it easier for you while simultaneously monitoring your gut health with Ombre.Foods not in a paleo diet include:In order to be a vegan, you must abstain from:
We send you everything you need to test your gut microbiome in the privacy of your home. Based on your microbial DNA results, we can then give you in-depth insights about what to eat and what to avoid or a healthier gut microbiome.
Our program also allows you to filter the food recommendations by your diet preference. So, you can easily navigate our paleo and vegan options to integrate this diet into your lifestyle easily.
Click Here To View Resources
- 1 Pahwa R, Goyal A, Bansal P, et al. Chronic Inflammation. Updated 2020 Nov 20. In: StatPearls Internet. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/.
- 2 Egger G. In Search of a Germ Theory Equivalent for Chronic Disease. Prev Chronic Dis 2012;9:110301. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5888/pcd9.110301.
- 3 Ghonimy, A., Zhang, D. M., Farouk, M. H., & Wang, Q. (2018). The Impact of Carnitine on Dietary Fiber and Gut Bacteria Metabolism and Their Mutual Interaction in Monogastrics. International journal of molecular sciences, 19(4), 1008. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms19041008
- 4 Craig W. J. (2009). Health effects of vegan diets. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 89(5), 1627S–1633S. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2009.26736N.
- 5 Craig W. J. (2009). Health effects of vegan diets. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 89(5), 1627S–1633S. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2009.26736N.
- 6 University of Exeter. “Global Warming Kills Gut Bacteria in Lizards.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 8 May 2017, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170508112423.htm.