Paleo vs Vegan – Which is better, and why?

Does it seem like just after you read a study saying that eating meat (or animal foods) is beneficial to your health, another one comes out saying that being vegan, and avoiding animal products is better for your health?

What’s a gal (or guy) to do?

Well, first of all, let’s talk about the pros and cons of each.

Paleo Pros:

The paleo diet cuts out grains and legumes (not just gluten) altogether, and while these foods are certainly not the devil for everyone, for some people they are. And often times, those people who do have trouble with those foods, don’t even realize because it’s not necessarily an obvious symptom.

The paleo diet calls for clean, grass fed meat (though you’ll see why this is also a con shortly)

The paleo diet calls is amazing for blood sugar regulation, as it is a very low glycemic, high protein diet

Paleo Cons:

While the paleo diet technically calls for clean grass fed meat, often times people don’t realize this, and transition their diet to a significantly higher meat intake, but of chicken that has been fed hormones, and red meat that is not grass fed, and therefore more inflammatory than not.

Following this, sometimes I find that paleo can be taken to the extreme, where it’s meat for breakfast lunch and dinner. In certain instances, again also depending on the type of meat, this can lead to hormonal imbalances.

Vegan Pros:

The majority of the benefits of vegan come from the fact that you are eating a ton of veggies. All of a sudden you’re building your plate with so many more plant based foods. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with this.

Continuing on with this, vegan diets have been shown to really reduce blood pressure

Vegan Cons:

Often times, you will not be getting enough iron or B12 in your diet. This means that you may feel really tired as time progresses on this diet. (I personally tried a vegan diet and did not feel great – I was tired and cold all of the time).

For anyone with blood sugar or weight problems, vegan diets tend to be heavier on the carbohydrate intake.

Vegan diets can often end up being very high in soy, and while some types of soy are great (tempeh, in particular, as it’s fermented), but soy in large quantities isn’t the best.

Why the confusion?

Unfortunately, the world of nutrition studies is a tough one and not every single factor can always be controlled for. Here’s a good example from Mark Hyman’s blog. He states:

“…studies are further complicated because it is very hard to tease out the factors that matter. For example, when Asians move from Asia to the US, they eat more meat and have more heart disease and cancer, but they also consume far more sugar.  So it is the meat or is it the sugar?  Hard to know.”

What should you do?

In my experience, if you are ok with eating clean meat, you will feel better – even if it’s not to the extreme version of paleo. Here are a couple more tips:

  • Make sure to eat lots of non-starchy GREEN vegetables
  • When it comes to carbohydrates, eat the complex kind, and aim to time them around your workouts
  • Eat protein with every meal, whether or not it’s plant or animal based
  • When you are eating meat, eat the best kind, if you can afford it (organic, grass fed)
  • Stay away from cow’s dairy (part of both paleo and vegan), and notice how good you will feel. The weirdest symptoms may clear up (sinusitis, constipation, bloating, acne)

What is most important is to remember that everyone is different. You must listen to your body and know that there is no one diet that works for everybody.

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