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 seems like the exact opposite of everything the vegan diet stands for.

There are serious health benefits to both the Paleo Diet and a vegan diet. It makes choosing which way to go difficult. Luckily, you can have your cake and eat it too (as long as there’s no dairy). Let’s take a look at the health benefits of each diet and how you can merge them into one.

Health Benefits of a Paleo Diet

benefit paleo

The Paleo Diet takes a back-to-basics approach when it comes to improving health. Only the last couple centuries has the human race started agriculture farming. Perhaps even worse, the last few decades is when our race started modifying these crops. With the rise of the Industrial Revolution, we have seen a huge increase in many life-threatening (and fatal) conditions.

These conditions run the gamut of illnesses. However, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) notes that these preventable deaths, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, have been steadily increasing as we head into the future.

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.

Foods not in a Paleo Diet include:

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 are Paleo-friendly?

Here are Paleo Diet foods you can eat:

  • Grass-Fed Meat
  • Fowl
  • Wild-Caught Fish
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables
  • Oils
  • Fruits
  • Nuts
  • Starches

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 complex 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.

In order to be a vegan, you must obstain from:

  • All Dairy (Butter, Milk, Cheese, Ghee)
  • All Meat (Fish, Poultry,  Beef)
  • All Animal Additives (Certain Lactic Acids, Gelatin, Cochineal Extract)
  • Egg-Treated Products (Pasta)
  • Animal Treated Products (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

benefit vegan

There are many reasons why vegans makes this sacrifice. For one, many meat-heavy diets lack in fiber. 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 beef and potatoes. This leaves little room in the belly for the fruits and vegetables.

Having such animal fat-heavy meals may lead to blockage in the system. In fact, Harvard studies have found that red meat delivers bacteria to the gut called L-carnitine. Their findings suggest that this bacteria can be the precursor to heart disease.  Although that report further states that processed meats avoided in the Paleo Diet further heighten those chances.

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.”

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 is the number one cause of global warming.  Research suggest that these emissions will go up 30% by 2050 due to the world’s meat-heavy diet.

As studies have also found, there is a distinct link between climate change altering the gut bacteria in lizards. 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 Merge the Vegan and Paleo 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 nutrients that vegans tend to lack in their everyday diet. This isn’t because access to these nutrients are not readily available. It’s just because many people are unaware how to get these minerals.

The micronutrients lacking in a vegan diet include:

  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin B12

The last two is what makes 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 a very important vitamin because it’s essential for energy production. For vegetarians and vegans, Vitamin B12 is fortified in plant-based milks. While convenient, plant-based milks are still heavily processed. Therefore, they are not Paleo-friendly.

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

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.

vegan paleo zucchini

Lastly, pine nuts are a protein-rich source that also have fiber…not to mention pairs deliciously with anti-inflammatory herb, basil.

Ingredients:

  • 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 Masala

Can’t get much more vegan friendly than Middle Eastern cuisine. This Paleo vegan recipe is very gut-friendly with it’s use of ginger, chili powder, and cumin. While this recipe calls for rice, to keep it Paleo-friendly, you must opt for white rice.

vegan indian paleo

That means the hull containing phytic acid (another Paleo no-no) has been removed. However, a lot of the nutritional value of the rice goes away, making it a plain starch, making this a good meal an hour before a workout. For the healthiest route, use cauliflower rice.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups / ¾ lb / 310 gr pumpkin, diced2 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 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (use more or less depending 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 Sauce

Paleo-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.

vegan paleo noodles

That’s why Paleo diet followers swap out peanuts (which are actually beans) with cashews. This cashew sauce makes for a protein-heavy dressing to a calcium-rich meal.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cashews
  • 3/4 cup water (more for soaking)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon 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 Skillet

When going vegan, sometimes it’s best to turn to comfort foods that you know and love, like tacos.

vegan meaty taco

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.

Ingredients:

  • 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 tbsp taco seasoning
  • 1/4 cup water

See the full recipe at SweetCsDesigns.