Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Paleo vs Vegan

My CrossFit gym is doing a 60-day Paleo Diet challenge starting October 15 and I'm debating joining it. Read my earlier post on what I think about Paleo.

I stopped eating animal protein long before I joined CrossFit. All CrossFit gyms follow and promote the Paleo Diet, which is based on what humans ate in the Paleolithic era, before agriculture. You basically only eat fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. I therefore decided to starting eating fish and eggs again, but only occasionally. There are actually a lot of similarities between the unprocessed plant-based diet and Paleo. No white grains, sugar, dairy, etc. The main difference is that Paleo includes meat and plant-based includes legumes and whole grains.

What confuses me the most is the seemingly contradictory research between the vegan and paleo diets. I've read literature from reputable sources on both, and they preach different things, especially with the whole meat/grain/legume situation. Although I am a technical researcher, I deal with things on the atomic level, and not molecular. I almost wish I had a medical degree so I could truly understand some of these studies.

Here are some points I would like to make about contradictions I've come across for both diets:

Modern meat is farmed. Paleo says that we should eat like we did before agriculture, but animals now days are farmed. We should really be eating wild animals that eat a wild diets. Cows are fed corn and grains, which changes the composition of the meat. You could buy just free range, grass-fed cows and chickens, but that is expensive and the regulations are not strict. This is why I like wild-caught fish, because they are still eating close to a natural diet. Then, there is also the argument of modern farming being inhumane. But, how do we feed the world without farming?

Humans are omnivores. Our evolution and gastrointestinal tracts prove that we are made to eat both plants and animals. The China Study concludes that a no-animal (vegan) diet is best because animal protein promotes cancer and other diseases. However, more "advanced" mammals, including our monkey ancestors, eat both plants and animals. Humans have always eaten animals.

Paleo and Vegan results are the same. The results that people get from both diets are essentially the same: weight loss, more energy, and reduction of preventable diseases. How can the results be so similar for such seemingly opposite diets? I would love to see a study done on people following strict paleo and strict unprocessed vegan diets.

Have we evolved? Evolution takes a very long time and we only started farming about 10,000 years ago. Our population has certainly boomed since then, so agriculture can't be all that bad. I don't want to go out and hunt and gather my own food. Are we evolving to tolerate farmed plants like legumes and grains? Those with Celiac disease would say no. But what about sprouted lentils and quinoa, for example? I think this is where the real research needs to go.

I've brought up some points where the plant-based and paleo diets really contradict each other. I think I've come to believe that the optimum diet for humans is somewhere in between, but where? I might try this Paleo challenge just to see what happens when I cut out grains and legumes and eat more animal protein (I'll only eat fish and eggs because meat grosses me out). What do you think? Should I do it?

P.S. This is a very good article on the battle between Paleo and Vegan that I just tried to describe: http://experiencelife.com/article/paleo-vs-vegan/


  1. I went throught the same battle at my cf gym. I have the same views as you and always fought between all paleo or all vegan but found myself somewhere in between eating vega adding fish and eggs. I did the cf challenge all the way through and felt worse with less energy and more cravings. As a personal trainer and true health seeker I think what your doing is just fine.

    1. That's good to hear! I'm glad that I'm not the only crossfitter that eats semi-vegan! I also think its interesting how we feel more comfortable with fish and eggs but not meat.

  2. I know that is interesting. I just can't bring myself to do the meat anymore. Sometimes even eggs make me feel sick. Have you tried that vega pumpkins pudding recipe?

    1. No I haven't tried the one they posted. I actually just posted my own, very easy vegan pumpkin pie/pudding recipe: http://www.healthyfitgoddess.com/2012/11/pumpkin-piepudding.html


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