Paleo vs Vegan: Which Diet is for You?
You’re willing to work on your body. You exercise, groom meticulously and put effort into your wardrobe. For all of that care, it’s all meaningless compared to the most vital component to fitness: diet. There are a lot of diets out there, but if you want to be lean, healthy and maybe even a little socially responsible, then there are two diets that rise above the rest. Let’s compare paleo and vegan diets to see which might be best for you.
Veganism is tied closely to a personal belief structure. A large number of vegans follow their diet largely because of their feelings on the consumption of animal flesh and contributing to cruel practices. What many people don’t know is that the paleo diet extends from a similar point of view. Here’s how the diets compare in terms of personal responsibility.
The core purpose of veganism is to avoid animal products altogether. This removes any complicit contributions to animal cruelty. It also removes demand for a number of destructive practices tied to farming. That said, veganism does allow for processed foods, so if you aren’t careful with how you manage your diet, you can be trading animal cruelty for a larger carbon footprint or a number of other problems.
Here’s where the paleo approach catches a lot of people off guard. The paleo diet intentionally shuns food raised through “cruel” practices. The focus on grass-fed and wild-caught game means you’re dodging anything mass produced in traditional farms. This leads to food that is largely considered cruelty free, and it eliminates anthropogenic carbon footprints tied to raising the food. In many cases, the unique restrictions of the paleo diet make it greener than the average vegan approach. Score one for the carnivores.
If you aren’t changing your diet out of a sense of morality, then you’re probably more concerned with health effects. For this, we can look at hard facts and make an informed decision.
You probably already know the basics of a vegan diet. If it has animal products, it’s out. This rapidly introduces some very positive health benefits from the start. Your intake of cholesterol and bad fats will plummet from the start. This is great for cardio and digestive health. Cutting dairy is also usually a good move for most adults. The limiting aspects of the diet will push you towards grains and raw produce. This usually improves intake of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins across the board and is associated with reduced risk for more diseases that we have time to list here.
There are some cons to consider. Someone once said, “Coke and potato chips are still vegan.” This highlights the fact that you have to put care into your food selection, even when you’re vegan. If you avoid the over processed shortcuts, then you’re better for it, but even the healthiest vegans have to battle a few natural deficiencies. Vitamins B12 and D tend to come in short supply. It’s also easy to run low on calcium, iron and protein. For these reasons, osteoporosis, diabetes and a few other health conditions can make veganism very dangerous. If, however, you can compensate for these deficiencies, then a vegan diet is a great way to boost energy and trim down to the leanest possible version of yourself.
The paleo diet focuses on foods that were common in the Paleolithic era. What does that really mean? First and foremost, no grains or processed foods. Also, all meat should be grass fed and wild game whenever possible. This can make your meat more expensive, but it’s worth it. Paleo diets tend to be rich in Omega-3 acids and the so-called “good” fats. It’s also rich in protein and minerals. Most importantly, it dodges the major health problems tied to processed grains. The debate is still out, but most food experts agree that processed grains contribute to obesity, diabetes and a number of gastrointestinal and cardiovascular diseases. Paleo eaters needn’t worry about any of them. The real argument among experts is the impact of whole grains. Quinoa, brown rice and all of the other “super foods” you’ve heard about tie into this argument. They’re definitely not as bad as processed grains, but you might be just fine without them.
The major downsides to the paleo diet are a tendency to eat too much meat and not enough else. Unprocessed produce is wonderful in health benefits, but it isn’t always filling or tasty, and a lot of paleo eaters compensate with too much meat. When this happens, it can kill any attempts to lose weight and throw the general balance of the diet out of whack.
In the end, everyone is different, and you have to choose the diet that is best for you. Maybe it’s one of these two, or maybe it’s a less-restrictive variant. If the question isn’t a moral dilemma, then the short answer is as follows: vegan diets are better for losing weight and keeping it off while paleo diets are better for building muscle and promoting a sustainable balanced diet.