Paleo Versus Vegan: Must it be an Opposition?

Yin and Yang.

A phrase we use quite often, and possibly without understanding its true meaning.

According to a Chinese theory, they’re two forces in the universe, Yin being the passive, negative force, and yang the active, positive counterpart.

In keeping with this theory, wise people will detect these forces in the seasons, in their food, and so on, and will regulate their lives accordingly[1].

So in yesterday’s article on Paleo versus Vegan in the Huffington Post[2], entitled Vegan vs. Paleo: The Yin and Yang of Healthy Eating, which is positive, and which is negative?

We learn in the very first paragraph that the author, Joe De Sena was taught, at a young age, that meat was bad” so despite his admitted conflict, his willingness to look into both sides of the story may have begun with at least a slight skew.

We are taken through a brief summary of contrasting viewpoints; that of Dr. Fred Bisci, who suggests that what we “need for endurance is fruit and starches for fast recovery”.

Any comment on fat adaptation[3], Dr. Bisci?  

He also comments that we “get more protein from eating a plant-based diet.”

As compared to what?

If Paleo, when followed correctly, gleans up to an estimated 40% of calories from carbohydrate[4] (ie plants), isn’t it, too, plant-based?

We also have a chance to read John Durant’s perspective, and I wholeheartedly agree with his statement “paleo does not mean all meat all the time”.

This is likely one of the most common misconceptions clients, blog readers and the general public have about this healthy approach to eating that both John and I advocate.

His succinct outline of how one might go about beginning a real Paleo diet are quite in keeping with the very same things I suggest:

  • 1: remove wheat, corn and soy from your diet and replace it with fruits and vegetables, fermented foods and eat all parts of the animal.
  • 2: eliminate all processed foods
  • 3: remove grain and milk products from your diet

At the same time, as with any eating regime, there must be some space for what I refer to as grey area foods, some wiggle room.

While for a long time, I was vehemently opposed to the mere concept of cheating, as I felt it would convey that Paleo was that strict, that one would have to cheat in order to stay the course for the long haul (which its not).

But I realized this degree of dogma is actually unnecessary as well as off putting for many.

And in reality, someone who even begins to take the first steps toward having a healthier diet is absolutely on the right track and so to say that their being say 30% paleo in the beginning is worth nothing is both false and unproductive.

We’re all starting at different points, with different backgrounds and health challenges.

And while we’ve all got one thing in common (we’re human), there are many factors to take into consideration when foraging through one diet after the next to figure out what makes you feel better or lose weight or not be sick.

It sure took me a while!

Vegan, Zone, Blood Type, Standard “Athlete’s” Diet…it wasn’t until I A: found Paleo and B: actually began to feel healthy and no longer suffer from stomach distress that what I ate and how each food made me feel really began to resonate, allowing me to create my own personal approach to eating.

Don’t get me wrong, I still feel that a real paleo diet would benefit most, but the question is whether or not we really need to keep classifying diets as being one or the other.

I take certain things with me that I learned when I was vegan for two years.

I balance out eating foods that make me feel great with having a glass of wine with dinner if I fancy it, or a coffee in the morning before I run.

I have followed the Paleo diet since 2005 and feel it’s truly the best way I can not just live, but thrive.

But if I have a client who’s new to the game (and what a game it has become), who was vegan and is now somewhere in the middle, perhaps just experimenting with what I’ve begun to call the gateway protein (wild fish), I don’t honestly feel they’re doing anything other than finding their way, testing one food then another until they find their own best balance.

So, rather than pose vegan versus Paleo, how about creating a united front?

The only difference is the protein source and for me, the realization that if I was boycotting ALL fish, meat, poultry and animal products, rather than just the big, bad guys, the Monsantos of the world, I wasn’t really doing anything to further the causes of animal welfare or supporting the small local ranchers, farmers and fisherman who were trying to do the right thing.

Like I always say, Eat Food and Move.

Plants. Fat. Animals.





[1], n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2015

[2] Sena, Joe De. “Vegan vs. Paleo: The Yin and Yang of Healthy Eating.” The Huffington Post., 16 Nov. 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2015

[3] Volek, Jeff, and Stephen D. Phinney. The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance: A Revolutionary Program to Extend Your Physical and Mental Performance Envelope. Lexington, KY: Beyond Obesity, 2012. Print.

[4] Cordain, Loren. The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2011. Print