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What Is Better? Vegan or Paleo?

If you are invested in the nutrition world or if you’ve ever done research for your own health and body goals you may have found yourself lost between these two groups: Vegans and Paleos.

These two groups often fight against each other, claiming that they are superior to the other. Is there a superior group? Does one of them contain the key to optimal weight, longevity, and disease prevention?

Lets do a deep dive in and find out!

First, we need to get some definitions down.

This is a chart that I used in a previous post about labels. There are more nutritional groups presented in this image but the two biggest categories that most of these labels fit into is Vegan and Paleo.

Vegan: A person who does not consume any animal products for health and/or personal reasons. They do not eat meat, fish, eggs, or dairy. 
Paleo: A person who eats foods that would most likely have been eating by their ancient ancestors. They do not eat processed foods, dairy, or grains. 

So often these two groups fight against each other but some invested individuals, such as Matt Frazier, like to look at the similarities instead of just the differences.

Here are just a few of the things we agree on:

  1. Vegetables are good, and organic vegetables are better

  2. Nuts are good

  3. Fruits are good (with some qualifications)

  4. Fast food is awful

  5. It isn’t natural or healthy for adult humans to drink milk meant for baby cows

  6. Whole food is crucial; we should eat food as close to its natural state as possible

  7. Processed food is evil, and there’s something very wrong with the system that is foisting it upon us

Matt makes a wonderful point to look at these two groups’ similarities, instead of just focusing on their differences. He is not fighting for a particular group, he is fighting for whole food. Matt himself is a vegan but he sees how close he is to eating a Paleo diet.

The biggest difference between the two? Meat. So is meat as deadly, dangerous, and destructive as the vegan community would believe? Let’s look at the research to find out.

Claim: 100% Plant-Based Living Is Best

Reality: No proven evidence shows this to be true

It is proven that eating more plant-based foods is extremely beneficial to a person’s health; however, there is little evidence showing 100% plant-based (vegan) is better. In fact, the plant-based community says they “have it all down” but they also say they’d be stupid if they didn’t take B12, iron, calcium, and more.

But if this is the best way to live then why are they dependent on supplements?

“We do this not as a concession or a compromise, but because we feel the evidence, from a health perspective, does not clearly show that a 100% plant based (or vegan) diet is a better choice. Yes there are studies showing that people on a vegan or vegetarian diet fare far better than people on the Standard American Diet, with its emphasis on highly processed foods and animal foods. We know that heavy animal product consumption is associated with higher rates of mortality.” Whole Foods Diet

Claim: Meat causes diabetes

Reality: Oh so false

“Diabetes is not a disease caused by consuming too much sugar; it’s a disease caused by problems getting sugar into the cells.” Whole Foods Diet

Well thank you for that Whole Foods Diet; however, sugar DOES also contribute to diabetes.

“What is the culprit? In 1999, scientists at Yale University used newly available magnetic resonance spectroscopy technology to show a relationship between the buildup of microscopic fat droplets in the cells (intramyocellular lipids) and insulin resistance. It turns out that fat is “jamming the locks” so insulin cannot open the door. The implication of this is clear: diabetes is caused by the high-fat, meat-heavy, high-calorie Western diet, coupled with a sedentary lifestyle.” Whole Foods Diet

Oh dear, this is a study taken in 1999, that’s ANCIENT in the science community. Unfortunately, they were unaware that sugar turns to fat vs. actual fat that is ingested, which does not necessarily lead to fat in your body.

It is true that the American SAD diet is the cause, but it is the refined carbohydrates, processed foods, and sugar that cause it, not the meat. A perfect example showing that correlation is not causation.

“As further evidence, Dr. Barnard points out that sugar consumption in America leveled off in about 1999 and has been declining ever since, but diabetes cases keep increasing. ‘The diabetes epidemic tracks the cheese graphs more closely than it tracks the sugar consumption graphs,’ he says.” Whole Foods Diet

This fact seems to be so flawed I don’t even know what to say.

This study may be accurate if you don’t consider high fructose corn syrup to be sugar because the latter is definitely on the rise. Latent variables are missing in this study. Dr. Barnard is unequivocal. “We can quite confidently now say that the research favoring plant-based diets is overwhelming. Vegetarians and vegans have the least risk of diabetes by far.”

Unless these vegetarians and vegans consume a lot of processed foods, sugar, and refined carbohydrates.

Because diabetes is actually caused by fat, reducing dietary fat intake has a direct impact on the disease, allowing insulin to begin to function again. Whole Foods Diet

This study was taken in 1996. Their other study was taken in 1926-1933. Oh dear…

NEW RESEARCH (like up to date…silly doctors) in Eat Fat, Get Thin by Dr. Mark Hyman

In 2015 leading fat researchers Patty Siri-Tarino, Ronald Krauss, and others reviewed all the latest data in an article titled “Saturated Fats versus Polyunsaturated Fats versus Carbohydrates for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Treatment.

They found no link between total dietary fat or saturated fat and heart disease

A large randomized controlled study called PREDIMED reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013, showed that added fat actually reduced the risk of heart attacks and deaths by 30 percent.

The bottom line, sugar is the bad guy here, not fat. Dr. Yudkin

Sugar and refined carbs are the true drivers of heart disease, weight gain, and type 2 diabetes.

No wonder the vegan population thought it was meat! They cut out these things (including meat) and assumed it was meat, not sugar and carbs, causing the issue.

My Takeaways

So where do we go from here? I think the best thing to do is to marry these two ideas of vegan and paleo. We want to mainly eat fruits and vegetables, like vegans, but we don’t want to demonize meat or shun oil. We can become “Pegans” as coined by Dr. Mark Hyman. Eating a whole foods diet free of sugar and processed food-like substances. It is best for us to eat a large number of vegetables, a moderate amount of fruit, be generous with natural fat consumption, and consume a small amount of animal protein.

It’s all about balance, open perspective, and taking the best from all sides.

Both groups see dairy as being a detriment to health and wellness. However, so many of us love our cheese! I would encourage you to limit your dairy consumption, avoid milk entirely (it’s only supposed to be consumed by newborns), go for plain greek yogurt, and aim to eat goat cheese instead of ones produced by a cow. Again, it’s all about balance

Clearly eating a whole-foods plant-based diet works. He [Dr. Dean Ornish] has been a tireless and passionate advocate of lifestyle change for the prevention and reversal of chronic disease and has profoundly and beneficially impacted many lives. Dr. Mark Hyman

“I have been both a vegan and an omnivore over the course of my life. I have eaten low-fat, high-carb with tens of thousands of patients over 30 years of medical practice…I am not married to a particular point of view. I am curious about what lies beneath the money and the egos behind the research. I am interested in one simple thing. What should we eat to stay fit, thin, and healthy?” Dr. Mark Hyman

(Vegan Married Paleo and they had a Pegan)

Pegan Life

  1. Eat mostly plant-based with moderate amounts of clean animal protein

  2. Eat 50-75% of your diet come from non-starchy vegetables

  3. Eat a moderate amount of nuts and seeds

  4. Moderate amounts of low-glycemic fruit

  5. Grass-fed meat

  6. Small quantities of gluten-free grains

  7. Consume plenty of good fats

  8. No processed foods, artificial anything (especially sweeteners), liquid sugar calories, and juices (except green juices)

The biggest take away I believe is to not fear food; rather, become a smart eater. Don’t demonize any food group but recognize it for what it is. Remember also that everybody is different. There are some people whose bodies require more protein and animal products than others. I eat a very small amount of animal products, and often feel amazing from it, while my husband consumes a lot more than me. He is also a 200 pound strength training male, while I am not.

Make small changes that will help you become your healthiest, best self. When we have energy, are our optimal weight, and feel healthy we become our best selves. Who doesn’t want to be that?


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