This is a significant question. As most Paleo diets focus on meats and animal products as the main core of their diet, it doesn’t seem plausible for vegetarians to even consider being on a Paleo diet. However, with all the health benefits involved with being on a Paleo diet, surely there must be some kind of compromise that can be made.
Yes, there are some vegetarians whom avoid consumption of meat specifically for health purposes. But with facts and research proven alone, most if not all of these types of vegetarians will start eating meat accordingly. However, there are those for religious or ethical reasons which avoid eating animals. So no matter how nutritious or healthy a diet won’t get them to eat meat. Now that leaves us with an important question to answer. Can a Paleo diet be followed meat-free?
It’s important to address such an issue. It’s obvious to everyone, meat eaters or no, that the food we have available in abundance is anything but healthy and cannot be sustained in the long term by the human body. After all, we’re all in this together. There’s plenty to learn and no stone should be left unturned when it comes to knowledge and improving ourselves.
To begin with, following a Paleo diet promotes eating whole foods, nothing processed, no additives, no preservatives. Whether a vegan or meat-eater, this can be achieved. Even as a vegan, I’m sure they understand that added chemicals and preservatives or sugar may be vegetarian but it’s still absolutely unhealthy for consumption. Simply by removing all of these, whether vegan or not, will make for a huge step toward living a healthy lifestyle.
There is the fact that being a vegetarian, grains and legumes are a main source of proteins which isn’t encouraged in a Paleo diet, but it is much more acceptable when you compare it to any food you can find in any fast food joint. So there is that.
However, there are some changes to a Paleo style vegetarian diet which can be made. Some are as simple as avoiding the use of vegetable oil, such as soy oil, peanut oil and canola oil. These are artificial in its entirety and are considered polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) which encourage inflammation which is detrimental to health.
Several other much healthier options such as macadamia nut oil, avocado oil and red palm oil are much better which a vegetarian can easily make the switch without much hassle. Additionally, butter should be added to a vegetarian diet due to butter being a great source of Vitamin K2 which is lacking in most vegetarian diets.
Cutting out grains altogether is a different story. As these add up to a major calorie count to vegetarians, gluten grains aren’t as easily replaceable. Although gluten is a terrible gut irritant and a trigger for a multitude of health conditions, this is the greatest pitfall in dealing with having a vegetarian follow a strict Paleo diet.
As it is, those same gluten grains are the main source of proteins for vegetarians. Options to replacing them are limited in a strict Paleo diet. The only two that could feasibly replace them would be eggs and dairy. One of which isn’t very vegetarian friendly either. Eggs contain crucial micronutrients such as Vitamin B and choline that just cannot be found in plants alone. Even having one egg a day would help prevent many nutrient deficiencies but that remains up in the air as a vegetarian attempting to follow a Paleo diet.
Speaking of dairy, milk is a great source of protein. However, there are many who aren’t able to tolerate lactose and some may even be allergic to the protein itself, casein. Don’t fret if you’re a vegetarian on the Paleo diet and can’t handle milk. As mentioned, it could be that you’re lactose intolerant or allergic to the casein in milk. But both can be dealt with.
If it’s lactose, homemade yogurt will remove most of the lactose in milk during the fermentation process so that’s a great plus to your options. Additionally, most fermented milk is much easier on the gut when compared to drinking milk on its own.
If the problem is the casein in milk, you’re limited to only having sheep or goat’s milk. Yes it also has casein in it, but slightly different and poses less of a reaction when compared to cow’s milk. Of course, you could deal with both problems at once by consuming only fermented goat or sheep milk.
Sadly speaking, most people aren’t able to gain enough protein just from eggs and dairy. Because of that, it’s highly suggested that instead of being a vegetarian on the Paleo diet, it’s much better to consider being a vegetarian whom follows the Paleo diet as much as possible. To do that, some alternatives for proteins need to be made.
Although legumes contain high levels of phytic acid, lectins and saponins, most arguments made by the Paleo community against these foods include their method of preparation. Isn’t it understandable that our ancestors in that day and age were not only hunters, but foragers as well? Surely these nuts were part and parcel of their diet then and can do the same now.
If they were that unhealthy, why would they be eaten for thousands of years even to this day? Back then, there may not have been a better method to preparing these ingredients, but they may not have had a choice other than eating legumes and grains or starving. Now, however, as we know how to make it as healthy as possible, there are methods to preparing it to reduce its negative impact.
Soaking legumes and grains in a mixture of water and vinegar significantly reduces the amount of phytic acid content. By fermentation, it even further removes phytic acid altogether. Although it does require some preparation in advance, the benefits are well worth the cost. Then, pressure cooking will remove lectins altogether. There you go, a single alternative to continue eating vegetarian but yet as Paleo’ish as possible.
I’ve posted quite a bit of free information on my blog, so feel free to browse through it. If you’re interested in what sort of recipes can be made for a Paleo diet, I’ve been using one called Secret Paleo which will help you get started as well. Head over to their official site secretpaleo.com by clicking here.