This is a question that frequently occurs to vegans – Can I be on a Paleolithic Diet? It is a desire to lead an environmentally low impact life and to refrain from any kind of cruelty or violence to animals as well as a desire for a healthy body and mind because of which most vegans make this lifestyle choice.
Many vegans choose to embrace a Paleolithic diet but the question begs to be asked: is a Vegan Paleo Diet possible? Firstly let’s define both veganism and Paleolithic diets:
This diet eschews all animal or animal based foods. So vegans are not only vegetarian (eating no meat, poultry or fish), they also cut out eggs, milk and milk products and even other foods such as honey from their diet. It is thought that well planned vegan diets are high in nutrients and may protect against heart disease and degenerative conditions.
Simply put, this is a diet that our human ancestors in the Paleolithic age may have consumed. The Paleolithic age predates settled life and agriculture and so this diet includes foods that our hunter gatherer predecessors would likely have consumed.
This diet specifically excluded grains, processed foods, refined foods, and so on. So ‘flour’ can come from almonds, oil from coconuts, and sweet flavors from honey.
We know that ancestors did not grow crops, raise poultry, or raise cows and goats for milk and meat. However they did eat everything that they could hunt (animals) and gather (fruit, tubers, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fungi, etc). According to gastroenterologist Walter L. Voegtlin who first propounded this pre-agricultural diet, human genetics are most ideally adapted to this type of diet.
However the assumptions about a prehistoric diet are not uniformly accepted. For one, no one can say with certainty what our cavemen ancestors really ate. Then there are disputes about our genetics and evolution in the past 10,000 years.
There are those who say that this is a long enough time for us to have adapted to settled, agrarian diets. There are also those who laud the nutritional merit of grains and argue against cutting these out of a healthy diet.
What is a vegan paleo diet?
A vegan paleo diet is obviously one that encompasses veganism – no animals and animal products – and also no oils, grains, refined or processed foods.
One of the main concerns that most people voice is that of protein. If you cannot eat grain, meat, poultry or dairy, where do you get your protein from? Seeds and nuts would be one of the answers; and proteins are also to be found in many other foods from the fruit and vegetable groups – you would just have to eat a lot of it.
Is vegan paleo diet a good idea?
Proponents of a paleo-vegan diet would point to a mighty gorilla (a herbivore and man’s cousin, evolutionarily speaking) and say he evidently gets the protein he needs from what is essentially a no-grain, no meat, no-poultry diet; so why cannot we! It is also argued that our cavemen ancestors were herbivores; that humans are naturally herbivorous.
So a healthy paleo-diet is certainly possible in theory and is to be recommended from the no-cruelty standpoint as well. Having said this, it can be difficult. Many of those who start out on a vegan paleo diet do tend to drop it or tend to make compromises somewhere.
So while theoretically possible, a vegan paleo diet can be very difficult to sustain. Concerns that humans are not ideally adapted or suited to this diet also have some merit. So ultimately it has to be an individual’s choice – whether this diet is possible, practical and healthy in the long run.