The Paleo diet consists of eating wild and free range meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and some tubers. As a vegetarian, it can seem as though following this type of diet would be impossible because you can’t eat the meats, and a lot of the other foods you normally consume are also not allowed on the menu.
Here we will look at the main problems with going Paleo as a vegetarian, ideas on an adapted Paleo diet, and some recommended supplements to help vegetarians get the nutrients they need.
Paleo for Vegetarians
Problem 1 -Protein
So obviously the big problem here is that vegetarians will not be getting their protein from meat which is a fundamental part of the Paleo diet.
The Paleo diet does include a few different items that contain protein and which fit into the vegetarian requirements. The short list includes:
• Hemp seed
The question is can these sources really provide enough protein?
Take for example the fact that you would have to eat about 8 eggs per day to get your required protein and it is recommended that you only eat about six per week.
If you eat one cup of sliced avocado, that meets 5% of your daily protein needs. How about spinach? One cup of spinach will provide 1% of your daily recommended protein.
One cup of almonds can provide 40% of your daily needs, however nuts shouldn’t be eaten in large amounts because they contain Omega-6 PUFA which can cause inflammation.
This leaves a vegetarian with a protein problem, so there are two approaches; bend the rules of Paleo or bend the rules of vegetarianism.
Paleo Gray Area Proteins: Legumes and Pseudograins
Many vegetarians who follow the Paleo diet will adapt their diet to include legumes and pseudo grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, and/or beans, as a protein source.
The only thing to remember is that these must be prepared correctly due to the phytic acid they contain. The problem with phytic acid is that it is known to stick to nutrients in food making them useless to the body, so you will want to minimize it.
Vegetarian Gray Area Proteins: fish, bivalves, shellfish, chicken
On the other hand, if your particular version of vegetarianism can allow certain animals such as fish, bivalves, shellfish, and/or chicken, these can be helpful sources of protein.
In summary, if you are a vegetarian you can follow a form of Paleo but will likely have to make adjustments for protein in order to maintain a healthy balanced diet. There is one more potential problem worth mentioning that you may run into because of the Paleo diet restriction on grains.
Paleo for Vegetarians
Problem 2 Grains
One of the main food types that vegetarians eat to meet their daily caloric intake needs is grains. Unfortunately, on the Paleo diet, grains are out. This can make it difficult to stick to the plan because hunger is not satisfied.
The foods that a vegetarian Paleo dieter is going to use to fill up on are mainly fruits and vegetables. The other problem surrounding that fact is that most vegetables that are usually used for protein are also on the “no” list like all beans except the string variety.
However, by allowing legumes and pseudo grains, dieters can likely solve this problem too.
3 Beneficial Paleo Principles Vegetarians Can Follow
Here are three Paleo principles that vegetarians can follow and which will be beneficial to them and their health.
Removing Processed Foods
One of the key parts of the diet is removing processed foods and going back to basics. Most vegetarians already do this for the most part, but if still consuming any, the Paleo diet will cut these out. This can help to keep your body clean and functioning well from the inside, out.
Vegetable oil, peanut oil, canola oil, and soy oil are all oils that are not on the permitted foods list for Paleo dieters. They contain artificial products and polyunsaturated fatty acids or PUFA. These cause inflammation during the breakdown process. Simply replacing them with olive oil, avocado oil, red palm oil, macadamia nut oil, or coconut oil on the Paleo diet will be a move toward better health.
Gluten grains are often a staple in a vegetarian diet. However, these can irritate the stomach and cause a plethora of other digestive issues. On the Paleo diet you can follow the rule that eliminates gluten and take a stressor off your body’s system.
Supplements to Consider for Vegetarian Paleo Eaters
It is also helpful to consider supplementing particular nutrients, which you may or may not already take as part of your vegetarian diet. Here is a quick rundown.
You need B12 in your regular diet for mental health, mood regulation, and high energy. It can be absent in a Paleo-vegetarian or vegan diet. Nutritional yeast fortified with B12 can be a good source to get the vitamin or vegan supplements are also available.
As getting enough protein from your diet can be a problem for vegetarians it may be worth supplementing with a vegetarian protein powder that you take on its own or add to other dishes such as smoothies, desserts and many others. There are many brands to choose from but we recommend this one
The main thing to remember when trying to stay with the Paleo diet is that you eat as naturally as possible.
This leads back to the caveman times and our ancestors of long ago. Even if your vegetarian Paleo diet is not strict Paleo, it can still bring with it plenty of benefits for your health and even weight loss.
Whether you are a bit more flexible on the vegetarian rules or the Paleo rules, there is definitely a way to find a healthy, balanced Paleo inspired diet that can sustain you.