Paleo Diet
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Is it possible to have a vegetarian Paleo diet?

The Paleo diet seems very meat-centric. What can I do if I'm a vegetarian but would like to try out the Paleo diet?

Asked 9 years ago
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Gary Wu
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Posted 9 years ago

The core rules of Paleo are:

  • Avoid sugar
  • Avoid grains, legumes, tubers
  • Avoid refined seed and vegetable oils

A corollary is:

  • Healthy fats are the preferred source of energy; saturated fats are most preferred, followed by mono-unsaturated fats

These rules do not automatically rule out vegetarianism. I have not been a vegetarian myself, so I can only offer some general guidelines, and hope that they may be helpful to you.

Probably the biggest challenge when contemplating a vegetarian Paleo diet is around getting enough healthy fats. If eggs and dairy are allowed, then it's easy: eat plenty of eggs, butter, ghee, cheese, cream, etc., which should provide more than sufficient variety and quantity of saturated fats. If eggs and dairy are not allowed, your chief sources of fat would need to be coconut milk, coconut oil, or palm kernel oil. On top of these, you can always add avocados or olive oil which are mono-unsaturated.

Another source of fats to consider would be nuts: macadamias and almonds are two good ones that come to mind. Nuts do have appreciable amounts of lectins, however, so they may not work well for everyone, and I would advise consuming nuts in limited quantities.

The next concern would be around getting a complete complement of amino acids. You do not really need that much protein in absolute quantity, but you need to ensure that the types of vegetables that you eat provide the right mix of amino acids. Unfortunately I'm not knowledgeable in getting the right amino acid mix from vegetables, but I assume this is a topic you are already familiar with. Here again it is much easier if eggs and dairy are allowed.

If you find that you need to violate some of the core rules, the safest to add back from the "avoid list" would be tubers such as yams or taro. White rice seems to be the least problematic of all grains if you absolutely must eat some. Wheat and other gluten grains are the worst offenders, and I would not advise eating wheat under any circumstance.

Lastly, make sure you supplement your B12 if you don't eat eggs or dairy.

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