This is a question I hear a lot, and a question I had myself while in nutrition class. There are so many anecdotal reasons that each can seem unequivocally the way to go and never turn back, until you hear the other side. So how did I reach a conclusion and what is my advice, now that classes are over, I’m qualified and practicing, and have an opinion?
Take a good look at each diet. Go ahead, make a list if you want to. What should you eat, and what should you not eat, on each of these diets? You will notice some major differences, which are the ones we all tend to focus on when we ask the question or face the confusion. Meat, for example, and grains. Because we’re so focused on the question about what we consider to be staples in our diets, it can be a real brain rattler and take up endless amounts of those precious moments we use worrying when we should be trying to sleep.
But consider what these diets both avoid and it becomes SO much simpler! What does any really healthy ‘diet’ plan not include? Processed, packaged, refined foods. Additives. Preservatives. Artificial colors and flavors. Chemicals. GMOs. ‘Ready meals’. Keep going, I’m sure you can come up with a whole list of things that both vegan and paleo diets do not include.
The truth is that ...wait for it... we are all individual. So I cannot tell you if your body will need to eat a bit of meat, or do much better with no meat. What I can tell you is that your body desperately needs the wonderful flavors and NUTRIENTS in vegetables. Whole, organic, straight from the ground to your kitchen counter, vegetables. And it needs a variety of texture, flavor, and COLOR. So EAT MORE PLANTS.
What else can I tell you? That any meal cooked in your own home will be healthier than any meal you get at a restaurant. When you order salmon, mashed potatoes, and broccoli from your new favorite super healthy restaurant, do you really know what you’re getting? You imagine they are in the back stream, freshly catching your wild salmon, gutting, and grilling it straight away, with just a hint of pink Himalayan sea salt, perhaps a small pat of butter, and some wonderful fresh herbs or spices, and that your mashed potatoes have just been pulled from the organic soil, scrubbed, boiled, and mashed with perhaps again a pinch of that pink Himalayan sea salt, small pat of butter and fresh herbs and spices mixed in...perhaps a bit of freshly roasted garlic. And the broccoli, freshly harvested from the organic soil that morning, just quickly steamed and lovingly tossed on your plate. Because this is likely how you would aim to make it at home. It is possible there is a restaurant out there that comes within decent reach of this goal. But here’s where you need to swallow a hard dose of reality. Think about what it takes to run a restaurant, and feed all the customers in a timely fashion. Food is prepared well in advance, shipped from far away, frozen for long periods of time, pre-prepared and stored in a fridge days ahead of time for easy re-heating in a microwave when you order. And lots and lots of cheap, low quality oil, salt, and sugar added to make you smile when you imagine how healthy that goodness you are tasting must be, as it so effortlessly slides down your throat. Repeat after me: Every time I want to order in, get take out, or just go to a restaurant to save myself the effort of cooking, I compromise my health. Or maybe not, but must importantly, I have no idea.
So LOVE vegetables. And if you’re going to eat grains, eat whole grains. And if you’re going to eat meat, eat grass-fed meat, raised on a loving, organic farm and killed in a humane way. Cook at home as much as you can, and try new things so you are getting good variety of nutrients in your food. There is ...wait for it... STRENGTH IN NUTRIENTS. But only if you’re getting a wonderful array of beautifully rainbow colored vegetables on your plate and into your tummy. The rest matters too, but not as much as making sure those organic, brightly colored organic vegetables are the main event. Everything else is just a bit of fun on the side!