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Published on March 14th, 2014 | by Grinds4Gamers


Vegetarians on Paleo?

Can Vegetarians Eat Paleo?

At first glance, you’d think there was no way for a vegetarian to eat the way our Paleolithic ancestors did all those years ago.  Well, the reality is, even meat-eaters don’t adhere to the exact diet that the caveman ate.  If so, we’d be eating a lot more tubers, insects, berries and scavenged nuts than we’d probably like.  Every once in a while we’d get lucky and score a kill, where we’d get some actual wild-game meats.  Nowadays, however, we can walk right into the grocery store and grab what we need to follow our pseudo-paleo lifestyle, loosely based on our poor, under-priveleged caveman cousins.

So what’s my point?  Well, even meat-eating paleo followers aren’t full paleo.  So that should open the door for a bit of flexibility for our vegetarian brothers and sisters.  The essential proteins you need to survive become much, much more difficult to get when you’re not a carnivore.  So how DO you do vegetarian paleo?

Here are some rules to live by when you don’t eat meat on the paleo diet:

  1. Learn to love nuts.  Many seeds like almonds and sunflower seeds contain healthy fats and proteins.  Don’t over-do it here, though.  When weight loss is a factor, you need to ration your intake of nuts.  About a handful a day of unshelled, raw nuts is best.
  2. Eggs are an excellent option.  Well, unless you’re a vegan.  If you’re vegan, skip to the next one, nothing to see here.  If, however, you are an egg-eater, you can score 6 grams of protein in just one egg.  If you’re worried about the yolks, go with the whites.  Or you could buy free-range eggs and eat the yolks.  Look, science is changing.  There are numerous articles and studies that prove that eggs have absolutely NO LINK to high cholesterol and heart disease.  As a matter of fact, eggs are one of the most nutrient-dense foods available. One egg provides 13 essential nutrients, all in the yolk (contrary to popular belief, the yolk is far higher in nutrients than the white).
  3. Be flexible.  Although the Paleolithic lifestyle frowns upon grain-like seeds of any kind, when you’re not eating meat, you cannot deny the fact that these substances contain protein.  When you need protein in some form other than meat, you may choose to add some of these foods back into your diet.  Just remember to eat them in moderation, as they do allow for inflammation to take place within the body and that is what we are generally trying to avoid when we eat paleo.  Quinoa, for example, “includes chemical defense systems that irritate the gut,” according to an excerpt from Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution.
  4. Another option: Beans (Legumes).  So why aren’t legumes paleo-friendly?  Well, the obvious fact is that our ancestors didn’t have access to beans in the first place.  So there’s that.  But the most solid argument against beans on paleo is that they contain anti-nutrients called protease that are actually toxic to the body in low doses.  An enzyme inhibitor within the bean may interfere with digestion in the bean’s raw state- even after cooking.  What’s the solution?  Soak beans like lentils, chickpea and broad beans in water for 24 hours prior to cooking them.  This will remove most of those pesky anti-nutrients. It sounds like a pain in the rear, right? Yes, however, soaking your beans will make them palatable and provide another source of protein to the vegetarian paleo enthusiast.  Here’s a quote from an article I read on the subject:

According to Tim Ferriss, who claims to eat a lot of lentils on his version of a Paleo diet, “Soaking for 24 hours at room temperature has been shown to remove 66% of the trypsin (protease) inhibitor activity in mung bean, 93% in lentil, 59% in chickpea, and 100% in broad bean.”  Soaked beans should of course be well-cooked in order to make them non-toxic.

All in all, there ARE options.  So, if you’re a vegan or a vegetarian and you want to dive into the Paleolithic lifestyle, use some of the choices above.  Don’t worry that the caveman didn’t have access to beans as a protein source.  Heck, you don’t even have to call your diet “paleo” if you don’t want.  Following the guidelines above, coupled with the overall rules of cutting out rice, pastas, breads, processed foods, artificial sweeteners, sugars and so on will still make you a super-hero in comparison to how the rest of the world eats!

Just remember to be flexible and be consistent.  You’ll be fine.

Here are some great websites dedicated to Paleo Herbivores:









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About the Author

Kash is the creator of Grinds 4 Gamers and the Founder of MOG Nation Gaming & a Co-Host on the Wildcast Podcast. I'm a busy & humble public servant, daddy, hubby, game geek, Crossfit Coach and self-proclaimed Paleo chef. Need help with min-maxing your life? Hit me up at kash@grinds4gamers.com.

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