July 15, 2014, News

Paleo vs raw vegan

Most people come into our clinic looking for a diet that provides the right nutrition and suits their lifestyle.

The same questions come up time and time again. Should I eat meat? Do I need to eat raw food? Are oils and fats bad? Can I eat sugar?

There are an array of diet ideas out there.

Unfortunately most are fads.

Personally, I have always believed in a balanced diet. Maybe it’s the Libra in me, but it makes sense to eat a wide variety of fresh, seasonal, whole foods. Some raw, some cooked, with all food groups present – proteins, carbs and fats.

Two popular diets that stand out are the Paleo diet and the raw vegan diet and as we’ll see, the fundamentals couldn’t be more different.

The Paleo diet 

During the Paleolithic period, many thousands of years ago, people ate primarily vegetables, fruit, nuts, roots, and meat, which varied depending on season and availability.

Based upon scientific research examining the types and quantities of foods our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate, the foundation of the Paleo diet is lean meat, as well as organ meats, seafood, fresh fruit, and non-starchy vegetables. Very little fat is consumed in the traditional Paleo diet, but the more recent offshoot of this diet contains coconut oil, raw dairy products and activated nuts.

This high protein, no carb diet will benefit some people more than others. You will handle the Paleo diet better longterm if you are an O blood group, in that you are designed to digest animal protein more effectively. Most people report higher energy levels, stabilised blood sugar, diminished sugar cravings, stronger immune system and weight loss. However some health experts claim that such low carbohydrates will eventually lead to nutritional deficiencies and adverse health issues.

I have plenty of Paleo friends and the one thing I always recommend is not to forgo good oils. Quality, unheated oils and fats such as olive, flax, chia, and coconut are important adjuncts to a healthy diet and happy body.

High protein generally keeps you fuller for longer and stops sugar cravings. It helps to build muscle which is great if you’re wanting to lose weight.

However animal products, particularly meat contain purine – when broken down results in the release of uric acid. Uric acid is then eliminated through the kidneys, but in some people hyperuricemia(high uric acid levels) can lead to gout, kidney stones and even kidney failure. The skin can become pale and ‘kidney’ bags under the eyes may form.

When following a Paleo diet, it’s crucially important to cleanse regularly(every 3-6 months). This gives the body a rest from digesting heavy animal products and allows the complete elimination of uric acid.

Another important aspect of this diet is making sure you don’t get constipated. Some people are more prone to this than others but generally a high protein diet can lead to constipation. Animal products are low in fibre and will putrefy if transit time is too long, causing an overgrowth of unfriendly bacteria and parasites. High protein diets require lots of vegetables and water to help sweep the colon clean.
The raw vegan diet 

On the other side of the spectrum is the raw vegan diet. As the name suggests, no animal products are included(not even honey) and all food is uncooked or only slightly warmed to no more than 50 degrees C. This diet is generally high vegetable, high fruit and high grain. In my experience, people with blood type A achieve better results this diet, especially long term as they are designed to be vegetarian.

Some raw vegans choose not to consume oils and fats, only having half an avocado a day, whilst others eat a wide variety of oils from nuts and seeds. We all know my take on this – I think good quality, unrefined, unheated oils and fats are essential for a well balanced diet.

There is no doubt the raw vegan diet works better in summertime when luscious fruits and vegetables are abundant and the weather is more favourable to consuming cooler foods. During the cooler months the body needs warming foods. Digestion can be disturbed without some cooked foods. Of course juices, smoothies and salads are appropriate in winter, our cells still need to be flooded with nutrients but we also need the warming nourishment that comes from soups, stews, curries etc.

Raw vegans are usually the most inspired and dedicated foodies. They have strong values and care deeply about animals and the earth. They usually look super healthy; colour in their cheeks and sparkling eyes. This is most likely due to their daily juices, smoothies and vast  amount of vegetables. The raw vegan diet needs to be well planned and organised though, otherwise nutritional deficiencies may crop up down the track. One problem with raw vegan is that some people experience severe sugar cravings that derail their efforts. This is mainly due to insulin resistance and mineral deficiencies.

So what’s the right angle for you? My experience in the years I’ve been practicing naturopathy is that your blood group does play a significant role in how you metabolise proteins. O’s are much more equipped to digest red meat than the other blood groups. A’s are better vegetarians. Your current level of health and stage of life will also determine what type of diet is best for you. I’ve always advocated listening to your body and being open to change.

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