Paleo or vegan?
HealthViaFood is agnostic about this question, which can be very controversial for some people, even if limited to health. The question does not need to be controversial. There is no one optimal set of healthy eating habits for everybody.
Paleo eating habits include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, and eggs. It excludes dairy, grains, cereals, beans, and legumes. For example, it excludes wheat, corn, oats, rice, lentils, soy, tofu, millet, buckwheat, and quinoa. The idea is to eat the way that your ancient ancestors ate in the paleolithic era before the advent of agriculture and the cultivation of grains, cereals, and beans.
Vegans exclude all animal products, such as eggs, fish, chicken, meat, dairy, and honey, but they eat grains, cereals, beans, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Some of them eat a lot of junk food too. Vegan eating habits are sometimes referred to as “plant-based”. This may be a misnomer. It is possible to eat mostly plants and also to eat moderate portions of cooked meat, such as pasture-raised beef, liver, turkey, or eggs, even at the same meal. So “excludes animals” is a more precise reference for vegans.
There is a growing vegan political movement promoting “fake meat” and eating insects. Are we entering the “age of veganism“? Maybe, but there are still some happy, healthy carnivores left. Is it immoral to kill and eat animals? What I eat concerns my health most of all. For the rest, I am not sure. Man is the greatest predator to man. “Nature is red in tooth and claw.”
These two sets of eating habits (paleo and vegan) are incompatible physically, but they can be reconciled, if you accept that vegan eating habits can be healthy, even therapeutic, for some people, while paleo eating habits can be healthy for other people. Perhaps there is a smaller group whose health is not served by vegan nor paleo.
Unfortunately for any intelligent discussion, many observers become dogmatic. They have strong opinions that exclude the simple possibility that there is no one optimal “healthy diet” for all. In the words of the ancient Roman philosopher, Lucretius, “one man’s food can be another man’s poison.“
Which is healthy for you? Again, this question can be very controversial but it need not be. In the jungle (or the desert) of contradictory opinions about healthy eating, how do you find what is healthy for you? One possibility is by trial and error, testing one’s own digestive system, finding what foods cause inflammation (constipation, bloating, gas, or indigestion) for you, and then avoiding these foods and ingredients in future meals.
The fact that some animals, such as deer, cows, and elephants, are herbivores does not prove that eating meat is unhealthy for you. Similarly, compared with other animals, the length of the human digestive system and the structure of human teeth does not prove that all red meat is unhealthy for you or me.
Other animals, such as lions, tigers, bears, wolves, and owls would be happy to eat you for lunch. “Nature is red in tooth and claw,” as the English poet Tennyson said.
Many nutritional academics and health coaches often overlook the simple fact that we are individuals. By trial and error, many individuals can find out what eating habits work for each of them. Then they imagine that what works for them works for everybody, because we are all human, but we are biochemically individual.
Many nutritional studies reach contradictory conclusions about what foods are healthy or not for everybody. Many of these studies make general claims about what foods can cause disease or not (“risk factors”). None of them control for the blood type. Too often, the conventional advice is to conform to the official dietary guidelines, a “balanced diet”, and the “food pyramid”.
The contradictions, the theories, the confusion, and the statistics do not matter to you, compared with the question that matters to you – what is healthy for you? What is healthy for you may not be healthy for me and vice versa. We are each biochemically individual. The body is a garden, but your garden is not my garden. If you listen to your body and apply the ideas presented on HealthViaFood, then you can find what is healthy for you. It can even be cheap.
This article reviews the following sets of eating habits to prompt you to think for yourself about what is healthy for you:
Table of options for eating habits
The following table lists each set of eating habits, what is included, what is excluded, and the ideology of each. Then each set of eating habits is described in detail.
|Paleo||vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds,
healthy oils, eggs, fish, meat
|dairy, grains, cereals, beans, legumes, potatoes, corn, sugar, refined foods, refined oils||health,
“eat like a cave dweller”
|Vegan||vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds,
grains, cereals, beans, legumes, tofu, lentils, quinoa, peanuts, processed foods, processed oils, refined sugar
|all animal products, dairy, eggs, honey,
salvation, “save the planet”, health
|Ketogenic||vegetables, nuts, seeds,
eggs, fish, meat
|grains, cereals, sugar, honey, fruit||health,
control of blood sugar, ketones
|Macrobiotic||soup, seaweed, vegetables, whole grains, beans, fermented soy, some fruits, fish, horseradish, wasabi, ginger, daikon||sugar, honey, molasses, chocolate, carob||health|
|Gerson||green juices, potassium-sodium balance, coffee enemas||sugar, grains, dairy, meat||detox, health, control of cancer|
|Budwig||cottage cheese, flax oil||all else||health, control of cancer|
Choosing health via food – in detail
If you choose health, then this is about a change in eating habits, not about a “diet”. Let us avoid the word “diet”, which often implies restrictions, temporary measures, or deprivation. Many people who start a “diet” lose weight and then stop. They return to their previous habits, and then they re-gain the weight. The key is to break your routines and to modify your eating habits permanently – for your health. This can be difficult, but if you think about it, it is possible. What do you value more – your health or your habits?
If you put your health first, then weight loss is merely a side effect. The goal is to improve digestion. For health, and longevity, again the key concept is first to find or develop eating habits that are healthy for you. When you truly listen to your body, you receive messages that indicate what foods are healthy for you or not. These may or may not be healthy for your friend, family member, or neighbor.
The difference with the ideas, methods, and recipes of this site is that you can eat as much as you want without counting calories. You can still gain health, live longer, and reach a healthy weight. This process begins in the mind – for health. It continues with a permanent change of eating habits – for your health.
Regarding health via food, my intention is to publish independently and freely on the vegan-paleo question. I tend to follow paleo eating habits myself, but I recognize that these eating habits are not healthy for everybody. Some people, possibly most of all those with blood types A and AB, may be healthy by being vegan or at least eating no red meat. Other people, possibly most all those with blood type O or B, may be healthy by eating small portions of eggs, fish, or meat occasionally. This article is to present specific ideas for health via food and not to offer individual advice.
You can eat “plant-based” and still eat moderate portions of good-quality fish or meat. This is paleo. For details, read the article Paleo101.
Paleo eating habits are also known as a “caveman” or “stone age” diet. This is not a new idea. Dr. Walter L. Voegtlin MD wrote his book, “The Stone Age Diet“, in 1975, and the idea surely goes back even further. The idea is to eat how our ancient ancestors ate before agriculture, cities, and the cultivation of wheat, rice, corn, and soy. Contrary to popular belief, it does not advise large quantities of meat, fish, or eggs, merely moderate quantities, even daily. There are many misinterpreations of the paleo idea. It works for some people, but it is not for everybody. According to blood type eating, paleo is consistent with blood type O but not with blood type A. Paleo or mostly paleo eating habits work for me. I have blood type O. If you have blood type O, paleo may or may not work for you, but why not try it for a week and see how you feel – for your health, to live longer, or for weight loss? Blood type O recipes also tend to be paleo recipes. Paleo excludes grains, beans, legumes, dairy, and all refined foods. It includes vegetables, fruit, eggs, fish, meat, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices.
A few noisy paleo advocates have found that eating paleo is very healthy for them. Some of them try to impose this idea, demanding or expecting that everybody eat paleo. This does not need to be. They overlook biochemical individuality. Veganism does work for many people, but not for all. The blood type may indicate probable healthy eating habits. If you are a vegan and have blood type O, if you often feel tired or in pain, why not try paleo for a week and see how you feel? Again, “nature is red in tooth and claw,” as the poet Tennyson put it.
The following websites have paleo recipes:
- EatDrinkPaleo (Irena Macri),
- Nom Nom Paleo,
- Paleo Grubs
- Paleo Plan,
- Ultimate Paleo Guide.
You can grow your own food in your backyard, including growing vegetables and raising chickens and rabbits. It can take as little as an hour a week of your time. For details, see the Grow Network by Marjory Wildcraft. She offers online courses for beginning farmers, and her wildly popular website includes a forum where you can ask questions and receive answers.
If you grow your own food, you can find a list of organic seeds here.
Veganism can be very healthy, even therapeutic, for some people, but not all vegans are in good health. Some vegans are gaunt, scrawny, lethargic, and almost emaciated, with sagging skin, sallow faces, and baggy eyes. Many also have uncomfortable digestion. Ask them. Tofu, peanuts, beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, quinoa, and cereals can be healthy sources of protein for many people, but not for everybody. Could the blood type be a factor?
For my health, I was a vegetarian for about two years, occasionally eating eggs, fish, and chicken, but no meat. Then I became a vegan for about six months, eating no dairy nor animals. I attended some of the local vegetarian society meetings. I was attracted to vegan pacifism. Some vegans are particularly vocal at these meetings about their ideas and philosophy.
Vegans can have various possible nutrient deficiencies, such as vitamin B12,, protein, iron, zinc, and vitamins A and D. I learned to offset these possible deficiencies by eating plants that contained these nutrients, such as lentils, beets, pumpkin seeds, carrots, mushrooms, and miso or tempeh. I took vitamin B12 and other supplements. By trial and error, I learned to cook and eat brown rice, tofu, lentils, quinoa, adzuki beans, buckwheat, and millet, all with vegetables. Also by trial and error, I learned to use spices and herbs, which contain minerals and vitamins.
I lost weight, but for my health, veganism stopped working for me. I started to feel pain in the knees, walking upstairs. I was not willing to die for the cause, so I made a change. I started to eat eggs again, with onions and spinach, two or three in an omelet for breakfast. After a day or two, the pain in the knees went away. If I stopped eating eggs, the pain returned after a day. I repeated this experiment. I went back to eating eggs, liver, sardines, turkey, and meat, in small portions, at breakfast and often at lunch, almost every day. I gained energy and stamina, This works for me, but not for everybody.
I am not alone, having been a failure as a vegan. Why are some vegans sick? Many, though not all, vegan failures, who tried veganism and then went back to eating animals, have blood type O. Many, though not all, healthy, happy vegans have blood type A. This is consistent with blood type eating, according to Drs. D’Adamo and Mozzi. For my health, I have no qualms about the fact that I regularly eat eggs, sardines, turkey, and beef for my health (in the morning and at lunch, in small quantities, usually no more than one hundred and fifty grams per meal, or four to six ounces).
Many vegans were not born vegans, but they become vegans for spiritual or esoteric reasons. They see a unity of life on earth, and they see eating meat or even eggs or honey as violence towards other creatures on earth. They believe that this violence results in an accumulation of unhealthy spirit that they will later regret. They also point out that chickens, pigs, and cows butchered in confined animal farming operations (CAFO) are often contaminated with a steady supply of:
- genetically modified animal feed (either corn or soy),
- growth hormones, and
CAFO carries risks, such as antibiotic resistance, pollution of local water, and waste processing. These animals may indeed be unhealthy to eat, compared with organic, grass-fed eggs, beef, or game if available. The alternative is to know your meat supplier and to look for organic, grass-fed eggs and beef.
In the wild, lions, tigers, and bears would all be happy to have you and me for lunch without qualms. Why should I have qualms about eating meat or eggs? “Nature is red and tooth in claw,” as the poet Tennyson wrote. Except for the Jain tradition in India, which goes back to the sixth century BC, there is no vegan tribe on earth. Even the Jains kept animals for dairy.
Many vegans are in good health, in their nineties, and tolerant of carnivores. By looking and listening, I found that the healthiest vegans were the least dogmatic and the most tolerant of carnivores.
If you have blood type A or AB, if your digestion is unhealthy, if you eat red meat, why not at least try to exclude the red meat – for your health? I suggest that you try it for one to three weeks, and see how you feel. You may have already found that eating red meat can be difficult for you to digest.
Blood type A recipes tend to be vegan recipes, though eggs are not strictly vegan. Eggs can be a healthy source of protein for all blood types, depending on how they are raised. On the other hand, some people do not digest eggs well. Optimally, the eggs you eat were produced by happy chickens fed grass, not grains, and free to roam, not confined in a cage. Many people find that being lacto-vegetarian, eating eggs and goat or sheep dairy, is healthy for them. These people tend to have blood type A or AB. You can often substitute tofu for eggs to make them vegan recipes.
On the other hand, if you are a vegan, if your digestion is unhealthy, if you feel tired or weak, if you have blood type O, are you willing to die for the cause? Why not try eating small portions of eggs, fish, chicken, or beef, in the morning, for your health, and see how you feel? There are three types of vegans – junk food vegans, sprititual vegans, and healthy vegans. Which one are you?
Beware that a vegan diet has been promoted with slogans, such as “lifestyle medicine”, “exercise is diet”, “animal rights”, “environmental impact”, or “plant-based”. These slogans obscure the interests of people who believe that veganism is necessary for spiritual salvation. I am not opposed to religious or spiritual beliefs. These interests simply overlook the possibility that eating modest portions of good-quality red meat, even for breakfast, can be healthy for some people.
The vegan political movement is based on the ideas that it is immoral to kill animals, that animal husbandry is polluting the earth, and that veganism is healthy for everybody. “The Game Changers” was a popular film that promoted these ideas.
Another point of view is that animals, such as rabbits and mice, are also killed for vegetable agriculture, if they are competing for the vegetables. Factory farms, also known as confined animal farming operations, feed the animals with a steady diet of antibiotics, hormones, and painkillers. Factory farms do indeed pollute the land, water, and air, but not all animal husbandry takes place in factory farms, also known as confined animal farming operations. Some animal husbandry is part of a balanced system known as “regenerative agriculture”.
Resources for die-hard vegans include Oldways, The Vegetarian Resource Group, and Vegetarian Nutrition.
To recover and to maintain health, some medical doctors recommend ketogenic eating habits. It may be useful for some people but not for everybody all the time.
Ketones are molecules of energy that are lipids, in other words fat. Ketogenic eating avoids sugar of all sorts, including sugar in red beets, carrots, bananas, apples, and pears. It is intended to avoid peaks and valleys of blood sugar and insulin. You can obtain nourishment and energy from vegetables, protein, and lipids. Eating nuts and seeds can bring more energy than fruits, grains, and cereals, though some people digest nuts better than others. Healthy fats do not make you fat. Sugar does. For details, read the book by Dr. Mark Hyman, MD, “Eat Fat. Get Thin.“. Also, be aware that the calorie theory is a myth.
For an overview of eating ketogenically read Dr. Joe Mercola – A Beginner’s Guide to the Ketogenic Diet. Ketosis is the process of making energy from lipids (nuts, seeds, oil, or fat) not carbohydrates (vegetables, fruits, or starch). You produce ketones from the lipids. You then burn the ketones for energy. Even advocates of ketogenic eating habits suggest that you use caution when you first make the switch and then occasionally alternate between ketosis and burning vegetables, fruits, or starch.
Using mostly shredded coconut, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, chocolate, eggs, and stevia, Dr. Jockers has a list of recipes for keto snacks. Healthy nuts and seeds include almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and chia seeds. He also describes possible side effects of eating ketogenically.
“First Do No Harm” is a touching drama that also makes the point that some doctors have used a ketogenic diet to prompt some young people to heal themselves of epilepsy. Dr. Ron Rosedale MD was an early advocate of a high-fat, ketogenic diet for health and longevity.
Note that there is controversy about ketogenic eating habits. On one hand, Dr. Joseph Mercola discusses the benefits of a ketogenic eating with Gary Taubes. The ketogenic diet has been used since the 1920’s for the treatment of epilepsy. It is often effective when medications and surgery fail, according to Dr. Chris Palmer MD and his sixty-three minute presentation. He also briefly presents ketogenic diet as metabolic treatment for mental illness.
On the other hand, the late Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez MD described in detail his healthy skepticism towards a ketogenic diet in his essay, “Dismantling the Ketogenic Diet“. Perhaps the truth is that ketogenic eating habits are healthy for some people, but not for everybody. Could the blood type be a factor?
Macrobiotic eating habits have their origin in Japan and ancient China. George Ohsawa became ill with tuberculosis, when he was twenty. This prompted him to retreat to the mountains and to study ancient Chinese medicine. He then changed his eating habits, according to what he read, and he healed himself. Ohsawa was a pacifist who was imprisoned by the Imperial Government of Japan and later freed.
He traveled to France, where he started to promote his ideas and methods in the form of what was later called macrobiotic eating. To describe his ideas and methods, he wrote “Zen Macrobiotics: The Art of Rejuvenation and Longevity“. It is based on the idea of a balance between “yin” foods, such as vegetables, and “yang” foods, such as grains. This idea is similar to the idea of an alkaline-acid balance. His book has his ideas and observations, including the idea that food causes illness and food can cure illness. This is not a new idea, yet it is still current today. Many other authors have interpreted his ideas.
Specifically, macrobiotic eating includes soup, seaweed, vegetables, whole grains such as rice, buckwheat, quinoa, or millet, beans, soy, some fruits, and small portions of fish or seafood, with horseradish, wasabi, ginger, or daikon. Sugar, honey, molasses, chocolate, and carob are excluded from a macrobiotic eating, but sweeteners such as rice syrup, barley malt, and amazake are included. Ohsawa was not dogmatic. He recommended that each person try things for himself or herself and listen to their body. For example, some people include animal foods, such as fish, in their macrobiotic practice and others do not. For details, read more by the George Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation.
Macrobiotic eating also became popular after the publication in 1981 by Michio Kushi of “The Macrobiotic Approach to Cancer“. A summary of Kushi’s macrobiotic recommendations are here. On the other hand, even in his own family, Kushi did not have all the answers.
Ohsawa further specified:
- Do not eat chemical white sugar, and avoid everything that is sugared.
- Look for the minimum quantity of water that is necessary to your existence and that will require you to urinate no more than three times per day.
- Use the least possible amount of animal products, especially if you reside in a warm climate or if you are going to visit one.
- Avoid industrial foods, particularly those with food coloring or imported from afar.
- Avoid fruit.
- Include sixty to seventy per cent of cereals and twenty to twenty-five per cent of well cooked or baked vegetables.
- Avoid potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants (the “nightshade” family, that is Solanaceae) .
- Season dishes with salt and use vegetable oil in a tropical climate.
- Cook using French, Chinese, or Indian methods.
- Use no vinegar.
- Chew food as thoroughly as possible, on average of about thirty times each mouthful.
Macrobiotic eating habits, certain grains, and certain beans work for some people, but they do not work for everybody. On his website, Ignacio Aragüés has an excellent set of macrobiotic recipes.
On the other hand, Carl Ferré clearly describes why he stopped eating macrobiotic. For my health, contrary to macrobiotic, I usually avoid cereals and grains, except oatmeal and buckwheat porridge now and then.
Max Gerson was a medical doctor (1881-1959). When he was a young man, he healed himself of migraine headaches by changing his eating habits. He found he could apply his method to others, whom he promptêd to heal themselves of other maladies. He wrote a book about his experience, “A Cancer Therapy – Results of Fifty Cases“. His methods included:
- frequent organic green vegetable juices, similar to green smoothies, at least one per day,
- a high potassium/sodium balance via food, and
- coffee enemas for rapid detoxification and stimulation of the liver.
Gerson’s ideas and methods are not accepted by the medical authorities. Some doctors question the details of the pathology in his book. Others point out that nobody has ever done a clinical trial of Gerson’s methods. Gerson’s daughter, Charlotte Gerson, was a strong advocate of his methods in the form of the Gerson Institute. They are truthful enough to acknowledge contra-indications and cautions. They also explain the biological basis of Gerson Therapy. Gerson clinics operate freely in Mexico and Hungary. For more details, read the book, and decide for yourself.
Reviewing Gerson’s methods and nutritional therapy is beyond the scope of this website. Do your own research. You can see an eighty-minute review of his methods in the film Dying to Have Known. This is not an offer of services nor an endorsement of any service providers. If you have a medical condition, see a doctor. Another related film is The Beautiful Truth.
Joanna Budwig was another medical doctor with an unconventional treatment of cancer in the form of a mixture of cottage cheese and flax oil. Her book, “Flax Oil as a True Aid Against Arthritis, Heart Infarction, Cancer and Other Diseases“, describes her method. The authorities tend to have a low opinion of the Budwig method, similarly to the Gerson methods. For details, read her book, and think for yourself.
There is much controversy about the methods of Drs. Gerson and Budwig and other non-patented methods, such as small doses of apricot kernels., which may contain laetrile, also known as vitamin B17. I suggest that you do your own research, and then decide for yourself. If you have a medical condition, see a doctor.
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