Both Paleo and vegan diets have become popular in the last few years. But what are their pros and cons, and how might they affect your health? For generations, many people have sat down to dinner expecting to see more or less of the same thing: meat, potato, vegetable, bread. These days, it’s not nearly so simple. What you’ll see on any given table, and on any individual plate, depends in large part on how the eaters in question define their food ideology. Today, popular eating styles vary — from hardcore vegan to anything-goes omnivore — and it’s not all that unusual for such differences to exist within the same family or tightly knit social group. Sometimes that coexistence is harmonious; other times, not so much. That’s because eating is an intensely personal act, and one’s food choices might be based on anything from cultural and religious traditions to social norms, ethical and environmental concerns, nutritional principles, and aesthetic preferences.

ON EATING ANIMALS

THE PALEOS SAY . . .

Lierre Keith — “A Paleo diet is based on what humans and our ancestral progenitors ate. That would have been meat, especially the nutrient-dense organ meats and fat. It also would have included nuts, edible greens and some seasonal fruit. Wild meat is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and has a very different nutritional profile than factory-farmed, grain-fed meat, which is pro-inflammatory. Most Paleo people go to great lengths to get grass-fed ruminants, wild-caught fish or hunted meat rather than eat inhumanely raised factory-farmed meat.”

THE VEGANS SAY . . .

Kris Carr — “As I began to connect the dots beyond just my health, a compassionate plant-based diet became the cornerstone of my activism and my spiritual practice. This way of living doesn’t contribute to suffering — cellular suffering (caused by poor diet, lifestyle and environmental factors), animal torture and suffering, and planetary suffering (caused by the factory-farm system). And, all protein is not created equal — animal protein is highly acidic and not as healthy as plant protein. We get hung up on the misbelief that we must get a ‘complete protein’ from a single source. While mammal flesh is technically complete — meaning it contains all the essential amino acids — it’s also complete with a host of problems.

ON EATING GRAINS

 THE PALEOS SAY . . .

People who believe the prohibition of grains is extreme or unnecessary have managed to completely ignore the relevant research. When people put dogmatic doctrine (veganism) ahead of science, no amount of research will change minds. If a conventional eater wanted to embrace a more moderate version of the Paleo diet, simply avoiding all grains, as well as all liquid calories (juices, sugary coffee drinks, etc.), would be a great first step.

THE VEGANS SAY

Refined grains act like sugar in the body and are not recommended. However, along with legumes, nuts, seeds, and a wealth of vegetables and fruits, whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, kamut, amaranth and others are filling, offer quick energy, are simple for our bodies to digest, and are a key component of a healthy diet.

The biggest Paleo pitfalls that most newbies to the diet make include:

Not being selective about the meat you are eating. Clean healthy fats from grass-fed or wild animals — not industrial, factory-farmed animals — are one of the foundations of the Paleo diet. Industrially farmed meats are considered toxic.

Not eating enough vegetables. the biggest mistakes you can make are changing too much too soon and diving into consuming lots of meat before your body has had a chance to adapt to following the Paleo diet.