The idea of being Paleo and vegan at the same time sounds like a contradiction, but chef Alan Roettinger said you can be Paleo on a 100 percent vegan diet and enjoy natural weight loss and optimal health.
In an exclusive interview, Roettinger told me the Paleo and vegan diets have a lot more in common than most people think. In his cookbook Paleo Vegan, Alan combined the Paleo diet's emphasis on dairy-free, gluten-free whole foods with the vegan focus on meat-free, nutritionally-dense ingredients.
Roettinger co-wrote "Paleo Vegan" with vegan advocate and fitness coach Ellen Jaffe Jones. She tackled the part of the book that discussed the weight-loss and health benefits of the hybrid diet, while Alan came up with the recipes.
Paleo and Vegan Diets Are Both Plant-Based
Despite the strict culinary parameters he had to work with, Roettinger said it wasn't hard to create Paleo-vegan recipes because he's used to accommodating people's dietary restrictions as a former personal chef.
"As a private chef, I've almost always been given a set of parameters to work within — preferences, likes and dislikes, dietary rules — and my job has always been to create something wonderful within my clients' guidelines," said Roettinger.
Alan said the fundamental principle of a Paleo diet is 99 percent identical to his own approach to a vegan diet, which is to adhere as much as possible to nature's standard for food: fresh, whole, raw, organic, local, and diverse. The Paleo diet also excludes dairy and processed foods (especially sugar and refined oils).
"Where we differ is minimal: a vegan diet excludes meat, and includes beans and grains," said Roettinger, who also wrote Extraordinary Vegan in 2013. "So aside from the meat, we're really on the same page — and that's something to celebrate!"
Alan has been a vegan for the past six years, and said he has never felt better. Most people think you can't get enough protein on a vegan diet, but Roettinger said this just isn't true.
"The main sources of protein on a Paleo-vegan diet are nuts, seeds, and protein-rich vegetables," he said. "Hemp seeds and chia seeds alone are a plentiful enough source to build and sustain tissues, even in athletes.
Unlike meat, which offers little more than protein and saturated fat, seeds contain protein plus essential fats, fiber, minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients, with very low amounts of carbohydrates. The Tarahumara of northern Mexico are known to routinely run a 100 miles on a handful of chia."
Celebs Tout Vegan Diet's Weight Loss and Anti-Aging Benefits
Both the Paleo and vegan diets have huge celebrity followings: famous Paleos include Tim McGraw (who credits it for his jaw-dropping 40-pound weight loss), Adriana Lima, Megan Fox, Robin Wright and Kellan Lutz.
Celebrity vegans include Samuel L. Jackson, Bill Clinton, Al Sharpton, and Michelle Pfeiffer and Jared Leto. They have all credited the plant-based diet for giving them more energy, helping them lose weight, and staying youthful-looking.
Experiencing easy weight loss and improved health on a vegan diet isn't surprising to medical experts like Dr. Joel Fuhrman. “The more greens you eat, the more weight you will lose,” said Fuhrman, author of The End of Dieting.
Dr. David Katz, author of Disease-Proof, agrees. “If you shift to a diet more about plant-based foods, you are likelier to live healthier and experience less chronic disease," said Katz.