The Paleo diet is the most popular diet around today, with a huge celebrity following. Most people think it's impossible to be vegan on the meat-heavy Paleo diet, but the authors of Paleo Vegan: Plant-Based Primal Recipes have proven otherwise.
In an exclusive interview, culinary genius Alan Roettinger and vegan advocate Ellen Jaffe Jones discussed how you can enjoy delicious, nutritious Paleo recipes on a vegan diet.
Alan previously wrote the highly-rated Extraordinary Vegan. Ellen is the author of Eat Vegan on $4 a Day. They wanted to write a cookbook that combined the Paleo diet's emphasis on dairy-free, whole foods with the vegan focus on colorful, nutritionally-dense ingredients.
Jaffe Jones said a Paleo-vegan diet promotes effortless weight loss, consistent energy, more restful sleep, and improved athletic performance. Here, the "Paleo Vegan" authors answer our questions about healthy eating.
Question for Alan: What are the main protein sources on a paleo-vegan diet?
"The main sources of protein on a Paleo-vegan diet (without cheating) are nuts, seeds, and protein-rich vegetables. 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. Considering that pseudograins are technically not 'cheats' either, since they grow wild and predate agriculture, I consider quinoa, buckwheat, wild rice and amaranth acceptable on a Paleo-vegan diet as well."
Question for Ellen: What are the health benefits of a Paleo vegan diet versus a "regular" vegan diet?
"Just because a diet is vegan doesn't mean it is automatically healthy. Many vegans often opt for convenience foods that can be full of sugar and unhealthy fats and oils. Paleo diets call for fresh food items that are free of additives, preservatives, antibiotics, and pesticides. Anytime you can replace those kinds of foods with simple, delicious foods commonly found in nature, it's a win-win.
The Paleo diet also advocates the avoidance of refined sugar and places an emphasis on healthy fats such as nuts and seeds and their oils. The meat-based Paleo diet says it is best to eat foods in their natural states, as Mother Nature and our Paleolithic ancestors would have eaten them. To borrow a well-used line, 'If your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize it, don't eat it.' "
Question for Alan: Was it difficult coming up with recipes that are Paleo and vegan?
"It wasn't difficult at all. 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.
The fundamental principle of a Paleo diet is 99% identical to my own approach to a vegan diet, which is simply to adhere as much as possible to nature's standard for food: fresh, whole, raw, organic, local, and diverse. No processed foods (especially sugar and refined oils), no dairy products. Where we differ is minimal: a vegan diet excludes meat — which more than likely was not even close to a significant part of the Paleolithic human's diet — and includes beans and grains.
Interestingly enough, Paleo adherents allow themselves a 20% 'cheat' allotment (their choice of words, not mine), meaning that up to one-fifth of their meals may include non-Paleo foods. In that sense, they're far more flexible than vegans, who will not budge from excluding animals products under any circumstances. Ever. So aside from the meat, we're really on the same page — and that's something to celebrate!"
For more delicious, nutritious vegan recipes, check out Alan and Ellen's other fantastic cookbooks: