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Tags: diet | vegan | paleo | biology

Vegan Diet vs. Paleo Diet

Alan Christianson, NMD By Thursday, 19 February 2015 01:52 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Sociologists predict that as information becomes more available, people will become more polarized. This unexpected result occurs because we are more able to choose the information we consume and with whom we interact. 
As a result, it is easier than ever to ignore those whose views that might challenge our own. 
Much like the red states and blue states in politics, popular views of nutrition now fall mainly in two poles — the vegans and the paleos — with shrinking numbers occupying common ground.
One side, the vegans, says human suffering comes from eating too many animal-based foods like meat, fish, and poultry, and having too few high-fiber calories from whole grains and beans. 
The other side says we go wrong by not eating enough animal-based foods, and from stuffing ourselves with too many carbohydrates.  
Each side presents plausible arguments, compelling testimonials, and bits and pieces of supporting evidence.
But how can people claim to feel great on such radically different diets?
Whenever I look at studies on the placebo effect, mind body medicine, or the power of belief, I am amazed how powerful our minds are. I would bet that a person’s belief that they are acting on a new and critical truth can raise endorphins more than any food combination ever could. 
I would be embarrassed if you knew how many times in my youth I embarked on a new diet with almost religious zeal. And each time, I was ecstatic in the early weeks and months — only to eventually see my health suffer.   
Apart from our beliefs, what does science have to say about paleo vs. vegan diets? 
Humans, of course, are mammals. Biologists classify mammals in three dietary categories: herbivores, meaning they almost exclusively eat plants; carnivores, meaning the almost exclusively eat flesh; or omnivores, meaning they can make due with most any type of food. 
Herbivores have mostly flat teeth for grinding, and take many days to digest their food. Carnivores have mostly sharp teeth for tearing, and take only several hours to digest their food. Omnivores have some flat teeth and some sharp teeth, and take about a day for digestion. 
Herbivores will die if fed only animal flesh because they just can’t get the nutrients out of it. Likewise, carnivores will die if only given plants. 
Human beings are among the most adaptable omnivores the planet has ever seen. 
Our species has thrived on everything from arctic Inuit diets composed almost exclusively of marine mammal fat to Asian agricultural diets based primarily on white rice. 
It seems that if humans are physically active, emotionally engaged, and given a variety of foods, almost any combination can work just fine.
So what should your perfect diet look like? Because we’re in this for the long haul, your ideal diet should give you:
·         Steady energy levels
·         The ability to enjoy exercise and recover well
·         A healthy body weight
·         Blood tests that make you and your doctor are happy
If your diet gives you all of these, don’t change a thing. 
On the other hand, if your current diet does not provide you these benefits, how should you find your perfect diet?  
Try eating only what your great grandparents did. Start by buying foods that have three ingredients or fewer. 
Also, listen to your body. Track your performance. Measure your inches. 
Consider genetic tests, food intolerance studies, measurements of nutrients and metabolism. 
Food should allow us to flourish and live with meaning. Reconsider your priorities if food ever becomes your life’s meaning. 

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Much like the red states and blue states in politics, popular views of nutrition now fall mainly in two poles — the vegans and the paleos — with shrinking numbers occupying common ground.
diet, vegan, paleo, biology
Thursday, 19 February 2015 01:52 PM
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