Plant-Based and Paleo eating patterns are taking the world by storm and are arguably the most popular diets/ eating patterns right now. What is ironic, is that these two diets differ widely in their recommendations. There are strong advocates for each diet – so which is the best one to follow? Let’s explore.

In a nutshell, people who follow plant-based diets believe animal products cause chronic disease and that a diet high in veggies, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes is best. People who follow a paleo diet also like veggies, however the believe that grass-fed and wild meats are important for health and that we should avoid grains, sugars and starches.

Although there are very emotionally-charged advocates for each diet approach, I wanted to gather the most objective information possible. I did this by diving into academic research about these two diets to gather pro’s & con’s for each approach:

The Paleo Diet
Pro’s:

  • This diet is very satiating, which is likely a key reason that this diet can lead to weight loss. Studies have found that following paleo diet principals increases anorectic gut hormones, which leads to increased perceived satiety [1]
  • There has long been an accepted notion that saturated fat increases bad (LDL) blood cholesterol. Although this diet is high in saturated fat, there is some emerging research stating that replacing fat with carbohydrates can actually increase bad cholesterol instead [2]. Some research has shown that following paleo principles can improve cholesterol [2]
  • Participants have lost weight on this diet, at least for the first 6 months [3]

Con’s:

  • A lot of protein is not necessarily better – there is an upper limit to the amount of protein we can absorb and synthesize at once – not usually more than 30 grams at time. Some paleo eating patterns promote a higher protein intake, which in excess, can get stored as fat if not used by the muscle
  • Research has found that this diet can likely result in weight loss but can be difficult to adhere to for the long-term [3,4]. In one study, participants were found to have lost more weight after 6 months than a comparison diet, however after 2 years, the participants on both diets lost about the same amount of weight
  • There is a large environment impact with this diet – the carbon dioxide emissions from cattle are responsible for 15 per cent of the greenhouse gases
  • There is increasing research that red meat and processed meats has a strong link to cancer, so consuming a diet high in meat products may not be the best [5]

The Plant-Based Diet
Pro’s

  • There is a rich amount of research on the benefits of a vegetarian diet, including: 1) lower heart disease risk 2) lower cancer rate and 3) lower cholesterol levels & tryglycerides [6,7]
  • Vegetarian diets appear to have significant benefits on weight reduction and body weight control [8]. A compilation of twelve randomized controlled trials concluded that participants following vegetarian diets lost significantly more weight than those eating a non-vegetarian diets
  • The diet also has a much lower environmental impact – the total green house gas emissions for beef is 20 times the amount of the emissions from wheat

Con’s

  • Some find it difficult to feel satiated on a plant-based diet and report feeling hungrier more often
  • When first adjusting to a plant-based diet, some find it difficult incorporating plant-based sources of protein into meals, and may rely on meat-analog products that mimic the taste and texture of meat. However, since these products are highly processed, you’re better off avoiding them and instead should turn to beans, nuts and seeds for protein

Conclusions:

Overall, the diets were both found to:

  1. Result in weight loss
  2. Have cholesterol lowering benefits

Which diet is best to follow, then? Well, it depends what you’re looking for and what you like to eat.

Follow a Paleo diet if:

  • You enjoy a variety of meats
  • You find it difficult to feel satiated after meals and find yourself snacking due to hunger throughout the day
  • You have gastro-intestinal issues such as bloating, gas etc, this may be a better diet to follow than a completely plant-based diet

Follow a Plant-Based diet if:

  • You enjoy legumes, nuts, seeds and grains
  • You want to lower you cancer risk
  • You have animal-rights and environmental concerns


References

1.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25661189
2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26003334
3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25349058
4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23890471
5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26862491
6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26853923
7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26262711
8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26138004

 

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