"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Friday, November 26, 2010

Is Vegan and Paleo Even Possible?

It's the day after Thanksgiving, so those of you who aren't into your 20th hour of shopping (probably because Cyber Monday's more your thing) are eating leftovers and thinking about that diet you're going to have to start after the holidays. Among distance runners, the two current trends are the Paleo Diet and veganism and the two are almost mutually exclusive. I got to wondering if it was possible to adhere to both diets and still eat healthy (by which I mean according to US RDA standards).

Vegans don't eat meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy (or honey, though that gets debated). Paleo doesn't allow grains, dairy or legumes (and usually they eschew members of the nightshade family like potatoes, tomatoes and peppers). That doesn't leave much! Both diets have nutritional challenges and where adherents to each are in consensus is that they disregard nutrient deficiencies as unimportant compared to staying true to their systems.

I haven't done a "stunt nutrition" post in a while. The challenge is to create a 2000 calorie diet that meets the US RDA standards for all vitamins and minerals, has at least 65 grams of protein and no more than 65 grams of fat and which has no more than one serving of any food in any family of plants (this last is to eliminate things like eating 3 bananas to get enough vitamin B6 and 4 oranges to get enough folate).

Vegan sources of vitamin B-12 are few. Wheat grass doesn't fit paleo, as it's a grain plant, even if it's not the seeds being eaten. Nutritional yeast or brewer's yeast seems to be cheating. Chlorella requires processing that are paleolithic ancestors wouldn't have had. I include spirulina, but I'd include a vitamin B-12 supplement (and vitamin D and iodized salt, while I'm at it).

Protein turns out to be a huge challenge. Calcium and zinc are also. Then niacin is tricky. Paleo diets are often lacking in vitamins B1, B2 and/or B6, but if one gets enough protein, calcium, zinc and niacin, these others turn out to be adequate.

Here's what I came up with. It's full of odd foods and is heavy on sea vegetables. It's over 50 grams of fiber, so anyone eating it would end up living in their bathroom. It would be easy to make this a raw diet, though I used a lot of cooked vegetables just for ease of calculation. It would be even harder to create a 2500 calorie diet; the extra calories would have to come from root vegetables and tropical fruits and that would mean having to change foods to keep the vitamin A levels from being too high.

2000 calorie paleo/vegan diet

blueberries, 1 cup
grapes, black European, 1 cup
watermelon pieces, 1 cup
pineapple chunks, 1 cup
currants, black, 1/2 cup
tamarind, 1/4 cup

pumpkin seeds, dried, 1 oz.
pine nuts (pignolia), dried, 1 oz.
almonds, dried, 1 oz.
walnuts (English), dried, 1/2 oz.
spices (I used 1 tsp. fenugreek and 1 tsp. cinnamon for calculations)

asparagus, boiled, 1/2c.
broccoli, boiled, 1/2c.
spinach, boiled, 1/2c.
mushrooms, button, boiled, 1/2c.
4 mushrooms, shiitake, cooked
parsley, chopped, 1/2c,
sweet potato
artichoke heart
1/4 avocado, California
rhubarb, cooked, 1 c.
okra, boiled, 1/2 c.
kombu (kelp) 100g. raw
nori (laver) 100g. raw
spirulina 100g. raw

(yeah, I know it's not true paleo)
iodized salt, 1/4 tsp.
vitamin D
vitamin B12


Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

Pffftt! Since when has a thing's alleged impossibility ever stopped you?

wildknits said...

While an interesting list of ingredients it is hard to see a "dish" in there (then again I am not chief cook in this household... could be an interesting call in to the Splendid Table though ;-> )

So - I am curious why no Brewer's Yeast (a favorite of mine sprinkled over popcorn).

SteveQ said...

@Wildknits: It's hard to imagine how paleolithic man would acquire an ounce of yeast, so it doesn't fit the Paleo diet. Yeah, there's nothing for a chef to work with, just one long buffet of plants.

wildknits said...

Ah yes - forgot about the paleo bit.

And yes - I think the challenge here would be coming up with a menu for the day - though I see Glaven has called you on it ;->

Beth said...

Dude, I don't think this is possible... at least I couldn't do it. No way. I gotta have meat. We've been doing paleo for about 6 months ... minus the beignets and po-boys we had this past week ... and I can live w/ paleo but take out the meat and there's not much left. At least not for me.

SteveQ said...

@Beth: Beignets and po-boys... add some etouffe', lagniappes, jambalaya and bourbon and I am there!