Nowadays, we are bombarded with different kinds of diets for healthy and clean living. Whenever we go to the supermarket, the choices of food seem endless. Two of the most popular diets today are plant-based and paleo. How exactly are they different?
We’ll take a look at the main differences between a plant-based diet and paleo diet.
What Is the Difference Between Plant-Based Diet vs. Paleo?
Sometimes it feels overwhelming to know the plethora of dietary information available. Almost everyone seems to be on a strict regime.
Plant-based and Paleo diets are two of the most well-known. They are part of the process of achieving a clean and healthy lifestyle. Many people practice them, and restaurants worldwide have even begun offering a specialized menu for those who practice either.
Both diets cater to people with different food choices but with the same end goal. The choice between the two depends on what you like and, possibly, your beliefs. They both bring benefits that bring you closer to your goal. But, they also have huge differences when compared.
This diet was started and designed based on how our ancestors ate thousands of years ago. It is almost impossible to pinpoint specifically what they ate throughout the world.  During that era, people thrived on what was available and had no choice.
The idea is that our bodies cannot cope with a diet that revolves around foods that are derived from agricultural practices. It is believed that the body cannot rapidly transition to more artificial products. Eating foods that are grown using agricultural practices is believed to be a contributing factor to obesity, heart disease, and other illnesses.
Several studies have been done to find evidence on whether the Paleo diet is beneficial. Results have shown that following the diet has led to significant weight loss.  Another study showed that patients with heart disease who followed the diet for 12 weeks experienced improved glycemic control.  It also suggested that the Paleo can reduce heart disease and diabetes risk factors.
This diet focuses on eating patterns that are primarily focused on plants. This does not mean that you completely exclude meat or dairy from your food plans.  The diet includes only a few or no ingredients that come from animals.
Practicing a plant-based diet does not mean going full vegan or being a vegetarian. It simply means the priority is to consume food coming from plant sources. But, you can go completely meat-free as well. The choice is up to you on how to interpret this specific diet. Certain factors, such as beliefs, can influence your decisions.
A plant-based diet is sometimes interpreted as a moderate version of veganism. Some vegans, vegetarians, or pescatarians choose to apply this diet to their lifestyles. Basically, those who have ethic-based food choices practice this diet as part of what they believe in, not just in their food choices, but in everything they do.
Aside from the mentioned, people who are also conscious of their calorie intake choose to do this diet. It’s also a go-to for those with an effective plan to improve nutrient intake. The nutrients coming from plant sources are plenty and provide a lot of health benefits as well.
The benefits are numerous when you start this diet. Consuming plant-based food has been shown to lower blood pressure in some studies.  Changing the way you eat can also lower the risk of heart diseases as more nutrients enter your body. If you want to lose weight, this diet has shown to be quite effective.
Food to Eat on Paleo vs. Plant-Based Diet
Paleo Diet typically includes fish, lean meats, eggs, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. It is also based on saturated fats (e.g. butter, duck fat) and oils (e.g. coconut oil, olive oil, walnut oil). Salmon and mackerel are popular choices since they are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. You don’t have to worry about spices and herbs on your food since they are all allowed.
A plant-based diet will have you eating more vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, beans, and legumes. The diet revolves around consuming more natural products that are rich in fiber. Whole and minimally processed products take over this diet, such as quinoa, brown rice, and whole-wheat pasta.
Food To Avoid
The Paleo diet excluded common food when farming surfaced, such as grains and dairy products. Other foods to avoid include artificial sweeteners, trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup, and legumes. Junk food, fast food, and other processed snacks are forbidden as well when you are practicing the Paleo diet.
When practicing a plant-based diet, avoid or reduce consumption of dairy, sweets, meat, sweetened drinks, and refined grains. Processed animal meats such as sausages are also suggested for limited intake. It is up to you how much you want to limit yourself in consuming the aforementioned.
Types of Plant-Based Diet and Paleo
Different types of meal plans fall under the Paleo and Plant-Based Diet. As they grow more popular, more interpretations have gained traction. The different versions can cater to people with different dietary needs.
Falls Under Paleo
- Basic – This version excludes processed meats, dairy, soy, and grains. Processed vegetable oils and fake fats are prohibited as well.
- Autoimmune – Those who have chronic illnesses and autoimmune disorders may benefit from this type of Paleo diet by cutting out foods that affect inflammation. All meals are also free of potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, seeds, eggs, and nuts.
- 80/20 – This specific type of diet allows you to incorporate 20% of non-Paleo foods into your diet while consuming 80% Paleo foods. This is great if you’re just starting to transition to Paleo.
- Ketogenic – The Ketogenic Paleo is a low-carb diet primarily practiced by people with diabetes, those trying to lose weight, and bodybuilders. This diet is focused on protein and animal consumption.
Falls Under Plant-Based
- Vegetarian – Being a vegetarian means not consuming any type of foods sourced from animals. That means no dairy or eggs are included in the making of dishes.
- Vegan – Being vegan is not just about the food you eat, it’s a whole lifestyle. Strictly no eating of animal products which includes dairy and eggs. Vegans don’t wear clothes made from animals as well, such as fur coats. The diet consists of whole grains, tofu, fruits, vegetables, and much more.
- Flexitarian – This type of diet still includes meat but in limited quantity. The focus is on eating plant-based food.
- Pescatarian – This diet mostly consists of plant-based food and seafood. Meats like pork, chicken, and beef are excluded from this diet.
Transitioning to Paleo vs. Plant-Based Diet
Transitioning from a diet to another can be extremely hard for anyone because of the restrictions and differences in food choices. Here are some tips on how to ease into Plant-Based Diet and Paleo:
Getting Into Paleo
- Cut out processed sugars/food – Doing it the “Paleo Way” means you will have to forget about your favorite processed snacks. That means no more Oreos and Snickers on your grocery list.
- Swap your oils – If you’re using seed or grain-derived oil, it’s time to stop. You have to start using others such as coconut oil, olive oil, coconut butter, avocado oil, etc.
- Reduce dairy consumption – This can be a gray area. Some completely remove dairy from their diet, while others start using grass-fed butter, coconut milk, almond milk, or ghee. Remember, if you’re going to continue consuming dairy, it has to be limited.
- Stop eating grains – As mentioned, grains are a big NO in paleo. That means no more wheat, rice, corn, etc.
Getting Into Plant-Based
- Cut down meat intake – You don’t have to remove meat from your diet all at once. Increase plant-based food and reduce meat portions gradually.
- Start experimenting – You can commit to one plant-based meal every day for starters. For instance, you can have smoothies, pancakes, or muffins for breakfast. There are a lot of plant-based recipes available online.
- Reduce dairy intake – Try lessening your daily dairy consumption. For starters, consider replacing cow’s milk with an alternative.
- Take note of protein intake – Try pairing your vegetables with protein-rich food to maintain your energy levels.
Transitioning to another diet is not something you can accomplish in a day. Gradually change your habits and the food you eat. When you start practicing Paleo or Plant-Based diet, pay attention to how your body feels.
Various diet plans have been developed over the years to support people with varying lifestyles and dietary requirements. Both Paleo and Plant-Based diets are synonymous with healthy eating. Paleo is about consuming the types of food our ancestors had during the Paleolithic era. A plant-based diet is primarily focused on the types of food that come from plant sources.
Lifestyle choices and beliefs play a part in making a decision. Remember not to push yourself too hard if your body can’t handle the restrictive nature of these diets. Do what is best for your body and health.
Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your own healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.
Editorial References And Fact-Checking
- Frączek, B., Pięta, A., Burda, A., Mazur-Kurach, P., & Tyrała, F. (2021). Paleolithic Diet-Effect on the Health Status and Performance of Athletes?. Nutrients, 13(3), 1019. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13031019
- Osterdahl, M., Kocturk, T., Koochek, A., & Wändell, P. E. (2008). Effects of a short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers. European journal of clinical nutrition, 62(5), 682–685. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602790
- Lindeberg, S., Jönsson, T., Granfeldt, Y., Borgstrand, E., Soffman, J., Sjöström, K., & Ahrén, B. (2007). A Palaeolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease. Diabetologia, 50(9), 1795–1807. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-007-0716-y
- McManus, D. M. K. S. (2021, November 16). What is a plant-based diet and why should you try it? Harvard Health. Retrieved August 21, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/what-is-a-plant-based-diet-and-why-should-you-try-it-2018092614760
- Yokoyama, Y., Nishimura, K., Barnard, N. D., Takegami, M., Watanabe, M., Sekikawa, A., Okamura, T., & Miyamoto, Y. (2014). Vegetarian diets and blood pressure: a meta-analysis. JAMA internal medicine, 174(4), 577–587. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.14547