The Conscious Gut

Vegetarian vs Paleo: Is One Better Than The Other?

Choosing Between Vegetarian and Paleo

There is a common belief that all today’s health problems stem from the modern diet. Packed with unhealthy fats, highly processed foods, sugar, and salt, it leads to an increased risk of various chronic diseases, such as obesity, type II diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and others (9). Lots of people believe that giving up meat or going back to their ancestors’ diet is the best way to avoid all those problems and start living a healthier life. That is why they begin to compare vegetarian diet vs paleo diet and start weighing the pros and cons of vegetarian vs paleo weight loss,  vegetarian vs paleo for health, and vegetarian nutrition vs paleo.

The followers of vegetarian and vegan diets state that humans are supposed to eat plant-based foods. Although, judging by the current development of the human body you may agree that it is not that well adjusted to the consumption of meat, since human teeth are no good for ripping flesh, and their guts are too long. However, the same goes for a solely plant-based diet, since human guts aren’t long enough for that, and their teeth are not designed for that either. That is why you can make the conclusion that the human body is biologically adjusted the best for the omnivorous diet (5). However, the question remains the same: “Vegetarian vs paleo, which of these diets is the best for weight loss?”. Today is the day you will find out the answer for this question. Read on to find out more.

What Is The Paleo Diet?

To be able to figure out which one of these two diets vegetarian vs paleo is best for you, first you need to understand their basics. Let’s start with the Paleo diet. The Paleolithic diet, also known as the paleo diet, stone age diet, hunter-gatherer diet, or caveman diet, is based on the principle of consumption of foods that might have been available in the Paleolithic era (1).

Basically, it means that you are to eat everything that your ancestors could get before modern agriculture development, which is fish, lean meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. It excludes dairy products, legumes, and grains, which became part of a human diet later on. Followers of a paleo diet are convinced that the human body has not evolved to process dairy, grains, and legumes, and so their consumption may increase the risk of various health issues. The Paleo diet also requires regular exercise and proper hydration (6).

What Can You Eat On Paleo?

Since the Paleo diet mimics the diet of our ancestors and underlines the importance of eating unprocessed foods, this is what your daily menu should be compiled of (6):

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Lean meat (organic, grass-fed)
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Herbs and spices
  • Fruit and nut oils (olive oil, coconut oil, almond oil)

Those who follow a Paleolithic diet should restrict their consumption of such foods as:

  • Dairy
  • Legumes (beans, lentils, peas, peanuts)
  • Grains (wheat, oats, barley)
  • Refined sugars
  • Trans fats
  • Low-fat or diet products
  • Salt
  • Artificial sweeteners

So, although the diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, and nuts, which are inseparable parts of a healthy diet, it bans the consumption of grains and legumes, which are packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and minimizes the consumption of dairy, which is one of the main sources of calcium in a regular diet (7).

What Is The Vegetarian Diet?

Now moving on to the opponent of the Paleo diet, i.e. the vegetarian diet. The vegetarian diet gains more and more followers by the day. The main rule of a basic vegetarian diet is to give up on animal flesh like meat, poultry, and fish. People who stick to the vegetarian diet usually plan their meals very carefully in order to ensure that they consume enough protein, since usually meat and fish are two of the main sources of this macronutrient in a healthy diet. However, there are different types of the vegetarian diet. Here are some of them (12):

  • Lacto-vegetarian – allows dairy products, but not eggs.
  • Ovo-vegetarian – allows eggs, but not dairy.
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian – allows both eggs, and dairy.
  • Pollo-vegetarian – allows poultry.
  • Pescatarian – allows fish.
  • Vegan – excludes all products of animal nature, such as meat, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs, and honey.
  • Flexitarian – allows occasional consumption of meat, poultry, eggs, and fish in small amounts.

Since a basic vegetarian diet is quite restrictive, you may require certain supplements. Here are the nutrients and vitamins on which you might miss out when following any type of the vegetarian diet (10):

  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin B-12
  • Protein
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Zinc

What Is The Difference Between Paleo And Vegetarian Diet? 

These two diets are somewhat similar and different at the same time. Both vegetarian and paleo diets allow the consumption of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices, fruits and nut oils. The major difference in nutrition vegetarian vs paleo is that the first one allows the consumption of grains, legumes, and dairy which are off-limits on the Paleo diet; and the second one encourages you to eat lean meats and fish, which you may not consume on the vegetarian diet. In such a way most of the protein in the Paleo diet comes from meat, fish, and eggs, and make up for the lack of proteins from dairy; and fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds make up for the lack of fiber from grains and legumes. In the vegetarian diet, the main sources of protein are dairy, eggs, and legumes.

Benefits Of Paleo Diet Vs Vegetarian 

There are a couple of similar health benefits with both diets. First, let’s take a look at them separately, and then compare them in order to find out which is healthier and better for weight loss. Here are the main health benefits of a paleo diet (11):

Paleo diet health benefits

  • Weight loss

Although this matter requires further research, numerous studies suggest that the Paleo diet may help reduce body weight and waist circumference. Such a conclusion was drawn after the analysis of the results of 11 studies (4).

  • Diabetes management

Some studies imply that the paleo diet can be of significant help when it comes to diabetes management. A 2017 research, which involved 32 people who followed the paleo diet for 12 weeks implies that it may reduce fat mass, improve insulin sensitivity, glycemic control, and leptin (a hunger hormone) levels (3).

  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases

A 2019 review claims that the Paleo diet may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The authors state that consumption of lean meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, and nuts, and ban of grains, dairy, processed foods, added sugars, and salt can lower your body mass index (BMI) and body weight, waist circumference, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation), which are the risk factors of heart disease. The authors also mentioned that more evidence and research is needed (2).

Vegetarian diet health benefits

The paleo diet is not the only health beneficial diet out there, so now to the main benefits of the vegetarian diet (13):

  • Weight loss

Like in the case with the paleo diet, following any type of the vegetarian diet may help you lose weight, at least in the short term. More long-term research is needed to understand what effect this diet can have on a person’s weight.

  • Heart health

A 2014 study implies that the vegetarian diet may help you lower the risk of cardiovascular disease (8). This nutritional plan is effective at lowering the overall cholesterol levels, which also promotes better heart health.

  • Reduced risk of diabetes

A higher intake of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts, and reduced consumption of saturated and trans fats, as presented in the vegetarian diet, may reduce the risk of type II diabetes.

  • Lower chances of cancer

There has been some evidence that suggests that following a non-meat diet may reduce the risk of cancer.

Vegetarian Vs Paleo Weight Loss

As you can see, it is difficult to state which diet is better in this ongoing vegetarian vs paleo debate. Both these nutritional plans may help you slim down, improve your heart health and reduce the risk of diabetes. Since weight loss comes down to burning more calories than you consume, you can both lose or gain weight even on the vegetarian or paleo diets, so the main criteria that should affect your choice is its nutritional balance. If you compare vegetarian nutrition vs paleo, you may find that the paleo diet is a bit more balanced, and the vegetarian diet may require the consumption of supplements and a very careful meal planning, which makes it a bit more difficult to follow.


Are there any paleo vegetarian recipes?

Since these diets differ in their requirements, it is not that easy to find a nutritionally balanced recipe which would be approved by both paleo and vegetarian diets at the same time. However, there is a possibility of a paleo vegetarian meal. In such a case, the recipe should include only those foods that are allowed by these nutritional plans, which are fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, and certain oils.


There is no doubt that nutrition plays one of the most significant roles in your overall health. With the growing popularity of various diets, more people begin to compare them, wondering which of them is the best for weight loss. That is why such questions as: “Vegetarian vs Paleo, which is the best for shedding pounds?” appear. This question is not easy to answer, since both diets have similar health benefits, and are beneficial in their own way.

The main difference between these two nutritional plans is that the Paleo diet bans the consumption of grains, legumes, and dairy, and the vegetarian diet forbids the consumption of meat, poultry and fish. In terms of nutrition, however, the Paleo diet may be a bit more balanced and better for weight loss, since it provides your body with plenty of protein from lean meats, fish, and eggs, while reducing the consumption of salt, artificial sweeteners, and trans fats.

Following any type of the vegetarian diet requires a bit more effort and consideration, since you have to plan your meals in such a way that you would obtain all the necessary nutrients mostly from plant foods. In conclusion, it is up to you which diet to follow. If you are a fan of meat, then the Paleo diet is more in your wheelhouse. If you feel like you can happily live without poultry and fish, then you can cast all the doubts aside and choose the vegetarian diet. Make sure to consult your doctor or dietitian before following any new nutritional plan.

Alexandra Danieli

Alexandra Danieli, CHC, The Conscious Gut
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