Ayurveda and the Paleo Diet


Food trends seem to go in cycles. Right now, the popular diet that is sweeping the West is Paleo.

The modern Paleo movement is a recent dietary trend, and it is diametrically opposed to many food movements that came before it.

For example, in the hippie era of the late 1960s, Macrobiotics came on the diet scene. Its focus was on eating lots and lots of whole grains. In fact, the Macrobiotic diet could go as far as 90% of food being whole grains (not recommended, by the way).

Now we have Paleo. Paleo, piggy-backing on the backlash against carbohydrates (and especially gluten), is the diet du jour, along with its cousin, Keto.

Paleo is a high protein meat-based diet. Keto, Paleo's close cousin, is a high fat meat-based diet. Both of them disavow carbs and sugars, and that includes all grains - even organic, whole grains.

Much to the dismay of some vegetarians and vegans who see too much eating as an environmental threat, Paleo has completely overshadowed non-animal-based diets in recent years.

Paleo Diet Basics

The basics of the Paleo diet are:

  • Minimally processed food
  • High protein (that means meat)
  • No grains
  • No dairy
  • No legumes (beans), including peanuts
  • Minimal sugar (natural sweeteners)

The Keto diet is similar, except high-fat dairy is OK. The focus in Keto is on eating up to 75% fat to encourage the body to burn fat instead of glucose.

The Paleo diet is almost the exact opposite of the Macrobiotic diet, which emphasizes a mostly vegetarian diet of whole grains and vegetables, with occasional fish to consume.

Why Conflicting Dietary Trends Seem to Work

What is truly amazing is that such radically different dietary approaches have ardent adherents who swear by their particular diet. Why?

  • Macrobiotics emphasizes carb intake.
  • Paleo emphasizes protein intake.
  • Keto emphasizes fat intake.

Fat, protein, and carbohydrates (sugars) are the three macronutrients our body needs to survive. Each of these diets focuses on high intakes of one of the macronutrients.

Given that each diet has its "true believers," how could they all work effectively?

Ayurveda has an answer: People are different, and different people need different diets.

In Ayurveda, people are categorized according to "dosha" (Vata, Pitta, Kapha, or a combination thereof). What works for Vata won't really work that well for Kapha and vice versa.

That said, would a pure Paleo diet be recommended in Ayurveda, even for a specific dosha?

Ayurveda vs. Paleo

The main problem with Paleo, from an Ayurvedic perspective, is the excessive amount of meat intake.

Meat is not forbidden in Ayurveda, but it is only to be eaten in moderation and by certain doshas (constitutions).

According to Ayurveda, meat is primarily "tamasic." In everyday parlance, "tamasic" food is the type of food that will "bring you down," energetically, emotionally, and physically. It's the food that gives you a "food coma."

Too much meat for certain types of people will negatively impact their health and well-being. Kapha-type people in particular should avoid eating too much meat, especially red meat.

However, some meat for certain doshas, such as Vata, can be beneficial.

Vata-types tend towards being too flighty, anxious, spacey, or in their heads too much when out of balance. Meat can therefore be grounding for Vata.

However, even a Vata-type person would not necessarily do well on a strict Paleo diet when viewing it from an Ayurvedic lens. Too much meat could become an overcorrection and lead to an excess of Kapha energies.

While a lot more could be written on the subject, sufficed to say, a Paleo diet is not a recommended one-size-fits-all approach to food when viewing it from the perspective of Ayurveda.

The Paleovedic Diet

There is a way to get the best of both worlds. One Ayurvedic doctor, Akil Palanisamy, MD, has come up with a modified Paleo diet based on Ayurveda called the Paleovedic Diet.

This diet follows a general Paleo patten, but allows for a small consumption of grains, while meat is deemphasized. It also provides food recommendations for the different body types.

If you want to try "Paleo," then the try it the Ayurvedic way with the Paleovedic approach.