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Which Diet is Better, Vegan or Paleo?

Which Diet is Better, Vegan or Paleo?

July 31, 2015, Vol.13, Issue 8

One of the qualities I most admire in a speaker is curiosity and the willingness to dive deeper into a topic. That may even mean becoming the subject of her own research, and that’s exactly what Zonya Foco did to prepare for her hot new topic, Diet Smack-Down: Vegan vs. Paleo, which she presented at the National Wellness Conference this summer.

According to Wikipedia, the earliest example of self-experimentation may go back to 605 BCE when Daniel and several other Jewish captives of Nebuchadnezzar were offered positions in the government and a diet of the king’s own rich meats and wines. Refusing to violate the Jewish dietary laws, they declined the food and asked for a diet of legumes and water instead. The officials had a serious concern that such a limited diet might be unhealthy so Daniel offered to conduct a “clinical trial” (of sorts). He conducted a diet study as a self-experiment (along with three others: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah). After 10 days on the abstemious diet, the subjects appeared even healthier than the controls eating the king’s food, and so they were allowed to continue.

So, there you go, Zonya, you’re in good company when it comes to self-experimentation!


Zonya Foco’s Diet Smack-Down:

Vegan vs. Paleo

Should we eat like a vegetarian? Or like a caveman (woman)? With wheat and dairy or without it?

With all the media exposure of Vegan and Paleo style diets, Zonya Foco, RD, CHFI, CSP, thought this would make a great topic for her presentation at the 2015 National Wellness Conference. Not one to shy away from a challenge, she decided to delve into the pros and cons by personally experimenting with each one for 30 days. And to make it even more interesting, she enlisted her husband, Scott, and marketing director, Amy, to do the same.

They agreed to limit or abstain from sugar in both diets, and to keep their exercise at the same rate they were already practicing — 3 to 4X a week. The basic comparison of the diets is:


PALEO                                                        VEGAN

No Dairy                                                         No Dairy

No Sugar                                                         Low Sugar

No Alcohol                                                     Low Alcohol

No Grains, bread, pizza,                              No Eggs

pasta, corn, rice, tortillas, or                       No Meat, Chicken, or Fish


No Legumes, no hummus, beans,

or peanuts

No Root Vegetables


Yes to Fruit                                                      Yes to Fruit

Yes to Vegetables (non starchy)                  Yes to Vegetables (all)

Yes to Eggs                                                       Yes to all grains – wheat, oats

Yes to Meat, Fish, Chicken, and                       rice, corn, barley, millet, and quinoa


Just to tickle your curiosity, I’m going relay a few highlights of their discoveries here. Rest assured, her actual presentation is full of data and details, yet flavored with Zonya’s sense of humor and reality – as well as her enthusiastic showmanship that keeps audiences on the edge through the whole program – when it comes to people and their food likes/dislikes, etc.

The Vegan Experience

“I felt lighter,” Zonya said. “I LOVE mushrooms, eggplant, peppers, onions, greens, quinoa. Roasting veggies makes them taste like meat. However, I got really tired of oatmeal, cereal and pancakes for breakfast, and I missed feta and blue cheese, salmon, tuna and eggs — a lot. I wouldn’t want to be this limited for life,” she concluded.

Amy, on the other hand said she felt great. She loved being a Vegan. “In fact,” she said, “I am a Vegan! No more flesh for me. This is beyond a shadow of a doubt the right way to eat. No 30 days of Paleo for me!”

As for Scott, “I liked Vegan just fine,” he said. “And I feel lighter, but I prefer not to be this limited for life.”

The Paleo Experience

“Trading grains for veggies is a smart move,” Zonya said, “and I will repeat this habit often (but not exclusively). I tried not to use processed meats (known to cause cancer), but it’s very hard to cook fresh meat at every meal, and therefore processed meat consumption is all too tempting on this diet. While I respect eating fewer grains, this is too restrictive. I sure miss oatmeal! I can’t wait to be done with this!”

And Scott’s conclusion, “I hated Paleo. Colon cancer runs in my family and this did NOT feel right at all. I bailed after two weeks.”

The Results?

In the end, they were both happy to be Omnivores again, and to go back to eating REAL, which has always been a basic tenet of Zonya’s DIET FREE program.

Zonya reported not only on what she ate and how they felt on eachPaleo vs Vegan how my labs changed diet, but also the changes in her weight, body fat percent, blood cholesterol, HDL, LDL & triglycerides after each diet, as well as reporting a comprehensive dietary analysis of each diet. This is all detailed in her presentation, along with meal plans, and resources.

Zonya lost 4 pounds on the Vegan diet, and 2 pounds on Paleo. Scott lost 4 pounds on the Vegan Diet and Amy was down 3 pounds (Amy did not do Paleo and Scott quit halfway through it.). Each segment was meant to last 30 days.

Zonya’s overall take-aways:

  • Everybody’s different — some people are happy on Vegan, some on Paleo. The fact is that most prefer to be moderate omnivores.
  • We all agree — Eat low or no sugar, so don’t skip this. Surprisingly, fruit really is all a person needs.
  • Avoid gluten if you are sensitive or intolerant.
  • Eat REAL (that is, fresh, unprocessed, whole foods). Essentially, each diet was a trick to get you to do this.

When you eat from all food groups, calories are not automatically controlled (as they are when you are doing an extremely limiting diet like Vegan or Paleo). But if you limit sweets and eat REAL, you will be well nourished, promote weight loss, and be less deprived overall.

Bottom line from Zonya: Vegan, Paleo or Omnivore, they’re all good as long as you eat REAL — fresh, unprocessed, whole foods.

Interested in learning more about how Zonya can bring her knowledge and her inspiring, infectious enthusiasm to enlighten your community about diets, weight loss, heart health, and exercise? No matter the topic, she includes her audience in the process and makes learning it fun and literally unforgettable. People leave her presentations changed, unable to ignore what they have just learned. Give me a call at 503-699-5031 or email


Summer’s Bounty: Dark Leafy Greens

I have to admit that while I love kale, I have shied away from dinosaur kale – otherwise known as lacinato or Tuscan kale, the one that’s bluish colored, and super wrinkly. Well, my husband was at the fruit stand buying some corn on the cob last week, and thought it was time to try something different. So that’s what he brought home. I thought I remembered seeing recipes for it in Rebecca Katz’s books. Sure enough, I pulled her Longevity Cookbook off the shelf, and there were four recipes to choose from, and, lucky for you, you can find them all on line, right here.

For our first one I chose Katz&KaleMediterranean Greens, and I just wish Rebecca could have been sitting at my dinner table to hear the compliments — they were effusive, to say the least. The flavor was bold, complex, sour-and-salty-and-zesty all at once – and so good that we all wanted more. Right away. We were actually disappointed that there was no more kale. To give you a hint at the flavors, here’s Rebecca’s description:

    “This is like a taking a two-week cruise around the isles: we go Greek with olives and  feta, Sicilian with—surprise—currants, and we’ll give the Cypriots credit for the garlic and the mint. Plus a double dose of citrus in the form of lemon and orange zest.”

 As Rebecca would say, “Yummmmmmm….”

I hope that, like us, you’re enjoying the bounties of summer, and getting some relaxing, gratifying, fun time in — whether it’s with family and friends, or taking some time for yourself, or all of the above. And while you’re at it, why not try a new recipe? Like us, you might discover a new family favorite.

Until next time, take care of yourself, for your well being and those you love.

Yours truly,


For Your Well Being is published bi-weekly. We bring you insider speaker reports, exclusive stories about special events around the country, meeting planner tips, and fun stuff from the worlds of health and well being. Be well and be in the know!

The Speak Well Being Group is a specialized speakers bureau, focusing on speakers for hospital-sponsored community events, healthcare organizations, nurses, conferences and women’s groups. Our speakers are hand-selected. They are not only experts in their fields, they connect with their audiences while bringing them life-changing information, smiles of recognition and ultimately a sense of well being and hope.

Finding the perfect keynote speaker for your special event or conference is my personal passion, not just once, but year after year. It brings me great joy to know that your audience was delighted and moved by the speaker we selected together. I’m committed to making the process easy, pleasant and fun.


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