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Raw Vegan, Blood Type O, Paleo, Low Carb High Fat Diets – what do they have in common?


Have you experienced enormous benefits from changing your diet? So big that you became a crusader for the plan that changed your life?

I was at the Healthy Living Show last weekend giving talks on paleo eating, as well I was on a panel with 4 others taking audience questions on diet related topics.

What struck me was the passion with which each of us embraced and shared our own version of a healthy diet. For three of us our journey into nutrition began when we changed our diet and had dramatic health improvements. We each share the diet that made such an impact on us with enthusiasm.

The diets we each ate were seemingly diverse:

I eat paleo (as if you hadn’t already noticed) my diet consists of plant and animal food, nearly always in its natural state, i.e. virtually unprocessed, cooked and raw.

Jason Shon Bennett eats a gluten and dairy free plant based diet – no animal products at all. He includes legumes, nuts, seeds, and tofu. His diet is free of processed foods.

Victoria Boutenko eats a mainly raw plant diet, green smoothies being an important component.

Which brings me to the question in the heading – What do a Raw Vegan diet, a Paleo diet and a Blood Type O, and the now popular Low Carb High Fat diets have in common?

While you are thinking about this let’s have a closer look at what is common in many of today’s life changing diets.

Our diets have changed significantly in multiple ways from the diet we evolved eating. We have changed a vast range of foods – we’re eating many foods that have toxic or allergic effects on their own, however the effects of these foods, plus the removal of nutritious foods is also cumulative in their adverse health effects.

When people change their diet and achieve significant health improvements, they often change multiple factors – i.e they remove many foods and add in many foods, so most people have little idea what specific change in their diet caused the biggest improvement in their condition. As a result they become passionate about the dietary philosophy that improved their health, and are convinced if only others followed this particular eating plan – they too would get dramatic health improvements.

Let me give you my own (and now to me rather embarrassing) example. In 1996 I changed from a low animal protein, high carbohydrate diet; carbohydrates being whole grains, legumes and vegetables – to the Zone diet. The primary philosophy of the Zone is eating a precise ratio of carbohydrates, protein and fat at each meal. In the original Zone prescription vegetables and fruits were favourable carbs and grains unfavourable – due to their high glycemic index. I still ate dairy, and I increased animal protein considerably. I weighed and measured each component of every meal to insure I ate the exact ratio of protein, carbs and fat that I was prescribed for my body size.

My experience:

  • PMS disappeared!
  • No more reactive hypoglycemia or blood sugar problems, leading to excellent appetite control.
  • Weight loss was easy and effortless – I lost about 5kg (12 lbs) and got loads of complements!
  • Great mental focus, and increased physical energy.
  • Much improved recovery after gym workouts


  • Menstrual pain remained severe
  • Joint inflammation – knees, neck remained

Next addition (after advice from Barry Sears): a high dose of Omega 3

Result: menstrual pain and joint inflammation reduced by 80%

I followed Zone principles for 13 years, thinking the most important aspect was the magic 30:40:30 macronutrient ratio. However all my health issues bar the blood sugar problems would fluctuate from month to month and I had no idea why. A large ganglion cyst kept growing on my left wrist.

When I was introduced to the paleo diet in 2009 (through CrossFit Auckland – I will forever be grateful to Alex, Lisa, and Robb Wolf the CrossFit nutritionist at that time), I read the papers by Loren Cordain, and consequently understood and appreciated the adverse effect of grains. When I removed them, all the joint and menstrual issues resolved completely. While still appreciating the blood sugar stabilising effect of a Zone meal, its importance pales in comparison to the removal of what I now know to be toxic, gut irritating and auto-immune triggering foods.

I look back with some embarrassment and my passionate advocacy of the magic 30:40:30 ratio telling people it had fixed all my health problems, when in effect it had little to do with that. The months I ate few grains I had superior health to the ones when I ate more. The initial success of the Zone diet was a combination of eating meals that controlled my blood sugar, and importantly for my health issues – cutting out gluten grains.

This is the danger when we make dietary changes often swayed by passionate justification from various health gurus. Their reasoning as to why their diet works may not be correct, and the health improvements people achieve could be a happy co-incidence.

We need to be more careful than this – especially if we are in a position of passing advice on to other people.

I recently watched ‘Forks over Knives’. Drs Esselstyn, T Colin CampbellMcDougall and others passionately tell us that animal products are really, really bad for us, in fact are the primary reason for the health woes of western nations. They cite example after example of people taking out animal products and switching to plant based diets, losing significant amounts of weight and experiencing massive health improvements. But as Denise Minger pointed out in her outstandingly well researched critiquemultiple changes were made in the diets, yet the finger was always pointed at meat.

If we look at diet from an evolutionary health perspective we can pinpoint the main differences in today’s diet from that of our hunter gatherer ancestors.

Food we have added that we now eat daily, if not at every meal:

  1. Cereal grains with a high gluten content
  2. Cereal grains without gluten, but are dense and high glycemic index, and contain other anti-nutrients
  3. Sugar and fructose
  4. Foods with nutrients / fibre removed – grains, sugars, refined carbohydrates
  5. Vegetable seed oils, chemically extracted, high in omega 6 and damaged / oxidised fat
  6. Legumes, including peanuts and soy (none prepared or fermented in traditional ways)
  7. Dairy products
  8. Added synthetic chemicals, flavours, antioxidants, sweeteners, colours, preservatives

One can find high quality studies showing extremely detrimental effects of all these individual foods. Yet today we eat them in combination, and they make up around 70% of our diet. (Source cancer research uk.org)

Imagine bringing a lion into a zoo, and feeding it a diet of which is only 30% is food they normally eat i.e. whole animals, and making up the rest of its diet with other edible but foreign food. How do you think the lion would fare?

Foods that made up our entire diet for 99% of our existence on earth:

  1. Animal foods of many types, nose to tail – meat, fat, organs, bone marrow
  2. Insects, larvae
  3. Seafood, both caught and gathered (shellfish, aquatic creatures)
  4. Plant starches; tubers, squash, starchy roots
  5. Plant sugars – whole fruit, honey (i.e. plant nectar)
  6. Sea plants – seaweed
  7. Green and coloured plant foods, vegetables
  8. Nuts and seeds, e.g. coconut (but not cereal seeds as too inefficient / toxic for a hunter gatherer)

Here is an example of a modern hunter gatherer diet, although food types differ, it is 100% real food that humans have always eaten (from Hunter-Gatherer Energetics and Human Obesity)

Many studies have been carried out on hunter gatherers showing they do not have any of the diseases we suffer (I recommend this text book: Food and Western Disease) despite eating animal products. Here’s a good article: The paradoxical nature of hunter-gatherer diets: meat-based, yet non-atherogenic

In Forks over Knives however they put several people onto a plant food diet – all of whom improved in health.

Besides removing meat and fish – what other changes were made? Oh my – 7 out of 8 of the list of added foods above! And what’s more despite missing the animal foods, the diet they returned people to, was nearly all natural human food. Hmm, and then these Doctors say with certainty – it was all because of meat. (Read this if you think that too)

Oh and if you are wondering about those examples of population studies used to prove that meat causes every disease under the sun – let’s have a quick look:

First from the movie the graph showing the changes in meat, sugar and dairy intake:

How much science did the movie look at relating to the increase in sugar intake? None, yet if we take a look at Pubmed – you’ll see rather a lot of studies linking high glycemic carbohydrates with modern disease. Dairy protein too is linked with many problems, like heart disease, epithelial cell cancer, and auto-immune diseases, yet there was no distinction between dairy and animal protein.

What is one of the main foods removed on a plant based wholefood diet? Yes sugar! Each of the people used as examples admitted very high sugar intakes. Yet despite this – the cause of each person’s ill health was pinned solely on animal products. This is not science. In science you simply must look at every factor that has changed and consider its impact.

And the amazing example of the change in cardiovascular disease in Norway when the Germans took their animals away during the war. The graph is incredible!

But as Denise Minger pointed out – here are the actual changes in diet:

A huge increase in seafood consumption (which is shown in numerous studies to reduce risk of heart disease). 50% Less sugar, less fat including margarine, and 100% more vegetables, including an increase in foraged vegetables and berries.

Hmmm – how did they conveniently not notice these highly important changes? Specifically the dramatic increase in fish (an animal protein) consumption.

Okay so lets take a look back at those diets in my heading, and the similarities:

Raw vegan, blood type O, low carb high fat and the paleo diets – what is similar?

We all take out:

  1. Cereal grains with a high gluten content
  2. Cereal grains without gluten, but are dense and high glycemic index, and contain other anti-nutrients
  3. Sugar and fructose
  4. Highly refined foods low in nutrients / fibre – grains, sugars, refined carbohydrates
  5. Vegetable seed oils, chemically extracted, high in omega 6 and damaged / oxidised fat
  6. Legumes, including peanuts and soy (none prepared or fermented in traditional ways)
  7. Dairy products
  8. Added synthetic chemicals, flavours, antioxidants, sweeteners, colours, preservatives

(Isn’t that every food not eaten by a hunter gatherer?)

One food in particular stands out to me though. Gluten. Symptoms of gluten intolerance / sensitivity are numerous – here is a list of many complaints that often clear up when gluten is removed from diets of gluten sensitive people, and clinical conditions linked with gluten intolerance: (Sources Dr Rodney Ford, Dr Alessio Fasano)

  • Abdominal pain
  • Eczema / rash
  • Headache / migraine
  • Fatigue
  • Foggy mind
  • Diarrhoea
  • Depression
  • Anaemia
  • Numbness in the legs arms or fingers
  • Joint pain
  • Gastric reflux, heartburn
  • Infertility
  • Miscarriage
  • Hashimotos / thyroid disease
  • Neurological
  • Behavioural
  • Subset of people with autism, schizophrenia
  • Asthma
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Auto-immune conditions

And to illustrate how potent gluten can be in causing health problems, a recent seminar participant took this list home to her partner who had been ill for a long time – this is what she wrote in an email a week or so later:

“As an aside, my partner had been diagnosed (as a last resort, I think) with fibromyalgia and suffered every symptom in your book that you had related to gluten sensitivity. Her coeliac test was negative.

Nevertheless after showing her your information she immediately, gladly and easily went Gluten Free (also no legumes) for only three days and cannot believe the difference – she felt her brain clear within only 24 hours, her energy levels are better, her mood is better and sporadic swellings are receding. It’s incredible.”

(The irony is if she had been to a seminar on raw food diet, and then changed her diet – all kudos would have gone to that diet, rather than to the removal the real culprit – gluten)

The main difference between the paleo, HFLC, the blood type O diet and a raw vegan diet is the inclusion of animal foods, apart from this they include foods eaten by hunter gatherers and exclude those that weren’t.

And sadly when people cling to a philosophy like a raw vegan diet that changed their life without identifying the real reason it removed their health problems, they may be at risk of other health problems if they develop severe deficiencies – as many do. I wrote of in this previous post. (Health problems reported by those on Vegan and Raw vegan diets)

In summary – if you have had dramatic health improvements of any type with a change in diet, consider every change you made and try to accurately pinpoint what made the difference. And when considering the health benefits that many report they get on certain diets – take a careful look at what changes are made and the impact of each of these changes.

Please listen to this excellent talk by Dr Lynda Frassetto, about the phenomenal results a high plant based omnivorous paleo diet is achieving with type 2 diabetics: Paleolithic Diets and Diabetes Control: How Do We Think It Works?




  1. Thanks for this great post! I had at some point in the past been following the No Forks crowd and just the other day got an email from them I found myself wondering what your take on them was! And then as if by magic, today you post exactly that. I really struggle with self-control and food, and recently have let this go badly, in part saying to myself that there’s no way to really know what’s really good. This post has certainly cleared up some confusion for me and I hope that it can motivate me to stick to a good diet (even if its just for a while). Thanks!

    • Magic – love it! Glad I could help.
      We all fall off the wagon – even we who promote eating clean. I just never fall into the gluten grains though. Controlled / occasional non toxic treats are part of my diet!

  2. Hi

    The image under the line referring to Denise Minger is not linking.

    Just curious to know what you think about Wolcott’s Metabolic Typing Diet (book available in Auckland Library Service. He has a theory that some of our ancestors had more or less carb/protein or mixed diets, and we feel better and lose weight if we eat the correct diet for our type. He has a test in the book. I don’t think he’s incompatible with Paleo, although he does allow grains for the Carb type. I like the idea of variation in human diets. Some people thrive on low or vlc, other’s don’t, for example.

    • All the images are showing now.
      Yes – I have read that, it is useful in that it pinpoints one’s sensitivity to carbohydrates. Depending on insulin secretion (some people are high insulin secreters) and sensitivity (how responsive your cells are to the insulin) can make a difference to your carbohydrate tolerance.
      I still think grains, particularly gluten grains are best avoided, even if you are more carb tolerant.

      • Thanks Julianne – your article is even more impressive!!

        I agree with your point on insulin (loved GCBC), but I’m wondering if the story is more complex when it comes to indivuality. But as you say, stick to the basics on your ‘take out’ list and most of us will be pretty much where we should be.

  3. Hi Julianne!

    I love this:
    “This is not science. In science you simply must look at every factor that has changed and consider its impact”

    So correct. It’s just a very complicated field. If you take a food out of the diet, something else always changes. The energy value of that food is replaced by some other food (changing the macro and micronutrient content of the diet) OR the energy value of the diet reduces, which is in itself a major dietary change. This is a great post.

    One thing to consider with the raw vegans is that they do often get stunning positive results when they start the diet. I *think* this is because they are feeling the benefits of the increased nutrients, decreased junk, but still have bodily stores of B12 and iron. Once those stores become depleted (this can take months) their health suffers, but they don’t make the link with their diet because they felt great for so long.

    • Thanks,
      Yes – I agree with your observation of vegan diets. Also as protein levels drop, and some specific amino acids deplete – energy and strength also plumets. Vegan diet do have positive effects of gut bacteria as well.

      I found Lynda Frassato’s studies interesting – she tested paleo diets against Med diet with diabetics – but ensured the calories eaten stopped weight loss, and still got dramatic changes in markers of inflammation and diabetes

      • Mmm… it’s going ‘ok’. Really, I overextended myself and my grades have not been awesome this semester. I feel I am heading for straight B’s and B minuses, which is a terrible ego blow, haha, but still ok in terms of progressing to thesis. I’ve got one last exam to sit on Friday. I’ll be taking another four papers next semester to finish the postgrad dip. so we’ll definitely have some in common, but I’m enrolled at Palmy, not Albany. Will wave to you on the vid. Which reminds me! I must book flights and accommodation.

  4. This is a common logical error: it’s easier to recall what we’re doing now, than what we’ve stopped doing in order to make time for it!

    It’s also one reason all diets work, for a while…since every diet begins with “stop eating obvious junk food like candy, cookies, and soda,” almost any diet is healthier than no diet at all.


  5. Let’s take a look at why Paleo / Type O / Raw Vegan diets aren’t mainstream…

    Most cost-effective sources of carbohydrates:
    1. Cereal grains with a high gluten content
    2. Cereal grains without gluten, but are dense and high glycemic index, and contain other anti-nutrients
    3. Sugar and fructose
    4, Foods with nutrients / fibre removed – grains, sugars, refined carbohydrates

    Most cost-effective sources of fats:
    5. Vegetable seed oils, chemically extracted, high in omega 6 and damaged / oxidised fat

    Most cost-effective sources of protein:
    6. Legumes, including peanuts and soy (none prepared or fermented in traditional ways)
    7. Dairy products

    Most cost-effective way to preserve food and make it taste good:
    8. Added synthetic chemicals, flavours, antioxidants, sweeteners, colours, preservatives

    Food manufacturers simply can’t afford to make “healthy” food.

    • However- I think if you compare the cost of living on whole foods instead of cereal, pasta and sugar , when you cut the “junk” and processed foods from your grocery cart- the difference is not that big. It just takes a mindful approach to take whole foods and make them appetizing instead of relying on processed foods.
      You would be surprised how good an apple tastes when you are eating clean. YUM

  6. You say “sadly when people cling to a philosophy like a raw vegan diet that changed their life without identifying the real reason it removed their health problems”. Do you essentially mean that their health problems improved because of the high intake of whole fruits and vegetables? If so, could you not say the same for Paleo?

    • Many people’s health problems improve with a combination of cutting out toxic foods like wheat, vegetable oils, sugar etc, and eating instead healthy foods. Thinking that meat is unhealthy is not correct. If you cut out meat but also make many other changes to your diet – it is very unlikely it is the meat – rather the other changes. A common mistake that vegan proponents make.

      • I have been 100% gluten free for 4 years, primarily organic and grassfed meats for 3 years, mostly grain free for over a year and 100% Paleo for 6 months. In the last 6 months I have experienced a dramatic decline in my health along with no weight loss (I’d like to lose around 20 pounds). I have been a huge advocate for Paleo and have even gotten a couple of friends eating Paleo only to come to the realization that Paleo is not healthy for everyone. I was raw vegan for 5 months about 12 years ago and reversed all my health problems. However, with 4 kids, that diet is no longer practical nor do I think it would work for me long term. I think every individual has to find what works for them.

        • What kind of paleo did you do – some people do not do well on low carb, high fat, personally I eat mostly plants with a little protein at each meal – that is what keeps me feeling great

  7. Hi Julianne

    Good post. We have a similar experience, my wife overcame CFS/ME and her immune system attacking her thyroid by changes to diet and at one point we were eating 100% raw vegan. However, this never seemed to suit me and after a few years we have moved to primal diet. What interested me though was that people manage to heal on seemingly diverse diets and I have blogged on too:

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