This diet combines some principles of the paleo diet and veganism and prescribes a plant-based eating style. Followers can eat vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, and eggs but they should avoid dairy, grains, sugar, and processed foods. First introduced by Dr. Mark Hyman in 2015, the Pegan Diet works by taking the strengths of paleo and vegan principles to create a new plan. One that is not only moderate but also healthier.
Although this looks like a perfect diet plan, there are some components that remain controversial. But don’t hurry, because we will cover everything you need to know in this article.
As we already said, the pegan diet borrows principles from both the paleo diet and veganism. If you are not familiar with these diets, they are very straight forward. The paleo diet followers can consume only foods available in the Paleolithic era 2.6 million years ago: vegetables, fruits, nuts fish and meat. It usually excludes dairy, grains, sugar, legumes, oils, salt, alcohol, and coffee. On the other end, we have veganism, a total plant-based eating style. Where people can’t eat animal products and byproducts, including meat, fish, eggs, cheese, yogurt, and honey. While the two styles contradict each other in some ways, the main idea is the same, focus on real, whole foods and cut back in animal products and processed stuff.
The pegan diet, is the balance between these two diets. With a major emphasis placed on vegetables and fruit, it allows you to eat small to moderate amounts of meat, fish, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Although they are discouraged, heavily processed sugars, oils, and grains are acceptable if consumed in very small amounts.
In opposite to many diet plans, the pegan diet is not designed as a short-term diet. Instead, it aims to be more sustainable so that you follow it indefinitely.
In this diet, it’s all about the plants! Accordingly to Dr. Hyman, 75% of your diet should be vegetables and fruits. You can still eat meat but think of it as a topping or side dish instead of the main course. Low-glycemic fruits and vegetables, such as berries and non-starchy vegetables, should be emphasized in order to minimize your blood sugar response.
Although the pegan diet primarily emphasizes plant foods, adequate protein intake from animal sources is still encouraged. We are talking about grass-fed, pasture-raised sources of beef, pork, poultry, and whole eggs. Conventionally farmed meats or eggs are something to avoid in this type of lifestyle. Fish is another source of protein allowed, but specifically those that tend to have low mercury content like sardines and wild salmon.
Stick to Minimally Processed Fats
Besides the fat content available on grass-fed, pasture-raised meats and whole eggs you sill have other great alternatives such as:
Nuts: Except peanuts
Seeds: Except processed seed oils
Avocado and olives: Cold-pressed olive and avocado oil may also be used
Coconut: Unrefined coconut oil is permitted
Omega-3s: Especially those from low-mercury fish or algae
Although most grains and legumes are discouraged on the pegan diet due to their potential to influence blood sugar, there are some exceptions. Grains like black rice, quinoa, amaranth, millet, teff, oats are permitted in small quantities, no more than a 1/2 cup (125 grams) per meal. You can also eat some legumes such as Lentils, chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, but only in small amounts, 1 cup (75 grams) per day.
As we have been saying, the pegan diet is more flexible than other diets because it allows occasional intake of almost any food. Despite its flexibility, there are some discouraged food groups in this diet.
These foods are typically avoided on the pegan diet:
Dairy: Cow’s milk, yogurt, and cheese are strongly discouraged. However, foods made from sheep or goat milk, and sometimes grass-fed butter are permitted in limited quantities.
Gluten: All gluten-containing grains are strongly discouraged.
Gluten-free grains: Even grains that don’t contain gluten are discouraged.
Legumes: Most legumes are discouraged due to their potential to increase blood sugar.
Sugar: Any form of added sugar, refined or not, is usually avoided.
Refined oils: Refined or highly processed oils, such as canola, soybean, sunflower, and corn oil, are almost always avoided.
Food additives: Artificial colorings, flavorings, preservatives, and other additives are avoided.
Doubling down on veggies and fruit can help you lose weight because they contain more filling fiber and fewer calories than other foods. They are some of the most nutritionally diverse foods you can eat, full of fibers, vitamins, and minerals. Plant compounds are also known for its ability to prevent diseases and reduce both oxidative stress and inflammation.
The pegan diet also emphasizes healthy, unsaturated fats from fish, nuts, seeds, and other plants that may have a positive impact on your heart health.
While the pegan diet is more flexible than the paleo diet and veganism, it still restricts access to healthy food, such as legumes, whole grains, and dairy. People with increased inflammation, with elevated blood sugar or even people with allergies to gluten or dairy products, can see great improvements in their health by adopting this lifestyle.
However, unless you have specific health problems, it’s unnecessary to avoid these types of products. Furthermore, the arbitrary elimination of large groups of foods can lead to nutrient deficiencies if those nutrients aren’t carefully replaced. You may need a basic understanding of nutrition, or the help of a nutritionist, to safely implement this diet.
The pegan diet is based on some paleo and veganism principles. It emphasizes whole foods, especially vegetables and fruits. It’s rich in many nutrients that can promote optimal health but may be too restrictive for many people.
The best way to start this diet is going slow. You can give this diet a try to see how your body responds. If you are new to the world of diets the best and safest way to start is with the help of a nutritionist. On the other end, If you’re already paleo or vegan and are interested in modifying your diet, the pegan diet may be easier to adjust to.