So guys, what is the Pegan diet? Well, in short, it is the labradoodle or Cockapoo of the diet world.
Basically, it is described as the unlikely fusion of the Paleo Diet and the Vegan Diet. However, it is neither strictly vegan nor strictly Paleo.
Confused? You will be! So, to fully understand the Pegan diet, we need to have a quick recap of the main principles of Paleo and Vegan diets.
The Main Principles of the Paleo and Vegan Diets
The Paleo Diet Principles
The main driving force behind the Paleo diet is to eat a diet as similar to our hunter-gatherer ancestors as possible.
Indeed there are many versions and variations of the Paleo diet but the main emphasis is on clean, whole foods such as plenty of:-
- fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables
- organic meat, fish and eggs
Furthermore, the Paleo diet totally avoids all processed food including refined carbs and sugars and unhealthy trans-fats.
The Vegan Diet Principles
Although there are many variations of the Vegan diet, the main principle for strict vegans is to avoid ALL animal products in their diet. So, the vegan diet is totally plant-based
Hence, meat, dairy, eggs and any animal products in any form are off the menu. In addition, clothing and other products that derive from animals are also off-limits.
What is the Pegan diet?
So, I think that it is best if we disregard the ‘Pegan’ name and the idea that this eating plan is a Vegan and Paleo mix. This diet is not suitable for vegans at all as meat and fish are allowed, admittedly in small quantities.
So, the main emphasis of the Pegan diet is on whole plant-based food with a little bit of meat and fish thrown in.
As we will see there are some major restrictions too. So, let’s take a closer look …
What can you Eat on The Pegan Diet?
Whole Fruit and Vegetables
So, the basic premise according to Dr Mark Hyman (who came up with the name and the diet) is that a plate of food should consist of 75% whole fruit and vegetables.
The meat or fish should be more a side dish than the main event making up no more than 25% of the plate.
Emphasis is on LOTS of different vegetables with a low-glycemic index.
Basically, low-glycemic index carbohydrates do not cause a big spike in blood sugar levels. Thus, they are slower to digest and absorb.
Some Examples of Low-Glycemic Vegetables
- Sweet Potatoes
Some Examples of Low-Glycemic Fruits
- Berries: such as fresh blackberries, cranberries raspberries and blueberries
Focus on the Right types of Fat
So, the fats to stay away from are those found in many commonly used vegetable oils such as:-
- Canola Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Corn Oil
- Soybean Oil
The fats to add to your diet are those with high Omega-3 content. These include:-
- Nuts and seeds (but not peanuts)
- Coconut and coconut oil
- Fat from animal proteins
- Fat from fish, especially mackerel, salmon, sardines and seabass
Meat, Fish and Eggs
As previously mentioned, meat, fish and eggs are NOT totally off the menu on the Pegan diet.
However, the takehome advice is that meat and fish should only take up about 25% of your plate.
A major premise of this eating plan is clean eating. So, the meat must be organic, grass-fed and pasture-raised NOT mass farmed with poor diets, antibiotics, hormones and pesticides galore.
Likewise, any fish should be fresh farmed with low mercury content. Click HERE on how to choose your meat and fish.
Grains and Legumes Allowed
Similar to the meat and fish intake grains and legumes are limited on the Pegan diet both in type and amount.
Mark Hyman suggests half a cup of grains per meal and one cup of legumes per day.
As for the type of grain and legumes, whole-grain gluten-free are recommended. For Example:-
- Grains: Brown rice, wild rice, oats (check for gluten-free) amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, millet and teff
- Legumes: to be eaten sparingly include lentils, pinto and black beans and chickpeas
What Can you NOT eat on the Pegan Diet?
All Processed Foods
This one is a healthy way to go for everybody although it can be difficult. Some research suggests that highly processed foods can lead to food addiction.
When you think processed food, think packaged. If it comes in a box or packaging then the chances are it is processed.
The problem with processed foods, (such as chips, cookies, cakes, pastries, sodas, some fruit juices, ready-made dinners and pizzas) is that they are high in unhealthy refined carbs and sugars, trans-fats and salt.
In addition, many of these foods contain artificial additives and preservatives which, for obvious reasons, are totally off-limits to a caveman/paleo way of eating.
All dairy products from cows, including milk, cheese and yoghurts, are off the menu on the Pegan diet.
The reason for this, Dr Hyman claims, is that dairy from cows
contributes to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer and may increase (not decrease) the risk of osteoporosisDr Mark Hyman
However, it is important to note that these claims are controversial in the medical and nutritional world.
Indeed, there is an abundance of research that contradicts the above idea and claims dairy intake protects against many of the diseases listed above.
Gluten is a No-No on the Pegan Diet
Whilst traditionally a gluten-free diet was reserved for those with Celiac disease, recently this diet has become popular for general health reasons.
Like many others, Mark Hyman states that:-
gluten creates inflammation, autoimmunity, digestive disorders and even obesityDr Mark Hyman
To be fair, Dr Hyman does also state that consuming grains can be healthy it is the amount in the modern diet that is the problem.
Again, research concerning the avoidance of all gluten, for non-medical reasons is contradictory. Indeed, one such piece of research conducted in 2018 by Niland claims that:-
.. high-quality evidence supporting gluten avoidance for physical symptoms or diseases other than those specifically known to be caused by immune-mediated responses to gluten is neither robust nor convincing. In fact, gluten avoidance may be associated with adverse effects in patients without proven gluten-related diseases.
Benefits of the Pegan Diet
There is absolutely NO doubt that aspects of the Pegan diet tick a lot of the boxes for healthy eating. So, let’s briefly take a look at the positives:-
- Eating plenty of organic, clean fruit and vegetables aids health. The medical research evidence is indisputable.
- Cutting out unhealthy refined carbs and sugars not only improves health but may well lead to weight loss into the bargain
- A focus on healthy fats may also improve heart health, reduce the risk of stroke and lower cholesterol, blood pressure and inflammation.
- Low-glycemic index foods may improve health and also help stabilize diabetes and improve insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes)
Disadvantages of the Pegan Diet
- Organic fruit, vegetables, meat and fish are expensive
- Shopping and preparing foods for this type of eating plan can be time-consuming
- Some experts claim that there are unnecessary restrictions, such as dairy products, gluten and some legumes and vegetables.
- The Pegan diet may add to the confusing amount of literature on what to eat and what not to eat.
- May be difficult to stick to in restaurant situations
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