What is the pegan diet, and is it right for you? The pegan diet is a mix of the "Paleo" and "vegan" lifestyles. But you may be wondering what a paleo vegan eats, considering their stark contradictory nature. Let's start by outlining the two diets.
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The Paleo diet, also known as the Stone Age diet or Caveman diet, is designed to mimic humans' dietary patterns who lived during the Paleolithic area 2.6 million years ago. This means that adherents to the Paleo diet eat vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish, and meat. The Paleo diet is typically meat-heavy, relying on 35% fats, 40% carbohydrates, and 25% protein. It usually excludes dairy, grains, grain-like seeds (quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat), legumes, sugar, polyunsaturated vegetable oils, food additives, and alcohol. Proponents of this diet explain its benefits to include weight loss, less inflammation and feeling more full.
The vegan diet is designed to cut out all animal products and byproducts. This means vegans don't eat meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, cheese, yogurt, honey, or butter. So, the vegan diet could be considered entirely "plant-based." To get enough protein and good fats typically found in animal-based foods, vegans usually choose whole grains, legumes, and healthy fats from nuts and seeds like flaxseed oil, avocado, or Tempeh. While there are many reasons that individuals choose a vegan diet, it's often for ethical reasons. However, plenty of other individuals choose to eat vegan in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle.
How does one combine a diet that primarily relies on beans and grains for protein with a diet that's bean-free and grain-free? A paleo vegan diet or pegan diet is a commitment to eating mostly vegetable and plant-based whole foods and occasionally eating ethically sourced meats, poultry, and fish. Generally, the ratio is 75% fruits and vegetables (including healthy fats like avocado and extra-virgin olive oil) and 25% grass-fed animal-based products that are pasture-raised or not factory-farmed. Pegan will aim to stick with better-quality wild-caught fish with low-toxins like anchovies, catfish, flounder, and salmon.
While the American diet relies heavily on meat as a main dish, a pegan thinks of animal products as more of a "condi-meat." In other words, a small addition to their meal instead of the main ingredient. Followers of the pegan diet focus on eating "real foods" like vegetables, fruits, fish, seeds, meat, eggs and avoid grains, sugar, dairy, legumes, and processed foods. The dieter aims to stick to low-glycemic fruits and vegetables, such as berries and non-starchy vegetables, to minimize their blood sugar response. Also, the pegan diet eliminates processed foods high in sodium, saturated fat, and additives that can increase your risk for sicknesses like heart disease.
The pegan diet was thrown into the spotlight recently with Dr. Mark Hyman's 2021 book The Pegan Diet: Combine Paleo and Vegan to Stay Fit, Happy, and Healthy for Life. Disenfranchised and confused by most diets' extreme nature, he took a food-is-medicine approach to eating and combined the best aspects of both Veganism and the Paleo diet. While weight loss may occur, Dr. Hyman's goal was to optimize nutrients and achieve a healthy diet.
Devotees of the pegan diet report health benefits like better overall well-being, better sleep, lower blood pressure, and lower blood sugar levels. The downside? It can be hard to sustain, and you may need to take supplements for some vitamins, particularly B-12. But if you're ready to take the plunge and commit to this heart-healthy lifestyle, read on for some recipes!
While compliance might be an issue due to the many food restrictions, people who have followed this eating plan often report reduced inflammation, better blood test results, and weight loss. Eating an abundance of vegetables and whole foods can help lower your glycemic load, too!
Functional medicine practitioners and dietitians, and nutritionists often recommend this plan to their patients, especially those who are looking for the root cause for specific autoimmune conditions. Even temporarily adopting this lifestyle while they cut out foods that their bodies might not process well could yield answers and health benefits.
A yummy side that's paleo, vegan, and Whole30-friendly!
cauliflower, cut into florets
green or red onion
fresh lime wedges
Mexican Roasted Cauliflower
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
Toss cauliflower florets with avocado oil, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Make sure the spices are well-distributed..
Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast for about 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and flip cauliflower for even cooking. Roast an additional 10-12 minutes, until tender with crispy edges.
Remove from the oven and serve topped with fresh cilantro, onion, lime wedges and avocado.
If you're having trouble finding options as a pegan, you're not alone. With restrictions placed on so many food groups, it can be difficult, particularly if you're an athlete who needs many carbs and protein.
Check out this blog by the NoMeatAthlete, where he gives tips for active individuals trying to eat Paleo mixed with a plant-based diet. You can also find resources at Dr. Mark Hyman's website, including recipes, tips, and a like-minded community.
The pegan diet isn't for everyone. If you have disordered eating tendencies, a diet restricting so many foods may not be the right choice for you. That's often the case for similar diets like low-carb, Keto, and Dukan. It also can be expensive to rely heavily on plant-based foods or grass-fed, organic, or ethically sourced animal products. Talk to a registered dietitian or doctor before making any radical changes to your diet.
On the other hand, if you want to turbocharge your immune system or get back on track to health after a love affair with processed comfort food, sugar, and empty carbs during COVID-19, it may be worth looking into this plant-based diet. And be sure to check out Mark Hyman's book and determine whether to follow a pegan lifestyle!