Whether you want to slim down, improve blood sugar control, or maintain good health and wellbeing it’s necessary to make some tweaks to your diet. Healthy eating is the cornerstone of your endeavor to improve your quality of life. Tons of things and simple habits can help improve diet regimens. Nowadays, we have many diet programs at our disposal as well. One of these is the Pegan diet. You’ve probably heard a thing or two about it and in this post, we’re going to discuss this diet in greater detail. Read on to learn everything you need to know about the Pegan diet.
What is the Pegan Diet?
Pegan diet is an eating pattern that combines principles of paleo and vegan diets. The concept of the Pegan diet is based on the belief that nutrient-dense whole foods can decrease inflammation, aid blood glucose control, and support overall health and wellbeing.
Also known as the Mark Hyman pegan diet or Dr. Hyman pegan diet, this eating pattern was established in 2015 by a famous author and physician. According to the author and creator, Dr. Mark Hyman, the Pegan diet provides a straightforward and inclusive approach to eating well and feeling vibrant. The Pegan diet, also available as a book, offers 21 simple principles that show how to eat your medicine and fuel the body in order to prevent some of the most prevailing diseases.
In order to truly grasp the concept of the Pegan diet, it’s crucial to understand the basics of paleo and vegan diets.
The Paleo diet plan revolves around following a similar dietary pattern as our ancestors who were primarily hunters and gatherers. This eating pattern focuses on the consumption of whole, unprocessed foods such as seafood, meat, nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables, and eggs. At the same time, the paleo diet doesn’t approve the consumption of legumes, grains, processed foods, and dairy (1).
A vegan diet is pretty much well-known to most people. Vegans eliminate all meats and animal-based products such as eggs, dairy, and honey.
Pegan diet combines aspects of both types of diets, but it’s not mere copying of certain rules. Instead, we could say the Pegan diet is more flexible and focused on healthy eating for a better quality of life. Some foods that are permitted in both paleo and vegan diets are allowed, in limited quantities, by the Pegan diet.
It’s useful to mention that the Pegan diet is not a program that you need to follow for a while. Instead, it focuses on sustainability and is meant to be a part of a healthy lifestyle. A person who decides to give this diet a try can follow it indefinitely.
Since 2015, the Pegan diet has become popular and it’s easy to find various books with recipes and other guides online. Worth mentioning is that the Pegan diet faced criticism for the exclusion of various food groups. Further in this post, you’re going to learn what to eat and avoid, but also how you could benefit from this diet.
Foods to Eat on Pegan Diet
Like many other healthful eating patterns, the Pegan diet puts a strong emphasis on the intake of whole foods or, at least, minimally processed foods. But unlike other diets, the Pegan diet doesn’t have specific rules in terms of what to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Instead, you just need to remember the list of permitted foods and use your imagination to cook different meals. Foods you need to eat when adhering to the Pegan diet include:
- Fruits and vegetables are the cornerstone of this diet and should account for 75% of your total food intake during the day. Focus on low-glycemic fruits and vegetables to minimize blood sugar spikes. These include berries and non-starchy vegetables because they have a low GI.
- Grass-fed pasture-raised sources of beef, poultry, pork, and whole eggs as responsibly sourced protein. Make sure animal-based products account for less than 25% of daily food intake
- Pegan diet requires the intake of fats from healthy sources such as nuts (except peanuts), Omega-3 fatty except from low-mercury fish, unrefined coconut oil, cold-pressed olive and avocado oils, and seeds (except processed seed oils).
- Some gluten-free whole grains and legumes, but generally, you need to avoid these foods, limited quantities are allowed. For example, your diet can include some grains such as quinoa, black rice, millet, amaranth, oats, and teff as well as legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, black and pinto beans (all in limited amounts). Keep in mind grain intake shouldn’t exceed ½ cup (125g) per meal. Legume intake shouldn’t be higher than 1 cup (75g) a day.
Foods to Avoid on Pegan Diet
While the Pegan diet allows for an occasional intake of almost any food, it strongly discourages the consumption of certain food groups. Foods you need to avoid when following this diet include:
- Dairy (except products made of sheep or goat milk in limited amounts, grass-fed butter is allowed too, in some cases)
- Gluten-free grains (small amounts are okay from time to time)
- Legumes (except low-starch varieties such as lentils)
- Sugar (permitted occasionally and even then use sparingly)
- Food additives
- Refined oils (soybean, canola, sunflower, and corn oil)
The reason to avoid these foods is their impact on blood sugar control and inflammation in the body. However, it may be difficult to grasp the full concept of the Pegan diet due to all the exceptions to pretty much every food-to-avoid item on the list.
Benefits of Pegan Diet
As a whole-foods-based eating pattern focused on intake of fruits and vegetables, the Pegan diet has a lot to offer. Below, we’re going to focus on the advantages of this diet.
Promoting intake of fruits and vegetables
The most important segment of the Pegan diet is a high intake of fruits and vegetables. That’s also the biggest advantage of this diet. Fruits and vegetables are abundant in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other healthful compounds that support our health and wellbeing.
A growing body of evidence confirms some fruits and vegetables are good sources of antioxidants that neutralize free radicals and protect us from the damage it would cause (2). Free radicals create oxidative stress which speeds up aging and contributes to various health problems. Moreover, fruits and vegetables are abundant in fiber that reduces intestinal passage rate by forming a bulk thus leading to more gradual nutrient absorption. Not only does this prevent constipation, but also keeps you full for longer and suppresses your appetite.
Fruits and vegetables also help regulate blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and prevent cardiovascular diseases (3). Phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables act as anti-obesity agents as they play a role in suppressing the growth of adipose tissue (4).
While inflammation is an important part of immune defenses, chronic inflammation is not a good thing. Long-term inflammation can have a negative impact on tissues and organs. For that reason, chronic inflammation plays a role in numerous conditions ranging from asthma to cancer (5). Additionally, chronic inflammation can contribute to heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, and obesity.
Studies confirm higher intake of fruits and vegetables reduces inflammation and enhances immune cell profile (6). Since one of the main goals of this diet is to reduce inflammation in the body, the Pegan diet does it successfully through a focus on a plant-based diet.
Blood glucose control
Western diet, a popular choice by many, is not the healthiest option for your body. This type of diet is high in calories and low in much-needed nutrients. Evidence shows Western diet can contribute to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and other health problems (7).
Pegan diet revolves around the consumption of foods with a low glycemic index (GI) in order to reduce spikes in blood glucose levels. As a result, this eating pattern can help you control blood sugar more effectively. This is particularly important if you have type 2 diabetes or you’re at a higher risk of developing this lifelong condition.
The glycemic index is a scale from 1 to 100. The lower the score of some food, the longer it takes to raise blood sugar levels. Basically, GI indicates how quickly carbohydrate-containing foods elevate blood glucose levels compared with pure glucose. Low-GI foods have a score under 55 (8). As you’ve seen above in the foods list, your main goal is to opt for foods that don’t increase inflammation and choices with low GI.
Excessive intake of calories and inflammation may contribute to weight gain. Most people eat an unhealthy diet, which makes it difficult for them to slim down. That happens because the Western diet doesn’t deliver much-needed fiber and other nutrients that suppress our appetite and keep us feeling full for longer.
Pegan diet is abundant in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and healthy sources of protein all of which are necessary for appetite suppression, reduced calorie intake, and weight loss. That said, the Pegan diet focuses on the quality of foods we eat so you may be encouraged and motivated to adopt healthier lifestyle habits including regular exercise.
The Paleo diet usually gets a bad reputation for alleged environmental impact. The planet would face disastrous results of air pollution, land degradation, and water overuse if everyone ate meat at every meal (9). Pegan diet helps mitigate this impact by “diluting” paleo habits with veganism. At the same time, the Pegan diet encourages people to purchase sustainably raise meat in addition to reducing its consumption.
Shortcomings of Pegan Diet
Like any other eating pattern, the Pegan diet has both good and bad sides. Shortcomings of the Pegan diet are worth taking into consideration when you’re trying to decide whether to give it a chance or not. Below are some of the most significant drawbacks of the Pegan diet.
Not easy to follow
Since the Pegan diet is a combination of two different eating patterns, the rules can be tricky to follow in the beginning. Because the diet isn’t that simple to adapt into daily life, it may discourage a person to continue.
The Pegan diet isn’t as simple as a plant-based diet or Paleo diet even in terms of foods to eat and avoid. This eating pattern has specific guidelines regarding foods that you can or can’t consume with various exceptions that can be difficult to remember or follow. So, the whole process of figuring out what you can or can’t eat can be quite overwhelming, especially if you want to keep it simple.
Expensive for some people
The pegan diet puts a strong emphasis on fresh ingredients and sustainably sourced animal products. While these ingredients are good for our health, they can be quite pricey. A person on a limited budget would struggle to incorporate the Pegan diet into their lifestyle or adhere to it regularly due to the cost of foods that are good to eat on this program.
Although Paleo and plant-based diets are simpler regarding understanding of foods to eat and avoid, the Pegan diet allows for more flexibility. That said, a great deal of restrictions proposed by the Pegan diet is unnecessary.
These restrictions include many food groups that are, actually, healthy for us including dairy, whole grains, and legumes. Advocates of the Pegan diet explain avoidance of these foods is necessary because they increase inflammation and blood glucose levels.
The reality is that some people do have allergies to gluten and dairy products may promote inflammation (10). High-starch foods such as legumes or grains could make it difficult to control blood sugar levels (11). Reducing consumption of these foods is beneficial in such circumstances. That said, it’s unnecessary to avoid these foods if you don’t have allergies, intolerances, or health conditions that are worsened with their intake (12, 13).
An eating pattern abundant in organic produce and grass-fed pasture-raised meats looks great in theory, but for many people, this type of diet is not accessible. Living in bigger cities and more urban areas allows for greater accessibility of all kinds of produce and other foods permitted by this diet. That’s not always the case for smaller places.
Moreover, you need to devote a lot of time to meal prep in order to make the Pegan diet successful. Meal prep requires certain skills in cooking and meal planning. Some people may not have access to a wide range of foods in order to keep up with this eating regimen.
In social situations, the Pegan diet can be an obstacle due to its restrictions on processed foods such as cooking oils. Dining out with a group of friends can be difficult. This could lead to stress and social isolation.
The pegan diet is a combination of paleo and vegan diets. Created in 2015, the Pegan diet has become popular. The diet prioritizes the intake of fruits and vegetables but also restricts various important food groups. The main goal is to stick to foods with low GI and avoid inflammation-causing ingredients. The Pegan diet has many advantages and also some disadvantages. Whether to follow this diet or not depends entirely on you and your preferences. If you’re on a tighter budget and don’t have easy access to certain foods, the Pegan diet may not be the best choice. On the other hand, if you don’t have these obstacles you could benefit from giving it a chance.