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What Is the Pegan Diet? Benefits, Downsides & How to Follow It

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Pegan diet - Dr. Axe

The pegan diet is one of the newest trends to emerge in the health scene. This vegan-paleo hybrid eating plan promises quick weight loss, better blood sugar control and decreased inflammation, with tons of pegan diet reviews available online hailing its ease and effectiveness.

On the other hand, some claim that the diet is difficult to follow, ineffective and unnecessarily restrictive.

This article takes an in-depth look at the pegan diet to explore what it is, what you can eat, and whether or not it’s a good option for you.

What Is the Pegan Diet?

What is a pegan diet, and how does it work?

The pegan diet, or vegan paleo diet, is a diet that combines principles of paleo and plant-based eating. Also sometimes called the Mark Hyman pegan diet or Dr. Hyman pegan diet, the plan was created and popularized by the famous author and physician in 2015.

In order to understand the paleo vegan diet — or pegan diet — it’s important to first look at the paleo definition and understand what is a vegan.

The paleo diet is based on following a similar diet as our ancient hunter-gatherer ancestors. The diet focuses primarily on whole, unprocessed foods like meat, seafood, nuts, seeds, eggs, fruits and vegetables. Meanwhile, grains, legumes, dairy and processed foods are off the table.

The vegan diet, on the other hand, is a plant-based diet that eliminates all meat, poultry and seafood, as well as animal products like eggs, dairy and honey.

The pegan diet combines certain aspects of both to create a unique cross between the two. Proponents of the diet claim that it can help reduce inflammation, regulate blood sugar levels and improve overall health.

It’s also thought to be a bit less restrictive than both paleo and vegan diets, as small amounts of certain foods that are “off-limits” on each diet are permitted as part of the plan.

Since its introduction in 2015, a range of pegan diet books and resources have emerged online, securing it a slot as one of the most popular approaches to eating. In recent years, several variations on the diet have also popped up, including the pegan diet 365.

What is a Pegan 365 Diet?

This eating plan follows the same principles as the regular pegan diet but provides additional guidelines for how many veggies, carbs, proteins and healthy fats you should eat each day as well.

What Do You Eat on the Pegan Diet?

There are several differences between vegan vs. paleo diets, which can make it challenging to compile a pegan diet shopping list that combines elements of each.

The diet focuses on mostly whole, unprocessed foods with plenty of fruits and veggies.

Unlike the traditional paleo diet, small amounts of grains and legumes are permitted, such as quinoa, oats, beans and chickpeas. However, intake should be limited to no more than a half cup of grains per day and less than one cup of legumes.

Sustainably sourced meat, poultry, seafood and eggs are also allowed on the diet in moderation. This includes foods like wild-caught fish, free-range poultry and grass-fed beef.

This is significantly different than regular vegan diets, which eliminate all animal-based products from the diet.

Can you eat oatmeal on pegan diet? What about meat, poultry or legumes?

Check out this comprehensive pegan diet food list for which foods you should eat and avoid as part of the plan.

Foods to Eat

Here are some of the foods that you can enjoy as part of a healthy pegan diet:

  • Grass-fed meat: beef, venison, veal, lamb, bison, etc.
  • Free-range poultry: chicken, turkey, duck, goose, etc.
  • Wild-caught fish: salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, tuna, etc.
  • Cage-free eggs
  • Fruit: apples, oranges, berries, pears, bananas, grapes, cherries, etc.
  • Vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, leafy greens, radishes, turnips, etc.
  • Grains (in small amounts): quinoa, oats, brown rice, buckwheat, millet
  • Legumes (in small amounts): chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, lentils
  • Nuts/seeds: almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, macadamia nuts, chia seeds, flaxseed, hemp seed
  • Healthy fats: unrefined coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil
  • Herbs/spices: cumin, cilantro, cinnamon, basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, turmeric, etc.

Foods to Avoid

Here are a few of the foods that you should limit or avoid when following the pegan diet:

  • Conventional farmed meat, poultry, seafood and eggs
  • Dairy products: milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, ghee, etc.
  • Grains: gluten-containing grains, such as wheat, barley and rye
  • Legumes: peanuts
  • Refined oils: sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil
  • Sugar and sugar-sweetened products
  • Processed foods: chips, crackers, cookies, convenience meals, pretzels, granola bars, refined grains, fast food

Is the Pegan Diet Healthy?

So is the pegan diet healthy, or should you skip it and opt for another diet altogether instead?

Let’s take a closer look at the potential benefits and downsides of this popular eating pattern.

Potential Benefits

The pegan diet promotes healthy, whole foods that are rich in many of the vitamins and minerals that your body needs. Depending on what your current diet looks like, this can result in significant pegan diet weight loss.

For someone following a traditional Western diet loaded with processed foods, for example, the pegan diet results may be much more noticeable than for someone already following a generally healthy diet.

It’s also relatively simple and easy to follow. Unlike other eating patterns, there’s no need to count pegan diet macros or keep track of points, calories or carbs, which makes it much easier to follow in the long run.

Plus, the diet emphasizes healthy ingredients that can help improve several aspects of health beyond weight loss, including heart health, blood sugar levels and disease prevention. On the pegan diet, healthy oils, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and sustainable sources of protein are all included, all of which can be great additions to a well-rounded diet.

Downsides

Because the diet is a combination of two different eating patterns, the pegan diet rules can be a bit tricky and hard to follow in the beginning.

It’s also a little complicated because it’s not as simple as following a plant-based diet food list or sticking to only paleo foods. Instead, there are specific guidelines about which foods are permitted as part of the diet.

The diet also emphasizes lots of fresh ingredients and sustainably sourced animal products, which can make it a bit challenging to adopt a pegan diet on a budget. While these foods are definitely better for your health in the long run, it may cause a bit of sticker shock initially, depending on what your current diet looks like.

Furthermore, the diet is somewhat controversial because it eliminates or restricts several food groups that are considered healthy and nutritious. Legumes, for example, are a great source of protein and fiber, as well as micronutrients like manganese, B vitamins, iron, zinc and copper.

Whole grains can also be a nutritious dietary addition and may aid in the prevention of several chronic health conditions. Similarly, dairy can provide key nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, protein and potassium.

Pegan Diet Meal Plan Sample Menu

Curious what a pegan diet meal plan might actually look like? Check out this sample pegan diet menu to get some ideas for a healthy pegan diet breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus some pegan diet snacks.

Day One

  • Breakfast: scrambled eggs with sautéed veggies
  • Lunch: vegan meatballs with zucchini noodles and avocado pesto
  • Dinner: herb-roasted turkey breast with garlic asparagus
  • Snack: kale chips and almonds

Day Two

  • Breakfast: coconut chia seed pudding topped with berries and cinnamon
  • Lunch: grilled chicken with cauliflower rice and broccoli
  • Dinner: red lentil curry
  • Snack: hummus with veggie sticks

Day Three

  • Breakfast: grain-free oatmeal
  • Lunch: burrito bowl with ground beef, lettuce, tomato, guacamole and onions
  • Dinner: salad with spinach, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, tomatoes, walnuts, carrots and olive oil vinaigrette
  • Snack: mixed fruit

Pegan Diet Recipes

Fortunately, there are plenty of pegan diet cookbook sites and recipe ideas out there, making it easy to find foods that can fit into your pegan diet daily menu.

Need some inspiration? Check out these delicious, wholesome pegan diet plan recipes to help get you going:

Other Diet Alternatives

Although the pegan diet is centered around several solid nutrition principles, it can be tricky to follow and limits many healthy ingredients — as well as entire food groups. So what’s a better alternative?

Instead of cycling through fad diets like the pegan diet, meat and greens diet, macrobiotic diet or Atkins diet, focus on figuring out what works for you, and create your own healthy diet made up of nutritious whole foods instead.

Fill your diet with lots of fresh fruits and veggies, enjoy sustainably sourced protein foods in moderation, and consume a variety of healthy fats, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and healing herbs and spices.

Not only is this much easier to follow without all the complicated rules and restrictions, but it can also ensure that you get all the nutrients you need to promote better health.

Precautions

If followed properly, the pegan diet is safe and associated with minimal side effects. However, if you have any underlying health conditions, it’s important to talk to your doctor before making any major modifications to your diet.

Furthermore, the pegan diet may not be a good fit for vegans or vegetarians and may make it difficult to get the nutrients that your body needs. This is because it limits the amount of whole grains and legumes consumed each day, both of which are considered staples on a traditional plant-based diet.

For those following a vegan or vegetarian diet, be sure to pay close attention to your intake of protein, calcium, iron and vitamin B12 while on the pegan diet.

Final Thoughts

  • What is a pegan diet? Also known as the Dr. Mark Hyman diet, the pegan diet plan is an eating pattern that combines elements of both the paleo diet and vegan diet.
  • A typical pegan diet grocery list includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, healthy fats, and small amounts of whole grains, legumes and sustainably sourced animal proteins. It restricts dairy, processed foods, added sugar, refined oils, and conventional meat, poultry and seafood.
  • Is the pegan diet healthy? The diet includes many healthy, whole foods that can help promote better health and is relatively simple and easy to follow compared to other popular diets.
  • On the other hand, there are several key differences between paleo vs. vegan diet plans, which can make the guidelines a bit confusing when first getting started. It also eliminates several nutritious foods and can be expensive, which may not make it a great fit for everyone.
  • Filling up your diet with lots of nutrient-dense whole foods is a great alternative and may be simpler and easier to sustain in the long run.

Read Next: No-Carb Diet Plan Guide, Plus Foods to Eat vs. Avoid

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