The Grapevine

What Is The Pegan Diet?

In the health and wellness category of news, we tend to see an influx of headlines raving and ranting about the latest dietary trends every other day. If you would like to take a break from reading about the keto diet, it is time to meet the pegan diet.

Hold on — you are probably wondering if "pegan" is even a word. It is a portmanteau, blending "vegan" and "paleo" which are two dietary patterns we are already familiar with.

Dr. Mark Hyman, from the Cleveland Clinic, first used the term in a 2014 blog post and eventually in a book titled "Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?" which he published in 2018.

As one can guess, the diet can basically be described as a combination of the paleo diet and the vegan diet. While paleo eliminates dairy, grains, legumes, processed sugar, etc., veganism is based on eliminating anything sourced from animals.

What makes the pegan diet a healthful one is that a good portion of it is plant-based, pushing you to shop for a whole lot of fruits and vegetables. However, peganism also encourages the consumption of meat as a side dish, preferably that of grass-fed and sustainably-raised animals.

This highlights an effort to strike a balance — reaping health benefits while taking it easy on the environment. Fatty fish and flaxseed, both of which are good sources of omega-3, are also included. 

On the other hand, the diet excludes (or encourages to reduce your intake of) grains, legumes, dairy products, refined sugar, salt, potatoes, and highly processed foods in general, as noted by the Mayo Clinic.

As in many cases, there are some downsides to this eating pattern. While the emphasis on vegetables, fruits, and nuts has been praised, nutrition experts have expressed concerns over the groups of foods excluded from the diet.

The lack of dairy means one is at risk of missing out on calcium and other nutrients. And the avoidance of whole grains and legumes like beans has also been questioned by registered dietitians like Wesley Delbridge.

"Beans are nature’s superfood," Delbridge, a spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told the Washington Post. "They have protein, they have fiber, they have starch. Beans have been a staple in diets across the world, and beans have shown so many health benefits, including a reduction in cancer risk."

There has been limited research suggesting that the pegan diet could aid weight loss and help in managing appetite, blood pressure, etc. But on the whole, there are no long-term or high-quality studies on how this diet could heal or hurt our health over time.  

The Mediterranean-style diet or the DASH diet, both of which have been ranked high by experts, may provide similar benefits without the need to eliminate valuable whole grains. To make sure you are not at risk of deficiencies, always speak to a registered dietitian before making any major changes to your diet.