Diets, diets, everywhere… But which one should you choose?
That is the $1,000,000 question!
Every day brings the dawn of a new diet program. We see people posting about them on social media. We hear about them on television. We even read long, detailed books about them.
And the answer to the question of which diet you should choose is more complicated than you might think. All fad diets have their pros and cons. But beware! Some are downright unhealthy. While others preach results that are impossible to maintain.
Sometimes, you’re better off going with the tried and true. Enter, veganism and the paleo diet. Both have been around for many years. And both are excellent choices for a healthy lifestyle with plenty of scientific research to back them up. Veganism became a big part of the modern bohemian lifestyle and that new revolution.
But what if we mashed the two of them together and extracted the best parts of both? There you have it: the pegan diet.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at this diet. Where it came from, what you can eat while on it, and some pros and cons.
Paleo Diet vs Veganism
In order to understand this hybrid diet better, you need to know the parts that make it up. Let’s take a look at the paleo diet and veganism separately to see how they meld to form the pegan way of eating.
What is Veganism?
To understand vegans, you must first understand vegetarians. Vegetarians cut out meat as part of their meals. But they do eat foods and use products that have animal products in them.
There are variations on a vegetarian diet. Certain vegetarians, called lacto-vegetarians, eat dairy products like milk and cheese. Lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat eggs too. And pescatarians limit their meat intake to fish and seafood only.
A vegan diet is the strictest form of the vegetarian diet. Vegans eat only plant-based foods. No dairy, eggs, or plant products of any type. Some of these lesser-known ingredients include:
- Butter, like in baked goods.
- Gelatin, which is often derived from animal bones.
- Anything made from milk base or containing whey.
- Beeswax and honey.
- Fish oil.
A true vegan avoids animal products even if they aren’t in food. This includes many types of cosmetics, body lotions, and vitamins. Vegetarians aren’t so strict about these type of products.
Veganism is strict about animal products. But it’s lax on things like starchy foods, beans, and grains. Also, processed food tends to make its way into vegan diets. Some vegans do try to stick with whole foods. But there are plenty of processed meat alternatives on the market aimed strictly at vegan dieters.
What is the Paleo Diet?
To get the hang of the paleo diet, all you need to do is channel your inner caveman. That’s why it’s often referred to as the “Caveman Diet”. Eat the same foods your ancestors ate 10,000 years ago and you’ll be part of the paleo revolution.
Paleo followers eat meat, including beef, fish, pork, and poultry. But they like their meat untarnished by chemicals and feedlot corn. Organic, grass-fed, and free-range is allowed in the paleo diet. Your caveman ancestors didn’t have corn-fed beef, so you shouldn’t either if you’re planning to eat paleo.
That goes for eggs too. Eggs are a great source of lots of healthy fat (as long as you eat the whole egg, not just the white). So the paleo program allows you to eat them. But egg consumption should be in moderation. And only from organically-raised, free-range chickens.
You can also eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Anything leafy green, red, orange, purple, and blue work in this diet. Nuts and seeds are also okay to eat along with healthy oils, like olive, avocado, and coconut. Certain oils are great for you from the inside out. For instance, start using macadamia nut oil for hair that shines like the sea.
On the naughty list are starchy foods like beans, potatoes, or legumes. They also frown on all types of grains and dairy. These foods were not part of a paleolithic human’s diet, so they aren’t part of the paleo diet now.
From Paleo-Vegan to Pegan
The term “pegan” started with Dr. Mark Hyman, MD. In 2014, he wrote about the idea of mixing veganism and paleo eating in a blog post on his website. He referred to it as his personal eating regimen which mixed the best concepts of veganism and the paleo diet.
In his article, Dr. Hyman talked about how food has the power to cause and heal major illnesses. Both paleo and vegan diets are known to have health benefits. So Dr. Hyman figured that taking the healthiest eating habits from both diets would create the healthiest diet of all.
The idea of this diet has been around for many years. But it’s just now starting to take off with a big surge in social media searches over the last year. Pinterest ranks “going pegan” as one of the top food trends to watch for in 2019.
This increase in popularity has given rise to lots of branded pegan diet labels. The Dr. Oz Pegan Diet is just one of many that have cropped up over the years. It’s better known as the Pegan 365 Diet.
Fortunately, you don’t have to follow a certain branded diet to go pegan. Let’s take a closer look at the pegan diet meal plan.
The Pegan Diet Meal Plan
Now let’s take a look at the basic concepts behind pegan eating. What you can and can’t eat and how it compares to veganism and the paleo diet.
Our paleo ancestors ate meat, so you should too! But, a word of caution. Only high-quality meat that’s free from chemicals and grass-fed should be part of pegan eating. Eggs should come from free-range chickens.
Fish should have low mercury content like sardines, anchovies, and salmon. Avoid larger fish like swordfish and tuna because they come with a heavy dose of mercury.
Pegans enjoy meat as part of the meal, but not the biggest part. Fruits and veggies should take up the most space on your plate, with meat included as a small side portion.
Load Up on These Plants
Yes, there are right and wrong plants. Pegans eat anything that’s leafy and green. But don’t stop at green. Include plants from the entire color spectrum in your meals. Red, blue, yellow, orange, purple, and everything in between.
Both fruits and vegetables are considered “A-okay” with pegans. This goes along with vegan principles. Paleo dieters choose to eat lower glycemic fruits such as berries versus more sugary fruit like bananas and apples. But the pegan diet is more forgiving of these high-sugar fruits. Nuts and seeds, like pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil, are also a fantastic source of plant-based nutrition.
Skip These Plants
Here’s where the pegans divert from vegans in a big way. There are some plants that don’t do as much good for our bodies, according to the pegan eating plan. Let’s take a closer look at those plants that don’t make the cut.
Potatoes aren’t necessarily bad for you, but they do have lots of carbs in them that can cause your blood sugar to spike. Sweet potatoes and yams are borderline items in the pegan diet. They’ll cause the same blood sugar spikes, but they’re also brightly-colored, which means added nutrients.
Grains, like rice, corn, and wheat, are relatively new to the human diet. Cavemen did not cultivate grains as we do. And they’ll spike your blood sugar levels the same as refined sugar will. Plus, grains tend to cause digestive issues because of their gluten content. And they attribute to inflammation as well.
Same goes for beans. They have lots of great nutrients in them. But they can cause digestive issues, spikes in blood sugar levels, and inflammation.
That said, all of these plants do have some redeeming qualities. They’re much better than choosing processed foods. And they offer their own variety of protein, vitamins, and nutrients. So enjoy these items in moderation. Like less than a cup per day.
Focus on Fat
Fats are no different than meat and plants, there are good varieties and there are bad varieties. But fat is one of those magical food elements that can’t (and shouldn’t!) be nixed from your diet. As much as low-fat dieters might claim, fat is too important for your health to completely cut out.
Without fats, your body can’t build new cells or digest food as it should. And your hair and skin suffer too, becoming dull and ashy. Most vegan and paleo diets recognize the need for good fats and include that as part of their regimen.
Certain vegetable oils are high in omega-6 which is an essential fatty acid. Although we must have it in our diets, too much of it leads to inflammation. In addition to omega-6, many of these oils are highly-processed. Avoid these higher omega-6 oils like soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, and canola oil if you’re planning to go pegan.
Focus instead on fats that aren’t processed and are high in omega-3 instead. Omega-3 is harder to get into your diet but it does a whole bunch of good things for your body like lowering your risk for heart disease. Foods rich in omega-3 include olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, and fish.
Read our complete guide on nut oils to learn more about the best fats for your diet.
Avoid Dairy and Sugar
It’s long been thought that dairy was an essential part of a human diet. That it was the best and easiest way to get calcium. And that eating dairy created strong bones and healthy teeth.
But the traditional belief about dairy being good for us has come under fire over the last few years. The truth is that all dairy is not created equal.
The primary argument against dairy, cow milk, in particular, is that it’s not meant for human consumption. Cow milk is meant to feed a growing calf. Because a calf needs lots of fat and nutrients in its first few months of life, milk is high in both of those categories.
As humans, we drink milk as children too. But we’re the only animals who continue to drink it after infancy. And we’re also the only animals who drink milk from other animals. So drinking milk isn’t necessarily a natural thing for adult humans to do. In fact, most of the world’s population can’t properly digest milk, a condition called lactose intolerance.
If you do plan to eat dairy foods, make sure they are organic and come from animals who are grass-fed. Dr. Hyman suggests sticking to sheep or goat products because they are easier to digest than cow’s milk.
Sugar falls into the same boat. People need sugars, or complex carbohydrates, to keep our energy levels up throughout the day. But too much sugar has lots of really bad effects on the body, which you’ve probably heard plenty about. So keep sugar consumption to a bare minimum.
Want to check out the most popular non-dairy milk right now? Oat milk is the newest non-dairy milk and we teach you all about it and how to make oat milk here.
Pegan Pros and Cons
Pegan eating has lots of great benefits. It’s healthier for the planet because it emphasizes consuming plants and free-range animal meat. It’s healthier for you too because it promotes heart-healthy foods. And it limits inflammation and counteracts digestive problems.
Most people who switch to it are likely to lose some weight, which is good for sustaining heart and joint health. A pegan lifestyle controls blood sugar and gives you plenty of fat and protein. Which gives you more energy and sustains you better through the day.
On the flip side, a pegan diet is not the easiest diet to maintain. It takes will and determination to turn down processed foods on a regular basis. But we’ll say this, it is somewhat easier to do than becoming a vegan.
Also, there is truth to the claims that beans, legumes, and whole grains have lots of nutrients that are beneficial to your body. And cutting those out completely may cause you to have some nutrient deficiencies. As a pegan, you’ll need to take supplements to get your vitamin D and full servings of omega-3 fatty acids. Talk to your doctor about which supplements are best for those following a pegan eating plan.
Ready to Be a Pegan?
Let’s face it folks, very few diets are easy to follow. And the pegan diet is no exception. But for the most part, the benefits outweigh the difficulties.
Choosing to load your plate with more veggies than meat is accepted as a healthy way to eat by most medical professionals. And opting for chemical free, organic, grass-fed food is not only good for you but great for the environment too.
If you’re ready to dive into the pegan lifestyle, start small. Exchange a portion of meat at each meal for a big side of veggies instead. Start shopping for more locally-grown and environmentally-friendly food options. And slowly cut dairy and sugar out of your diet so that you no longer crave these items.
By making a few small changes at a time, you’ll set yourself up for some big changes in the future. Say goodbye to extra pounds, extra arterial plaque, and extra high sugar rushes. And say hello to the many health benefits of the pegan diet!
Ready to get started now? Check out our Top 5 Pegan Diet Recipes.