The Pegan or Peganism Diet is a hybrid between the Paleo Diet and Veganism, with many pros, but also cons and caveats.
Today there are many diets or eating methods. Among others, the Vegetarian Diet, Veganism, the Paleo Diet, the Ketogenic Diet, or the well-known Mediterranean Diet or the DASH Diet take the top positions in terms of healthy eating. However, they are not the only ones, and there are more and more variations or "improvements" in this regard. And that's where the Pegan Diet or "Peganism" would come in.
According to its creator, the doctor Mark Hyman, who spoke about Peganism on his blog in 2014, the Pegan Diet would consist of a mix between the Paleo Diet and the Vegan Diet, something that a priori sounds paradoxical and even impossible. But Hyman wasn't happy with that, instead he developed his idea a bit further in his diet book in February 2018, " Food: What Heck Should I Eat." A year has passed, and searches related to Peganism have grown exponentially.
Peganism or Pegan Diet: Pros and Cons
Although Peganism is easier to follow than its older brothers (Paleo and Veganism), it is not without some cons in this regard, since it restricts some foods with a high nutritional density without a scientific reason behind it.
As pros, both the Paleo Diet and the Vegan Diet stand out for their broad base in plants and vegetables, and Peganism is not far behind, a concept that has been shown not only to improve human health, but could also protect our species and the long-term environment, as the recent research on the Planetary Health Diet well stated. In fact, in Peganism 75% of the diet is based on vegetables, fruits and vegetables. It cannot be denied that it is a great point in favor, given the western malnutrition that we currently suffer from due to lack of consumption of these foods. Without forgetting the necessary fiber consumption, which should represent between 25 and 35 grams per day, and that we do not usually reach.
On the other hand, another point in favor is the recommendation to consume fatty fish and flaxseed, as they are sources of omega-3 fatty acids, an element little consumed in the Western world. Likewise, it also advises consuming nuts, avocados, olives and vegetable oils, sources of healthy unsaturated fats. As studies have already shown, consuming Omega-3 in the form of supplements is useless, and it is best if it is part of a healthy diet.
In addition, it also allows you to consume saturated fat sporadically, either in the form of organic meat or butter, along with organic coconut oil or organic butter.
The problem comes when you try to make a radical change from a Western Diet, based on ultra-processed, towards Peganism, full of plants. The changes must be progressive, otherwise adherence can be lost. But, on the other hand, a point against Peganism is that it usually recommends exclusively low-glycemic index fruits, such as berries, in order to better control blood glucose, something that could also be better controlled by adding other foods, like fruit with protein for example.
Animal Proteins in Peganism: A Flexitarian Diet
According to Peganism, animal proteins are a "condiment" and advises choosing fish and shellfish with low levels of mercury to access this type of protein. This advice would be shared with another recent, although not yet official, eating method: The Flexitarian Diet, which is intended to be a progressive path towards the Vegetarian Diet. Although, as we mentioned, it is a relatively new and still unofficial concept.
On the other hand, this food method warns that we should only consume legumes "from time to time”, limiting them to "half a cup per day", obviously forgetting that this food is a great source of protein and fiber, basic in almost all diets of the world, and at a low cost. Limiting them would raise the cost of daily food, in turn reducing their nutritional value.
All this, without forgetting that Peganism places great emphasis on "organic food" and "sustainable cultivation”, a type of diet that, for the moment, may not be economically viable.
For its part, this type of diet limits free sugars or added sugars, and has a considerable list of "warnings", such as avoiding any food that may include pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, GMOs, chemicals, additives, preservatives, colorings or Artificial sweeteners. For Hyman the basic rule is “If God made it, eat it; if the man did it, leave it.
Some of these concepts contradict each other, since even organic agriculture uses pesticides, although they are of a different nature compared to the pesticides used in conventional agriculture. And, if we try to carry out this diet 100% perfectly, we run the risk of ending up in orthorexia or an obsession with eating healthy 100% of the time, something not recommended in any type of diet that is carried out.
The Cons of Peganism: Grain and Dairy Free
For its part, and adding to the previous cons, Peganism also prohibits some nutritionally interesting foods, without a clear scientific basis. As an example, the Pegan Diet bans wheat and other grains that contain gluten, stating that "most of today's wheat is genetically modified." Likewise, it also limits other gluten-free cereals, which are more interesting than wheat, such as quinoa, brown rice, oats or amaranth; the excuse? According to Peganism, these whole grains raise blood glucose and can trigger autoimmune diseases.
All these prohibitions do not have significant scientific evidence, and there are other foods that contain carbohydrates to a lesser extent that can also raise blood glucose, such as vegetables, and yet Peganism allows them and boasts them.
On the other hand, in his initial publication during 2014, Hyman discouraged all dairy products and derivatives because he blamed them for a series of chronic diseases; something that has never been supported by scientific evidence. Currently, he does recommend yogurt, kefir, butter, ghee or cheese, although he prefers goat or sheep milk, and always of organic origin.
Conclusion: Peganism is not for everyone
Like any restrictive eating method, Peganism has pros and cons to consider. The most obvious damage is the restriction of certain foods with a significant nutritional density, with the only scientific basis that some individuals may not tolerate them correctly, such as lactose or gluten. But that is not the case for most individuals.
In contrast, Peganism strongly advises the consumption of healthy fats, vegetables and fats, discouraging the consumption of added sugars, which represents several points in favor to take into account.
Therefore, if you suffer from some type of intolerance (or several), Peganism could be an ideal solution or at least could contribute to improving gastrointestinal health. If not, this is probably not the ideal eating method.
Coming to the food options, there is no single belly-busting food that can help you. However, what’s needed is that you become smarter with the choices you make. A good way to start off would be by making some simple meal swaps or cutting out your regular snacks. Liquid calories could be a big contributor too. Ditch out sugary drinks, alcohol and heavy smoothies for simpler, low-calorie drinks.