WTF is The Pegan Diet (and Should You Even Care)?

I’m fifty, vegan, and an ex-smoker. Three things you do not want to admit to at a cocktail party. Apparently people don’t want to make small talk with an annoying ‘I’ve seen the light’ hippie when they’re tossing back fried shrimp.

I get it. What other people do (or don’t do) is none of my business. Besides, my twenties are a blur of hamburgers and cigarettes, so who am I to judge?

Food doesn’t have to be so complicated

I’m super Zen these days. Unless the subject of diet comes up, then my knickers get in a knot pretty fast. I just don’t get why people have to make food so complicated.

Inhabitants of the world’s Blue Zones routinely live to a healthy 100-years-old and essentially all they’re doing is following Michael Pollan’s advice: Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.

(They also indulge in wine at five, a daily ritual I’m rather partial to myself.)

So Many Diets, So Much Confusion

Nowadays, there are more diets and eating plans than you can shake a stick at. From Keto and Paleo to the Atkins, South Beach and Mediterranean diets, it’s little wonder people are confused.

And now, thanks to Dr. Mark Hyman —author of Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?— we have another one vying for our attention.

An amalgamation of two popular but diametrically opposed lifestyles, vegan and Paleo, the Pegan Diet claims to offer the best of both worlds.

What Does the Pegan Diet Entail?

According to Caroline Cederquist MD, author of The MD Factor, the Pegan Diet is “…better balanced in regards to macronutrients, and easier to follow than a strictly paleo or vegan diet.”

Cooking Light does a great job of outlining what you should eat on a Pegan Diet, so if you’re after the full pegan enchilada (is there even such a thing?), she’s got you covered.

For the mildly curious, this is the Cliff Notes version of what the Pegan Diet entails:

  • About 75% of your daily food intake should come from plants i.e. fresh fruit and veggies. Non-starchy vegetables are preferred.
  • The other 25% is your protein portion. While they do advocate adding plant-based proteins, such as nuts, seeds and beans, they suggest eating grass-fed animal protein, as well.
  • There’s a strong focus on eating omega-3-rich fats, which you’ll find in everything from nuts, avocados and olives to flaxseed and fatty fish. Vegetable oils are to be avoided as they’re usually high in omega-6 fatty acids.
  • You’re not allowed dairy and your bean intake is limited to a cup a day at the most. Gluten is a no-no, wheat is off the table, and gluten-free grains like quinoa, brown rice, oats and amaranth —in other words, all the vegan staples— should be eaten sparingly.

I’m crying in my vegan soup at the thought of life without my morning blueberry, oats and banana smoothie. Not to mention my fave red beans and rice or any of the other meals that feature so heavily on my daily menu.

Vegan to Paleo is a Step in the Wrong Direction

From a Paleo perspective I get the arranged marriage. You want in on the grains you’re prohibited from eating. But from my purely plant-based point of view, shifting from vegan to paleo is a step in the wrong direction.

If you’re struggling to stay healthy on a vegan diet, the answer isn’t to eat animal products again. If you want to eat meat, eggs and dairy, that’s a different story. But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s your only option.

Like with any eating plan, if your health isn’t optimal you need to figure out where you’re going wrong. Only then can you take the necessary steps to fix things. 

It could be as simple as cutting back on the take-out and spending more time in the kitchen preparing wholesome meals from scratch. Or, maybe a vegan nutritional test is what’s required to find out what —if any— deficiencies you may have.

This option has the added bonus of shutting up the naysayers who insist eating kale is what made you sick. Provided, of course, your results are positive. Which they will be, if you eat your kale.

Should You Even Care About the Pegan Diet?

I’m not denying that the Pegan Diet has health benefits. Most of its 13 pillars make sense. I am, however, suspicious of a diet that encourages one to cut right back on beans, whole grains and potatoes. Whaat!?

This guy ate nothing but potatoes for an entire year and not only did he not die from it, his weight, cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure all dropped.

If you’re eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), adopting a Pegan lifestyle would absolutely be an improvement. But ultimately, eating well is about common sense.

Ditch the processed junk. Focus on your fiber intake. Make sure you get some protein. Eat lots and lots of fresh produce. Make your evening meal your smallest one and don’t eat just before bed.

Also, wine at five. I’m just saying.

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    August 28, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    “Ditch the processed junk.” This. I grew up in a household where sugar intake was limited to fresh fruit and cake at birthday aches (oh, the tummy aches afterwards!), and I’m so grateful to my parents for building that solid foundation. My boyfriend has been vegetarian for 18 years, I’ve been *mostly* veg for the last 5, and we’ve both adopted a low-FODMAP, low-sulfur, vegan diet over the last several months to combat digestive issues.
    Our household follow 5 rules for food: 1) avoid processed junk, 2) limit added sugar, 3) eat the rainbow, 4) organic, locally-grown, and in-season fruits & veggies whenever possible, and 4) listen to your body and eat the meat, dairy, or salt without guilt if that’s what you body is asking for.
    Diet truly does come down to common sense, mindfulness, and moderation. I think the fad diets really lead people astray, when they’ve had access their needs all along.
    Great article!! I’d never heard of “the pegan diet” but really enjoyed your thoughts. 🙂

  2. Avatar

    Angela Horn

    August 28, 2018 at 12:55 pm

    Hey there, I’m so glad you enjoyed reading my thoughts on the Pegan diet. Your household food rules are on point! When we listen to our bodies good stuff happens. Unfortunately, I think for many of us that’s a lost art in today’s world of fast, readymade and processed food. I’m a huge fan of the Blue Zones philosophy. They live so simply, yet so smartly. I’m going to check out the FODMAP diet, this is the second time it’s crossed my radar in a matter of weeks. Sending good vibes from Cape Town. 🙂

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