What Is The Pegan Diet? Benefits & Downsides | Plant Nutrition Wellness
December 30, 2022
Following a plant-based diet can often increase your awareness of nutrition. However, with so much conflicting advice online, it could also expose you to some ‘fad diets’ that might be misleading. One of the increasingly popular fad diets is the Pegan Diet. While some people may have found this diet helpful, are the benefits backed up by science? Is it safe or suitable for everyone?
This article will provide insight into the Pegan diet. Our vegan nutritionists will break down its popularity, the food groups of interest, and its nutrition philosophy. We will also drill into the evidence behind this diet, along with its proven benefits, risks and how this diet affects your body and mind.
What is the Pegan Diet?
The Pegan diet combines the dietary approaches of both a paleo and a vegan diet (1). The creator, Dr Mark Hyman, specified that the two diets themselves are restrictive and hard to maintain (2). The Pegan diet claims to be a sustainable and long-term lifestyle choice (1) while retaining the benefits of both diets. The focus of this diet is “real, whole, fresh food that is sustainably raised”. (2).
The Pegan diet became popular through Dr Hyman’s book, published in March 2021: The Pegan Diet: 21 Practical Principles for Reclaiming Your Health in a Nutritionally Confusing World.
Foods on the Pegan Diet
Since the philosophy behind this diet was to combine the health benefits of paleo and vegan diets, let’s break down what this entails.
The principle behind a Pegan diet is consuming 75% plant-based foods and 25% from animal sources (1). This excludes dairy products and gluten-containing products while allowing discretionary amounts of processed foods (1). Eating ‘clean’ is the motto of the diet.
As outlined in Dr Hyman’s blog, the rules of thumb are as follows (2):
- 75% plant-based: around 2-3 vegetable dishes per meal, containing low glycaemic fruits and vegetables.
- ‘Good’ fats: Vegetable oils are avoided in the Pegan diet. Most fats should be in the form of omega-3 fatty acids or limited amounts of saturated fat from sustainable animal sources.
Foods Dr Hyman recommends against:
- Stay away from dairy and gluten. Dr Hyman claims that even gluten-free whole grains should be consumed sparingly.
- Avoid starchy beans, such as black or red beans. Lentils are fine.
- Animal products and meats are consumed sparingly.
- Sugar is not encouraged but could act as an occasional treat.
Potential Health Benefits
Currently, there is limited scientific evidence that the Pegan diet has any benefits, both in the short-term and long-term (5). However, as we break down the foods that are encouraged in this diet, we can see some proven benefits in particular food groups.
Most benefits are associated with having a plant-based diet, including lower risks of cardiovascular diseases and better prevention and management of type 2 diabetes (6).
Plant foods are also densely packed with polyphenols and other phytochemicals. These can assist in better gut health and have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects on the body, improving your overall well-being (8).
Consult with our plant-based dietitians and vegan nutritionists to discover the in-and-outs of a plant-based diet suited to your lifestyle.
The Myths and Risks
Although following a Pegan diet will have some benefits associated with being largely plant-based, some nutritional risks should also be considered. Following the diet can adversely affect your relationship with food. Some of the foods that are promoted on this diet are less considerate for people on a budget and in remote locations, where fresh or whole foods aren’t readily accessible.
Animal products do contain the most amount of protein essential for your body. With limited meat and dairy on a Pegan diet, overall protein intake could be affected. Protein facilitates basic human body functions and helps your body repair your cells (9). Inadequate protein intake could result in symptoms such as fatigue and poor recovery from illnesses.
The Pegan diet also promotes cutting out gluten from your diet. This is largely a myth – unless you have coeliac disease or non-coeliac gluten intolerance (which is rare), avoiding gluten is not necessarily healthier (10). Many gluten-containing foods are rich in essential micronutrients, such as iron, zinc and vitamin B groups (10). These foods are crucial to maintaining a full nutrition profile of your diet, especially on a plant-based diet.
Iron and Legumes
Legumes are a very valuable source of iron in a plant-based diet (11). Being restrictive with the type of legumes you eat on a Pegan diet could adversely affect your iron levels. Having limited iron intake could cause fatigue and in some cases lead to iron deficiency anaemia.
You can find our article on plant-based and vegan iron sources here.
Dairy, calcium, and other vitamins
If you’re allergic or intolerant to dairy or lactose, or simply prefer not to consume it, it’s recommended to seek alternatives that are fortified with calcium and other vitamins. Our online vegan dietitians and vegan nutritionists can advise which plant-based alternative options are more suitable for you.
Avoiding dairy unnecessarily could lead to a poorer intake of calcium and essential vitamins for your body. This could affect your bone density, increase the risk of fractures, and impact your daily well-being (12).
Relationship with Food
Being too controlling of your meals could affect your relationship with food and impact your mental health (13). The Pegan diet claims to be a less restrictive plant-based diet, but it still eliminates many food groups such as gluten, dairy and most types of beans. Being hyper-aware of what you can or can’t eat could create stress or anxiety about eating meals or snacks that you usually love.
Food should be enjoyed, and we encourage you to have a healthy relationship with your food.
At this stage, the Pegan diet is yet another fad diet. Currently, no scientific research proves this diet is beneficial for health and well-being. The plant-based side of this diet has its proven benefits, but unnecessarily avoiding essential food groups can lead to poorer overall nutrition intake and negatively affect your physical and mental health.
Whether you’re considering being plant-based or vegan, are concerned about your current plant-based diet, or just have more questions about plant-based nutrition, you can book an appointment with our vegan nutritionists and dietitians.
Book in for a free 15 min discovery call with the online nutritionists and vegan dietitians at the PNW clinic.
Article written by: student dietitian Meiqui (Maggie) Wang
Reviewed by: PNW Clinic dietitian Megan Boswell