Pegan Diet 101: Everything You Need to Know

By now you’ve probably heard about both the Paleo and vegan diet. But recently a new trend has carved out a loyal following across the health and fitness community – the pegan diet. As you may have guessed, the pegan diet is a marriage of these two popular diets that combines several elements from both approaches.

The Basics

The foundation of the pegan diet is real, whole food. It requires that 75 percent of your food intake come from vegetables and fruits, with the other 25 percent coming from meats, eggs and healthy fats. It also permits a small number of legumes and gluten-free whole grains. [1]
While that may sound like slim pickings, followers find the diet to be surprisingly flexible as it allows for occasional intakes of almost any food. Even so, it is a lifestyle change – not a 30-day diet – so self-control is still a must.

The Benefits

The pegan diet encourages you to eat large amounts of vegetables and fruits. As such, you’ll get plenty of vitamins, minerals and fiber which will contribute to your heart and gut health. Also, while animal products are limited, it still emphasizes the consumption of other foods containing high-quality protein, which can assist in tissue repair, maintain lean body mass and help you feel satiated. Also, the mandated limit on processed foods is a significant benefit because it inherently increases the amount of real, whole foods you consume. [2]

The 10 Fundamental Rules

So, now that you have a general understanding of the pegan diet, let’s dive into the 10 fundamental rules as explained by the diet’s creator, Mark Hyman:

1. Focus on a Low Glycemic Load

Love syrup-covered waffles? You’re in for a challenge! Foods containing carbohydrates that are high on the glycemic index are a big no-no on the pegan diet. It also emphasizes the consumption of foods containing high-quality protein (e.g., grass-fed beef) and healthy fats – which we’ll expand on in #2.

2. Eat the Right Fats

The pegan diet emphasizes healthy fats such as nuts, coconuts and avocados. These contain higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids that fight inflammation. It also encourages you to eat animal fat from quality sources.

3. Eat Mostly Plants

75 percent of the food you eat while on the pegan diet should come from low-glycemic fruits and vegetables. And no, sadly, french fries do not count as a vegetable! You’re also encouraged to incorporate a variety of colors to ensure you get a healthy balance of nutrients.

4. Focus on Nuts & Seeds

The pegan diet encourages you to eat plenty of nuts and seeds, as they are an excellent source of healthy fats. What’s more, they are also packed with protein and fiber. In fact, just one serving of almonds contains 3.5 grams of fiber. Not so nuts for nuts? Luckily, the list of approved foods also includes sugar-free nut butter (e.g., almond butter, peanut butter), so long as it’s sugar-free.

5. Mooo-ve Away from Dairy

While dairy is discouraged, Mr. Hyman suggests that goat or sheep dairy can serve as a serviceable substitute for those unwilling to ditch it altogether. Why goat and sheep dairy? Sheep dairy and goat dairy are often easier to digest than other forms. Be ready though, as the difference in taste can take a little time to adjust to for those new to different, less traditional dairy. [3]

6. Avoid Gluten

Even if you don’t have Celiac disease or any other gluten sensitivities, the pegan diet avoids gluten due to the potential damage it can cause your gut. However, there are plenty of other ways to work carbohydrates into the pegan diet.

7. Eat Gluten-Free Whole Grains Sparingly

For some people, consuming grains can cause an unhealthy rise in blood sugar levels and inflammation. Therefore, it’s recommended that pegan diet followers mitigate the number of grains they consume. However, gluten-free grains – such as quinoa, buckwheat and black rice – are allowed, and offer many nutritional benefits.

8. Scale Back on Beans

Beans and legumes contain high amounts of starch, which will spike blood sugars. They can also cause digestive problems for some people. However, they do contain some protein and loads of fiber. Therefore, Mr. Hyman suggests consuming them in moderation, and preferably the smaller varieties.

9. Make Meat Your Side Dish

While meat is often the centerpiece for many meals, the pegan diet flips the script, requiring you to have your vegetables as the main dish. More specifically, the maximum amount of meat per meal is about 4 to 6 ounces.

10. Scale Back Your Sugar Intake

The pegan diet doesn’t ban sugar altogether. However, you do have to significantly scale back on sweets, as they provide zero nutritional benefits and can cause your blood sugar to spike. But don’t despair – you can still occasionally satisfy your sweet tooth with a slice of pie or scoop of ice cream. Just be sure to hold yourself accountable. [4]

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written by

James Gardikas

James Gardikas

Contributing Writer