New Year’s is the time of the season where everybody and their aunt seem to be on a diet kick. However, this year, one diet stuck out to us. What exactly is a pegan diet? Today, we welcome back Sarah Hung to explain the new diet trend. Sarah is a Naturopathic Doctor and Acupuncturist. She is a Chinese Medicine practitioner at Aligned Modern Health, where she works alongside functional medicine practitioners, chiropractors, nutritionists and massage therapists. 

Sarah Hung

Pegan Origins

The pegan diet was created by doc Mark Hyman. He is a functional medicine doctor from the Cleveland Clinic of Functional Medicine. This trend is fairly new from what I understand. The term "pegan diet" was first coined on Dr. Hyman's blog in 2014.
The pegan diet combines the paleo diet and the vegan diet. Now, paleo is an ancestral diet that focuses on the consumption of grass-fed meats and vegetables, while eliminating grains, dairy, and legumes. Meanwhile, the vegan diet consists of a vegetarian diet, and eliminating [any animal-associated food]. On the pegan diet, they do eat some meat, like grass-fed meats. It’s also very portion-focused. 75% of the diet is made up of fruits and vegetables. 25% remains more of the organically-sourced proteins.

Is it Vegan?

It applies some principles of the vegan diet, like dairy is discouraged, but they do encourage some of the wild-caught, pasture-raised meats.

Finding Balance

There are definitely pros and cons to this diet. It’s certainly not for everybody. Some of the pros are that it encourages whole foods, as opposed to processed foods, so it encourages people to shop the perimeters of the grocery store instead of the center. Also, the fact that it’s so high in fruits and vegetables, at levels of 5-9 cups/day, which is shown to have a wide range of health benefits, and increase longevity, and prevent many chronic diseases.

There are some downsides as well. So, for example, it might be very difficult for them to dine out. There are not a lot of pegan options out there, and even some oils are restricted! Additionally, with the restrictions of whole grains and legumes, this can reduce certain types of fiber intake. This, unfortunately, decreases the variety in our diets.

Dining Out

There are many restaurants that focus on organically sourced veggies and meats. Those are definitely good options to explore. And then, of course, always communicate to your waiter the types of oils you can eat, food restrictions, and possible substitutions. I've been surprised by the number of substitutions that restaurants can make in the last 10 years! Coconut oil is permitted, most seeds oils are allowed – but not processed seed oils like canola oil.

Filling Nutritional Gaps

The good news is fruits and veggies contain a lot of fiber! However, without as many whole grains or legumes, pegans may be prone to B vitamin deficiency. Focus on eating dark leafy greens. Nuts and seeds can have important minerals such as magnesium and zinc. Then, if iron or other vitamin deficiencies are an issue, track those levels with blood work by your doctor. You can also boost specific vitamin levels with specialized functional foods or supplements. For many pegans, B vitamins are good to focus on, and there are some plant-based proteins with vitamins and minerals that are good to look at. 
Remember, one size does not fit all. Before jumping on the latest trend diet, speak to your nutritionist, naturopathic doctor, functional medicine doc, or other healthcare practitioner.
We hope you learned something new today! Let us know if you would ever try the pegan diet, or what you think of it, in the comments below!