What is the Pegan Diet? And Does it Help With Weight Loss?

by Ahmed Zayed, MD on January 3, 2020
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Nowadays, we already have a lot of choices when it comes to losing weight without comprising our entire well-being. We can go vegetarian, vegan, flexitarian, ketogenic, pescatarian, Paleo, Mediterranean, and so on. It is sometimes overwhelming to find the best diet for us. 

One thing is for sure, though, each of these diets has its pros and cons. Well, combining two of the best diets- the vegan and the Paleo- results in the Pegan diet, and this will most likely double the effect (1)

What is a Pegan Diet?

The Pegan diet is an eating style inspired by vegan and paleo diets. This diet aims to balance blood sugar and reduce inflammation, thereby promoting the entire well-being (2). This is because the vegan and paleo diets emphasize the consumption of whole foods rich in nutrients. 

The vegan diet restricts the consumption of all animal products, including eggs, meat, and dairy (3). On the other hand, the paleo diet usually includes fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. This kind of diet is inspired by what people eat during the Paleolithic era, which is mostly obtained from hunting and gathering (4)

The best forms of these diets are combined in one foundation to provide us with optimal results. But even if these diets inspired it, the Pegan diet has its unique guidelines that are less restrictive than either a vegan or paleo diet. No wonder why thousands of people throughout the world follow this kind of diet.  

The Pegan diet typically focuses on fruits and vegetables. But the intake of a certain fish, meat, seeds, nuts, and legumes are allowed but in moderate amounts. Other foods such as grains, sugars, and oils may be permitted but are discouraged and should be taken in very small amounts. This is also designed to be a long-term diet.  

What You Can Eat

The Pegan diet encourages you to eat whole foods and those foods which are not processed. Here is the list of the foods that you can eat:

  • Fruits and vegetables

The basic foods that you can eat in a Pegan diet are fruits and vegetables. Around 75 percent of the foods you eat should be composed of this food group. Fruits and vegetables that are low in glycemic, such as non-starchy vegetables and berries, are encouraged to help balance your blood sugar level. 

But from the moment your blood sugar response is already controlled, you are allowed to consume starchy vegetables, as well as fruits high in sugar, but only in minimal amounts. 

  • Protein-rich foods

Indeed, the Pegan diet encourages you to eat lots of plants, such as fruits and vegetables. But, this diet also emphasizes the importance of protein intake from animal sources. Since about 75 percent of your diet is composed of plant-based food sources, the remaining 25 percent should be allocated to animal-based proteins (5)

This only shows that your meat intake is much more compared to a vegan diet, but much lower compared to a paleo diet. But then, the Pegan diet does not encourage you to eat farmed meats and eggs. The sources of pork, beef, eggs, and poultry should be from grass-fed and pasture-raised animals. Fish like wild salmon and sardines are encouraged because these are low in mercury.

  • Minimally processed fats

Nuts. These are rich in healthy fats-monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. These can lower blood cholesterol since they are a good source of phytosterols. They are also rich in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, including vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, and folate (6).    

Seeds. These are good sources of fiber as well as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Seeds contain minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants that help in reducing cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure (7)

Avocadoes. These contain high amounts of monounsaturated fats. This is a nutrient-dense food that contains about 20 minerals and vitamins (8).   

Olive Oils. These are good sources of antioxidants and vitamin E. It is composed of healthy fats that can be extracted to make olive oil. Olive oils can be used in sandwiches, salads, and tapenades (9).

Coconut Oils. These are rich in saturated fats that are perfect for your diet. These fats have fat-burning properties that can provide your brain and body with energy. It can help increase good cholesterol, which can reduce the risk of various heart diseases (10).

  • Whole grains and legumes

Whole grains such as quinoa, black rice, amaranth, teff, millet, and oats and legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, pinto beans, and black beans can influence blood sugar, but some of these are allowed but only in limited amounts. The allowable amount of whole grains is not more than 125 grams per meal, while legumes should be consumed not more than 75 grams a day. 

What You Cannot Eat

Although the Pegan diet is more flexible compared to the two diets, there are also some limitations of what you can and cannot eat. Here is the list of the foods that you cannot eat:

  • Dairy

Yogurt, cheese, and cow’s milk are not encouraged. But goat’s or sheep’s milk are allowed, but also in limited amounts. Grass-fed butter is also permitted. 

  • Gluten

Gluten is very common in pasta, pizza, bread, and cereal. Gluten contains no essential nutrient that is why all grains which have gluten are highly discouraged (11)

  • Gluten-free grains

Although small amounts of gluten-free grains are allowed, it is strongly discouraged. 

  • Legumes

Low-starch legumes may be allowed, but most legumes are strongly discouraged because they can increase your sugar level. 

  • Sugar

Whether refined or not, any added sugar should be avoided. But it can be used occasionally. 

  • Refined oils

Highly processed or refined oils like soybean, sunflower, corn oil, and canola should be avoided. 

  • Food additives

Preservatives, flavorings, artificial colorings, and other additives should be avoided. 

The foods mentioned above are usually avoided because of their effects on your blood sugar. These are also just a few, which can cause inflammation in your body.  

Benefits of a Pegan Diet

There are several ways on how a Pegan diet can improve your entire well-being. This diet stresses the importance of fruits and vegetables as they are rich in minerals, vitamins, and fiber just perfect to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress and to prevent various diseases (12)

The strong emphasis on unsaturated fats from nuts, seeds, fish, and other plants have healthy effects on your heart as well as your entire well-being (13). And since this diet strongly encourages whole foods and discourages ultra-process foods, this is linked with an improvement in your overall health (14).  

And since this diet is low in refined carbohydrates and starch, this is totally good for your blood sugar levels. In fact, it was associated with helping improve type 2 diabetes. But if you have this kind of disease, it is essential to seek help from an expert first before considering the Pegan diet. 

Downsides of a Pegan Diet

But then, the diet has also its downsides. Although this is more flexible compared to the two diets, the Pegan diet restricts the consumption of some healthy foods like whole grains, legumes, and dairy. 

  • Restrictions might be unnecessary

The main reason why these foods are highly discouraged is because of their effect on your blood sugar and your increased risk of inflammation. But if you remove these foods from your diet, their supposed to be healthy benefits will be compromised. 

Some of you might be allergic to dairy and gluten that can cause inflammation. Some may find it hard to control their blood sugar, especially when eating foods high in starch like legumes or grains (15). If these are the cases, you should reduce or eliminate the consumption of these foods. 

In some studies, it is not really necessary to avoid these foods. But if you have intolerances or specific allergies, then you should do otherwise (16)

  • Lack of accessibility

Indeed, fruits, vegetables, and meat from grass-fed and pasture-raised animals sound excellent in theory, and these food sources are not accessible to many people. 

To make this diet effective, you need to allocate more time to prepare for your meal plan. Sometimes, you need experience with meal planning and cooking to have access to a lot of foods. And since you are restricted to consume processed foods, it might be hard for you to eat out. It might lead to social isolation and stress.   

  • Other risks

Grains, beans, and dairy products are not recommended as these can contribute to diabetes, obesity, and osteoporosis. These can also increase your risk of digestive problems and increased blood sugar levels. That is why the Pegan diet discourages these kinds of foods. 

But some experts believe that eating a balanced diet is very crucial for your entire well-being. But this doesn’t mean that you should include grains, beans, and dairy products in your diet. Instead, you can replace them with some foods which offer the same nutrients. 

Sample Meal Plan

Although the Pegan diet focuses on fruits and vegetables, it also includes fish, nuts, seeds, and meats. Gluten-free grains and legumes may be consumed in small quantities. 

Here is a sample meal plan for a week:

  • Monday

Breakfast: Toasted sweet potato topped with pumpkin seeds, lemon vinaigrette, and pumpkin seeds

Lunch: Veggie stir-fry

Dinner: Beet salad “roasted” with Brussels sprouts, sliced almonds, and pumpkin seeds

  • Tuesday

Breakfast: Eggs “fried,” braised greens, and kimchi

Lunch: Lentil-veggie stew

Dinner: Pork loin and veggies

  • Wednesday

Breakfast: Omelet composed of vegetables with a green salad filled with olive oil

Lunch: Boiled eggs, raw veggie sticks, blackberries, fermented pickles, and sliced turkey

Dinner: Veggie kabobs and grilled shrimp with black rice pilaf 

  • Thursday

Breakfast: Overnight oats with chia seeds, cashew milk, berries, and walnuts

Lunch: Salad rolls with orange slices and cashew cream sauce

Dinner: Salad with jicama, radishes, grass-fed beef strips, and guacamole

  • Friday

Breakfast: Omelet composed of vegetables with a green salad filled with olive oil

Lunch: Vegetable stew and lentil with sliced cantaloupe

Dinner: Veggie stir-fry with onions, tomato, cashews, bell pepper, and black beans

  • Saturday

Breakfast: Smoothie with kale, hemp seeds, apple, and almond butter

Lunch: Green salad with cucumber, avocado, grilled chicken, and cider vinaigrette

Dinner: Salmon with steamed broccoli, roasted carrots, and lemon vinaigrette

  • Sunday

Breakfast: Chia seed and coconut pudding with fresh blueberries and walnuts

Lunch: Kale salad with strawberries, avocado, and strawberries

Dinner: Pork loin “roasted” with greens, steamed veggies, and quinoa

Conclusion

The paleo diet emphasizes the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and meats and limits the consumption of legumes, grains, potatoes, dairy, alcohol, and refined vegetable oils. On the other hand, the vegan diet excludes foods from animal sources, including those which contain omega-3 fortified foods, honey, and gelatin. There is only one thing in common for the two diets, and that is the consumption of fruits and vegetables. 

If these two diets are combined, you get the Pegan diet. But even if it is based on two diets, the Pegan diet has its unique guidelines which are less restrictive than either a vegan or paleo diet. Aside from fruits and vegetables, you are allowed to consume a certain fish, meat, seeds, nuts, and legumes but only moderate amounts. This diet aims to balance blood sugar and reduce inflammation, thereby promoting the entire well-being. This is also designed to be a long-term diet.  

The Pegan diet allows you to eat fruits, vegetables, protein-rich foods, minimally processed fats such as nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oils, and coconut oils, as well as whole grains and legumes. On the other hand, dairy, gluten, gluten-free grains, legumes, sugar, refined oils, and food additives are strongly discouraged. 

References

  1. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/what-is-the-Pegan-diet
  2. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/Pegan-diet#what-it-is
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vegan-diet-guide#section2
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/paleo-diet/art-20111182
  5. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/good-protein-sources
  6. https://edition.cnn.com/2017/03/10/health/are-nuts-healthy-food-drayer/index.html
  7. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-healthiest-seeds
  8. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270406.php
  9. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/olives
  10. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coconut-oil#section1
  11. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/ditch-the-gluten-improve-your-health
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2676354/
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25979506
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5307821/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26287637
  16. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0733521013000969

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