The pegan diet: Should you try it?
A trendy new twist on the paleo diet is quickly gaining followers. But is it really the path to better health and weight loss?
In early 2015, a new diet trend was born that claimed the healthiest way of eating was to combine elements of two popular diets – the paleo diet and the vegan diet.
Although this may seem contradictory (after all doesn’t vegan exclude meat while paleo eaters endorse munching down on steaks?), advocates believe combining the best parts of both diets is the way to healthier eating. The resulting diet was christened the ‘pegan diet’.
How does it stack up next to what we know about nutrition? Let's take a closer look at what's involved.
What is the pegan diet?
The main premise of the pegan diet is to consume mostly plant foods. It encourages consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables, to form around 75% of your food intake. Low-GI fruits and vegetables are advocated as they help to stabilise blood sugar levels.
The remaining 25% of a person’s diet is made up of small amounts of meat, fish or poultry, nuts and seeds and small amounts of gluten free whole grains or legumes.
There are a few more guidelines:
• Meat or animal products ideally should be grass fed or sustainably raised. Vegetables should be the star of each meal and meat, fish or poultry seen as an accompaniment.
• Fats from nuts, coconut, omega 3, and saturated fat from animals are encouraged.
• Gluten free whole grains should be limited to ½ – 1 cup a day.
• Legumes should be eaten sparingly.
• Added sugar should be limited.
• Peanuts, vegetable oils (such as canola, sunflower, corn or soybean oils), dairy and gluten are excluded from the pegan diet.
"Despite these good points, the pegan diet has a number of points of concern that make it difficult to sustain and potentially unhealthy as a long term way of eating."
Is it really good for you?
As most Australians struggle to consume enough fruit and vegetables, promoting higher intake is certainly beneficial. Similarly, our intake of added sugar is currently too high, so encouraging reduced intake of this is certainly advantageous.
But despite these good points, the pegan diet has a number of points of concern that make it difficult to sustain and potentially unhealthy as a long term way of eating.
The diet excludes many nutritious foods such as dairy and gluten-containing foods. The reasoning behind this is that some people find dairy and gluten hard to digest. If you have been diagnosed with Coeliac disease, or if dairy or gluten causes discomfort or pain, then dairy and gluten can be avoided under guidance of a healthcare provider.
However, for the majority of people who suffer no ill-effects from consuming these foods, there is no reason for them to be cut entirely from the diet.
These concerns are further addressed below:
• Excluding all dairy. One in four Australians struggles to consume enough dairy each day. A diet that discourages diary intake would make this much harder. Dairy is a great source of calcium, which we need for strong bones and teeth. Pegan followers may require dairy-alternatives or a calcium supplement under a doctor’s advice to ensure they are getting enough nutrition.
• Excluding gluten-containing foods. While gluten itself is not an essential nutrient, the foods it is found in are often easy to prepare, cheap and provide a source of nutrition in a person’s diet. Gluten-containing products, such as grainy bread, brown pasta and oats, provide a source of fibre, B-vitamins (for energy) and other vital nutrients.
• Excluding peanuts. It is not clear why peanuts are not allowed, but unless you have a peanut allergy, go ahead and enjoy a handful if you like! They contain good fats and are a source of protein.
• Limiting beans, legumes and lentils. Legumes are cheap, easy to use and a source of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals such as zinc, magnesium and iron – all of which are necessary in a healthy diet.
So should you try it?
The diet does have some good points – it encourages more fruit and vegetables and it promotes a more sustainable way of eating by reducing processed foods. It also includes adequate dietary sources of protein and limits added sugars.
But why give up so many easy, cheap and simple foods if you don’t need to? It might be an idea to leave this one for now and keep enjoying your yoghurt, oats, sandwiches and a host of other healthy foods!