There are two main options as far as diets are concerned: the Paleo diet and the vegan diet. Scientific studies have shown that both Paleo and vegan diets can help lower cholesterol, reverse diabetes, and reduce weight. So, how do you decide which of these two diets is best for you? You can have the best of both diets: the Pegan diet.
Supporters of the Paleo diet eat pretty much what our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate: meat, fish, eggs, fruit, and vegetables. Whereas the vegan diet consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds.
Luckily Mark Hyman, MD, director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, seems to have got a handle on this contentious issue. He has created what he calls the “Pegan diet.” So what is the Pegan diet? It is taking the best and most healthful qualities of both the Paleo and vegan diets, combining the two, and coming up with an optimum diet—a plant-based diet that’s rich in healthy fats but low in sugar and starch. The Pegan diet is basically eating fresh food in its unadulterated state.
What Foods Do You Eat and Avoid on the Pegan Diet?
You can start your day with a protein smoothie with seeds, nuts, berries, almond butter, coconut butter, and unsweetened almond milk.
A hearty lunch would follow, consisting of a big salad with pumpkin seeds, avocado, canned wild salmon, or sardines.
Dinner is equally tasty and healthy with pasture-raised lamb, wild-caught fish, or organic chicken, and two or three sides of vegetables such as winter squash, dark green leafy greens, and roasted mushrooms.
Pegan Diet Rules for Vegans: Foods to Eat and Avoid
1. Fill Your Plate with Veggies: Fifty percent of your diet should be veggies. Try to eat only non-starchy vegetables. Winter squashes and sweet potatoes are okay to consume in moderation (½ cup a day).
2. Avoid Dairy Supplements: While some people can tolerate it, for most, dairy contributes to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, and may even increase the risk of osteoporosis.
3. Go Easy on Fruits – It’s best to stick to low-glycemic fruits and enjoy the others as a treat. Stick with berries, and don’t consume too much of grapes, melons, and so on. Think of dried fruit as candy, and keep it to a minimum.
Pegan Diet Rules for Paleo: Foods to Eat and Avoid
1. Stay Away from Sugar – Avoid anything that causes a spike in your insulin production like sugar, flour, and refined carbohydrates.
2. Eat the Right Fats & Oils – We should get 25% to 35% of our calories from fat but only from the “right” fat sources. Focus on omega-3-rich fat sources like fatty fish and flaxseed, as well as nuts, avocados, olives, and associated oils.
3. Stay Away from Meat – Consider meat as a side dish. A Pegan should fill about 25% of his or her plate with a protein-rich food.
Differences and Similarities between Pegan and Mediterranean Diets
Pegan Diet vs. Mediterranean Diet
A Mediterranean diet usually consists of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, tubers, legumes, fish and seafood, eggs, poultry, dairy, herbs and spices, and healthy fats. You should drink healthy amounts of water and can drink around one glass a day of red wine. You can also drink coffee and tea but avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and fruit juices because they are very high in sugar.
The Pegan diet is actually very similar to the Mediterranean diet, which is known to have many well-documented benefits, from weight loss to a healthier heart to decreased inflammation, and a lower risk of chronic illness and disease.
The main differences between them would be that Pegan places strong emphasis on the quality of animal products, such as organic, wild, pasture-raised, etc., and suggests that we eliminate all refined foods, including bread, and even whole wheat.
The Pros & Cons of Pegan Diet
1. Pros of Following Pegan Diet
Pegan diet advantages are:
Emphasis on Whole Plant Foods
Paleo, vegan, and now Pegan eating styles have an emphasis on whole, minimally processed foods, and plant foods.
Improved Protein Composition
Vegan diets can be low in protein, as well as crucial nutrients like B12 and iron, but on the other hand, Paleo diets are often heavy in animal protein and saturated fat. The Pegan diet increases the protein composition from vegan and strikes a healthy, realistic balance of the two.
Importance of Glycemic Load
Added sugars get blamed for shooting up glucose levels, but all carbohydrate foods increase blood glucose. We may choose healthier carbs like whole grains and fruits without the restrictions of the Paleo diet. Get your required carb intake by focusing on vegetables, beans, and fruits first, and then supplementing them with whole grains. This will help you in maintaining a low glycemic load, which means there will be no spikes in sugar in your body.
2. Cons of Following Pegan Diet
Pegan diet disadvantages are:
Elimination of Dairy
Except in cases of allergy or intolerance, there’s little research to support that shunning dairy improves health or reduces inflammation. Moderate intake of probiotic dairy products like yogurt has an anti-inflammatory effect on most people. Avoiding dairy also often leads to inadequate intake of key nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, magnesium and phosphorus.
Limited Grain and Bean Intake
Most Americans could benefit from substituting some grains, even whole ones, for vegetables. However, research suggests that there are positive health benefits of fiber, phytochemicals, and other nutrients in whole grains.
High-Performance Athletes and Others with Higher Needs
An average person can meet his or her nutrient needs with a Pegan diet, but it is difficult for athletes who have higher energy, carbohydrate, and protein needs. Reliance on plant food for 75% of protein needs gets harder as needs go up, and limiting whole grains to one half cup per meal and beans to one cup daily could mean that the person has inadequate energy, carbs, vitamins, and minerals.
Pegan Diet Recipes
1. Vegan Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa
Ingredients – 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil; 1 diced small onion; 2 minced cloves garlic; 2 tablespoons chili powder; 2 teaspoons paprika; 2 teaspoons cumin; coarse sea salt and black pepper, to taste; 3 cups cooked quinoa; 3 cups chopped baby spinach; 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained; 1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes; 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro; 4 bell peppers, halved lengthwise
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a large baking dish with a thin layer of olive oil.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add onions and cook for about five minutes, until they are soft and aromatic.
Stir in garlic, chili powder, paprika, and cumin; add the salt and pepper to your taste; and cook for another one to two minutes.
Add the quinoa, spinach, black beans, and tomatoes, and mix all of them together. Cook until the mixture is heated through, about five minutes. Stir in the fresh cilantro.
Stuff the peppers with the quinoa mixture. Place the stuffed peppers in the baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 25 minutes.
2. Sweet Potato and Turkey Enchiladas and Avocado Cream Sauce
Ingredients – 2 cups peeled and chopped sweet potato; 1 lb extra lean ground turkey; 1 tablespoon olive oil; 1 chopped red onion; 2 minced garlic cloves; coarse sea salt and ground pepper, to taste; 1 chopped red bell pepper; 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained; 3 cups store-bought enchilada sauce; 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice; 1 teaspoon chili powder; 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 8-12 corn tortillas
For the Avocado Sauce:
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, 1 medium avocado, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
fresh cilantro leaves
sliced green onion
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large baking dish lightly with oil.
Place the sweet potato chunks in a medium-sized saucepan, and add just enough water to cover them. Bring the water to boiling, then lower the heat to simmer for five minutes. Drain and set aside.
Heat the oil over medium heat in a large frying pan or wok. Add the onion and garlic, and saute for about five minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent. Add in the ground turkey and brown, seasoning with salt and pepper to your taste.
Add the cooked sweet potato, bell pepper, and black beans. Keep the heat at medium-high and cook for around eight minutes.
Remove from the heat and pour in a half cup of enchilada sauce, lime juice, chili powder, and salt.
Spread one cup of enchilada sauce evenly across the bottom of the baking dish. Scoop the filling into a tortilla. Fold the tortilla and place it in the baking dish, seam side down. Repeat with each tortilla. Spread the remaining enchilada sauce over the tortillas.
Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes, until the enchiladas are fully heated and the sauce turns a deep-red color.
In the meantime, you can prepare the avocado cream sauce. Mince the cilantro in a food processor, and add the avocado, lime juice, salt, garlic powder, and two tablespoons of water. Process until creamy and smooth.
Serve each enchilada drizzled with avocado sauce. Garnish with cilantro and green onion.
**For an equally tasty vegan option, skip the ground turkey.
3. Paleo Scallion Pancake
Ingredients – 1/2 medium head of cauliflower, chopped; 1/4 cup water, 6 chopped scallions (green and white portions); 1/4 cup finely minced onion; 2 eggs; salt to taste; 2 tablespoons coconut oil
Place chopped cauliflower in a food processor and mince.
In a medium-sized saucepan, boil the water over high heat. Add in the cauliflower, stirring quickly, and then cover the saucepan. Turn off the heat.
Let the cauliflower steam for 10 minutes.
Once cool, drain the cauliflower in layered cheesecloth.
Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add the scallions, onion, cauliflower, and salt, and whisk.
In a large skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium heat until it shimmers.
Pour in the egg mixture and let it cook for five minutes.
Flip the pancake and cook it for another three minutes or so until it’s golden brown. If you like your bottom crispy, try sliding it onto a wire rack.
Does the Pegan Diet Help Me Lose Weight?
The Pegan diet includes fiber-rich veggies and filling fats, which will help keep you satiated for longer periods. This can in turn help you lose weight because you’re less likely to binge on sugary snacks that lead your blood sugar to spike and crash. Whenever you’re feeling hungry, you can load up on vegetables without worrying about the calorie count. The extra fiber will also hold you over until your next meal.
Remember, the key losing weight in any diet is to eat fewer calories than you’re burning. You just have to like the diet enough to stick to it.
Keep to the basics of the diet—getting in more vegetables and lean protein, and staying away from sugar—and modify here and there to suit your tastes. This way you can lose weight and actually stay on track for the long-term. Sometimes just focusing on eating the healthy, whole foods that you like is better than sticking to a restrictive diet plan.
The Final Word on Pegan Diet
The Pegan diet is made by combining the best elements of both the Paleo and vegan diets. It was created by Mark Hyman in 2015, and it’s slowly but steadily finding favor with people who want to eat the right food to keep and maintain good health. The Pegan diet is mainly about eating fresh foods in their unadulterated state.
You should eat veggies, proteins, and the right fats while avoiding foods like dairy, carb-heavy fruits, refined sugars, and excess meat. The Pegan diet has certain similarities and differences with the Mediterranean diet, which is also very popular with people. The Mediterranean diet is known to help in weight loss, keeping the heart healthy, decreasing inflammation, and lowering the risk of chronic illnesses and diseases.
You can make fantastic dishes like vegan stuffed peppers with quinoa, sweet potato and turkey enchiladas with avocado cream sauce, and Paleo scallion pancakes. The Pegan diet gives you the opportunity to do what is tough yet very rewarding—getting the best of the seemingly opposing Paleo and vegan diets. It’s rather like having your cake and eating it too!
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