Developed by Mark Hyman, the pegan diet has gained popularity in recent years. Its name and some of its principles are controversial and widely discussed by nutritionists and dietitians all over the United States. What makes it so popular, and is it worth trying? Let’s find out together with the Unimeal experts!
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In his multiple interviews, Mark Hyman, MD, explains that he came up with the idea of the pegan diet when he was eating out with two friends, one of whom was a vegan and another a paleo diet follower. They started a discussion about which of the diets were more beneficial for health. By listening to all the advantages of his friends’ two diametrically opposite eating systems, Mark understood that he must be a “pegan” then, combining some principles of the paleo and the vegan diets in his own eating patterns.
He saw that the vegan and the paleo diet have much more in common between themselves than any of them with a traditional American diet.
The core reason why he decided to write The Pegan Diet: 21 Practical Principles for Reclaiming Your Health in a Nutritionally Confusing World was that in a modern world, most of the eating systems are something like religion or politics. You either believe some dietitian approaches, or you deny them. So, Doctor Mark Hyman’s idea was to develop a concise system that would incorporate the best parts of various diets so that Americans know what they should eat to lose weight and improve their health.
According to Mark Hyman, the pegan diet, combining fundamental principles from paleo and vegan diets, reduces inflammation and balances blood sugar. It supports optimal health thanks to whole nutrition-dense food. The thing is, the major focus of the pegan diet is on vegetables and fruits, while animal protein can be consumed only in moderation. As the diet is rich in seeds and fish, it also fills you with healthy unsaturated fats, omega 3, 6, and other nutrients.
The restricted consumption of heavily processed foods like sugar or processed oils, as well as the minimized consumption of dairy and gluten, should also prevent inflammations.
Mark Hyman also offers to minimize the consumption of products considered healthy by most nutritionists. For example, he offers to refrain from gluten-free grains and legumes. According to Mark, these products may increase blood sugar. All in all, Mark Hyman’s diet can be described as the cleanest diet you’ve ever tried. With this being said, the author himself states that pegan is more liberal compared to its parents: Paleo and vegan diets.
Even though Mark Hyman states that his diet is not dogmatic, most of his recommendations are quite strict.
For example, you should eat only whole foods that have undergone little to no processing. Artificial coloring, flavoring, preservatives should be avoided. In some interviews, Mark Hyman states that these additives can affect the blood sugar level and stimulate inflammations.
Vegetables and fruits should compose 75% of your daily ration. You should opt for low-glycemic(1) plants to minimize your blood sugar response and get the most from nutrient-dense but low-calorie products.
Those who have normalized their weight and blood sugar can have some small amounts of starchy vegetables like sweet potato or winter squash and, occasionally, some lentils.
Even though pegan is not a protein-rich diet and is plant-based mainly, animal protein should also appear in your meals. However, you should choose only grass-fed pasture-raised meat. As Mark Hyman says in his interview with Rachel Ray on her Youtube channel, “factory-farmed meat is not good for you, it’s bad for animals, and it’s bad for the planet. So you have to know where your food comes from.”
You should also consume fish with low mercury content. As a rule, these are wild-caught fishes, like salmon and sardines.
One of the main counterarguments to the pegan diet is that it’s highly restrictive and in some cases, there is no scientific evidence proving that such restrictions are necessary. See below the list of products you should avoid while on a pegan diet:
Mark Hyman is strictly against products that contain lactose and gluten. However, these foods are unadvisable only for those with lactose or gluten intolerance.
Shopping while on a pegan diet can be much more challenging than you’ve got used to. First of all, you will have to choose local farmer markets and organic shops, as you rarely find foods with traceable origin in large supermarkets. Moreover, in a supermarket, you have more chances to compare the prices. Organic grass-fed meat or wild-caught salmon might cost twice the price of average factory-produced products. This might be painful and would definitely make your wallet lose some weight.
Stick to this pyramid when you go shopping, think of the recipes you will use, plan your meals beforehand, and never go shopping on an empty stomach.
Recently, Mark Hyman has presented a new book of recipes. However, you can always make up some recipes yourself by simply combining paleo and vegan principles. Here are some examples of pegan recipes.
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Mark Hyman says that the pegan diet was created as a lifestyle, not as a short-term diet. But is it truly sustainable for life? What is more, is it worth it? Check out the pros and cons of this eating system and see for yourself.
Pegan diet is not a keto, however, it is still relatively moderate in carbohydrates. This surely helps control blood sugar levels, hunger urges, and lose weight, just like any low-carb diet.
It is true that people are confused and fed up. In his diet, Mark Hyman wanted to create a system that would combine basic nutrition principles the science has right now. However, in his interviews, he sometimes makes statements with no scientific basis.
For example, in his interview for The Chopra Well YouTube channel, he said that “eating ultra-processed foods makes you more susceptible to Covid and dying from Covid”.
Hold on, what?
This is what makes me so confused about his dietary approach! He combines not only paleo and vegan diets but also scientific knowledge with some unprovable and freckles statements.
Mark Hyman constantly repeats in his interviews that “food is your medicine.” What’s more, he repeatedly uses moralizing language, stating that “not clean” products are poisonous and lead to diseases.
However, he forgets that not everything natural is superior, and not everything processed is poisonous. And eating is not a black-and-white process.