In the quest to lose weight, gain muscle or simply stay healthy, many people embark on diets, some complicated and others seemingly impossible. A relatively new diet that has emerged is the pegan diet, which combines paleo and vegan principles, but encourages some meat consumption. While its supporters say that the diet promotes optimal health, some components of the diet are controversial.
What exactly is the pegan diet? Is it another fad diet or does it actually work? Additionally, what are its environmental implications, since the diet encourages some meat consumption?
What is the Pegan diet?
The pegan diet is a combination of the paleo and vegan diets. The paleo diet is basically designed to look like what our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate thousands of years ago, with an emphasis on meat, fish, eggs, veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds and healthy fats, while the vegan diet consists of only plant-based foods and no animals or animal products.
While the pegan diet does allow some meat, fish and eggs, it limits whole grains, dairy and legumes. Essentially, the idea is to eat more vegetables and plants and cut back on the processed stuff, keeping your sugar low, your protein high and your belly full of veggies. You can still eat meat, but think of it as a topping or side dish instead of a main course.
While critics say that the diet is time-consuming and confusing, creator Dr Mark Hyman believes it’s all worth it and that the pegan diet promotes optimal health by reducing inflammation and balancing blood sugar.
See also: Is “Grass-Fed” Just A Load Of Bull?
Is going ‘Pegan’ eco-friendly?
It’s considered to be eco-conscious because it encourages 75% of your nutritional intake to come from fruits and veggies, while the remaining 25% should be meat and fish that’s responsibly sourced. The diet places emphasis on grass-fed, pasture-raised sources of beef, pork, poultry and whole eggs. It also encourages intake of fish — specifically those that tend to have low mercury content like sardines and wild salmon.
In Hong Kong, a survey conducted in 2019 found that nearly 96% of people aged 15 and above consumed less than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, while nearly 10% ate processed meat on average at least once a day. Following a pegan diet would encourage Hong Kongers to eat more fruits and vegetables, which helps in the prevention of chronic diseases such as heart diseases, hypertension, cerebrovascular diseases, diabetes and certain cancers. Meanwhile, there is sufficient evidence in humans that consumption of processed meat can cause certain types of cancer.
Who is it for?
Generally, the pegan diet is applauded for encouraging a higher intake of plant-based foods and limiting meat intake, which is both good for the environment and health. However, because the diet calls for natural, organic food, it can be inaccessible for a lot of people who can’t afford to buy organic food all the time.
The pegan diet is also criticised for its confusing nature. While it’s less restrictive than the paleo or vegan diets it’s derived from, it may not be the easiest diet to follow, especially if you’re eating out or cost-conscious. This is also why the pegan diet is criticised for its unsustainability in terms of long-term commitment.
We are in no way advocating certain diets, but many dieticians and nutritionists tend to agree that if you’re looking to improve your eating habits, you should focus less on one dietary philosophy and instead apply the key concepts that tend to be highlighted among dietary patterns.
This includes choosing fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, reducing reliance on meat (especially highly processed red meats), limiting added sugars and choosing high-fibre foods. This pattern is both healthy for you and the planet, and that should taste better than anything!