The Pegan Diet Actually Isn't as Awful as It Sounds

The Pegan Diet Actually Isn't as Awful as It Sounds

Everyone knows that tired joke about vegans: How do you know if someone's a vegan? Don't worry, they'll tell you. And the same has been said about people who do Paleo (except they'll tell you right after they describe their Crossfit WOD in excruciating detail). But when it comes to a combination of the two — Peganism — one doctor says followers won't have to tell you, because they're the ones who look well-adjusted, healthy, and satisfied.

The Very Short History of the Pegan Diet

Three years ago, Dr. Mark Hyman, the director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, wrote a blog post about his style of eating, which he described as Pegan. (No, not that. You're thinking of Pagan.) He explained that he'd taken some of the best aspects of Paleo and combined them with the best parts of being vegan, and the result was a dietary approach that focused on "real, whole, fresh food that is sustainably raised."

"It's really simple," Hyman told CBS News. "Eat foods low in sugar and starch. Eat lots of plant foods. If you're going to eat animal foods, eat sustainably grown or harvested foods. Have foods that have lots of good fat, like nuts and seeds, olive oil, avocados."

Here's What the Pegan Diet Actually Entails

So what does that look like in practice? The majority of what you put on your plate (around 75 percent of what you nosh) should come from fruits and vegetables, preferably organic ones. The remaining 25 percent of each meal will be a combination of high-quality fats (think: avocados, nuts, olive oil, and coconut oil) and, if you choose to eat animal products, grass-fed, antibiotic-free, and sustainably raised meats, poultry, and fish.

That seems reasonably straightforward, right? Just eat natural foods that don't have an unpronounceable ingredient list or, like, involve the word Cheez-It. But two of Hyman's other tenets of Peganism have been slightly more controversial.

The Controversy Around the Pegan Diet

Hyman suggests that would-be Pegans avoid all dairy products and all gluten, and eat beans only sparingly. (He opts for lentils instead, mostly because of the potentially audible side effect immortalized in the "Beans, beans, they're good for your heart" song.)

Some nutritionists have expressed concern about those two aspects of the diet, suggesting that dairy and whole grains should be eaten in moderation instead of avoided entirely. "[T]here's little research to support that shunning dairy improves health or reduced inflammation," Dr. Carolyn Williams wrote for Cooking Light. "In fact, contrary to popular belief, moderate intake of dairy products — especially yogurts — have an anti-inflammatory effect in most people." She also said that she "can't rationalize" putting a daily limit on eating beans and legumes.

Regardless, Peganism is just another reminder that the nutrition experts advocate eating the highest-quality whole foods, leaning heavily on fruits and veggies. That's not exactly a secret — so maybe we can all stop telling each other about it.

Have you heard of the Pegan diet? What do you think?

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