What Is a Pegan Diet? Pros, Cons, and Food List of the Paleo-Vegan Diet

For many people the start of a new year is a time to set personal goals, with some focusing on health. According to Google Trends, search queries for "diet" increased sharply between Christmas and this week in the U.S.

Diet trends come and go. One diet, the pegan diet, seems to have garnered interest recently according to Google Trends, although it has been around for several years.

The pegan diet is essentially a mixture of a vegan diet and a paleo diet. The former is a diet that excludes animal products like meat and dairy, with a focus on plant foods instead. The paleo diet is based on foods that could theoretically be obtained through hunting and gathering and includes lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, whilst limiting foods like dairy products, legumes and grains, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Former NFL star Troy Aikman recently told Insider that he follows the pegan diet.

Physician Mark Hyman is credited for the pegan diet idea. According to his website, the pegan diet places a focus on plants—low glycemic vegetables and fruits—which should make up 75 percent of the diet. Another focus is nuts and seeds.

People following the diet will also avoid most vegetable oils and instead focus on other fats like omega 3, nuts (excluding peanuts), coconuts and avocados.

Despite the diet's vegan roots, Hyman says the pegan diet permits meat and animal products, though as a "side dish" as opposed to the main part of a meal. It also discourages conventionally-farmed meat or eggs and places an emphasis on grass-fed meat products, Healthline states—though this may be financially restrictive.

In terms of what to avoid, Hyman states that dairy, gluten and sugar should be seen as an occasional treat. The diet also discourages most grains and legumes, according to Healthline.

The diet does not tell people how much they should eat or when.

What Experts Say

According to Healthline, the diet's best trait is perhaps its strong emphasis on fruits and vegetables. But Heathline also states that it places unnecessary limitations on "very healthy" foods like legumes.

Carolyn Slupsky, professor of nutrition at the University of California, Davis, told Newsweek that people should be mindful about any diet that excludes one or more food groups.

"I would be concerned about the exclusion of dairy, grains and legumes. In my opinion, any time you have an exclusionary diet (i.e. you exclude one or more food groups from your diet), then you need to be very mindful about what you are eating to ensure that you are meeting all of your nutrient requirements.

"Thus, people who follow exclusionary diets often end up being at risk for deficiency of one or more nutrients. When you are nutrient deficient, it will impact on your health."

She said foods like whole grains and legumes are important sources of fiber and B vitamins while dairy is an important source of protein and calcium.

However, she added that she strongly supported limiting consumption of processed foods and added sugar, but said "you don't have to go onto a pegan diet to do that."

Registered dietitian nutritionist Rosemarie Lembo James told the Cleveland Clinic of the pegan diet: "Eating more fruits and vegetables can lower your risk of heart attack, stroke and cancer. But don't skimp on dairy, legumes and whole grains without talking to your doctor or nutritionist."

Charles Mueller, clinical associate professor of clinical nutrition and director of the didactic program in dietetics at New York University Steinhardt, told Newsweek: "The way to eat day to day for a lifetime: Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish and poultry, meat in moderation, and not too much of any of it—the most important element."

Shopping
A stock photo shows a man shopping for food in a grocery store aisle. The pegan diet combines aspects of a paleo and vegan diet. TuiPhotoengineer/Getty