Updated 15 February 2019

Here’s the latest diet fad called 'peganism'

Want to reap the benefits of the keto diet while cutting your meat consumption? Become a pegan. Read on to learn more about this new diet approach.

People are trying to lose weight by cutting carbs and processed sugar. This is the basis of many diets, including the keto and paleo diets.

One thing that these diets have in common is their focus on animal protein. The paleo diet is based on the principle of eating like a caveman – which means that any foods that weren't available during the Palaeolithic Age are taboo (hence the shortened name paleo).

The pegan (portmanteau for paleo and vegan) diet incorporates key principles of the paleo diet and veganism, resulting in a primarily plant-based diet without any "processed foods", or in this case, foods that weren't consumed during the Palaeolithic age. The diet was first introduced by Dr Mark Hyman in 2014 on his blog, but didn’t gain much traction at that stage.

The popularity of the pegan diet has, however, picked up considerably in the past year, with Pinterest revealing that interest in the “pegan diet” climbed a whopping 337%. Part of the reason for this is undoubtedly the increasing awareness of the effects of meat consumption on the environment, with more people wanting to try plant-based diets.

The meatless caveman

But how exactly does one eat like a caveman while remaining plant-based? That is indeed challenging, but peganism basically involves cutting back on anything processed while focusing on whole vegetable and plant foods. Peganism also limits whole grains and legumes. 

Dr Hyman suggests that fruits and vegetables should fill 75% of your plate, while you can incorporate meat if you don’t want to be fully plant-based. However, the crux of the diet is “eating more whole fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and fewer processed foods” – a principle that is central to a number of other diets.  

Problems with peganism

What do the experts say about this somewhat restrictive diet? There are those who reckon that this combination plan is based on practices that should be part of any healthy diet, while others feel that the exclusion of whole grains and legumes could be problematic.

Janet Bond, a cardiovascular nutritionist, recognises the positive aspects of Hyman’s diet: “Fresh and local is great, provided you have the access to buy it. I like that Dr Hyman advocates 'using meat as a condiment'."

However, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) concluded that a healthy diet should not exclude whole grains, legumes and low-fat dairy.

"Whole grains have been shown to decrease risk of cardiovascular disease and lower blood glucose levels," Kris-Etherton says. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advises making half of all grain intake whole grains, and the Academy recommends whole grains as an excellent source of dietary fibre, which may help reduce risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other health complications.

Want to consume less meat?

If your overall goal is to cut back on meat for financial and ethical reasons, there are some ways you can do it without being too extreme.

  • Start by rethinking your usual meals. Incorporate at least one meatless dinner per weak.
  • Start eliminating red meat.
  • Focus on the vegetables and side-dishes, not the meat.
  • Reduce the portion sizes of your meat. 
  • You don't have to cut out whole grains and legumes. Focus on these foods to bulk up your meals and cut back on meat. 

Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes and neither the author nor Health24 condones an extremely restrictive approach to nutrition. It’s important to note that achieving a balanced diet is a highly individual process. Don't hesitate to click on Nutritional Solutions if you need advice from one of our nutritional experts.

Image credit: iStock


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