Vegan News – Pegan dieting: When Paleo meets Vegan


ANOTHER day, another diet! Actually, I would love a dollar for every time I say that. With a plethora of diet varieties to choose from, the question now is: should you eat like caveman or go Pegan?


What is Pegan?

A new eating trend that combines certain aspects of seemingly opposing diets: Paleo and Vegan. Yet not quite the ‘diet’ you’d find published in medical journals, either.

Rather, Doctor Mark Hyman, Director of the Cleveland Clinic Centre for Functional Medicine, coined the idea who claims, “this way of eating makes the most sense for our health and the health of our planet.”

When comparing the two, devotees of the Paleo (or “caveman”) diet consume foods that our hunter-gatherer ancestors supposedly ate: meat (preferably grass-fed), fish, eggs, nuts, fruit and non-starchy vegetables (preferably organic). Fats are not restricted, but grains, legumes, potatoes, some dairy products and oils (e.g. canola), and refined sugar are off the menu. A Vegan diet, on the other hand, is based largely on plants: vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts and seeds — and eschews anything that comes from an animal.

Some Paleo diets advocate a very high intake of animal protein (aka meat at every meal), with some recommending up to 38 per cent of a person’s daily energy (roughly 187g of protein per day based on 2000 calories per day) — which is a lot higher than the government guidelines of 15 to 25 per cent (roughly 98g of protein per day). While higher protein intakes has a proven effect on satiety (feeling full), one major hazard associated with the Paleo way is the high content of red meat (especially the processed variety), which is convincingly associated with a modest increased risk of bowel cancer.

The current guidelines recommend people eat not more than 455g of cooked lean red meat each week. This means no more than 65g (cooked weight) a day (roughly 20g protein) or larger portions every second day.

On the contrary, the Vegan diet may lack certain amino acids (components of protein), as well as iron, calcium, zinc and vitamin B12 if not carefully planned. However statistics show that Vegans have a reduced risk of obesity, some cancers and type 2 diabetes, and also have lower rates of illness and death from a number of degenerative diseases.

In many cases, a strict Paleo diet is too limiting for some, not to mention unpractical for many because it can be costly. What’s more, defining a Paleo diet is problematic when you consider that there was not just one — there were numerous. Veganism is equally restrictive (if not more so) and a challenge if you like to eat out — which is why peganism is fast catching on.


So what can a Pegan eat?

1. Mostly plants (e.g. fruit and vegetables)

2. Focus on good-quality fats (olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados)

3. If you’re going to eat meat, treat it as a side dish instead of the main course

4. Eggs, fish, poultry and legumes are encouraged in moderation

5. Enjoy sugar as an occasional treat

6. Eat gluten-free wholegrains sparingly (quinoa, millet, oats, amaranth, buckwheat, corn, rice)


Off the menu

1. Dairy

2. Gluten — but if you can tolerate it, consider it an occasional treat

If you ask me, the Pegan diet is just a fancy label for an otherwise regular, wholefood diet, except it’s still restrictive in a sense that it excludes dairy which is not wise unless you’re intolerant. Likewise with gluten or wheat. If you are not sensitive to either one, there’s no reason to avoid them. Shunning dairy or wheat means missing out on key nutrients including calcium, fibre, folate, B-vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium, protein and carbohydrates.


Bottom line:

Whether it’s Vegan, Paleo or pegan, the one theme these diets have in common — and it’s no surprise — is the emphasis on whole plant foods (with or without lean meats), as well as limiting refined starches, added sugars and processed foods. That’s a good thing! But whichever theme you choose (because there’s no right or wrong), everything in moderation is always going to win hands down.


Kathleen Alleaume is a nutritionist and exercise physiologist author of What’s Eating You? @therightbalance