Is this the healthiest diet ever or just a funny portmanteau?

By Renee Cherry
Photo: Andy Gin / Shutterstock

If the vegan and paleo diets had a baby, it'd be the pegan diet. Like the paleo diet, peganism calls for the inclusion of pasture-raised or grass-fed meat and eggs, lots of healthy fats, and restricted carbs. Plus, it borrows the plant-heavy, non-dairy elements of veganism. (Hey vegans, check out these five genius dairy swaps you've probably never thought of.) There are differences between this hybrid version and the traditional diets, though. For example, unlike the paleo diet, peganism allows for small amounts of beans and gluten-free whole grains.

Wondering where this nutrition lovechild came from? It was Mark Hyman, M.D., director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine and author of FOOD: What the Heck Should I Eat?, who first coined the term in an effort to describe his own diet. "The pegan diet combines what is best about both of these diets into principles that anyone can follow," says Dr. Hyman. "It focuses on a mostly plant-rich diet because I do think that plant foods should take up the majority of the plate by volume, but it also includes animal protein, which can also be part of a healthy diet." He describes a day of pegan eating as, for example, pasture-raised eggs with tomato and avocado for breakfast, a salad loaded with vegetables and healthy fats for lunch, and meat or fish with vegetables and a small amount of black rice for dinner. (Related: The Best Thing About the Top Diets of 2018 Is That They Aren't All About Weight Loss)

As with any diet, there are pitfalls. "It takes good parts of both diets and fuses them together, but, personally, I wouldn't tell someone that this is what they should follow," says Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D., owner of Nutrition à la Natalie. Starches and dairy are part of a healthy diet given that you don't have an intolerance, she says. "There are ways to get calcium and protein if you cut out dairy, but you have to become more aware of where those things come from," she says. (Wanting to know more about how to get the proper nutrition? Here's a guide to the best calcium sources for vegans.) Cutting back on grains could also end up costing you. "Whole grains are a huge source of fiber in your diet, and most Americans don't get enough fiber as it is," says Rizzo. (Related: The Paleo Diet for Beginners)

Is peganism the healthiest way to eat? Debatable. Regardless, it's a welcome reminder that you don't have to eat within the confines of an existing diet (paleo and veganism are both restrictive diets at their core) with laser focus to eat healthfully. Go ahead and embrace the gray area-it's called the 80/20 rule, or the anti-diet, and it tastes great.

Comments (1)

January 13, 2019
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