It sounds like the beginning of a joke: what do you get when you cross a paleo diet with a vegan diet… But seriously, it’s a thing. And some people are saying it’s the best thing ever.
People who follow a paleo (short for “palaeolithic”) diet follow a regime that’s said to emanate the typical diet of our cavemen ancestors, who consumed a largely raw fruit and vegetable diet, along with (cooked) meat, fish and eggs. Paleo eaters avoid grains and legumes, which require soaking and processing to become digestible .
Meanwhile, vegans choose a restricted diet because they don’t believe in exploiting animals in any way. Strict vegans will go so far as the eschew honey and leather, along with meat, dairy and eggs. The vegan diet is therefore reliant on fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains.
So vegans don’t eat any animal products but do eat grains and legumes. And paleos don’t eat grains and legumes but do eat (quite a lot) of meat and eggs.
Can you see the problem?
But despite this seemingly unbridgeable gap, a relationship has developed between the diets and a new diet has been born.
It’s unlikely that any strict vegans or paleo eaters will jump on board the pegan bandwagon, but for the rest of us it makes eminent sense (and there’s a reason for that, which we’ll get to shortly).
A pegan diet cherry-picks the best parts of paleo and vegan while smoothing out the more extreme elements.
Both diets place an emphasis on plant-based foods, which are the most accessible source of most of the vitamins and minerals a healthy body needs. This new pegan diet requires that three-quarters of what passes your lips is plant-based.
Animal protein such as eggs, chicken, fish and lean red meat, plus healthy fats make up the remainder of the diet. Taking a leaf out of the paleo book, all animal protein should come from higher-welfare sources (free-range, organic, biodynamic) and beef should be grass-fed, as opposed to grain fed or finished.
Healthy fats include olive, coconut and avocado oil, plus omega-3 oils such as linseed/flax or hemp, and the pegan diet restricts saturated fats such as lard and tallow, which are often included in a paleo regime.
The pegan diet avoids gluten, so many grains are out, but quinoa, buckwheat, millet and sorghum are okay in small amounts and are a great source of B vitamins and fibre. Small lentils are allowed, but other beans and legumes like chick peas, kidney beans and peanuts should be avoided.
One thing both vegans and paleo eaters agree on is that dairy is out. From a pegan perspective, milk and cheese, like beans, are difficult to digest therefore should be avoided.
Finally, sugars of all kinds should be restricted to an occasional treat, if not removed from the diet all together.
A pegan diet is rich in fruit and vegetables, healthy oils, lean protein and omega-3s. Does anyone feel like they’ve heard this before? We think it sounds awfully similar to the Mediterranean diet that everyone knows is a healthy, life-lengthening way to eat.
Whatever they want to call it, the pegan – which is sometimes very confusingly called a paleo-vegan – diet makes sense for most people (vegetarians and vegans are the notable exception).
Celebrity doctor Mark Hyman is a fan, and says he recommends a pegan diet to all his clients. But he stresses that the regime should be modified for every body (being more strict about saturated fats for those with heart disease, for example) and with the advice of a doctor.
So next time some bearded hipster vegan/paleo looks enviously at your plate of healthy food, be sure to lean over, pat him condescendingly on the knee and say, “I’m a pegan, dear. You should try it.”
What do you think? Could you give “peganism” a go?