What is the pegan diet ? A comprehensive pegan diet guide

What is the pegan diet ? A comprehensive pegan diet guide
  • PublishedDecember 11, 2020

The pegan diet is relatively new. This explains why may not have heard it before. It was coined in 2015 by Dr. Mark Hyman. The diet is inspired by two of the most popular diet, that is; paleo and vegan diets.

In this article, we look at everything you need to know about the pegan diet, including health benefits and drawbacks.

What is the Pegan diet?

The Pegan diet is a style or diet that combines the principles of paleo and vegan diet. According to Dr. Mark Hyman, nutrient-dense whole foods can reduce inflammation and balance blood sugar, which promotes general body health. 

The Pegan diet was first coined by Dr. Mark Hyman of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine who first came up with the term in 2014 in one of his blogs. 

He believes that food is medicine with the power to cause or cure most diseases. Dr. Mark Hyman also believes that the Pegan diet combination of a vegan and the paleo diet can produce a balanced and healthy diet that can cure diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle. The Pegan diet is different from the vegan and paleo diet with its own guidelines and is less restrictive than either diet. 

It focuses more on vegetables and fruit with a small to moderate intake of meat, certain fish, nuts, seeds, and some legumes are emphasized too. 

Just like any other diet, there are foods that are restricted from the Pegan diet. These are highly processed foods, processed sugars, oils, grains. 

How does the Pegan diet work?

The Pegan diet is different from the vegan and Paleo diet as it has the following characteristics according to Dr. Mark Hyman; 

75% of the Pegan diet is made up of vegetables and fruit while less than 25% of the remaining is animal-based proteins.  

Some whole grains such as black rice, quinoa, millet, teff, and oats are encouraged as well as legumes like lentils, chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans (legumes) are also encouraged. 

Gluten-containing grains are off the table in the Pegan diet. These include foods like whole-wheat bread, cereal, and pasta. 

Here are other principles or guidelines that the Pegan diet is built on 

  1. Very low glycemic load: It emphasizes little sugar, flour, and refined carbs of all kinds. 
  2. High in vegetables and fruits: the Pegan diet encourages eating more fruits and vegetables as these have a high phytonutrient content and protect against most diseases. 
  3. Chemicals, additives, preservatives, dyes, artificial sweeteners are highly discouraged in this diet.
  4. Good quality fats such as omega 3 fats are encouraged in this diet. These are fats that are got from olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados.  Canola, sunflower, corn, soybean oil, and most vegetable oils are discouraged in this diet.
  5. Organic, local, and fresh foods should be the majority or base of this diet.
  6. Only animal products that were raised and grass-fed are encouraged. 
  7. If you are eating fish only low mercury and low toxin containing fish such as sardines, herring, and anchovies should be eaten. Tuna, swordfish, and Chilean sea bass should be avoided as they are high in mercury.
  8. Focus more on nuts and seeds as they are full of protein, minerals, and good fats. 

Who is the Pegan diet meant for?

The Pegan diet is meant for people who want a healthy lifestyle that is based on eating food since it eliminates all processed foods and replaces them with natural foods.  

It is easier to follow if you are comfortable living without the consumption of a lot of animal products.  

However, the pegan diet may not be recommended to athletes who require huge amounts of proteins most of which are got from animal products. 

It is also not recommended for pregnant or breast-feeding women as it may not be able to offer enough calories, proteins, and other nutrients needed for their health. 

What to eat on the pegan diet.

Generally, eating a lot of plants is the main principle of the pegan diet. In fact, plants should take 75% of the diet. These are in terms of fruits and vegetables. However, not all plant products should be eaten. Here are the recommendations; 

Vegetables; Low -glycemic (non-starchy) veggies should make up the bulk of your diet or meals.  

Examples of vegetables. 

  • Spinach. 
  • Cucumber. 
  • Mushrooms. 
  • Cabbage. 
  • Turnips. 
  • Bean sprouts. 
  • Broccoli. 
  • Eggplant. 
  • Kale. 
  • Carrots. 

Fruits: Almost all fruits are allowed. 

  • Berries. 
  • Avocado 
  • Bananas 
  • Mango 
  • Apples. 
  • Pears. 
  • Oranges. 

Nuts and seeds. (Except peanuts) 

  • Almonds. 
  • Macadamia nuts. 
  • Sunflower seeds 
  • Pumpkin seeds 
  • Walnuts 
  • Hazelnuts 
  • Cashew nuts 
  • Flax. 
  • Chia seeds. 


The Pegan diet is picky about the type of fish that you eat. Fish with low mercury are recommended. 

  • Herring. 
  • Sardines. 
  • Anchovies. 


Grass-fed beef, pork, and poultry are emphasized here. 

Healthy oil with omega 3 

  • Olive oil. 
  • Avocado oil. 

What to avoid eating while on the Pegan diet. 

Like any other diet out there, the Pegan diet too has foods that should be avoided and they are; 


Most especially products made from cow’s milk should be avoided. Sheep or goats’ milk are allowed in small amounts though. 

  • Milk. 
  • Yogurt. 
  • Cheese. 
  • Ghee. 


Gluten is discouraged in this diet and some of the foods are; 

  • Corn 
  • Wheat. 
  • Rye. 
  • Kamut. 
  • Wheat berries. 
  • Farina 

Processed foods. 

  • Breakfast cereals. 
  • Tinned vegetables. 
  • Canned meat. 
  • Savory snacks. 
  • Microwave meals. 
  • Cakes and biscuits. 
  • Meat products such as bacon, sausage, ham, salami 

Have more questions about processed foods? Read the article Are processed foods bad for you? Here is what you need to know

Refined oils. 

  • Canola. 
  • Sunflower oil 
  • Soybean oil. 

Fish with mercury. 

  • Mackerel. 
  • Swordfish. 
  • Tuna. 
  • Cod. 


Sugar is not to be consumed in large amounts and avoid sweetened products. Any form of added sugar. 

Food additives. 

Any form of food additives such as artificial coloring, flavorings, preservatives, and others are avoided.  

Tips on how to start the Pegan diet.

If you ever tried the Paleo or vegan diet then switching to the Pegan diet will be much easier. Here are tips that will help you start the diet; 

  • Focus your meal plans around plant products which are fruits and vegetables. 
  • Make a list of foods that are recommended and those to avoid. Carry the list with you when you have to shop for food. 
  • Keep unhealthy foods out of your house by stocking only foods that are recommended by the diet. 
  • Carry healthy snacks with you to avoid the temptation of snacking on unhealthy foods that aren’t recommended by the diet. 
  • Make your own meals using only the recommended foods. Visits to a restaurant might make dieting hard but always opt for the vegan diet while eating out. 
  • Make your own meals packed with recommended foods. 
  • Get a partner to join you or choose to join a community group that follows the Pegan diet. 

Can the Pegan diet help weight loss?

According to Dr. Hyaman, Because Pegan dieters emphasize anti-inflammatory fares like antioxidant-rich produce and healthy fats, “inflammation reduces quickly and you see a big initial loss on the scale,”  

The fact that the diet restricts eating processed foods and gluten foods that are usually high in calories makes the diet more weight loss-friendly. 

Most of the foods recommended in the Pegan diet are also low in calories talk about fruits and vegetables. It is usually the animal products that are high in calories and since plants dominate this diet,  calorie consumption is at a minimum. 

The high fiber got from vegetables and fruits also contribute greatly to weight loss. The fiber can help one get satisfied much quicker and also helps keep satisfaction for long. This limits food intake.

Generally speaking, the Pegan diet has a huge potential for weight loss but it is important to note that for one to lose weight, he or she should be in a calorie deficit. This simply means that more calories are burned than he/she consumes. This is when it calls for calorie counting or physical exercises to burn more calories. 

Some foods in the Pegan diet may also have a huge load of calories and its no guarantee that you will lose weight with the Pegan diet. 

It is better to do calorie counting while on the diet and also workout to burn extra calories in order to get a calorie deficit for weight loss. 

The health benefits of the Pegan diet.

The healthy eating lifestyle behind the Pegan diet has a lot of health benefits. these include; 

  1. The Pegan diet emphasizes the eating of fruits, healthy fats, and vegetables which are highly nutritious, full of fiber, vitamins, minerals and plant compounds that prevent diseases. All these help to boost body immunity against diseases and also heal the body. 
  2. Pegan diet encourages eating foods that pose less risks to our health. Processed foods pose many health risks such as cancer and therefore substituting these foods with healthy foods can help you have a healthy body. 
  3. You will also feel proud with yourself as your overall diet quality is improved. You will then be likely to feel no guilt as it is the case with unhealthy foods such as highly processed foods. 
  4. As talked about earlier, the Pegan diet is weight loss friendly as the food recommended in the diet are rich in fiber and have got low calories.  

Downsides of the Pegan diet.

  • The diet has unnecessary restrictions that might make it hard to keep up to. These restrictions limit healthy foods such as legumes, whole grains, and dairy.  
  • The restriction of healthy foods denies one who follows a diet of healthy nutrients. If those food groups are not replaced with alternatives this may lead to a deficiency of some nutrients such as those that are got from animal products. 
  • Organic fruits, vegetables, and grass-fed meats may not be easily accessed by everybody. In some areas of the world, you find that organic foods are more expensive, and inaccessible than processed meals thus making the diet difficult. 
  • It doesn’t favor people who enjoy eating animal products as it restricts most of the animal products and is too picky on those that it recommends. 
  • The fact that the Pegan diet also restricts sugar makes it a hard diet to keep since sugar is a day-to-day necessity to some people.
The bottom line.

The healthy lifestyle behind the Pegan diet makes it tempting for people who would love to heal with food. Since it’s weight loss friendly too, the Pegan diet can be tried if you are willing to follow its hard restrictions. 

In order to start the Pegan diet talk to your doctor as it may not be for everyone especially those with health conditions since it eliminates some major food groups that may be needed by the body to meet certain nutrient requirements. 

Before you choose a diet, read articles from our diet category that talks about almost all the popular diets.


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