What Is the Pegan Diet?

The pegan diet combines two well-known diets: paleo and vegan.

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In 2018, Mark Hyman, MD, a board member of the Institute of Functional Medicine and bestselling author, appeared on CBS News championing an eating pattern he called the "pegan diet."

The pegan diet combines two well-known diets: paleo and vegan. On the surface, paleo and vegan diets may seem like opposite eating patterns. The former is meat-heavy, based on the concept that if a hunter-gatherer didn't eat it, you shouldn't either. The latter, on the other hand, includes no animal products at all.

So, what does it mean to combine paleo and vegan eating styles, and is the pegan diet a good eating strategy? Here's what you should know about the pegan diet, including what it is, the possible health benefits, and some risks to keep in mind before making any changes to your eating patterns.

What Is the Pegan Diet?

During the CBS News broadcast, Dr. Hyman described the pegan diet as "really simple." Essentially, the pegan diet involves eating low-sugar, low-starch foods. According to Dr. Hyman, followers of the pegan diet also eat a lot of "good" fat, like nuts, seeds, olive oil, and avocados.

Also, while the pegan diet largely prioritizes plant-based foods, there's room for sustainably harvested animal products. In fact, per Dr. Hyman, plant-based foods should make up most of your diet. For example, vegetables serve as your main course, while meat products become your side dish.

Then, there are a few other rules. With the pegan diet, you should avoid wheat, gluten, and all dairy. Limit legumes, beans, and gluten-free grains, as well. And sugary snacks should be special treats.

Possible Health Benefits of the Pegan Diet

The pegan diet is largely similar to the Mediterranean diet. Like the pegan diet, the Mediterranean diet incorporates mostly plant-based foods and healthy fats. Also, the Mediterranean diet limits your intake of red meat, high-sugar treats, eggs, and butter.

Following the Mediterranean diet has several health benefits, including:

  • Controls blood sugar
  • Lower blood cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Decreases your risk of chronic health conditions like heart disease 

Because of their similarities, the pegan diet may have the same health benefits. For example, the pegan diet encourages a lot of fruits and vegetables. Research has found that diets focusing on plant-based foods positively affect health. For example, plant-based diets can help people manage healthy body weight and conditions like type 2 diabetes.

Following the paleo diet, the pegan diet also discourages processed and packaged foods, such as canned or frozen foods. Some manufacturers prepare those foods with a lot of salt and sugar. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should limit added sugar and high-sodium foods, which may increase your risk of heart disease and obesity.

The pegan diet also encourages people to eat animal products from sustainably raised animals, which can be beneficial. For example, omega-3 fatty acids are typically higher in grass-fed animals and their byproducts of eggs and milk than in other animal sources.

Potential Risks of the Pegan Diet

Although there are some possible benefits, the pegan diet is not without risks. For example, a person may miss key nutrients from foods they limit or avoid with the pegan diet, like dairy. Dairy is a good source of several nutrients, including ones important for healthy bones. Those nutrients include calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus.

Likewise, limiting grains may be counterproductive, as well. Generally, grains contain nutrients like:

  • Fiber: This nutrient is good for digestion. Fiber helps lower blood cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
  • B vitamins: These nutrients help improve energy and support your nervous system.
  • Minerals, such as iron, magnesium, and selenium: These minerals are good for your blood, bones, and immune system.

As with the vegan diet, you may need extra steps to get those nutrients from other sources. So, consulting a healthcare provider is key if you're considering the pegan diet—or any big changes to your diet.

A Quick Review

The pegan diet is based on paleo and vegan eating styles. The pegan diet focuses on plant-based foods and healthy fats while allowing you to eat limited amounts of sustainably raised animal products.

The pegan diet may have health benefits, such as weight or type 2 diabetes management. But some people may miss out on some vitamins or minerals by avoiding dairy and limiting grains. So, talk to a healthcare provider before you try the pegan diet or other changes to your eating.

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  1. CBS News. Why this doctor recommends the “pegan” diet.

  2. Bland JS. Why the Pegan Diet Makes SenseIntegr Med (Encinitas). 2021;20(2):16-19.

  3. National Library of Medicine. Mediterranean diet.

  4. Gibbs J, Cappuccio FP. Plant-Based Dietary Patterns for Human and Planetary HealthNutrients. 2022;14(8):1614. doi:10.3390/nu14081614

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy eating tips.

  6. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Do kids need omega 3 fats?

  7. Department of Agriculture. Dairy.

  8. Department of Agriculture. Grains.

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