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The Pegan Diet: When Paleo Meets Vegan

In the quest to trim down, gain muscle, eat healthier or prevent heart disease, many people look to dietary philosophies like Whole30, Mediterranean, flexitarian, ketogenic and paleo diets for inspiration. 

But have you heard about going pegan? The name blended pegan diet (paleo + vegan), coined by functional medicine specialist Mark Hyman, MD, is trending with celebrities and the general public alike. Dr. Hyman promotes the pegan diet as a healthy choice because he believes it helps to balance blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation in the body, thus helping to reduce the risk of certain chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Bailey Shupe, a registered dietitian with Banner Health, explains the health benefits and drawbacks of this diet plan and whether it is right for you.

What is the pegan diet?

“The pegan diet is where vegan (no animal products) meets paleo (no dairy, grains, legumes or processed sugar),” said Bailey Shupe, a registered dietitian with Banner Health. “It comprises 75% plant-based foods, and the other 25% are from animal sources.”

While the two contradict each other in some ways, the main premise is a diet focused on real, whole foods. The idea is to focus on eating more fruits and vegetables and some lean meats and cut back on processed foods.

What can you eat on a pegan diet?

The philosophy of the pegan diet isn’t revolutionary in any way to those who already eat a healthy, balanced diet, but it stresses whole foods and most fruits and vegetables. 

Foods to eat:

You can also eat small amounts of gluten-free grains like quinoa and oats and legumes like black beans and lentils (up to a cup daily). 

Like many other “clean eating” diets, the pegan diet keeps sweets to a minimum. “Sugar as an occasional treat is allowed but should be unprocessed and eaten very seldom,” Shupe said. 

What foods should be avoided on the pegan diet?

The pegan diet doesn’t provide guidelines around how much you should eat in a day or when to eat your meals, but it does limit certain foods.

Foods to avoid:
  • Gluten-containing, processed grains and bread
  • Dairy products such as cow’s milk, cheese and yogurt
  • Processed foods like packaged crackers, snacks and baked goods
  • Foods treated with pesticides or with preservatives, dyes or artificial sweeteners

What are the benefits of the pegan diet?

Doubling down on your fruits and vegetables and avoiding things like processed foods and sugar isn’t a bad thing on your waistline—especially for us Americans who consume too much of both. 

“The potential benefits include decreased bloating and digestive issues, clearer skin, increased energy and possibly weight loss,” Shupe said. “It is also less strict than a paleo or vegan diet alone, which can offer some people more balance and flexibility.”

What are the drawbacks of the pegan diet?

Like every diet, peganism has some drawbacks. The biggest is that it cuts out some important food groups, like legumes, grains and dairy. Plenty of research indicates that fiber and nutrient-rich whole grains and legumes, as well as dairy, are absolutely part of a healthy diet. 

The diet also requires time and money. Many products like grass-fed meat and organic produce are pretty expensive. “You may not be able to find certain versions of foods in a normal supermarket or in your area of residence, which can be an overwhelming and frustrating task,” Shupe said. 

In addition, the diet may not be appropriate for people with certain health conditions or diseases like kidney disease or too restrictive for those with food allergies.

What’s on the pegan menu?

Shupe shared what a typical day would look like on a pegan diet:

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with a mix of veggies and a simple salad dressed with olive oil
Snack: Small handful of unprocessed nuts and/or seeds 
Lunch: Grilled chicken salad with chickpeas, strawberries, and avocado
Snack: Green smoothie with apple, kale, almond butter, and seeds
Dinner: Veggie stir-fry with cashews, onions, bell pepper, tomato, and black beans

Should I try the pegan diet?

The pegan diet may help some people trim down a bit, but you should always consult your health care provider or a registered dietitian before beginning a new nutrition plan.

While the diet may be too restrictive for some, Shupe said the concepts behind the diet could be helpful to keep in mind.

“Focusing on a diet rich in healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, dairy and lean proteins can be beneficial,” Shupe said.


Pegan is a combination of the paleo and vegan (plant-based) diet. Fruits and vegetables make up about 75% of the diet, with the remaining 25% coming from eggs, lean meats and fish. Oils high in healthy fats, plant-based dairy alternatives and minimal amounts of legumes, quinoa and sugar are fair game.

While the diet is less restrictive than the diets it comes from, it may be challenging to follow for the long term and can be costly and time-consuming.

If you want to lose weight, build muscle or eat healthier, talk to a registered dietitian or health care provider.

Need help developing a heathy eating plan that works best for you?

Schedule an appointment with a dietitian.

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