The pegan diet has been tipped to be one of the biggest food trends of 2019, according to Pinterest – and no, we hadn’t heard of it either.
The diet, created by Dr Mark Hyman, combines the key principles of the paleo diet and the vegan diet – the name ‘pegan’ being a play on the two. While paleo is all about eating like a caveman – think unprocessed foods and a whole lot of meat – vegans avoid animal by-products altogether.
The two might not seem like natural bedfellows, but searches for pegan eating are up a whopping 337% on Pinterest compared to last year. Interest in the diet has been increasing steadily over the past six months, making pegan eating one of Pinterest’s official trend predictions of next year.
So is the diet just another fad, or something worth paying attention to?
Followers of the pegan diet avoid dairy, grains and legumes, explains Chloe Hall, a community dietician at Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust.
“You would see plenty of fruit and vegetables, making up around 75% of daily intake,” she says. “The diet also emphasises having fats from nuts and seeds.”
Unlike veganism, eggs, oily fish and meat are allowed, but advocates of the diet stress all produce should be sustainable, and only meat that is grass-fed should be eaten.
Dominika Piasecka, a spokesperson from the Vegan Society, is pleased to see more people trying vegan food through the pegan diet, adding: “We hope many will eventually transition to veganism.”
However, she cautions that veganism is not a “fad diet”, but a “moral conviction that it’s wrong to use and kill animals, and a compassion-driven lifestyle choice that affects all areas of life.”
So, is the pegan diet healthy? “Encouraging plenty of fruit and vegetables is not a bad thing as they can help to prevent certain cancers, are rich in fibre for a healthy gut and are low in calories which can help with maintaining a healthy weight,” explains Hall.
However, she adds that demonising foods that are beneficial for us such as dairy, grains and legumes is the negative side of this diet – “Dairy is a great source of calcium for healthy bones, whole grains can help reduce the risk of heart disease and legumes are a good source of fibre,” she says. “I think cutting out any food groups can lead to deficiencies in nutrients if not well-planned.”
It should also be noted that such restrictive diets can have a huge impact on our social lives and mental wellbeing.
“Often when foods are completely eliminated people crave them more and then when they ‘fall off the wagon’ they end up consuming them in large quantities,” Hall warns. “I think diets that encourage ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods cause so much confusion for people and they almost become fearful of eating.”
While the pegan diet may not be one of the worst we’ve seen, if you’re trying to eat healthily in the new year, making smaller, sustainable changes to your routine is the way forward.