New plant-based fad diet the love child of pa­leo and ve­g­an­ism

Winnipeg Free Press - - ARTS LIFE I LIFE - RASHA ALI

THERE’S a new trendy diet in town, folks — the pe­gan diet.

The word pe­gan has seen a 337 per cent in­crease in searches on Pin­ter­est since last year and has seen a steady climb in searches within the last six months.

It was born when Dr. Mark Hy­man, New York Times best-sell­ing au­thor, coined the term — a mashup of pa­leo and ve­gan — in a blog post that de­tailed his own diet.

What is a pe­gan diet?

In short, a pe­gan diet in­cor­po­rates pieces of the pa­leo and ve­gan di­ets.

A ve­gan diet is re­frain­ing from eat­ing all an­i­mal prod­ucts or byprod­ucts — no meat, eggs, cheese, yo­gurt and some­times ge­latin. A pa­leo diet is a nu­tri­tional plan that mim­ics how peo­ple used to eat in the Pa­le­olithic era 2.5 mil­lion years ago. So di­eters eat un­pro­cessed foods con­sist­ing mostly of veg­eta­bles, fruits, nuts, grass-fed meats and fish.

How does pe­gan dif­fer from ve­gan and pa­leo di­ets?

Al­though ve­gan and pa­leo di­ets may seem like they’re at odds — one ad­vo­cates for re­mov­ing dairy, meat and fish while the other en­cour­ages eat­ing meat and fish — the root of both of those life­styles is ul­ti­mately the same: eat­ing whole foods and plants.

The pur­pose of the pe­gan diet is to get peo­ple to eat whole foods that are fresh and or­ganic and in­crease their veg­etable in­take.

There’s also an em­pha­sis on the qual­ity of foods you’re eat­ing — the pe­gan diet en­cour­ages par­tic­i­pants to eat or­ganic prod­ucts.

What are you sup­posed to eat? Plants. Ba­si­cally most of your diet will be com­prised of veg­eta­bles, good fats and nuts and seeds. The physi­cian ex­plained that 75 per cent of the diet should be fruits and veg­eta­bles while avoid­ing eat­ing dairy and gluten.

But if you must eat dairy, the diet ad­vises to reach for sheep- or goat­based dairy prod­ucts. Maria Mar­lowe, a nutri­tion health coach and au­thor who op­er­ates her own health coach­ing prac­tice in New York City, said this is be­cause goat and sheep’s milk are eas­ier to di­gest than cow’s milk, but it’s prefer­able to avoid all dairy.

Hy­man said meat is not nec­es­sar­ily harm­ful and has good health ben­e­fits. It just de­pends on how much you’re eat­ing and what kind you’re eat­ing. The doc­tor, who is also di­rec­tor of the Cleve­land Clinic Cen­ter for Func­tional Medicine, sug­gests eat­ing meat spar­ingly and eat­ing only grass-fed and sus­tain­ably raised meat.

Ba­si­cally, eat meat as a side dish, not the main course.

Those on a pe­gan diet should also eat healthy fats like those found in nuts, avocados, co­conut oil and even sat­u­rated fat from or­ganic meat prod­ucts.

And like most di­ets — sugar should be avoided or eaten only as a treat. Is the pe­gan diet safe? Desiree Nielsen, a reg­is­tered di­eti­tian who runs her own nutri­tion con­sult­ing prac­tice and hosts The Ur­ban Vege­tar­ian, a Cana­dian cook­ing show, doesn’t rec­om­mend the pe­gan diet be­cause of how re­stric­tive it is — she ac­tu­ally ad­vises against all di­ets that are re­stric­tive. How­ever, she does be­lieve the pe­gan diet is a great way to tran­si­tion into a health­ier and more plant-based life­style.

“There isn’t one right way to eat,” Nielsen said. “I think it’s a won­der­ful diet to be in­spired by. Eat more plants; eat more whole foods — those are won­der­ful mes­sages to in­cor­po­rate, but I think for many of us liv­ing by a re­stric­tive rule-fo­cused diet may not be healthy for our body or our minds.” What are the ben­e­fits? Al­though the pe­gan diet may not be right for ev­ery­one, it does have proven ben­e­fits for some.

“I grew up eat­ing a stan­dard Amer­i­can diet, which led to a slew of health prob­lems,” Mar­lowe said. “Eat­ing the pe­gan way helped me lose 20 pounds, get rid of di­ges­tive is­sues, have more en­ergy and over­all im­prove my health.”

Nielsen said as a ve­gan, try­ing the pe­gan diet left her hun­gry, and she suf­fered from low blood pres­sure and headaches. She said it doesn’t ad­vo­cate for a lot of legumes — which is where plant-based eaters would mostly get their pro­tein — and it re­lies on some an­i­mal pro­tein, which ve­g­ans can’t eat.

“It’s a great tran­si­tion to­wards a more plant-based diet for meat eaters,” Nielsen said. “It will in­crease in­take of valu­able phy­to­chem­i­cals from fruits and veg­eta­bles that help you fight in­flam­ma­tion. It will also help you move away from a hy­per-pro­cessed and pack­aged eat­ing pat­tern, which many of us con­sume in North Amer­ica, which is not healthy for us.”

Liz Josefs­berg, a cer­ti­fied per­sonal trainer and nutri­tion ex­er­cise spe­cial­ist at her own con­sult­ing firm and for­mer di­rec­tor of brand ad­vo­cacy for Weight Watch­ers, tried the pe­gan diet for 30 days and said that though she strug­gled a bit in the be­gin­ning, she ended up en­joy­ing the jour­ney and the ul­ti­mate re­sults, in­clud­ing los­ing six pounds with lit­tle ef­fort.

“My stom­ach? No­tice­ably flat­ter. My skin? Bright and clear. My crav­ings for cheese — and even my de­sire to have a glass of wine — di­min­ished,” wrote Josefs­berg in a blog post. “I also no­ticed I had a real clar­ity of mind and much more en­ergy than usual.”

LORENZO ARCOBASSO / FOTOLIA

The pe­gan diet pro­motes an or­ganic plant-based and pri­mar­ily ve­gan diet.

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