A new diet with a hip name and various restrictions seems to pop up every other day, much to the chagrin of waiters and others who have trouble keeping up with the ever-updating list of the forbidden.
Luckily, the pegan diet – not to be confused with the pagan diet, which has yet to be invented but surely has potential – is a hybrid of two already-popular eating plans: paleo and vegan.
Following its prescriptions, you can tell yourself that you’re eating just like a caveman would, albeit a caveman who cares about animals.
Paleo diets require adherents to give up certain foods that our cavemen ancestors couldn’t eat because they didn’t have farming yet, such as rice, potatoes, noodles and bread – even the whole-grain versions. Plant-based oils (other than olive) and legumes are also no-nos.
Meanwhile, a vegan diet means giving up all products made from animals, from meat to eggs and milk, for a wholly plant-based way of eating.
American doctor Mark Hyman came up with the idea of fusing the concepts, putting the focus mostly on lots of vegetables, very little sugar, no oils except for olive oil, no dairy products, no pulses, beans or legumes, no gluten and absolutely no preservatives.
Meat is allowed, but is seen as an accompaniment, not the main dish.
“Both movements focus on foods that are as unprocessed as possible, do away with refined carbohydrates and encourage lots of fresh vegetables,” explains Lisa Hapke from Germany’s ProVeg initiative. However, because meat is allowed, even in small portions, the pegan diet is not an option for vegans.
ProVeg nevertheless praises the diet’s recommendation to focus on foods with a low glycaemic index. The glycaemic index indicates how foods containing carbohydrates will affect blood sugar levels, explains Olaf Lenzen, director of the nutrition centre at Berlin’s Vivantes clinic.
“It’s about eating products that make you feel full for longer,” he explains. The concept was introduced more than 30 years ago as part of research on diabetes.
“The concept of avoiding foods with a high glycaemic index and in general eating fresh fruits and vegetables is absolutely the right step, beyond all the trends in nutrition these days,” says Lenzen.
However, Lenzen doesn’t agree with pegans’ avoidance of grains and legumes.
“There is absolutely nothing in the nutritional science realm that supports that recommendation – the fibre content and micronutrients those foods provide are an important part of a healthy diet.”
Ursula Hudson, director of Slow Food Germany, views all new diet trends with scepticism. “Trends come in and out of fashion,” she says.
Hudson also believes people are moving further and further away from knowing the origins of what they eat: They no longer understand where their food comes from, what’s in season or how to cook certain vegetables.
She warns against frantically looking to others for advice on how to eat instead of sticking to what’s tried-and-true. – dpa