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- THE PEGAN DIET
- 1. Stay away from sugar.
- 2. Eat mostly plants.
- 3. Easy on fruits.
- 4. Stay away from pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and GMO foods.
- 5. Eat foods containing healthy fats.
- 6. Stay away from most vegetable, nut, and seed oils
- 7. Avoid or limit dairy.
- 8. Think of meat and animal products as condiments
- 9. Eat sustainably raised or harvested low-mercury fish.
- 10. Avoid gluten.
- 11. Eat gluten-free whole grains sparingly.
- 12. Eat beans only once in a while. Lentils are best.
- 13. Get tested to personalize your approach.
- The 2-step transition to the vegan diet
- Pegan diet- A way of life
THE PEGAN DIET
The choice of nutritional philosophies is endless these days: We can go vegan; vegetarian; ketogenic; Paleo; flexitarian; pescatarian; Mediterranean; high-fat low-carb; high-carb, low-fat; raw; and on and on.
Trying to find the best one can be overwhelming. I’ve spent many years studying nutrition and even I have trouble sometimes sifting through all the conflicting science and opinions. For years I tried different diets. I was a vegetarian.
Then I went to Paleo. But eventually, I got fed up. It seems like the world of nutrition is being divided into armed camps, each proclaiming its superiority and decrying the fatal flaws in all the others. The obvious fact is that they all have advantages and disadvantages.
The vegan diet, for example, ideally incorporates plenty of whole, plant-based foods. As a result, vegans get lots of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and healthy fats with none of the baggage that comes with feedlot meat.
They’re also making the world a more humane place for the creatures that are treated cruelly by industrial farms, along with reducing their carbon footprint. But even a perfect vegan diet won’t provide enough DHA and EPA, which are important omega-3 fatty acids. Neither will it provide enough iron, zinc, copper, or vitamin D.
Vegans are also unlikely to be getting the amount of quality proteins and essential amino acids they require, especially as they age.
It’s possible to find sufficient amounts in non-animal sources, but it is incredibly challenging. But they’re definitely not getting B12 because it only comes from animal foods. Finally, it’s entirely possible to be a vegan
and still eat a poor diet filled with sugar, refined grains, and flour, highly processed oils, soy-based protein substitutes, and foods loaded with chemicals and additives.
You can live on Oreos, potato chips, and root beer and still call yourself a strict vegan. Even if you were to swear off wheat and gluten, a common staple in many vegan diets, the food industry is booming with “gluten-free” food items that trick us with misleading health claims on the label.
Just because the gluten has been removed from something doesn’t mean it’s healthy; often, it means the exact opposite. If you eat a gluten-free brownie full of gluten-free refined flour and tons of sugar, you’re still wreaking havoc on your blood sugar and weight.
This is not a quick fix that you follow for ten or thirty days and then quit. After you reset your body, I recommend
eating this way every single day. It is inclusive, not exclusive, and based on sound nutritional science and working with patients for more than 30 years.
Let’s look at the thirteen pillars of the Pegan Diet:
1. Stay away from sugar.
That means a diet low in anything that causes a spike in our insulin production sugar, flour, and refined carbohydrates. Think of sugar in all its various forms as an occasional treat, that is, something we eat occasionally and sparingly.
I tell people to think of it as a recreational drug. You use it for fun occasionally, but it is not a dietary staple.
2. Eat mostly plants.
As we learned earlier, more than half your plate should be covered with veggies. The deeper the color, the better. The more variety, the healthier. Stick with mostly nonstarchy veggies. Winter squashes and sweet potatoes are fine in moderation (½ cup a day).
Not a ton of potatoes! French fries don’t count even though they are the number one vegetable in America.
3. Easy on fruits.
This is where there could be a little bit of confusion. Some Paleo champions recommend eating mostly low-sugar fruits like berries, while some vegan advocates recommend all fruit equally. I find that most of my patients feel better when they stick to low-glycemic fruits and enjoy the others as a treat.
Stick with berries, kiwis, and watermelon, and watch the grapes, melons, and so on. Think of dried fruit as candy and keep it to a minimum.
4. Stay away from pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and GMO foods.
Also, no chemicals, additives, preservatives, dyes, artificial sweeteners, or other junk ingredients. If you don’t have that ingredient in your kitchen for cooking, you shouldn’t eat it. Polysorbate 60, red dye 40, and sodium stearoyl lactylate (also known as Twinkie ingredients), anyone?
5. Eat foods containing healthy fats.
I’m talking about omega-3 fatty acids and other good fats like those we find in nuts, seeds, olive oil, and avocados. And yes, we can even eat saturated fat from fish, whole eggs, and grass-fed or sustainably raised meat, grass-fed butter or ghee, and organic virgin coconut oil or coconut butter.
6. Stay away from most vegetable, nut, and seed oils
such as canola, sunflower, corn, grapeseed, and especially soybean oil, which now accounts for about 10 percent of our calories. Small amounts of expeller or cold-pressed nut and seed oils like sesame, macadamia, and walnut oils are fine to use as condiments or for flavoring. Avocado oil is great for higher-temperature cooking.
7. Avoid or limit dairy.
As we learned in earlier chapters, dairy doesn’t work for most people, so I recommend avoiding it, except for the occasional yogurt, kefir, grass-fed butter, ghee, and even cheese if it doesn’t cause any problems for you. Try goat or sheep products instead of cow dairy. And always go organic and grass-fed.
8. Think of meat and animal products as condiments
Or, as I like to call them, “Condi-meat” not the main course. Vegetables should take center stage, and meat should be the side dish. Servings should be 4 to 6 ounces, tops, per meal. I often make three or four vegetable side dishes.
9. Eat sustainably raised or harvested low-mercury fish.
If you are eating fish, you should choose low-mercury and low-toxin varieties such as sardines, herring, anchovies, and wild-caught salmon (all of which have high omega-3 and low mercury levels). And they should be sustainably harvested or farmed.
10. Avoid gluten.
Most gluten comes from Frankenwheat, so look for heirloom varieties of wheat like einkorn. Eat wheat only if you are not gluten-sensitive, and even then, only occasionally. Dr. Alessio Fasano of Harvard, the world’s top gluten expert, has done research showing that gluten damages the gut even in nongluten-sensitive people who show no symptoms.
11. Eat gluten-free whole grains sparingly.
They still raise blood sugar and can trigger autoimmunity. All grains can increase your blood sugar. Stick with small portions (½ cup per meal) of low-glycemic grains like black rice, quinoa, teff, buckwheat, or amaranth. For type 2 diabetics and those with autoimmune disease or digestive disorders, a grain-and bean-free diet may be
key to treating and even reversing your illness.
Stick to the 10-Day Detox Diet or even a ketogenic diet for diabetes.
12. Eat beans only once in a while. Lentils are best.
Stay away from big starchy beans. Beans can be a great source of fiber, protein, and minerals. But they cause
digestive problems for some, and the lectins and phytates they contain may impair mineral absorption. If you are diabetic, a high-bean diet can trigger spikes in your blood sugar. Again, moderate amounts (up to ½ cup a day) are okay.
13. Get tested to personalize your approach.
What works for one person may not work for another. This is called bio-individuality and it is why I recommend that everyone eventually work with a functionally trained nutritionist to personalize their diet even further with the right tests.
The 2-step transition to the vegan diet
Follow the 10-Day Detox plan (see the previous chapter, “Before the Diet, the Detox”) while slowly adding one
new food group to your diet every three days, such as gluten-free grains, beans, or any other food that you’d
like to experiment with, like goats’ or sheep’s cheese or the occasional treat.
I highly recommend sticking to one new food group at a time.
Here’s an example: After your detox, try eating gluten (i.e., pasta, bread) on Days 11, 12, and 13. Notice how your body responds.
On Day 14, take a break and stick with approved foods from the 10-Day Detox. On Days 15, 16, and 17, try eating dairy.
Notice how your body responds. Then on Day 18, go back to the 10-Day Detox-approved foods. Repeat this
This might seem tedious, but I truly feel that this is the best way to understand what works for you and what doesn’t. You might discover that certain foods just don’t work for you, and that’s okay.
If something bothers your gut, or makes you foggy, achy, or congested, you might have an intolerance, sensitivity, or allergy to it. And now you know to avoid it.
Eat a plethora of plant foods in addition to healthy fats and good-quality proteins. Use this combination as the basis for your meals (plant foods plus healthy fats plus protein).
Then, when the occasion calls for it, you can incorporate your favorite pleasure foods. That does not mean a can of Coke and a Twinkie! They still have to be real foods that follow the Pegan principles.
Take the Pegan Diet supplements to support daily detoxification, reduce inflammation, and support
mitochondrial function and cardiovascular health. These include CoQ10, resveratrol, milk thistle, curcumin,
glutathione, lipoic acid, magnesium, and a special form of folate.
Pegan diet- A way of life
Many of us are used to thinking about diets as something we do short term without much enjoyment, but I designed the Pegan Diet not to be something we go “on” and “off” of.
As I mentioned in the intro, the Pegan Diet is not a diet, but rather a way of life. Remember the goal is not to be perfect, but rather to have simple guiding principles that can continue to keep us healthy for years to come. The Pegan Diet is a philosophy and approach to health. It’s about doing your best and letting go of food stress and anxiety.
My highest hope is that this book and the principles in it give you a sense of food peace and confidence when it
comes to your overall health and wellness. Remember, true health isn’t just about losing a few pounds or about the absence of chronic disease; it’s about feeling good, showing up, and giving your highest gifts to the world.
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