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This year’s wonder diet? It’s Pegan

Katie Strick
·3-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

We are only a week into the new year but already your resolutions feel overambitious. Doing Veganuary or resisting carbs takes willpower in lockdown 3. But all is not lost.

The good news is that 2021 brings a new diet that you might actually be able to stick to: peganism. That is paleo vegan, i.e. the lovechild of the paleo diet and veganism.

So how does combining the meat-heavy “caveman” paleo diet with meat-shunning veganism actually work? The mixing of extremes might sound like an oxymoron but the result is a wonder diet that’s both better for your body and the environment, according to celebrity physician and New York Times-bestselling author Mark Hyman, who has a new book about it, The Pegan Diet.

His central argument: choosing between kale salads or bacon and butter three times a day is hardly realistic, unless you’re a wellness guru with your own personal chef. For something flexible that the rest of us can stick to, there’s a way of balancing both.

Hyman’s new eating approach isn’t just a January fad. It’s the result of years of research and clever recipe planning. After the American medical director featured the diet in his 2018 book Food: What the Heck Should I Eat, searches for the pegan diet spiked around the world and everyone from Jeb Bush to Blake Lively is said to have tried a version of it. Hyman broadened his research, which led to this book.

His new balance bible lands in bookshops next month and claims to take a “medicine approach” to peganism, with 30 recipes and dozens of infographics on how the diet works.

The simplest breakdown: 75 per cent of your plate should be filled with plant-based foods. The remaining 25 per cent should comprise of lean, grass-fed, sustainably raised meats.

According to Hyman, eating this way can reduce the risk of chronic disease, curb inflammation and promote general health. More importantly, it reduces your intake of animal products to help protect the planet.

So what can you actually eat? Not all that Christmas chocolate, that’s for sure. Sugar, gluten, beans and grains are all banned on a pegan diet, says Hyman. And put away the pizza oven — dairy doesn’t fit in this regime. In fact, the celebrity doctor believes cow’s milk contributes to obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Hyman’s secret recipes are under strict lock and key until February 25 but other authors have some surprisingly appealing solutions. Ethan Phillips, author of The Pegan Diet for Beginners and Dummies, recommends vegetable ratatouille, zucchini pasta salad, coconut and ginger pumpkin soup and a Mexican toasted corn quinoa salad for your pegan pantry.

Friends cooking healthy food togetherGetty Images
Friends cooking healthy food togetherGetty Images

For breakfast, chef Amelia Levin suggests a meat-free eggs benedict in her book Go Pegan, while author Karen Greenvang recommends a banana, pecan and date bowl or a citrus smoothie with raw seeds. Followers say her plan helped them fix their digestion, reboot their energy levels and shed up to 20 pounds.

The downside is that once lockdown is over, social situations could call for some creativity — no Thursday night wine if you’re sticking to Hyman’s regime. According to most varieties of the diet, coffee and alcohol are strictly banned, and although keeping up your usual exercise routine is encouraged, followers say the diet’s reduced iron and protein levels can wreak havoc with your 2021 workout regime.

Shopping strictly in high-end butchers and farmers’ markets can also be unkind on the purse but the plus-side is you’ll save on snacks. Disciples say they stop craving food between meals in weeks.

“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 personal trainer and nutrition specialist Liz Josefsberg after trying the pegan diet for 30 days. She also says it gave her a brain boost: “I had a real clarity of mind.” Prepare for the pegan awakening.

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