The pandemic has reaffirmed that there is nothing more important than staying healthy — be it via exercise or diets.
Eating like a caveman is catching on. The “Paleo diet, also know as caveman diet, is taking the world by storm and stars like Jessica Biel, Uma Thurman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Megan Fox and Nimrat Kaur swear by the caveman’s diet.
As the name suggests, before modern agriculture developed around 10,000 years ago, people typically ate foods that they could hunt or gather, such as fish, lean meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
Eating a Paleo diet aims to recreate the food habits of our ancient ancestors, focusing on high quantities of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and meats, whilst leaving out grains and legumes.
But, this raises a problem. “A diet that lacks all animal products as well as beans and legumes isn’t well-balanced, and could lead to nutritional deficiencies,” says Manisha Mehta, Dietetics, Sports Nutritionist (Sports Authority of India Certified) and International Speaker.
So that’s where the Pegan Diet came in. Actress and model Eva Mendes is a stickler for pegan diet. “It focuses on eating 75% plant products but 25% calories come from animal products,” says Manisha.
The best of two worlds
While the Paleo diet focuses on eating only the foods which people in palaeolithic era, i.e 2.6 million years ago, are believed to have eaten, and the vegan diet focuses on excluding all sorts of animal foods from your plate, Pegan is an amalgamation of the two.
“The Paleo or the caveman diet has been popular for a long time now. And in the recent past, veganism has been growing fast. However, both have certain restrictions in terms of nutrients, which can be addressed with the Pegan diet.
This is far less restrictive and is based on the 5-4-3-2-1 rule:
“5 servings of vegetables,
4 servings of carbs,
3 servings of protein,
2 servings of healthy fats and 1 serving of dairy,” explains Avinash Rajapet, fitness entrepreneur and Co-Founder and Program Director at Fitb.ee.
While there is not enough data to confirm the exact long-term benefits,
since it is primarily a plant-based diet, you can eat a tonne of vegetables without over-doing it calorie wise. “The high fibre consumption combined with a lower intake of starch can help boost overall health and lower the risk of certain lifestyle diseases. There are also many studies that tell us that a plant-based diet can lower weight and reduce bad cholesterol,” says Avinash.
l Rich in fruits and vegetables, which are good sources of antioxidants and soluble fibre.
l Rich in protein and healthy fats, which are good for keeping you feeling full, maintaining muscle mass and promoting brain and heart health.
l Will result in weight loss and likely better control of glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol.
l Since all processed foods are prohibited, it will prevent sodium overdose and exposure to artificial colours, flavours and preservatives.
l Only gluten-free grains are allowed. Forms of barley, rye and semolina are not recommended.
l Dairy is strongly discouraged.
There is a body of research which shows that whole grains and legumes are essential as they provide fibre and major B group vitamins, and these are excluded in the Pegan diet. Also, it might be tough for vegetarians to follow, as whole grains and legumes are a major protein source for them.
“Because of entirely prohibiting processed food, there is a possibility that sustainability might become an issue, and then the results might be affected,” says Manisha. “Also, its association with exercise is still in question. If grains and legumes are missing, the major sources of carbohydrates aka energy will be lacking, and then energy availability for workouts will be a problem,” she points out.
Other possible issues:
l Slashing dairy can deprive your body of much-needed calcium and Vitamin D. Therefore, you may need to start taking vitamin supplements.
l Cutting back on carbs will cause hunger pangs and food cravings. It is also less sustainable since it removes major food groups from your diet.
l You will require a proper knowledge of nutrition to follow this diet.
l It can be expensive to follow.
Modify as needed
“It’s a good idea to include a high amount of fruits and vegetables in our daily diet, but if a diet takes us far away from our basic roti-dal, rice-rajma routine, we can imagine how long we will be able to sustain it. And If we are not able to sustain it, then it would become just another trend in the market,” says Manisha.
“Following this diet for a long period may cause nutrient deficiencies. However, if you follow the fundamentals of the Pegan diet (like cutting back on sugar and eating more veggies and lean protein) and modify it by adding dairy and gluten, it's more likely that you’ll be able to stick with it,” feels Avinash.