Everyone is buzzing about the new book by Mark Hyman, MD, The Pegan Diet — and with good reason. Its guidelines are literally saving lives, helping reverse diabetes in as little as three days, normalize blood pressure in 10 days, and even reverse heart failure in 12 weeks. Indeed, testing reveals that “in a short time, most people see a 62 percent reduction of all symptoms, no matter the cause,” says the Cleveland Clinic functional medicine expert. Dr. Hyman’s strategy also melts pounds astonishingly quickly, with Woman’s World readers telling us they’ve sped off up to 18 pounds a week. Says Dr. Hyman, “If this plan were a pill, it would be a trillion-dollar blockbuster!”
Dr. Hyman is the first to admit “Pegan” is a strange word. He came up with it as he listened to a Paleo expert and a vegan cardiologist argue the benefits of a whole-foods diet rich in animal protein versus a whole-foods diet rich in plant protein. Both made strong points backed by solid research. “I joked that if one was Paleo and the other vegan, I must be ‘Pegan,’” Dr. Hyman shares. Later, he realized the term actually does describe the approach that works wonders for his patients, one he’s been honing for more than 40 years.
The Pegan diet is simple: 90 percent of what you eat should be additive-free whole foods, including lots of low-starch veggies and healthy fats; add some low-sugar fruit and moderate amounts of protein from high-quality animal products, beans, and grains. And 10 percent of the time, treat yourself. From a pancake brunch to a pizza night, Dr. Hyman says you can enjoy a few non-Pegan meals a week and still get “life-changing results.”
Why does the Pegan Diet work so well?
“The greatest discovery of the past 50 years is that food is medicine,” says Dr. Hyman. “Plants, as well as animals that eat plants, contain more than 25,000 medicinal compounds — omega-3s, vitamins, minerals, fiber, prebiotics, probiotics, antioxidants, and more — with the power to prevent, treat, and even reverse most chronic disease.” To boil down a lot of complicated studies: The more of these compounds we consume, the better off we are.
Trouble is, industrial manufacturing and factory farming deplete these compounds, leaving us with nutrient-poor food that spikes blood sugar, clogs arteries and organs, irritates delicate cells and tissues, hijacks hormones, and triggers insatiable cravings and weight gain. “Poor diet is the biggest threat to health in the modern world,” says Dr. Hyman. “The latest research shows that 88 percent of us are metabolically unhealthy, with symptoms like abnormal cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar.” That means nutrient-depleted food has overwhelmed our systems to the point where they no longer function properly.
The good news: Every time we take a bite of Pegan-friendly food, it’s like sending a mini tool kit inside ourselves, giving our system exactly what it needs to repair metabolic damage and set off a chain reaction of healing. “As metabolic function improves, excess fat melts away with ease,” says Dr. Hyman. “A healthy metabolism also allows everything to work better. Autoimmune diseases disappear, depression vanishes, migraines evaporate. I’ve seen miracles over the decades.”
What kinds of results do people see?
After years of suffering with rheumatoid arthritis and nerve pain, Peggy Pipilis’ daughter used the Pegan diet to get off all her meds and be pain-free. “She lost quite a bit of weight too,” shares the Illinois grandmother, 72. “By then, I was the heaviest I’d ever been and had knee pain so bad that even cortisone shots barely helped. I didn’t think I could improve much at my age, but I was inspired by my daughter and decided to see what would happen.”
Peggy began replacing her usual fast food with Dr. Hyman’s recipes for things like flaxseed muffins, chopped salads, and chili. “I had to do a little more planning and cooking.” But was it ever worth it! In about a week, her brain fog and bloat were gone, energy was up, and sleep was deeper. A short time later, her knees were essentially pain-free. “I honestly had no idea how much sugar and processed foods were contributing to my inflammation and pain.” She was also stunned by how easily pounds came off. “Most of my life, I’d go on diets and only lose 15 pounds before I started gaining it back. At age 70, I lost 20 pounds in a month and kept losing.” All told, she shed 63 pounds. “And I’ve kept it off without effort. I just eat real, whole foods that make me feel really good,” she says. “You don’t have to be young to tap into this level of vitality!
What does a Pegan Diet plan look like?
To kick-start healing, skip foods that may stress your system. Eat unlimited low-starch veggies and healthy fat (avocado, olive oil, nuts). Each day, add 8 ounces of animal protein (pasture-raised eggs, grass-fed beef), half a cup of berries, one cup of beans, half a cup sweet potato, and half a cup quinoa. Sip water and tea (no coffee, dairy, or sweeteners). Switch to a regular Pegan diet after 10 days. Get a doctor’s okay to try a new plan.
BREAKFAST: Roast cubed sweet potato with olive oil at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 minutes; season to taste and enjoy with an egg and sliced avocado.
LUNCH: Prepare quinoa per package directions using coconut milk in place of water; enjoy half a cup with half a cup of berries and nuts.
DINNER: Pair roasted skin-on chicken with a generous side salad and/or sautéed veggies with balsamic vinaigrette.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.