Thursday, May 13, 2021

Book Review: The Pegan Diet

Next up for review is The Pegan Diet by Dr. Mark Hyman. Dr. Hyman is a medical doctor who is the Head of Strategy and Innovation at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. 


This book lays out 21 principles to improve your health. Dr. Hyman promotes a Pegan diet, which is a combination of Paleo and Vegan diet. The principles are quite thorough and focus on what one should eat and what one should avoid in order to attain peak health. The book is 253 pages. It is very well written. The author has a motivating style of writing and I enjoyed reading this book.

5 Things I Really Liked About The Pegan Diet

1) I really like that this book recommends the reader to strictly limit refined carbohydrates like bread, white rice, pasta and sugar. I strongly believe that a stable blood sugar is the path to weight loss and greater health. Avoiding these foods will make it much easier to maintain a stable blood sugar.

2) I really like the emphasis on the environmental impact of the foods we eat. This is an evolving field of nutrition research that is really important. I know that a lot of my professors at Harvard Nutrition are really locking into this idea in recent years.

3) This book spends a lot of time on the importance of sleep. I also think this is huge, especially during the stressful times that we find ourselves in with the Covid-19 pandemic. When you are sleeping well, just about every aspect of your physical and mental health will improve. 

4) The book has a lot of great cooking tips and healthy recipes. The author has a passion for cooking healthy foods and it shows. I also appreciated the emphasis on cooking most of your meals at home. It really is the only way to improve your diet in the long run.

5) I really appreciated the section on what to feed your children. Instilling healthy eating habits in your kids at a young age is of critical importance.

4 Things I Didn’t Agree With in The Pegan Diet

1) I don’t agree with his recommendation of beef as a protein source. While a burger or steak now and again is fine, I don’t recommend red meat to my clients as a go to protein. It has been shown to have a negative impact on risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and all-cause mortality in the research literature (References 1-3). In my opinion, the focus should be on lean animal protein sources such as chicken and turkey, low fat dairy, seafood and vegetable sources of protein such as beans and lentils.

2) Similarly, certain fats recommended in this book are not the best. Butter, coconut oil, tallow and palm oil are really high in saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol and risk of heart disease and all-cause mortality (References 4-5). It is far better to focus on unsaturated sources of fat such as avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds. These have a positive impact on serum cholesterol and risk of cardiovascular disease.

3) Although this book says to avoid sugar, there is a fair amount of it in several of the recipes. While I am sure Dr. Hyman preaches moderation of sugar intake, I have found that complete avoidance of sugar to be easier than having it now and again. For people addicted to sugar (which is the majority of those trying to lose weight), having it now and again does not seem to work. I have had much better luck with total avoidance and occasional sugar free treats. This helps my clients and readers of my books stay on course over the long term.

4) I feel like the book is just a little bit under-referenced. As an epidemiologist, I’d like to see most any nutrition and health claim backed up with a study or 2 that we can look up. While 35 references are provided, I think this could have been a bit more comprehensive.

Is The Pegan Diet Worth Reading?

Absolutely! This book gets a lot right. If you follow the principles in this book you will improve your health for sure. It is a well written book and totally worth reading. I would just be a little pickier on some of the proteins and fats recommended, but otherwise this is all really sound advice.


1) Bernstein AM, et al. Major dietary protein sources and risk of coronary heart disease in women. Circulation 2010; 122: 876-83.

2) Pan A, et al. Red meat consumption and mortality: Results from 2 prospective cohort studies. Archives of Internal Medicine 2012; 172:555-63.

3) Pan A, et al. Red meat consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: 3 cohorts of U.S. adults and an updated meta-analysis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2011; 94:1088-96.

4) Wang, DD et al. Association of specific dietary fats with total and cause specific mortality. JAMA Internal Medicine 2016; 176:1134-45.

5) Hu FB, et al. Dietary fat intake and risk of coronary heart disease in women. New England Journal of Medicine 1997; 337:1491-99.



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