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We're all probably trying to eat healthier, but there are so many conflicting messages out there on what constitutes a "healthy" diet. And, of course, what works for one person may not work for another. For example, athlete Tim Tebow says he's been on the keto diet for years but others worry that it's not great for you.
Mark calls this the "pegan" diet.
"What is the pegan diet? Well, it's sort of a joke, because paleo and vegan seem so different, but they’re actually almost identical—except for one thing: where you get the protein. Otherwise, the same: whole foods, lots of fruits and veggies, lots of nuts and seeds, good fats," Mark says. "And yes, you can have pancakes! The whole idea here is ingredients matter, quality matters."
"It's basically about eating real, whole foods. Plant rich and using good quality," Mark says. "Because food is not just calories. It's information, it's medicine. It literally speaks to every cell in your body."
Mark covered the pegan food pyramid in his book, Food: What the Heck Should I Cook?, and now he has a new book all about the pegan diet!
THE PEGAN FOOD PYRAMID
NON-STARCHY VEGGIES, HERBS & SPICES: Unlimited
At the bottom of the pyramid are colorful, non-starchy vegetables, herbs and spices. There's no limit on this category, the doc says. The more color, the better.
Blue and purple vegetables like eggplant and purple cabbage are great because they contain anthocyanins, or "antioxidants — they help prevent aging," according to Mark.
Green veggies like broccoli and artichokes are other good choices. "Artichokes actually have powerful detoxifying compounds and they have prebiotics that help fertilize all the good bugs in your gut. We know how important gut bacteria are to your health," he continues.
HEALTHY FATS: 3 to 5 servings
While the doc points out that many people are afraid of fat, there is a such thing as "good quality fat." It's more about avoiding processed foods and cutting down on sugar and starch, he says.
Now, that doesn't mean you can never have pasta. The pegan diet is very inclusive.
"Most diets are exclusive. This includes everything, but focuses on the quality. It's like being a health-itarian," the doctor says of his pegan food pyramid.
Avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds are all examples of good quality fats.
PROTEIN: 4 to 6 oz of animal protein, up to 1 cup legumes
While the pegan diet is not a high-protein diet and is mostly plant rich, Mark says that it is important to incorporate quality animal protein: grass-fed beef and dairy products, wild-caught seafood (or sustainably raised if farmed fish is your only option) and pasture-raised chicken, pork and eggs. It doesn't have to be expensive, but like Rach says, "You really need to know where your food comes from."
The high-quality, dense proteins and nutrients like B12 that you get from lean meats and fish are very difficult to get from a purely vegan diet, the doc says.
When it comes to seafood, he suggests wild-caught "SMASH" fish: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring.
FRUITS & STARCHY VEGGIES: 1 cup of low-glycemic fruit, ½ cup of starchy veggies
Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and pomegranates are examples of fruits with a low glycemic index, which is what you should aim for on the pegan diet, Mark says.
Winter squash and sweet potatoes are examples of starchy veggies with good-for-you carotenoids and antioxidants.
GLUTEN-FREE GRAINS: ½ to 1 cup
You can have grains, but look for "good" grains that are low starch, low glycemic and don't have a lot of gluten — like quinoa and wild rice, the doc says.
If you're craving something sweet, check out the recipe for Mark's Healthy Chocolate Mint Shake here.
He also shared another of his pegan recipes from Food: What the Heck Should I Cook? Get the recipe for Gluten-Free Butternut Squash Pizza With Cauliflower Crust here.