Doctor Mark Hyman’s Food: What the Heck Should I Eat? (Pegan Diet)

I must confess, I do love a Dr that disrupts the status quo. Any medical professional who strives to stop managing the symptoms of disease; but rather prevent and treat the underlying cause is admirable in my book.

“The average American child has consumed 7½ pounds of chemicals by the age of five.” -Dr. Mark Hyman

And so I invested the time to read and review Dr Mark Hyman’s latest, FOOD WTF should I eat? Aptly named, as I’m sure we’ve all said that out loud a few times. The milder, more widely used title is FOOD What the Heck Should I Eat? I find the former more fun.

As the government regularly change their mind about what we should and should not be eating, scientists and professionals are arguing amongst themselves, and we’re all feeling kept in the dark, I thought Dr. Hyman might be able to gift us with some direction. Here are my thoughts on his words.

Dr Hyman is well known for his Functional Medicine approach, where we treat food as the most powerful drug on the planet. If you’re feeling confused about food and all the conflicting messages surrounding it, FOOD is the book for you.

Dr. Hyman on Functional Medicine diet

The discussion around food can easily become overwhelming, Dr. Hyman expertly dissects the major food groups into digestible chapters with clear, easy to follow points. Each chapter begins with a quiz…(let’s see how you go!)

And following each chapter he summarizes what the experts got right, what they got wrong and what we still don’t know for sure.

Hyman delves into government policies and the corporate food system to unveil many hidden truths about the ingredients in our kitchens. I’ve been studying food for a long time and Hyman busted many myths.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the key takeaways within his insightful and intelligent chapters.

Is It Healthy To Eat Meat: According to Dr. Hyman

Let’s get this one out of the way vegan peeps, feel free to skip to vegetables. While I definitely don’t think we need to be killing animals for our sustenance I at least appreciate that Dr. Hyman suggests eating less meat than the average paleo advocates recommend.

And I also do appreciate that he takes a strong stance against factory farming – something many vegans are passionate about. Everyone is on their own journey, and my belief is that his book is a step in the right direction away from an animal-heavy diet. With that said, Dr. Hyman recommends grass-fed, pasture-raised meats as opposed to grain-fed factory-farmed 🙁 fellow animals. More omega-3s and less Omega-6s.

​Taste the rainbow. It is legal, and common for producers to feed cattle candy, sugar, skittles, Kool-Aid powder, potato chips and molasses. What the heck?!

Because he believes you are what your meat eats, Hyman recommends high quality, organic, grass-fed, sustainably and ethically raised meat should feature as a side to the hero plant foods on your plate.

Are Poultry and Eggs Good For You?: FOOD What the Heck Should I eat?

Again, Dr Hyman is all about sustainable and ethical organic or pasture-raised chickens. Skip the arsenic, pesticides and antibiotics. Some vegans are adding eggs into their diet, and becoming veggans. IF you’re vegan going veggan, try to raise your own chickens. Factory farming, even from organic farms is largely not pretty.

​Arsenic is fed to chickens to make them gain weight faster, and it kills parasites. In the chickens’ gut the arsenic is converted to inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen.Dr Hyman recommends eating pasture-raised chicken to avoid these issues…we’d rather you eat a carrot instead, (or preferably some celery as it has less sugar, haha).

What is the Healthiest Fish and Seafood?According to Mr. Hyman

Mr Hyman leans toward being a pescatarian. He is all about small, wild fatty fish as they have less mercury than larger fishes. Salmon and smaller toxin-free species like sardines, anchovies, mackerel and herring are swimming with Omega-3’s. Larger fish like swordfish, shark, halibut and tuna are higher on the food chain and can contain mercury and PCB’s.

Again folks, this is where we are totally winning. By cutting out fish we do no harm and avoid the nasty metals that are found beneath the scales of many species. As far as other seafood goes, Hyman recommends oysters and mussels as a good source of omega 3’s.

Is Dairy Healthy or Not?: Dr Hyman’s View

Cow’s milk is nature’s perfect food…for a calf! Dairy cows are not happily producing milk as they frolic merrily in lush green pastures as the industry would have us believe. Here is one area where we are in total agreement with the good Dr.

One Of Many Reasons Milk is Not Good For You

​Did you know that weird orange plastic American cheese is less than 50% cheese.

There is no evidence we need milk for stronger bones; but it can certainly be done without milk. The National Academy of Sciences has shown that members of the government’s dietary guidelines committee have strong links to the dairy industry…does anyone else feel that may be a little suspect? Sugary low fat chocolate or strawberry milk found in schools is almost as bad as soft drink/soda.

Eating Vegetables Is the Key To The Pegan Diet!

Eat all the strange, wacky and unpopular veggies instead of the boring old common ones all the time.

Vegetables should take center stage, and meat should be the side dish.” 

Modern fruits and veggies lining our supermarket shelves have been ‘bred’ to be sweeter, less vibrant in colour and less nutritious.

“Wild blueberries have dozens of times more phytonutrients than domesticated berries.”

Non-starchy vegetables are best.

Apparently french fries are the #1 vegetable in America 🙁 Oh that is sad. We’ll, i’m off to plant some weird veggies and berry bushes!

Fruit: Which Fruits are best on Pegan Diet?

Paleo advocates recommend low-sugar fruits like berries (us keto’s are the same,) but many mainstream vegans treat all fruit as champions for our health. The majority of Dr Hyman’s patients feel better when they choose low-glycemic fruits like berries, kiwis and watermelon – and treat grapes, melons and others as a dessert. Keep dried food to a minimum, it may as well be candy.

Pegan: Good and Bad Fats and Oils

Dry Hyman says to eat foods with healthy fats like omega 3 fatty acids, and saturated fats from natural foods such as fish, whole eggs, grass fed butter and grass fed sustainably sourced meats. For us vegans our good fats come from nuts, seeds, good oils like avocado and olive oil, organic coconut oil and coconut butter. Steer clear of canola, sunflower, corn, grapeseed and soybean oils which are heavily refined and extracted using weird chemicals.

Dr Hyman Spills on Beans

Beans contain lots of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber; but we didn’t eat them until 10,000 yrs ago. They’re not essential to human health.Most beans are starchy, so if you have gut issues, beans may not be your friend. Dr Hyman discusses in the book the best ways to cook beans. It’s important to observe how certain beans are making you feel. The message is to eat beans sparingly, staying away from big starchy beans and sticking to lentils.

Grains and The Pegan Diet

Grains are not what they used to be and they feature far too heavily in our diets. The toxic amounts in which we binge on grains can contribute to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and dementia. The words “whole wheat” are a clever marketing term more than they are a description of a healthy food.

 There is no such thing as essential carbohydrates; our bodies were designed to thrive without them. Hybrid wheat has been developed which promotes insulin resistance and is high in starch. Starch is essentially sugar. Oh, and just before harvest, most wheat is sprayed with the chemical glyphosate. Hyman says there are healthy grains. If you must go with and not against the grain, stay away from cereal, oatmeal, wheat and corn, and put organic quinoa and amaranth on your fork.

Which Nuts and Seeds Are Best to Eat?

Nuts and seeds are full of good fats, proteins and minerals. According to Dr. Hyman they are a miracle food that can lower the risk of heart disease, and diabetes. According to one study, just one serving of nuts per day could prevent 4.4 million premature deaths annually…WHOAH! Vegan keto nuts around the world are dancing. In the book, Hyman talks about how eating the right nuts and seeds can help you lose weight and reduce risk of disease. He unveils the truth about nut butters (good for you as long as they don’t have added oils, sugars, and other crappy stuff), how to choose the best nuts and seeds, and what to avoid.

​“The best advice is to avoid foods with health claims on the label, or better yet avoid foods with labels in the first place.”

– Mark Hyman

Try these vegan keto nut recipes:

The Healthiest Low-Glycemic Sugars and Sweeteners

Sugar hides lurking in many so-called ‘healthy’ processed foods that don’t taste sweet. Stick to a whole foods diet with a low-glycemic load. Adding a teaspoon of raw sugar to your coffee, or treating yourself with the occasional dessert won’t make you fat or sick; but consider it a recreational food drug you can partake in sparingly, like red wine.

Stay away from artificial sweeteners like your life depends on it. If you must, the one exception is stevia; but be judicious. Get 100% organic stevia, not the variety bulked up with GMO corn and so-called ‘natural’ flavors.

Beverages: What the Heck Should I Drink?

Definite no-no’s, of course, are sugary packaged juices, ‘energy’, and sports drinks. Fresh juicing can be healthy provided you have the right balance of fruits and low sugar vegetables. Green tea is a powerful metabolism booster and fat burner, but many other teas belong in the bin.

​Other golden snippets​

Dr. Hyman talks about what you should keep out of your fridge and pantry with a strong argument for eating organic foods where possible. He discusses spices, salts, condiments, dressings and sauces. The good Dr. touches on supplements and those that should be considered – particularly for vegans; but emphasizes the benefits of getting your nutrients from healthy foods. ​The healthiest people on the planet in the awe-inspiring Blue Zones, eat only the food of nature and do not require supplements.

The Conclusion According To Dr. Mark Hyman

Dry Hyman goes on to explain the “Pegan” diet as his optimal diet of choice. The concept combines the best aspects of the vegan and paleo diets in his opinion. Finally, there are a bunch of recipes to get reader’s started.

​Over 20yrs of practice, study and research well spent Dr Hyman thank you. If you have any questions around FOOD this book will well equip you to properly read labels, cut through the marketing BS and begin steps towards a more sensible, healthier way of life for our future, and our planet. Most of my vegan sisters and brothers will agree you can’t really be a vegan hybrid, as most of us have a pretty firm stance when it comes to animal products. But I can certainly accept and appreciate Dr Hyman employing more of a whole food plant-based version of traditional paleo. Read our article where we compare paleo to vegan keto.

My Only Problem with, “Food What The Heck Should I Eat”

My only ‘beef’ with the book is Dr. Hyman starting his chapters with the animal product categories, which to me implies their importance over the others. When the message is to adopt a predominantly plant-based diet, the book felt a little meaty in the beginning; but that really is a minor whinge from a vegan (gotta have one every now and then.) Overall, I highly recommend it. Dr. Hyman believes we can change the behavior of the industrial giants with the choices we make, and I wholeheartedly agree.


If you want to eat up more of our tasty content you can check out other vegan keto blog articles here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Content