Are you a vegetarian interested in experiencing the many benefits of a keto diet? Or maybe you’re already eating keto, but have been considering giving up meat.
Here’s the good news: the vegan keto lifestyle is definitely doable. However, you should check out the potential benefits and side effects that come with this vegan keto diet.
The vegan keto diet greatly limits carbohydrate intake, allowing only plant-based foods. It is high in fat, contains a moderate amount of protein, and does not include any animal products.
The macronutrient ratios for this diet are approximately:
- Fat: 55–60%
- Protein: 30–35%
- Carbohydrates: 5–10%
For someone consuming 2,000 calories per day, this equates to a carbohydrate intake of only 25-50 grams (g).
When the body does not have enough carbohydrates to use for energy, it goes into ketosis and has to burn fat to get energy.
Many people follow this diet to lose weight and reduce their overall fat. People who follow the standard keto diet tend to consume most of their fat from animal foods, which are high in fat and protein but low in carbohydrates.
Since vegans do not consume animal products – including meat, fish, eggs and dairy – they must eat a lot of high-fat, plant-based foods to get into ketosis.
Those on a vegan keto diet can eat the following foods:
- soy milk
- sugar free coconut yogurt
- vegan butter
- soy and nut based cheeses
- nuts and nut butters
- oils, including coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, and nut oils
- coconut milk and fresh or dried coconut
- small quantities of berries
- nonstarchy vegetables, such as:
- leafy greens
- seaweed, including:
- condiments, such as:
- lemon juice
- fresh herbs
- nutritional yeast
- coffee and tea
When following a vegan keto diet, you must drastically reduce your carbohydrate intake and replace carbohydrates with healthy fats and proteins from vegan sources.
Animal products, including eggs, meat, poultry, dairy products and seafood, are not allowed on a vegan keto diet.
Here are examples of foods that should be completely avoided:
- Meat and poultry: Beef, turkey, chicken, pork.
- Dairy: Milk, butter, yogurt.
- Eggs: Egg whites and egg yolks.
- Seafood: Fish, shrimp, clams, mussels.
- Animal-based ingredients: Whey protein, honey, egg white protein.
Here are examples of foods that should be significantly reduced:
- Grains and starches: Cereal, bread, baked goods, rice, pasta, grains.
- Sugary drinks: Sweet tea, soda, juice, smoothies, sports drinks, chocolate milk.
- Sweeteners: Brown sugar, white sugar, agave, maple syrup.
- Starchy vegetables: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, beets, peas.
- Beans and legumes: Black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans.
- Fruits: All fruits should be limited. However, small portions of certain fruits like berries are allowed.
- High-carb alcoholic beverages: Beer, sweetened cocktails, wine.
- Low-fat diet foods: Low-fat foods tend to be high in added sugar.
- High-carb sauces and condiments: Barbecue sauce, sweetened salad dressings, marinades.
- Highly processed foods: Limit packaged foods and increase whole, unprocessed foods.
When following a vegan keto diet, the level of carbohydrate restriction varies depending on your health goals and personal needs.
In general, healthy, high-fat vegan foods and vegan protein sources should make up the majority of your diet.
Vegan Keto Diet Benefits
Plenty of health benefits have been associated with vegan and ketogenic diets, but no studies have investigated what happens when we combine the two. The closest clinical trial to a vegan keto diet was conducted in 2013, comparing a vegan, low-carb diet (also known as “Eco-Atkins”) to a high-carb, lacto-vegetarian diet.
Even though the vegetarian, low-carb group was allowed 26% of carbohydrates per day, they still had significantly better results than the high-carb group. After 6 months, they had lost 2 pounds more weight and had greater reductions in LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. These results are consistent with what the researchers found about the benefits of a vegetarian diet and a keto diet.
For example, vegan diets have been shown to reduce the risk of a variety of chronic health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. People who adopt a vegetarian diet also tend to lose more weight than those who include animal products such as meat and dairy in their diet.
That being said, research on keto dieting has uncovered incredible benefits as well. Overall, the keto diet has been found to:
- promote significant weight loss
- decrease heart disease risk
- reduce insulin resistance
- enhance brain health
- aid in the treatment of various health conditions (including polycystic ovary syndrome, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease)
By combining these two approaches, you can experience the benefits of carbohydrate restriction, ketosis and plant-based foods while supporting both animal welfare and environmental health with each meal.
Vegan Keto Diet Side Effects
Transitioning to a ketogenic diet can be difficult.
Often referred to as the keto flu, the transition from a high-carb diet to a keto diet can be challenging for your body.
Unpleasant symptoms may occur as your body shifts from burning glucose to burning fat as fuel.
Side effects of the vegan keto diet may include:
- Poor concentration
- Muscle cramps
- Difficulty sleeping
Staying hydrated, getting enough rest, eating fiber-rich foods and engaging in light activity can help alleviate keto flu symptoms.
More importantly, supplementing with the electrolytes magnesium, sodium and potassium can help reduce certain symptoms, such as muscle aches, headaches and insomnia.
Because the vegan keto diet restricts many foods, it is not suitable for everyone.
A vegan keto diet may not be appropriate for people with type 1 diabetes, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, athletes, or people with a history of eating disorders or eating disorders.
If you are considering transitioning to a vegan keto diet, consult with your doctor or a qualified health professional first to ensure that the diet is safe for you.
The Bottom Line
The high-fat, low-carb vegan keto diet focuses on whole, unprocessed, plant-based foods.
Vegetarian and ketogenic diets are associated with benefits such as weight loss and reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Certain supplements may be necessary to ensure nutritional needs are met, including iron and vitamins B12 and D.
While research suggests that both vegan and keto diets may be beneficial to health, studies on the effects of vegan keto diets are needed to determine if such diets are effective and safe to follow in the long term.