Due to some severe health issues I had a few years ago, I spent a lot of time reading about different diets and lifestyles to try and solve some of the problems that modern medicine just couldn’t figure out.
Out of all the different diets I tried, the ketogenic diet (keto for short) is one that has intrigued me the most.
It’s not just some fad diet that some celebrity has endorsed, it has its origins in the medical industry. Essentially, the aim is to trigger a metabolic process called ketosis by adjusting your diet to low-carb and high in fats.
For omnivores the dietary adjustment can actually be quite easy, but what about vegans?
Well, I set off on a quest with the help of my dietitian to come up with some options and then guinea pigged it myself to ensure no animals were hurt in the process. Here’s what we found out.
What is the Vegan Keto?
A keto diet is one that is low in carbs, high in fat, with a decent amount of protein. This is in order to put the body into a state of ketosis inducing a metabolic process in which the body burns fat instead of glucose.
A regular keto diet relies heavily on animal products such as full-fat dairy and meat to achieve this but it's easily attainable by relying on plant-based alternatives such as coconut oil, avocado, and nuts.
By increasing your daily intake of fats to around 75% of your diet, with careful planning you can achieve a vegan keto diet, without relying on animal products at all.
Related Post: Paleo-Vegan "Pegan" Diet
Can A Vegan Do Keto?
Yes, a vegan can absolutely do the keto diet, and as a matter of fact, I was a willing test subject of the vegan keto diet about a year ago.
Now, I’ll tell you right from the start, that planning out my meal plan was a lot more difficult because I had to exclude animal products.
But there is nothing in the ketogenic diet concept that says that your fats have to come from animal products.
There are plenty of oils, fruit, and vegetables that can provide all the fat you need. The biggest problem is actually eating less of the high-carb plant foods that would usually fill you up.
What Are The Challenges For Vegans On Keto?
The biggest challenge for vegans on the keto diet is crafting a meal plan, and not including so many of the normal vegetables, for example, carrots, potatoes, and whole grains.
For omnivores, animal products such as meat and dairy cheese are an easy way to boost fat intake while reducing carbs and still feel full after eating. But on a vegan diet that is a bit more complicated.
I often hear all this nonsense about the vegan diet having all sorts of side effects or not having their nutrition right in the first place, which is nonsense.
A well-planned diet just requires time and care, no matter what set of rules you’re following. During the transition from glucose to ketones, your body will go through something called the ketogenic flu.
The symptoms include fatigue, muscle soreness, and headaches, but they really only last from about 5 to 10 days. This affects vegans and non-vegans the same though and isn’t specific to plant-based keto.
What Are The Benefits Of Plant-Based Keto Diet?
What I found most interesting is that the ketogenic diets were first tried in the medical industry over 100 years ago to help treat patients with epilepsy (1).
Today, it has been implemented successfully by many people to deal with numerous health issues as well as an effective tool for weight loss.
The ketogenic diet became popular as a therapy for epilepsy in the 1920s and 30s. It was developed to provide an alternative to non-mainstream fasting, which had demonstrated success as an epilepsy therapy.
- Ananya Mandal, Medical Doctor
In a normal Western diet, we rely heavily on carbs as our main source of energy intake. This kind of food intake keeps a steady flow of blood glucose throughout the day, which is used by every cell in your body as energy.
On the ketogenic diet, you basically “starve” your body of carbs, by limiting your intake to a minimum. As a result, your metabolism will have to find other sources of energy, with protein and fat being the only options. This puts you into a state of almost hyper
How Do The Ketogenic And Vegan Diets Complement Each Other?
You can already gain a lot of benefits regardless if you're doing a keto diet or vegan diet. However, a combination of both also means double the results.
Let me introduce you to a term I picked up in a vegan diet Facebook group: Veto. A simple combination of vegan and keto that stuck with me.
When your body enters into a ketogenic state, then you can experience some pretty drastic benefits. And these are further improved by the numerous boons of the vegan life.
- Weight Loss - Your metabolism will become reliant on fat for energy, and if you plan your foods and recipes right, then you can see an increased amount of body fat loss (2).
- Lower Risk Of Heart Disease - One of the positive effects of lower and stable blood sugar levels is that your blood pressure will stabilize, which can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. This is true of all ketogenic diets but with the addition of plant-based food sources and the ommission of red meat the effect is much greater.
- Stabilize Blood Sugar - A lot of diabetics have successfully implemented the ketogenic diet to reduce their dependence on medication. With a much more stable blood glucose level and fat loss, you can reduce insulin resistance. The vegan diet has also shown a dramatic positive impact on those that suffer with diabetes, making this a win-win combination
One of the main benefits that my dietitian pointed out on a plant-based ketogenic diet is that you will further reduce the amount of bad cholesterol in your body (4), the more carnivorous take on keto can actually mean quite the opposite .
What Can Vegans Eat On A Ketogenic Diet?
OK, so you understand what a vegan ketogenic diet includes, so let’s take a look at what plant-based foods you can look forward to eating.
- Vegetables: Leafy greens like kale and spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, and cauliflower
- Fruit: Stick with dark berries and avocado
- Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, cashews, chia, flax, sesame, and hemp seeds
- Oils and Fats: Coconut oil, olive oil, MCT oil, and avocados
- Protein Sources: Tofu, tempeh, and hemp protein (including vegan protein powder supplements)
- Plant milk: Unsweetened soy, almond milk, and coconut milk
Yes, a lot of the staple vegetables like potatoes are gone, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to feel hungry all the time. Quite the opposite will happen when your metabolism switches to a ketogenic state, where you simply won’t be feeling as hungry.
Let's see what foods does Youtuber Ruth May eat in a day this video below.
What Should Vegans Avoid In Ketogenic Diet?
Beyond the obvious animal products like eggs and milk, a Veto lifestyle will place quite a few restrictions on the plant-based food you can eat.
First of all, those potatoes, peas, and beans that would spike your carb intake need to be gone, but there are a few other plant-based surprises that you might want to be aware of before you start coming up with new vegan recipes.
- Starchy Veg: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, and beets
- Beans: Chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans
- Grains: Cereal, bread, oatmeal, rice, soy, and pasta
- Fruits: Pretty much all of them, but some berries are OK in small portions
- Sugary Treats: Soda, smoothies, fruit juices, chocolate, and coconut cream
- Alcohol: Yup, that beer, and wine is unfortunately off the menu. You can read our article to know if beer is vegan and if wine is vegan.
Not surprisingly, the list of stuff you should avoid eating is longer than what you can introduce with vegan keto diets.
Can Intermittent Fasting Help Kickstart Vegan Keto Diet?
A lot of online forums and Facebook groups that I hang out in have had people comment that ketogenic diets are easier to kickstart with fasting and that even once you are in ketosis, the results can be much better.
My personal attempt at the ketogenic lifestyle did include one or two fasting days at the very beginning.
I believe this did help to reduce my blood glucose and get rid of glycogen reserves quicker.
So, I would say that intermittent fasting is as beneficial for a ketogenic diet as it is for a regular plant-based lifestyle.
Read our full article here: Intermittent Fasting on a Vegan Diet
Can a Vegan Keto Diet Be Healthy?
Yes, a vegan keto diet can be healthy, as long as you still make sure you get all your essential micronutrients. By limiting your carb intake, you can significantly improve your metabolic functions, which can help especially with weight loss.
Is Quinoa Keto-Friendly?
No, Quinoa is not keto-friendly because it is too loaded with carbs and even relatively small amounts can impact your ketosis. Small amounts can be introduced on cheat days or on days where you’re going to be very active.
Are Carrots Keto?
No, carrots are not suitable for the keto diet as they contain quite a lot of carbs. While small amounts may help with other micronutrients like vitamins and minerals, you really need to be careful to avoid being kicked out of ketosis.
Is Peanut Butter Keto?
Yes, all natural peanut butter with no added dairy or sugar is keto-friendly. With a moderate amount of protein and a good dose of fiber, it’s actually a really good choice for anyone doing Veto to get a tasty treat on the menu.
Is Almond Milk Ok on the Keto Diet?
Yes, almond milk is OK on the keto diet, but you need to pay close attention to the label as some products have sugar added. In most whole food stores you’ll see a clear label that says unsweetened on the front, but always double-check the back as well.
Can You Eat Beans on Keto?
No, you should not eat beans on keto, as they will significantly increase your carb intake and ultimately result in a blood sugar spike. Small amounts might not be too much of a problem, but they are generally best avoided.
Is Vegan Keto Diet Right For You?
OK, so I’ve hopefully cleared up some of the most common questions and misconceptions, and you’ll now have a clear picture of what a vegan keto diet actually looks like.
I personally don’t stick to this diet on a constant basis.
But by doing it on a cyclical basis can really help with weight loss, and the extra physical and mental energy helps me when I know I’ll be busy with work or heading for some high-intensity training periods.
If you’ve had some success or failures with being vegan or tried keto yourself, then why not let us know on our Facebook page?
More interested on a vegan diet?
And see how we compare vegan and paleo diet here.
- Martin, Kirsty, et al. “Ketogenic Diet and Other Dietary Treatments for Epilepsy.” The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 9 Feb. 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26859528.
- Ting, Rhonda, et al. “Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss.” Canadian Family Physician Medecin De Famille Canadien, College of Family Physicians of Canada, Dec. 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6371871/.
- Masood, Wajeed. “Ketogenic Diet.” StatPearls [Internet]., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 21 Mar. 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/.
- Deckers, Jan. “Might a Vegan Diet Be Healthy, or Even Healthier?” Animal (De)Liberation: Should the Consumption of Animal Products Be Banned?, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Jan. 1970, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK396513/.