Can vegans follow a Keto diet?

Gabrielle Koster

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past couple of years, you’ve probably been hearing a lot of talk about the “keto diet”. According to Google Trends data, consumer interest in the keto diet outstripped interest in vegan eating for much of 2018.

One reason for this is the growing awareness of keto’s amazingly quick, yet long-term effect on weight loss.  But there is so much more to the ketogenic diet than weight loss. This article will give you a brief insight into the keto diet, but if you want more, authoritative and unbiased information on all things keto (and other health matters), check out  Authority Reports.

However, you might be thinking that because you already follow a vegan lifestyle (I prefer not to call the vegan way of eating a “diet”), then keto is not for you. After all, keto diets are all about low-carb, high-fat (largely animal fat) eating; and vegan eating is about high-carb, no-animal-fat and no animal-based protein. How is it possible to reconcile the two?

How the keto diet works

The keto diet works by forcing your body into a state of “nutritional ketosis” (NK). This should not be confused with the dangerous pathological ketosis condition that often affects people with diabetes. In effect, ketosis refers to the production of ketone bodies which are derived from fats and some amino acids. As the keto diet effectively deprives your body of carbs, your usual source of fuel or energy, so it makes use of the ketone bodies as an alternative source of energy. Put simply, the keto diet literally “burns” your stores of fat – provided you remain in a state of ketosis. Slip out of ketosis by breaking your diet, and it could take a while to regain that status and have the diet start working once again. 

Health benefits

In addition to weight loss, the keto diet has several health benefits. It is thought to be useful in the as an adjunct chemotherapy in the treatment of cancer; and could also help with heart health by reducing cholesterol levels.   

It could also be useful in protecting brain functioning and may even help to reduce the symptoms of certain neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. One study found that it helped to improve the alertness and cognitive functioning of children. It is also said to be beneficial in the treatment of autism, depression, polycystic ovary syndrome, and even type 2 diabetes. In addition, it has long been associated with helping to reduce the severity and frequency of seizures in people suffering from epilepsy.

Vegan vs keto

The question is, can people who have an ethical issue in consuming animal products follow a keto diet?

The short answer to that is “Yes” – but it won’t be easy. For starters, even the standard keto diet is not for sissies, largely because it is difficult to maintain.

Many people complain of some relatively unpleasant side effects when starting a ketogenic diet. These may not last long, as your body adapts to the new way of eating. Others may stick around for longer – up to a month or more – and for a very few people, the often debilitating side effects may never go away at all.

Nevertheless, the diet would not be as popular as it is if it couldn’t be done. And the good news is that there are supplements available that make remaining in a state of ketosis, relatively easy.

What to eat – and not eat

In order to follow a vegan keto diet, you will have to restrict your carbohydrate intake to 35 grams or less per day, eat plenty of low carb vegetables, and ensure you get at least 70% of your calories from plant-based fats; with a further 25% from plant-based proteins.

This means cutting out: grains (wheat, corn, rice, and cereals); legumes (lentils, black beans, peas and so on); sugar (honey, agave, maple syrup); fruit (apples, bananas, oranges etc); and tubers (potatoes, yam and the like).

Instead, you should eat plenty of mushrooms, leafy greens, vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini; high-fat “dairy” such as unsweetened coconut-based yogurt, coconut cream and vegan cheeses; nuts and seeds; avocado and berries; fermented foods like natto, sauerkraut and Kimchi; sea vegetables; oils derived from coconut, olives and avocado; natural sweeteners such as stevia, erythritol and monk fruit; and – of course – vegan “meats” such as tofu, tempeh and seitan.

As said earlier, it won’t be easy. But you could use a keto calculator to help you get your proportions right; and if you are already familiar with healthy vegan eating (rather than just cutting out animal products and replacing them with unhealthy, highly sweetened, processed options), the benefits for your health, and that of the planet, could be huge.