Firstly, what is the keto diet?
The keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb, and moderate-protein diet hailed for its powerful weight loss and overall health benefits.
The aim of the diet is to change the body’s predominant fuel source from glucose to fat and ketones. Through this shift, the body will utilise its fat stores for energy, thereby resulting in weight loss and reduced blood glucose levels.
Keto dieters must restrict their carb intake to below 50 grams per day (approximately 10 per cent of their daily calorie intake) to remain in a state of ketosis, and moderate their protein intake to 20-25 per cent of their daily calorie intake.
Therefore, since the diet is mostly composed of fat – generally around 75 per cent of the daily calorie intake – the basis of the keto diet depends on high-fat animal products, including full-fat dairy, butter and meats. These are foods that aren’t allowed on a plant-based diet.
So what does this mean for vegans?
If you eat a plant-based diet, you can still follow a ketogenic diet – it’ll just be more difficult.
Vegans can reach ketosis by opting for high-fat, plant-based products like coconut oil, avocados, seeds and nuts.
However, while it is possible, you are extremely limited to what you can eat, and youdefinitely have to be more creative with your recipes and meal-planning.
What foods can you eat?
Foods to eat on the vegan keto diet include:
• Non-starchy vegetables: leafy greens, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, cabbage, cucumbers, lettuce, eggplant, fennel, garlic, onion, radishes, shallots.
• Plant-based protein: full-fat tofu, tempeh, hemp protein powder.
• Low-sugar, low-carb fruits: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries in moderation.
• Healthy fats: avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, MCT oil, avocado oil.
• Plant-based “dairy” products: coconut yoghurt, coconut cream, full-fat coconut milk, vegan butter, cashew cheese, vegan cream cheese.
• Nuts: walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, peanuts, pine nuts.
• Seeds: Hemp seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds.
What foods can’t you eat?
Of course, all animal products are complete off the table. These include:
• Meat and poultry including beef, chicken, pork, turkey
• All seafood
• Egg whites and egg yolks
• Milk, butter, yoghurt
• Whey protein and honey
Foods that should be significantly reduced:
• Fruits: all fruits should be limited, however a small amount of berries is allowed.
• Grains and starches: wheat, rice, cereal, bread, pasta, quinoa, oats, buckwheat.
• Beans and legumes: black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, fava beans, lentils.
• Low-fat diet foods: these tend to be higher in added sugar.
• Sweeteners: brown sugar, white sugar, honey, agave, maple syrup, corn syrup, cane sugar.
• Starchy vegetables: beans (kidney, navy, pinto, black cannellini), beetroot, butternut squash, corn, parsnips, peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, taro, beetroot.
• High-carb sauces and condiments: tomato sauce, barbecue sauce, sweetened salad dressings, marinades.
Are there any side effects?
According to Christina Sternberg, Certified Holistic Health Coach & Yoga Instructor, the most notable side effect you will experience will be the ‘keto flu’ in the first two weeks of transitioning into the diet.
“You may feel tired, dizzy, drowsy, nauseous, have headaches, and experience insomnia and brain fog. Your body will also likely experience changes in bowel movements or constipation.”
Should you follow a vegan keto diet?
Kirsten Scott, Holistic Health Coach, advises that you can still eat healthily on the vegan keto diet with careful planning.
“If you eliminate foods such as animal based protein, saturated animal fats (butter and ghee), and cheese, you can still eat a very clean and healthy diet rich in minerals, vitamins, and fibre; it is just super limiting in terms of ingredient variety, and the long term implications have not been researched.”
However, Scott warns it’s not something that is sustainable in the long run: “It is super limiting in terms of ingredient variety, and the long term implications have not been researched… If you choose to try a vegan keto diet, I would consider doing it only for the short term. In the long run, a diet based in a diversity of whole plant foods is your best bet for health and vitality.”
Sternberg agrees, recommending only following the vegan keto diet for a short period of time.
“Eliminating foods such as animal based protein, saturated animal fats (butter and ghee), sugar, and cheese will of course help your body get back to a clean, balanced and healthy state with the support of a variety of minerals and vitamins.
This diet is high in veggies (aka fibre), which helps improve your digestion, lower cholesterol and inflammation, and improve blood glucose. The vegan keto diet is also high in plant-based fats providing your body with omega-3 fatty acids, which are certainly beneficial for your body overall.
“I do believe that our bodies also need carbs to thrive so it would be best to cycle through periods of going on this diet coupled with a traditional, whole foods plant-based diet for your ultimate health and longevity.”