Both vegan and ketogenic diets are known by their amazing power to heal various health problems. But let’s find out if these powers can be combined by bringing vegan and keto diet together.
Despite that those two diets are somewhat opposite in their classical form (as classical keto diet relies heavily on animal products) they can be adjusted to go well together.
For those who are new to Keto world, let’s make brief overview of the diet.
About Ketogenic Diet
Ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet (50-70% of caloric intake) with moderate consumption of proteins. It was introduced almost a century ago mainly as treatment for Epilepsy in kids.
This food regiment shifts your body metabolism into the state of ketosis. This has positive effects on numerous health conditions and supports natural no-starvation weight loss.
Metabolic changes on Ketogenic diet
Your body uses glucose as the main source of energy for body functioning. Most dietary carbohydrates are digested or transformed to glucose, which then used by all your cells. When you reduce you digestible carbs (excluding dietary fibers) intake to 20-50g per day your body starts to switch to alternative fuel source – ketone bodies.
Ketones are products of fat metabolism that can be used by almost all cells in our body for energy purposes instead of glucose. There are less than 5% of cells that can’t use ketone bodies, mainly located in the brain. However, consumption of 20-50g of carbs per day is enough to satisfy glucose demands of those picky cells, as well as replenish glycogen storage in the liver.
Benefits of Ketogenic diet
Keto diet has numerous benefits like:
- Sustainable weight loss
- Reversal of type 2 Diabetes
- Improvement in physical endurance
- Better mental focus and memory
- Metabolic syndrome relief
- Cancer prevention and treatment
- Leptin levels normalization
- Epilepsy treatment
- Migraine headache improvement
- Acne improvement
- Neurological degenerative diseases improvement (Parkinson, Alzheimer)
About Vegan Diet
Vegan diet is a diet that excludes any type of animal products, unlike vegetarian diets that can allow consumption of eggs, dairy, seafood or fish.
Vegan diet is beneficial for managing heart disease risks as well as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and lower cancer risk according to certain studies.
However, vegan diet on a long term can cause certain deficiencies, especially B12 vitamin deficiency, and need to include mindful supplementation with vitamins and mineral, best under doctor’s supervision.
Mistake many vegans do
There are commonly two reasons, why person decides to go vegan. First one is for health benefits and the second and more spread one is because of ethical or ecological issues. The biggest mistake for a newbie vegan, who was raised on standard American diet, is to stop eating any animal products without changing other dietary habits.
Any healthy diet should be based on whole and minimally processed foods. Thus, vegans who reject animal products but embrace highly processed meat substitutes, sugary and starchy foods (potatoes, bread or pasta, not talking about sweets), hydrogenated oils (butter substitute spreads) and other vegan-friendly junk food, really make a step in the wrong direction.
How ketogenic approach can improve vegan diet
Classical vegan diet is really heavy on carbohydrates. Dependence from pasta, bread and starchy vegetables can have many negative health effects. Such as blood sugar spikes and drops, increased bad cholesterol (LDL), hormone Leptin imbalance, increased sense of hunger.
By incorporating ketogenic approach to your vegan diet you will resolve easy-digestible carbohydrates over-consumption typical for vegan diet, while keeping all other benefits of meatless diet.
How to Get Into the Ketosis on Vegan Diet
As was already mentioned to get into ketosis you need to consume around 20-50g of carbs per day. A person can easily avoid carbs by eating meat, fish and eggs that are naturally low on carbs. But because you’re a vegan and don’t eat any animal foods it can get a little bit more tricky and requires more organization.
Good thing about keto diet that you don’t need to eat a lot of proteins that could be diificult on a vegan diet. However, if you’re trying to grow some muscle on keto diet for vegans, plant-based protein powders are a must for you.
Keto-vegan rule #1
Log your food intake – logging is very important part of vegan ketogenic diet, as it’s very easy to overeat carbs on plant based diet. There are plenty of apps (free and paid) as well as websites where you can do that. Logging what you eat also can help you to understand in what nutrients your typical diet is deficient and supplement accordingly.
Also consider that only digestible carbohydrates are counted, as carbs. There is no limit on dietary fibers (carbohydrates we can’t digest) you can eat during one day.
Keto-vegan rule #2
Check your body for signs of ketosis – when your body switches to ketosis, you have ketone bodies in your blood, in your urine, in your breath and in your sweat. You can buy devices and strips that can measure level of ketones.
The most accurate and the most expensive way (around 3$ a day plus cost of device) is ketone blood test strips. Less accurate and much cheaper way (6$ per month) to check ketones is urine ketone strips (can be bought here) or acetone breath analyzer.
Knowing, whether you’re in ketosis, will help to adjust your carb consumption. As potential increase in allowed carb intake can improve sustainability and ability to enjoy the diet through wider choice of foods.
Keto-vegan rule #3
Follow vegan ketogenic diet food list – following the list of vegan ketogenic friendly foods (short list can be found below), can make it easier to stay in ketosis by organizing your diet around those foods. And don’t forget that keto diet consists of 50-70% of fat, meaning that any vegetable you eat, you should see as a vehicle for good fat ingestion. Now on, fat free is not your friend.
|Portion size - 1oz||Fat (g)||Protein (g)||Digestible Carbs (g)|
|Raw Coconut Milk (unsweetened)||6.7||0.6||1|
|Raw Coconut Meat||9.4||0.9||1.8|
|Kidney Beans (boiled)||0.1||2.4||4.6|
Keto-vegan rule #4
Supplement wisely – vegan diet puts a restriction on one type of foods and ketogenic on others, meaning that vegan keto diet is even more restricted and not very wide in choices. Eating the same foods, even the healthiest one, over and over will cause over-consumption of some nutrients and lack of others. With help of food logging you should be able to pin point what you’re missing in your diet and supplement with it.
Always choose high quality vitamins and minerals in the most bio-available form. As vegetarian diet will always benefit from vitamin B-12 supplementation, it’s worth to add that methylated form of B-12 (methylcobalamin) is always recommended.
Keto-vegan rule #5
Listen to your body – last point, but maybe the most important for any diet. Learn to listen to your body. We are all different, we respond to the same diet differently. Trust yourself. If you feel bad on ketogenic vegan diet, especially after longer periods of time like a month or two after you started keto. Consider to adjust diet accordingly. Either by increasing amount of quality carbs you eat per day, or by shifting fat type balance (saturated/unsaturated or omega-3/omega-6) in your diet, or switching to more sustainable vegetarian keto diet.
And don’t forget drink a lot of water and replenish electrolytes (Sodium and Potassium).
What to Expect in First Weeks of Keto Diet
Your body needs some time to accustom to a fuel switch it runs on. Usually it takes around 2 weeks for body to start living on ketones efficiently. During this transition time you can experience different symptoms which generally called by dieters keto fever. This can include fatigue, headaches and other symptoms, which also could be related to intoxication from rapid fat loss. To pinpoint intoxication problems try taking sorbents as activated charcoal or bentonite clay, drink plenty of water and get rid of toxins through skin with sweat generating activities like hot yoga or sauna. Especially that sauna has many other amazing health benefits (read about them here).
Ketogenic vegan diet can be a valuable tool in reaching your specific fitness or health goals. However, it’s very restrictive diet and can be hard to sustain on a long run. Be mindful, listen to yourself and adjust the diet to accommodate your needs and incorporate your values.