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Can You Be A Keto Vegetarian?

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  Published on February 3rd, 2021
  Reading time: 5 minutes
  Last modified August 19th, 2021
Keto Greens Smoothie- carbs in cucumbers

If you’re vegetarian, you can most definitely also be keto! You can choose from a range of delicious low-carb dishes packed with nutritious veggies. While many ketogenic diets do feature animal products, it’s possible to adapt it to fit into a vegetarian diet.

 

Vegetarian Keto

Vegetarian keto combines the best of both worlds. Most vegetarians consume animal products like dairy and eggs but avoid fish and meat.

The high-fat keto diet limits carb intake to around 20-50 grams daily. This low-carb intake prompts the beneficial metabolic state of ketosis, where your body starts burning predominantly fat for fuel instead of sugar (glucose) [1,2].

With a typical keto diet, you should obtain around 70% of your total daily calories from fat sources, such as oils, fish, meat, and dairy. Since the vegetarian keto eliminates fish and meat, you have to rely on other healthy fats instead, such as coconut oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, and eggs [3].

 

What are the Health Benefits of Vegetarian Keto?

While there isn’t much research specifically on vegetarian keto, you can find plenty of research on the two-parent diets. Studies are mixed overall, and many studies show the more positive aspects of vegetarianism. For example, one large review of 12 studies revealed those following a vegetarian diet lost 4.5 pounds more on average compared to non-vegetarians over an 18-week time period [4].

One 6-month study of 74 people with type 2 diabetes showed that vegetarian diets promote weight loss and fat loss more effectively than traditional low-calorie diets [5].

Particularly if you consume enough healthy fats and fiber as part of your vegetarian keto diet, you’ll feel fuller for longer and reduce your appetite [6].

Some research also shows protection from chronic diseases with both vegetarian and keto diets, which begs the question: would you experience the same or amplified benefits from merging both diets into one? [7,8,9].

 

What are Some of the Potential Drawbacks of Vegetarian Keto?

Vegetarian keto might require a little more planning to ensure you’re meeting your nutritional needs. Some studies show these eating patterns can be low in important nutrients like iron, B12, calcium, and protein [10].

Vegetarian keto also limits nutrient-dense food groups like fruits, legumes, and grains, but that doesn’t mean you don’t still have plenty of tasty, nutrient-dense foods to choose from. If you’re vegetarian keto, monitor your nutrient intake and consume a variety of healthy, whole foods to help you get enough vitamins and minerals. You might also need or want to take supplements, such as vitamin B12.

Vegetarian keto can be a little more restrictive than other dietary plans, so it might not be suitable for everyone.

What Should I Eat on Vegetarian Keto?

Your vegetarian keto diet should include a range of non-starchy veggies, protein, and fat sources, such as:

  • Non-starchy veggies and leafy greens: spinach, kale, peppers, cauliflower, zucchini
  • Nuts and seeds and nut and seed butters and oils: Walnuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, Brazil nuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds
  • Plant-based oils: olive, coconut, MCT, and avocado oil
  • Full-fat dairy products: yogurt, milk, and cheese
  • Other protein sources: Tofu, tempeh, eggs, spirulina, natto, and nutritional yeast
  • Low-carb fruits (in moderation): Berries, lemons, limes, starfruit
  • Herbs and seasonings: Paprika, basil, pepper, turmeric, oregano, salt

Being vegetarian, you avoid all meat and seafood. Being a keto vegetarian, you avoid or limit higher carb foods, such as fruits, legumes, grains, and starchy veggies like sweet potato. Also, be sure to avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and condiments and processed foods with sneaky hidden sugars!
With any ketogenic diet, it’s important to watch your carbohydrate intake.

Here’s a sample keto vegetarian meal plan:

  • Breakfast: Breakfast Greens Shake made with filling ingredients like avocado, spinach, almond milk, and heavy cream
  • Lunch: Avocado salad with cucumber (add tofu or boiled or scrambled eggs for more protein!)
  • Dinner: Keto veggie pie filled with your favorite veggies and topped with your preferred cheese like Goat’s cheese!


Concluding Thoughts

Vegetarian keto is a little more challenging than a traditional ketogenic diet, but with the right planning and thought, it’s definitely doable! Independently, keto and vegetarian diets might promote weight loss, blood sugar control, and other benefits.

Nonetheless, if you don’t consume a more balanced vegetarian ketogenic diet, you run the risk of nutritional deficiencies. The keto vegetarian diet also hasn’t been properly studied on its own and more research is needed.

If you’re interested in vegetarian keto, it’s possible to combine both. Start slowly and plan ahead. You might also find use from the handy keto doctor finder here at ketogenic.com.

 

What is Your Favorite Keto Vegetarian Recipe?

Share your preferred vegetarian keto recipes with the community. Follow us on social media for more recipes and ideas!

 

 

 

References

1.    Masood, W., Annamaraju, P., Uppaluri, K. R. (2020). Ketogenic diet. Statpearls,

2.    Miller, V. J., Villamena, F. A., & Volek, J. S. (2018). Nutritional ketosis and mitohormesis: Potential implications for mitochondrial function and human health. J Nutr Metab, DOI: 10.1155/2018/5157645

3.    Shilpa, J., & Mohan, V. (2018). Ketogenic diets: Boon or bane? Indian Journal of Medicine, 148(3), 251-253. DOI: 10.4103/ijmr.IJMR_1666_18

4.    Huang, R-Y., Huang, C-C., Hu, F. B., & Chavarro, J. E. (2016). Vegetarian diets and weight reduction: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Gen Intern Med, 31(1), 109-116. DOI: 10.1007/s11606-015-3390-7

5.    Kahleova, H., Klementova, M., Herynek, V., Skoch, A., Herynek, S., Hill, M., Mari, A., & Pelikanova, T. (2017). The effect of a vegetarian vs. conventional hypocaloric diabetic diet on thigh adipose tissue distribution in subjects with type 2 diabetes: A randomized study. J Am Coll Nutr, 36(5), 364-369. DOI: 10.1080/07315724.2017.1302367

6.    Johnstone, A. M., Horgan, G. W., Murison, S. D., Bremner, D. M., & Lobley, G. E. Effects of a high-protein ketogenic diet on hunger, appetite, and weight loss in obese men feeding ad libitum. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87(1), 44-55. DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/87.1.44

7.    Dinu, M., Abbate, R., Gensini, G. F., Casini, A., & Sofi, F. (2017). Vegetarian, vegan diets, and multiple health outcomes: A systematic review with meta-analysis of observational studies. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr, 57(17), 3640-3649. DOI: 10.1080/10408398.2016.1138447

8.    Kahleova, H., Levin, S., & Barnard, N. D. (2018). Vegetarian dietary patterns and cardiovascular disease. Prog Cardiovasc Dis, 61(1), 54-61. DOI: 10.1016/j.pcad.2018.05.002

9.     Dashti, H. M., Al-Zaid, N. S., Mathew, T. C., Al-Mousawi, M., Talib, H., Asfar, S. K., & Behbahani, A. I. (2006). Long term effects of ketogenic diet in obese subjects with high cholesterol. Mol Cell Biochem, DOI: 10.1007/s11010-005-9001-x

10. Clarys, P., Deliens, T., Huybrechts, I., Deriemaeker, P., Vanaelst, B., De Keyzer, W., Hebbelinck, M., & Mullie, P. (2014). Comparison of nutritional quality of the vegan, vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian, and omnivorous diet. Nutrients, 6(3), 1318-1332. DOI: 10.3390/nu6031318

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