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How to Do Keto if You’re Vegan

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  Published on December 7th, 2021
  Reading time: 5 minutes
  Last modified April 19th, 2022
vegan keto

Going keto while also following a vegan diet may seem nearly impossible. After all, the ketogenic diet is filled with foods like eggs, bacon, and steak, right? While that might be true for most, the ketogenic diet is also filled with foods like avocados, broccoli, chia seeds, and almonds! 

Macronutrient Intake

With any diet, it is imperative to eat the correct nutrients (both macronutrients and micronutrients) that the body needs to be healthy! Let’s break down the three key macronutrients that make up the standard diet and how they fit into a vegan keto diet.

Fat

Around 65-75% of your total daily calories should be coming from fat. Luckily, there are plenty of healthy, plant-based sources of fats! One common misconception is that the keto diet is all bacon and butter, but that is simply not true! You can definitely follow a ketogenic diet without animal-based sources of fat like meats, cheese, butter, or heavy cream.

Avocados are a tremendous source of both healthy fats and fiber. Olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut/MCT oil are three nutritious sources of fats that are both vegan and keto-friendly. You can also add coconut meat, coconut butter/yogurt, nuts, seeds, nut and seed butters, and cashew “cheese.”

vegan

Carbohydrates 

In order to stay in a metabolic state of ketosis, carbohydrate intake must be kept to a minimum. Since the vegan diet primarily consists of vegetables and fruits, this can be tough! Limiting starchy vegetables and sugar-rich fruits is a requirement on the keto diet, even when vegan.

Stick to low-carb leafy greens like kale, broccoli, and lettuce. Berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries) can be added to your diet in moderation. Other fruits such as avocados and coconut (shredded, unsweetened, or milk) can be enjoyed as well! 

Just be sure to pay attention to the carb count of your favorite plant-based foods!

vegan

Protein

Protein tends to be the hardest macronutrient to consume on a vegan diet. The average individual obtains the majority of their daily protein from foods like beef, chicken, and eggs. Even animal products like cheese and milk are rich in protein! Therefore, vegans will have to have alternative protein sources, without going over their carbohydrate limit. 

Soy and tempeh are two common plant-based sources of protein. Soy is lower in carbohydrates and high in protein, therefore it tends to be a better vegan option on the keto diet.

If you are concerned about your soy intake and its hormone-altering effects, check out our article with a full breakdown of soy consumption titled Soy: The Pros and Cons.

vegan

You should be trying to consume about 20% of your calories or at least 0.5g/lb of body weight in protein. Supplementing with vegan protein powders may help you hit your protein goals, just make sure they are low in carbs! Pea protein is a common plant-based protein that is lower in carbohydrates and can be consumed on a ketogenic diet.

One important point to keep in mind is the amino acid composition of protein. Protein may seem like just protein, but it is actually a bit more complicated than that. Proteins are made of amino acids and each amino acid has different functions and benefits. 

Unfortunately, many plant-based sources of protein are not complete proteins. This means that they do not contain all essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are not made by the body and thus must be obtained from foods. The 9 essential amino acids are valine, leucine, lysine, tryptophan, threonine, methionine, isoleucine, phenylalanine, and histidine. Soy protein is a complete source of protein; however, pea protein and hemp protein are not. [1]

One key nutritional difference between plant-derived protein and animal-derived protein is the quantity of leucine present. Leucine is an important ketogenic amino acid that has been shown to trigger muscle protein synthesis, help preserve muscle mass and prevent muscle wasting, and may even help regulate blood sugar levels. [2] While leucine is present in higher quantities in foods like beef, whey, and chicken, it can be obtained from vegan options like pumpkin seeds, squash seeds, and soy. 

For a full breakdown of the difference between animal and plant-derived protein, check out our article Plant Protein vs. Animal Protein

Micronutrient Intake

Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals that are necessary for healthy functioning. Micronutrient deficiency is a serious health condition caused by consuming too little of a specific micronutrient. Many vegan dieters are at risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency since plant-based foods are very low in this nutrient.  [3]

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin that is typically found in foods such as meat, eggs, and dairy. For this reason, many vegans and vegetarians become deficient. Vitamin B12 is essential for red blood cell and nerve functioning. A deficiency in b12 can lead to fatigue, memory problems, difficulty breathing, numbness, and balance troubles. 

In order to obtain sufficient levels of b12 for healthy functioning, vegan dieters must supplement with a cobalamin supplement and/or consume high enough levels of vegan keto foods (like soy or enriched yeast extract).

Other micronutrients that vegan dieters tend to be deficient in include creatine, DHA (omega-3 fatty acid), carnosine, and iron. All four of the nutrients are found in the highest quantities in meat and fish. They can be supplemented in order to support a healthy diet. [4] 

 

Caloric Intake

Even if you are staying under your carb limit and hitting your protein goal, you may find that you are still eating too few calories. Since a vegan diet primarily consists of vegetables, it is volume-dense and can lead to feeling fuller faster. Pair that with healthy fats and you’re sure to be satiated quickly. 

Even if your goal is weight loss; however, make sure that you are not cutting calories down too severely. Suddenly dropping 500-1000 calories a day can have negative long-term impacts, even if you lose weight quickly in the short term. Make sure to slowly decrease your calories if weight loss is your primary goal. 

 

Tips For Success On A Vegan Keto Diet!

Here are a few tips to help find success on a vegan keto diet! 

  • Avoid processed oils like vegetable oil and canola oil and stick to healthy plant-based fats like avocado, oil, and coconut oil.
  • Add fat sources to proteins like soy to ensure you are hitting your protein and fat goals
  • Keep a close eye on carb count when eating berries and other fruits
  • Vegan protein powders may help you hit your protein goals, but they probably aren’t complete sources of protein. Make sure to add in foods like soy in order to obtain all essential amino acids.
  • Supplementing with vitamin B12, vegan DHA, creatine, carnosine, and iron can help prevent nutritional deficiencies. 

 

Top Vegan Keto Foods

Here are ten foods that are both keto and vegan friendly. They are low in carbs and packed full of healthy fats, fiber, and protein.

  1. Pumpkin Seeds
  2. Chia Seeds
  3. Coconut (unsweetened shredded or flakes)
  4. Cocoa Butter
  5. Coconut oil
  6. Avocados
  7. Cauliflower
  8. Tofu
  9. Acai (plain, unsweetened, unflavored) 
  10.  Broccoli

 

Do You Follow a Vegan Keto Diet? 

Comment below and share your experiences! Do you have any tips or advice for new vegan keto diet followers? Share your input with the community!

References

1.

Gorissen SHM, Crombag JJR, Senden JMG, Waterval WAH, Bierau J, Verdijk LB, van Loon LJC. Protein content and amino acid composition of commercially available plant-based protein isolates. Amino Acids. 2018 Dec;50(12):1685-1695. doi: 10.1007/s00726-018-2640-5. Epub 2018 Aug 30. PMID: 30167963; PMCID: PMC6245118.

2.

Duan Y, Li F, Li Y, Tang Y, Kong X, Feng Z, Anthony TG, Watford M, Hou Y, Wu G, Yin Y. The role of leucine and its metabolites in protein and energy metabolism. Amino Acids. 2016 Jan;48(1):41-51. doi: 10.1007/s00726-015-2067-1. Epub 2015 Aug 9. PMID: 26255285.

3.

Rizzo, G., Laganà, A. S., Rapisarda, A. M., La Ferrera, G. M., Buscema, M., Rossetti, P., Nigro, A., Muscia, V., Valenti, G., Sapia, F., Sarpietro, G., Zigarelli, M., & Vitale, S. G. (2016). Vitamin B12 among Vegetarians: Status, Assessment and Supplementation. Nutrients, 8(12), 767. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8120767

4.

Wu G. (2020). Important roles of dietary taurine, creatine, carnosine, anserine and 4-hydroxyproline in human nutrition and health. Amino acids, 52(3), 329–360. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00726-020-02823-6

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