The keto diet is popular these days. So is plant-based eating. Both can be effective, but can the two be combined? If you’re committed to a vegetarian lifestyle but you’re struggling with your weight, consider a vegetarian keto diet for better results.
What Is Keto?
Keto is short for ketogenic. The ketogenic diet is high in fat and extremely low in carbohydrates. When carbs are severely restricted, your body breaks down fat for energy. In the process, compounds called ketones are produced. Proponents of the keto diet say that ketones are a longer-lasting and more efficient fuel source for the body, and that they can also help suppress appetite.
Keto diets were originally used to treat pediatric epilepsy, but they’ve become popular in recent years for their potential weight loss benefits. The keto diet is also being studied as a treatment for neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, and has shown some promise in fighting certain types of brain cancer.
A typical keto diet relies heavily on animal products, which makes it easier to adhere to the recommended macronutrient ratios:.
- Fat: 70%
- Protein: 20%
- Carbohydrates: 10%
These are just approximations. There are variations of keto and the most appropriate plan for you will be based on factors such as your specific weight loss goal and activity level. Adequate fat intake is the most important component of the keto diet. Fat triggers the process of ketosis, but only in the absence of glucose. This is why carbs must be limited on a keto diet.
Many studies have shown that low-carbohydrate diets are more effective for weight loss than low-fat diets. Carbohydrates spike insulin levels, which can promote fat storage, particularly in sedentary individuals. Carbohydrates are also much easier to over-consume, while fat is more satiating.
It’s important to note that only moderate amounts of protein are allowed on a keto diet. Excess protein can be converted to glucose, which would interfere with ketone production.
Many of the foods most commonly consumed on a keto diet also happen to be off-limits for a vegetarian. That doesn’t mean vegetarians can’t go keto, however. In fact, Dr. Will Cole coined the term keto-tarian specifically to refer to this type of diet and his book of the same name is a great resource for those interested in starting a more plant-based version of keto. His book also includes some great recipes that can help ease the transition to this style of eating.
While vegetarians choose not to eat meat or fish, many decide to keep eggs and dairy in their diets, both of which feature prominently in a typical keto meal plan. This makes it easy for a vegetarian to ensure adequate fat intake on a keto diet. Eggs and dairy also fit the bill perfectly in terms of having minimal carbohydrate content and just moderate amounts of protein.
Vegetarian Keto Diet – What To Eat, What To Avoid
When properly implemented, the keto diet can produce dramatic weight loss results. But why is that? Is it the inclusion of high-fat foods and the corresponding ketone production? Or does it have more to do with what the keto diet doesn’t include? There’s some debate there but what we know is that a traditional ketogenic diet eliminates many of the insulin-spiking, highly caloric foods that have been associated with weight gain and other health issues:
- Trans fats
- High-fructose fruits (apples, grapes, watermelon)
- Starchy vegetables (potatoes, yams)
- Legumes (beans, lentils)
- Refined seed oils (soybean, corn, cottonseed)
Now let’s look at the foods we can eat on a keto diet.
- Healthy fats – Fat becomes your fuel source on any low-carb diet. Aim for up to 60 grams per meal in the form of extra virgin olive oil, cocoa butter, coconut oil, medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), avocado oil, and macadamia oil, among others.
- Nuts and seeds – These foods are a great source of both fat and protein. Almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts are best. Chia and flax seeds are also good options. Note that cashews and pistachios have higher carb counts and should be limited.
- Pasture-raised eggs
- Plant proteins – These include tempeh, tofu, nutritional yeast, sacha inchi seeds, and hemp
- Vegetables – Between four and nine cups per day is the recommendation. Chose dark leafy greens (kale, spinach collards, chard, and arugula); cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower); mushrooms, asparagus, and zucchini. Always buy organic vegetables when possible.
- Herbs and spices – Fresh or dried, these will add creativity and transform your dishes to help with a smoother transition.
Vegetarian Keto Diet – The Health Benefits
If you’re like most Americans these days, you speed through life at such a frantic pace that your health sometimes takes a back seat. Such is our modern existence. From the soccer mom shuttling her kids from school directly to sports practice, to the executive trying to squeeze in a workout before his 14-hour day starts—there’s just not much room left in our schedules for self-care.
The time involved in shopping, preparing, and cooking a nutritious meal isn’t always there, so what do we do? We reach for what’s convenient. Something from the drive-through, a microwave meal, or a packaged snack. The toxic sludge from all that processed food accumulates in our bodies over time and eventually our health suffers. This is when many people look to change their diet.
One of the best features of the vegetarian keto diet—when done the right way—is the elimination of processed foods. Almost immediately, you’ll start losing water weight and you’ll feel less bloated. Digestive issues tend to improve on a vegetarian keto diet, as does blood pressure and lipid profile.
By keeping glucose levels in a healthy range, many diabetics report that their condition has been reversed! Most importantly, eating a clean vegetarian keto diet will reduce systemic inflammation, an underlying factor in the development of heart disease and cancer. This is on top of the well-established weight loss benefits.
The Bottom Line
There’s a seemingly endless array of diet books, weight loss plans, and healthy eating apps out there. The creators of each program claim that theirs is the best, the fastest, the most effective. The keto diet is just one such option. It’s not for everyone, but there’s no denying the results that millions of keto dieters have reported in terms of both weight management and overall health.
These success stories are all over the Internet, so it’s no surprise that more and more vegetarians have become interested. If you eat a plant-based diet and had previously assumed that eating keto was all about fatty rib eye steaks and slabs of bacon, think again. The transition can be challenging initially and setting up your vegetarian keto diet will require some planning, but don’t be deterred.
I recommend starting with some research to determine if a vegetarian keto diet is right for you. As mentioned above, Dr. Will Cole’s book is a great resource.
Thank you for reading my article. As always, comments are encouraged.
Yours in health, Sarah