As a Vegan Health Coach, I am fascinated by how to optimise the vegan diet. Not least, in beneficial ways that will improve overall health.
What I’ve found over the years is that just being vegan doesn’t equal healthy. A lot of vegans classify themselves as “junk food vegans.”
That’s all fine and well – until illness sets in. There’s no escaping the fact that eating sugary processed foods will make you ill in time, vegan or not.
The human body doesn’t do well with hyper-processed foods and, in most cases, eating too much sugar can lead to chronic diseases of all types. Therefore, the idea of going “keto” and being “vegan” makes sense.
Mainly because the keto diet cuts out a lot of the nonsense, e.g. the sugar and processed foods, so you can focus on filling up with more nutrient-dense foods.
But the question remains, can you do a plant-based keto diet? And is there really a dairy-free keto diet that’s safe to follow? That’s what we’ll set out to establish in this article.
I’d like to add that I’ve put clients on a sugar-free, low-carb vegan diet temporarily and reversed pre-diabetes. So I am confident that the vegan keto diet can offer amazing health benefits! Especially as a metabolic cleanse.
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
In short, the ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carb diet. Broken down, the macronutrients of a ketogenic diet look like:
- 70% Fat
- 25% Protein
- 5% Carbs
By keeping your daily intake of carbohydrates (carbs) under 10% you’ll induce a state known as “ketosis”.
The Process of Ketosis
Ketosis is a natural body process where your body uses fat for fuel instead of glucose.
In this state, your liver produces “ketones,” which help you burn fat.
For many people, weight loss is the number one reason they decide to go on a ketogenic diet. To burn up fat stores, and in turn, lose weight.
However, there is a wide range of other health benefits that occur when following a ketogenic diet.
The Benefits of the Vegan Keto Diet
There are a wide range of health benefits both of the ketogenic diet and also a (vegan) whole food plant-based diet. So it makes perfect sense to merge both dietary approaches together.
Some believe that the keto diet is a relatively new approach, but in fact, Guelpa and Marie proposed keto as an antiepilepsy treatment back in the 1920s. Of course, “mainstream” voices have long told us that dietary fat should be avoided. Advertisements in the 80s and 90s assured us that that eating fat increased our risk of heart disease and putting on weight.
We now know that a high fat, low carb ketogenic diet actually helps you to lose weight, control blood sugar, improve insulin resistance and ward off chronic illness. The ketogenic diet may even aid in cognitive function.
The vegan diet, on the other hand, provides a lot of beneficial plant compounds jam-packed with nutrients, fibre and vitamins. Vegans also tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) when compared to non-vegans.
However, we’re all individual and a carefully planned-out diet tailored to your own body and lifestyle will ensure that you get all of the nutrients you need to thrive.
What Can You Eat on a Vegan Diet?
A vegan diet cuts out all animal products. This includes avoiding meat, dairy, fish, eggs and honey. The good news is that there are plenty of alternatives. Especially if you get creative.
Vegan milk can be made from oats, soy, rice, hemp seeds, peas or almonds. On a vegan keto diet, meat can easily be substituted for tofu, lentils, cauliflower, or walnuts.
Becoming vegan is exciting, especially if you like to experiment in the kitchen.
You can use a wide range of flavours to create all of your favourite dishes. Most savoury dishes can be artfully created with spices like cumin, paprika, oregano, pink salt, garlic and onion.
If you’re going both vegan and keto, then you’ll need to find alternatives to sugar and avoid high-carb foods. You’ll also need to pack your diet with nutrition.
Using superfood protein powders in your smoothies and adding choice supplements will ensure that your diet is overflowing with goodness.
3 Great Keto-Friendly Sweeteners
Remember, sugar is 100% carbs, and so must be assiduously avoided on the keto diet.
That can be a bit restrictive, but if you know what to use instead, then you can substitute dates, agave, sugar or honey for keto-friendly sweeteners like:
The question remains…
Can You Do a Plant-based Vegan Keto Diet?
The short answer is: YES! If you’re willing to put in the effort to ensure that you have adequate nutrition.
One thing I’d like to add here is that people often eat an unbalanced omnivore diet and get worried about going vegan or keto. When, in actual fact, you’ll be eating a lot more natural foods when you are vegan. Especially if you go for a wholefood plant-based diet.
I often hear people worry about going vegan and getting all of their nutrients. I hear them, but in reality, they often weren’t healthy as omnivores anyway! Just a personal gripe of mine that I wanted to throw out there…
In saying that, if you want to do a vegan keto diet, then that’s amazing. You’ll do well to carefully plan out your meals and nutrients to ensure that you thrive.
What Can Vegans Eat on Keto? What to Eat and What to Avoid
I’ll dive into what you CAN eat first, so you’re not scared off.
- Coconut oil
- Coconut milk
- Olive oil, hemp oil
- Low-carb nuts: pecans, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, walnuts, pine nuts, almonds
- Nut and seed butter
- Sprouted seeds
- Tofu, tempeh
- Vegan nut cheese
- Vegetables: green beans, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, broccoli, leafy greens, bell peppers, olives, spinach, zucchini, cauliflower
- Fruit: lemons, cantaloupe melon, watermelon, berries, tomatoes, peaches, star fruit
Interestingly, vegetables that are keto-friendly are also prebiotics. Meaning, they feed the good bacteria in your gut. This can help balance your gut flora and promote overall health.
Related: Why Gut Health is Vital for Immunity
Foods to Avoid on a Vegan Keto Diet
The main things you need to avoid on a vegan keto diet are high-carb/ starchy foods.
- All animal products including meat, fish, dairy, honey and eggs
- Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, yams, peas, corn, parsnips, beetroot, onions (a small amount is OK), artichoke and cassava.
- Sugar and sweeteners
- Grains: pasta, bread, rice
- High-carb nuts: cashews, pistachios, chestnuts
- Processed foods, including sauces and sweetened condiments
- Low-fat diet foods
- High-carb alcohol: wine, beer and sweet cocktails
- Sweetened drinks
PRO TIP: although you can eat certain fruits on a keto diet, you should limit your intake of fruits. Also, tomatoes are also known as night-shades. If you’re following a keto diet to reverse leaky gut or metabolic syndrome, then it’s advisable to avoid nightshades.
The Bottom Line
Both vegan and keto diets can offer a wide range of health benefits, for the most part. Increasing the amount of plant-based nutrition in your diet and reducing processed food is always a good idea.
However, if you want to go for a full vegan ketogenic diet, then it’s advisable to speak with an expert who can help you to balance your nutrients and create a tailor-made meal plan.
Written by best-selling author and integrative nutrition health coach Rowanna Watson, who has a passion for natural health. Rowanna is an expert in all areas of holistic health, plant-based nutrition, detoxification and personal development.
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There are a wide range of health benefits both of the ketogenic diet and also a (vegan) whole food plant-based diet.