The keto diet and a vegan lifestyle are two of the most popular eating plans in 2021, and there are plenty of reasons to look into both of them. Both keto and vegan diets boast big benefits for their adherents, including reduced risk of certain diseases, potential for weight loss, and overall increased well-being.
So, what are these diets? What are their benefits? And—the big question today—can you combine them? Let’s find out!
The Vegan Diet Explained
A vegan eating plan excludes all animal-derived foods, including:
- Meat from cows, sheep, pigs, birds, and other animals
- Animal byproducts
These foods are staples in the standard Western diet. However, vegans have many reasons to avoid eating them.
Why Eat Vegan?
Some of the most common reasons why people switch to a vegan lifestyle are:
For the sake of animal welfare. One of the biggest factors that comes into play for many vegans is avoiding the harm and exploitation of animals. The meat and dairy industries are notorious for unethical treatment of livestock, and chickens, bees, fish, and other animals hardly get treated any better. For many people, opting out of any market that causes animals to suffer is a good enough reason to eat vegan!
For the sake of the environment. Industrial farming has had a major negative impact on the environment. Tons of resources are required to feed all animals involved in the meat and dairy industries, with millions of acres of land devoted to housing and feeding livestock.
For the sake of better health. While the typical Western diet is loaded with animal products, it’s not necessarily great for your health. Many animal foods contain lots of saturated fat, and they’re often processed in ways that make them potentially harmful to your body.
- Because eating vegan isn’t as hard as it sounds! With some planning and intentionality, it’s easy to enjoy a vegan lifestyle. You can get all the nutrients that you need from vegan foods, especially when you compliment your diet with supplements.
The Keto Diet Explained
The ketogenic diet, or “keto” for short, has exploded in popularity in the last few years. This eating plan encourages its adherents to avoid carbs as much as possible, instead filling their plates with fat and protein.
Thanks to the keto diet, lots of folks have found the freedom to load up on eggs, bacon, sausage, cheese, and other fatty foods in the name of weight loss and better health. How does that work?
Bacon, Butter, and Cheese Are… Healthy? It’s Complicated.
The reason people get away with eating lots of processed meat and dairy products (including lots of butter) on the keto diet is due to the negligible carb content in these foods. While these foods are definitely not compatible with a vegan diet, they’re still approved by keto since the only criteria for keto-friendly foods is extremely low carb counts.
However, the principles of the keto diet aren’t compatible with plates full of processed food. Instead, keto is meant to be a path to better health by reducing your body’s reliance on carbohydrates. The proposed perks of cutting out those carbs include weight loss, mental clarity, curbing a sugar addiction, and more.
Let’s answer some key questions about the keto diet and determine whether this eating plan will work for you.
Keto: It’s All About Ketosis
The philosophy behind the ketogenic diet can be summed up as follows – minimizing carb intake gets your body into a state called ketosis. While in ketosis, your liver turns fat into ketones, which provide energy for your body and brain. While your brain normally runs on glucose, a sugar found in carb-rich foods, ketones can get the job done just as well.
Now, let’s be clear – you can’t achieve ketosis with just fewer carbs – your carb count has to be low, and we mean low. We’re talking only 10 percent of your diet or less made up of carbohydrates. That’s typically 50 grams of carbs or less per day for an average adult.
The rest of your meals? They’ll be made up of vegetables, proteins, and healthy sources of fat.
What Can You Eat on Keto?
While there are many keto-friendly vegan foods, many people who eat keto make meat the main event on their plates. This is because animal products tend to be primarily fat and protein, so they’re solid places for keto-eaters to get their calories. Animal products that are welcome on the keto diet include:
- Meats like beef, pork, poultry, and seafood
- Butter, cream, yogurt
- Many veggies, including tomatoes, peppers, greens, broccoli, cauliflower, and more
- Nuts and Seeds
- Olive oil, coconut oil, etc.
What Can’t You Eat on Keto?
The primary foods that you can eat on keto are animal-derived. This means that many vegan staples are off-limits, including:
- Beans and legumes, including peas, chickpeas, lentils, and more
- Grains like bread, rice, cereal, pasta, oatmeal, etc.
- Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and other starchy vegetables
- Any alcohol
- Fruits, minus a handful of berries from time to time
Many of these foods are considered healthy, so why are they excluded from a keto eating plan? It’s because of their carb content. If you tend to fill up your plate with starchy foods, you’ll have to significantly change your meal plan strategy to make keto work for you – this diet is best for anyone who is comfortable eating a lot of healthy fat and protein.
Can You Be Vegan And Keto?
While the keto eating plan is often followed by meat-eaters, it’s not off the table for vegans and vegetarians!
Eating a vegan keto diet can be tough, but it is doable. As you’ve learned, many of the classic staples of a vegan diet are ruled out by the carb restrictions of the standard keto eating plan. On keto, you won’t be able to eat bread, beans, starchy veggies, fruits, or many other vegan foods due to their carb content. So, what can you eat?
What Foods Are Both Keto and Vegan?
There are quite a few vegan foods that contain virtually no carbs. These foods include:
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower
- Squash and zucchini
- Leafy greens like spinach, kale, lettuce, and more
- Coconut oil, avocado oil, nut-derived oils, and olive oil
- Full-fat coconut milk and other plant-based milks, as well as coconut cream
- Nuts and seeds, like almonds, walnuts, and macadamia nuts
- Soy foods including tofu, tempeh, soymilk, and edamame
- MiiRO Sweets (yes, we’re adding them here too!)
In addition to these foods, you can also drink coffee and tea while adhering to a keto-vegan diet.
The Health Benefits of Keto-Vegan Eating
Blending the keto diet with a vegan lifestyle may help you access some of the benefits of these two eating plans at the same time. Research has shown that many vegans have lower risks of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure, as well as lower BMIs on average.
In addition, a low-carb diet is associated with a reduced risk of hypertension, lower cholesterol, and lower weight.
Is Keto-Vegan Eating Risky?
While it isn’t always the case, there is a chance that you’ll run into some complications while trying to eat keto and vegan at the same time. The risks of mixing these two diets mainly come from the extremely low carbohydrate intake and potential lack of essential nutrients.
Since your choices of foods on a vegan-keto diet are so limited, it can be tough to get all the vitamins and minerals that your body needs without adding in supplements. Over time, an unbalanced keto diet can make you deficient in key nutrients, which can result in symptoms like fatigue, dizziness, and aches and pains. No fun. That said, as long as you’re planning out your meals and paying attention to what you’re eating, you’ll be fine.
If you do choose to blend the keto and vegan diets, make sure to keep your doctor in the loop! It’s always best to fill your doc in whenever you make big changes to your diet or lifestyle. That way, you’re not alone, and you have your doctor’s expert advice to rely on.
The Bottom Line on Vegan-Keto Diets
So, what’s the verdict?
You absolutely can go vegan and keto at the same time—you just have to plan accordingly and know what does and does not fit into your diet. To avoid getting bored, season your food with plenty of spices, mix up some vegan, carb-free sauces, and learn to love the power of nutritional yeast. Before long, you won’t even be able to remember what life was like before you made the switch.
That said, while going vegan and keto at the same time is doable, it requires a whole lot of prep and medical advice in order to do it right. If you’re not careful about getting all the vitamins, minerals, and more that you need, you might be at risk of health complications due to nutrient deficiency. Most importantly, just be safe and chat with your doctor about the best way to incorporate these two diets into your life.