It may almost sound like a contradiction to be on a vegan ketogenic diet plan. If you’ve had the chance to read our Overview of the Keto Diet plan then you should be quite familiar with the many benefits of ketogenic dieting. If not, here’s a quick summary of the main keto diet benefits (1):
● Weight loss and reduced appetite
● Increase in mental performance
● Support for healthy blood sugar balance
● Improvement in cardiovascular health
● Lower risk of cancer
Vegan diets are nothing short of compelling in terms of health benefits, either (we will dive more into this throughout this article). Given how highly praised vegan diets are among clinicians, it seems like a vegan keto diet would be the ultimate longevity lifestyle, but how can you make it work? Where will you get your protein from if you can’t eat meat or many high-protein carbs, like beans? Crazily enough, a vegan ketogenic diet is absolutely possible; we will show you how to do it right!
Going Vegan While on the Ketogenic diet – The Health Benefits
Even if you already follow a vegan diet, you might not be fully aware of the vast literature supporting its health benefits. After all, many people choose to follow a plant-based diet for the ethical and eco-conscious reasons (which are just as important). Nevertheless, it’s amazing what you’ll find when you peruse the research on vegan diets. Here are some of the most compelling benefits of a vegan diet:
● Better heart health
Meta-analysis of five studies encompassing over 75,000 men and women shows that vegans are at a 26% lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) than regular meat eaters.(2) The lower risk persisted even after adjustments for body mass index (BMI) and lifestyle factors, such as smoking and alcohol consumption.
In fact, if you were to follow a vegan diet for your entire lifespan, it’s estimated you would be at a 57% lower risk of CVD than regular meat eaters.(3)
● Reduced risk of type-2 diabetes
In a sizeable cohort study, the relative risk of developing type-2 diabetes in females nearly doubles in those eating three servings of meat per day.(4) Furthermore, it’s well-established that higher intakes of vegetables, legumes, and foods rich in alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), such as nuts, are correlated with a significantly lower risk of insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes.(5)
This makes a plant-based ketogenic diet even more sound, given the heavy focus on nuts and vegetables.
● Improved cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood lipid profiles
Myriad studies show that consuming between 5-10 servings of vegetables and fruits per day significantly lowers blood pressure.(6) Moreover, vegans not only have a lower rate of hypertension than regular meat eaters but also than other vegetarians.(7)
Blood lipid profiles and cholesterol also are consistently better in individuals who consume a plant-based diet. Of particular note is that soy intake is shown to reduce LDL (aka “bad”) cholesterol and protect against CVD.(8) This is great news for the ketogenic vegan diet, which includes plenty of plant foods and soy.
● Lower risk of cancer
Measuring the risk of cancer is a complicated process given the vast amount of factors that can cause cancer. Nonetheless, epidemiologic studies repeatedly show that fiber, fruits, and vegetables all drastically reduce the risk of cancer (even smoking-related cancers).(9)
For women especially, the keto vegan diet appears to be a great way to reduce risk of breast cancer, due to the potentially higher intake of soy foods.(10) Even more, one study showed that females who regularly ate 100 grams of meat per day were at a 50-60% greater risk of breast cancer than those who didn’t eat meat.(11)
Things to Consider on a Ketogenic Vegan Diet
While the keto vegan diet plan might seem the like best way of eating for overall health and longevity, there are a few things to consider before you start.
Ensure you eat plenty of soy, walnuts, and flaxseed
Your body needs essential fatty acids (EFAs) to function properly and protect vital organs, such as your brain and heart. Unfortunately for vegans, most of one especially important EFA that you need – eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – is found mainly in fish and eggs.
However, ALA (another EFA) helps your body convert docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) into EPA.(12) Walnuts, soy and flaxseed have a large content of ALA and should be part of your daily ketogenic vegan diet.
Calcium, vitamin D, and protein intake are key
Naturally, you won’t be eating any dairy or meat on the vegan keto diet. This means you are prone to low intake of calcium, vitamin D, and key amino acids that your body needs to maintain healthy tissue, especially your bones. Research does show that vegans have significantly lower bone density than non-vegetarians, and this is associated with inadequate protein and calcium intake.(13) Vegans also appear to lack vitamin D, which is also crucial for skin and bone tissues.(14)
In this case, you must be sure to focus on eating plenty of micronutrient-rich vegetables, protein, and soy products on a plant-based keto diet, as they will help you get the nutrients you need to promote bone health and lean tissue maintenance. (We provide you with a ketogenic diet food list in the next section.)
Ways to improve iron and zinc bioavailability
Both iron and zinc are associated with diminished bioavailability in vegan diets, mainly because of chemicals known as phytates (which are found primarily in nuts, beans, and legumes).(15) A simple workaround to improve the bioavailability of zinc and iron you consume on a vegan keto diet is to supplement with vitamin C, which reduces the inhibitory action of phytates on these minerals.(16)
Best Foods for a Vegan Ketogenic Diet Plan
The following section contains our ultimate vegan ketogenic diet food list and keto recipes! We split it into separate food groupings allowing you to quickly identify which foods are best on a vegan keto diet.
You’ll want to monitor your serving sizes so you reach the calorie and macronutrient goals of your vegan ketogenic diet plan. If you’re unsure of the amounts of fat, protein, and carbohydrates you should aim for on a vegan ketogenic diet, then head over to our Overview of the Keto Diet.
It’s also highly recommend that you use a calorie/macronutrient-tracking app, such as MyFitnessPal, to ensure you’re eating appropriately for ketosis. Simply look up food items from the vegan ketogenic diet food list below in the MFP database and enter the portions you consume each day (MFP will calculate all the numbers for you).
Vegan Ketogenic Diet Food List
*May also count as fat sources
● Tempeh (be careful as this contains carbs)
● Vegan protein powders* (pea, soy, rice, etc.)
Fats and Oils
● Whole olive (black, green)
● Sesame oil
● Nuts and seeds
● Nut butter (macadamia, soynut, peanut, almond, cashew, etc.)
● Macadamia nut oil
● MCT oil
● Vegan Butter
● Flaxseed oil
● Olive oil (extra-virgin)
● Coconut oil
● Coconut milk
● Avocado oil
● Water chestnuts
● Summer squash
● Sea plants
● Leafy greens
● Green or string beans
● Brussels sprouts
● Bean sprouts
Low-Carb Fruits (1-2 servings daily)
● Unsweetened tea (herbal, green, black, rooibos, etc.)
● Sugar-free soda sweetened with stevia
● Sparkling water
● Mineral water
● Black coffee & espresso
● Inulin fructooligosaccharide
Condiments, Herbs and Spices
● Vinegar, unsweetened varieties (apple cider, balsamic, red wine, rice, etc.)
● No sugar added cocoa powder
● Spices (curry, turmeric, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.)
● Soy sauce (reduced sodium)
● Salsa, unsweetened varieties
● Mustard (dijon, brown, spicy)
● Lemon juice and lime juice
● Herbs (thyme, oregano, mint, parsley, cilantro, basil, etc.)
● Flavor extract (vanilla, orange, chocolate, etc.)
● Hot sauce
Example Weekly Meal Plan for Vegan Keto Diet
It’s safe to say that a plant-based keto diet is quite practical and beneficial (especially for females) when you get a grasp of which foods to eat. Extrapolating from the research cited herein, a vegan keto diet has a multitude of benefits, such as:
● Enhanced weight loss
● Better cognitive function
● Support for healthy blood pressure, blood sugar balance, and blood lipid profiles
● Lower risk of cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes
● Reduced risk of cancer (especially breast cancer)
Mind you those are not all the benefits, just the ones we feel are most compelling and captivating. There’s also ethical and eco-conscious aspects to a ketogenic vegan diet, but those tend to be more personal factors among the population. Whatever reason(s) you choose to follow a vegan keto diet, it’s a choice you really can’t go wrong with!
If you want to see some ketogenic diet reviews, take a look at the article and see before and after results of real people.
- Gasior, M., Rogawski, M. A., & Hartman, A. L. (2006). Neuroprotective and disease-modifying effects of the ketogenic diet. Behavioural pharmacology, 17(5-6), 431.
- Timothy J Key, Gary E Fraser, Margaret Thorogood, Paul N Appleby, Valerie Beral, Gillian Reeves, Michael L Burr, Jenny Chang-Claude, Rainer Frentzel-Beyme, Jan W Kuzma, Jim Mann, Klim McPherson; Mortality in vegetarians and nonvegetarians: detailed findings from a collaborative analysis of 5 prospective studies, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 70, Issue 3, 1 September 1999, Pages 516s–524s
- Appleby, P.N., Davey, G.K., and Key, T.J. Hypertension and blood pressure among meat eaters, fish eaters, vegetarians and vegans in EPIC-Oxford. Public Health Nutr. 2002; 5: 645–654
- Vang, A., Singh, P.N., Lee, J.W., and Haddad, E.H. Meats, processed meats, obesity, weight gain and occurrence of diabetes among adults: findings from the Adventist Health Studies. Ann Nutr Metab. 2008; 52: 96–104
- Jenkins, D.J., Kendall, C.W., Marchie, A., Jenkins, A.L., Augustin, L.S., Ludwig, D.S., Barnard, N.D., and Anderson, J.W. Type 2 diabetes and the vegetarian diet. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003; 78: 610S–616S
- Liu, R.H. Health benefits of fruits and vegetables are from additive and synergistic combinations of phytochemicals. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003; 78: 517S–520S
- Fraser, G.E. Diet, Life Expectancy, and Chronic Disease (Studies of Seventh-day Adventists and Other Vegetarians) . Oxford University Press, New York, NY; 2003
- Sirtori, C.R., Eberini, I., and Arnoldi, A. Hypocholesterolaemic effects of soya proteins: Results of recent studies are predictable from the Anderson meta-analysis data. Br J Nutr. 2007; 97: 816–822
- Béliveau, R. and Gingras, D. Role of nutrition in preventing cancer. Can Fam Physician. 2007; 53: 1905–1911
- Liu, R.H. Potential synergy of phytochemicals in cancer prevention: Mechanism of action. J Nutr. 2004; 134: 3479S–3485S
- Missmer, S.A., Smith-Warner, S.A., Spiegelman, D., Yaun, S.S., Adami, H.O., Beeson, W.L., van den Brandt, P.A., Fraser, G.E., Freudenheim, J.L., Goldbohm, R.A., Graham, S., Kushi, L.H., Miller, A.B., Potter, J.D., Rohan, T.E., Speizer, F.E., Toniolo, P., Willett, W.C., Wolk, A., Zeleniuch-Jacquotte, A., and Hunter, D.J.Meat and dairy food consumption and breast cancer: A pooled analysis of cohort studies. Int J Epidemiol. 2002; 31: 78–85
- Williams, C.M. and Burdge, G. Long-chain n-3 PUFA: plant v. marine sources. Proc Nutr Soc. 2006;65: 42–50
- New, S.A. Do vegetarians have a normal bone mass?. Osteporos Int. 2004; 15: 679–688
- Outila, T.A., Karkkainen, M.U., Seppanen, R.H., and Lamberg-Allardt, C.J. Dietary intake of vitamin D in premenopausal, healthy vegans was insufficient to maintain concentrations of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and intact parathyroid hormone within normal ranges during the winter in Finland.J Am Diet Assoc. 2000; 100: 434–441
- Hunt, J.R. Bioavailability of iron, zinc, and other trace minerals from vegetarian diets. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003; 78: 633S–639S
- Hunt, J.R. and Roughead, Z.K. Adaptation of iron absorption in men consuming diets with high or low iron bioavailability. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000; 71: 94–102